We all experience fears of various kinds of fears about the future, about relationships, about work and finances, about our health, or about the ones we love, perhaps even fears about falling away from Christ. Fears often emerge and linger because we don’t know how to fight them. We feel helpless and powerless before their threats.
When fears arise, how do you respond? When bills pile up, some of us let them consume our thoughts; others push them far out of our minds. When layoffs are happening at work, and our job is in jeopardy, some of us isolate ourselves; others take the stress out on our family. When health concerns emerge, some of us distract ourselves with shopping or entertainment; others fall back into an old pattern of sin. Fear often leads us everywhere but to God.
When Moses died, a whole nation was terrified. We know God’s people were afraid, because he says to Joshua three times in four verses, “Be strong and courageous. . . . Only be strong and very courageous. . . . Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:6–9). Maybe you can feel theirfear in these words. That makes this passage a kind of field manual for the anxiety and fears we face.
Your Worst Fear
What is the first statement God makes to them? “Moses my servant is dead” (Joshua 1:2). He reminds them of what they feared the most: stepping out in faith, into a foreign land, against massive armies, without Moses. God doesn’t avoid reality, or try to distract his people with something else. He addresses the hard truth with honesty.
But God means for his people to hear waterfalls of comfort and confidence in those five words. He calls him, “Moses my servant.” Yes, Moses is dead, but he was only a servant sent by your God — and your God will not die. And his promises will never expire. He says, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them.” Moses may be gone, but God’s promises still live. No matter how bleak the moment, God will never forsake his word to them — or to you.
God does not bring good news that downplays or ignores harsh realities. The news he brings is good enough to confront and overcome the worst threats his children face, like death and war and whatever haunts you.
What Does God Say?
As God sent his people across the Jordan and into danger, he handed them a promise to carry them through the fires: the land is already yours. Yes, great armies await you, and hard battles remain to be won, but this land has already been taken for you. “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses” (Joshua 1:3).
Their nervous hands and antsy feet are flesh-and-blood manikins of our lack of faith in challenging or distressing circumstances. God has promised us more in Christ, and with more evidence — at the cross, in the empty tomb, and with the Holy Spirit — and yet we’re often still afraid to trust him and step forward. We let fear silence the clear voice of God in Christ.
When you are afraid that you might drown in the river of your finances, or be burned in the fires of affliction, remember that God has said to you, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isaiah 43:1–2).