A Lesson from the Cowardly Lion

February 18, 2010 — Leave a comment

“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

~Joshua 1:9

Do you want to cross the Jordan?

Back in my day . . . we had 4 channels on the TV.  TVs were black & white huge pieces of furniture with knob controls which were destined to break off leaving a pair of pliers as the only way to control the TV.  The remote control was the youngest and most mobile member of the family.  And I remember one of the most exciting things was to watch the annual showing of The Wizard of OZ.

One of my favorite characters from this movie is the cowardly lion.  He was on a quest for courage.

Are you on a quest for courage?  I am.

Someone has said, “There can be no courage unless you are scared.”  I think we mistakenly believe and communicate to other people that if we truly have faith then we’ll never be afraid.  That’s just not the case.  I’m convinced that truly faithful people are often fearful people.  The Bible is full of faithful people who had to conquer their fears.

Noah dealt with fear.

Hebrews 11:7
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.  By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

But he still built the ark.

Moses dealt with fear.

Exodus 3:6
Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.”  At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

Hebrews 12:21
The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”

Doesn’t he sound like the cowardly lion?  But Moses overcame his fear and led the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage.

Gideon dealt with fear.  When God called Gideon he was hiding from the Midianites in a winepress.  An angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and said, “When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12).  When God told him to go and fight the Midianites, Gideon’s reply was,

Judges 6:15

15 “But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel?  My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

But Gideon conquered his fear and—with only 300 men—defeated the Midianites.

Even the Apostle Paul was afraid. In his letter to the Church in Corinth he admits,

1 Corinthians 2:3
I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.

But Paul overcame his weakness and fear and took the Gospel to the world.

A lot of faithful people were at times fearful people.  The truth is that God doesn’t want us to be afraid, but we’re not God, so sometimes—even the most faithful followers of God—have to overcome fear.

Joshua was at a time where he needed to face his fears.  His leader was dead.  He and his fellow Israelites were on the wrong side of the Jordan still not yet in the Promised Land.  Knowing Joshua needed courage, God promised Joshua three important things:

3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.  (Josh. 1:3)

5 No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life.  (Josh. 1:5a)

As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.  (Josh. 1:5b)

But sometimes the promises of God are not enough and we need a little encouragement, too.  Knowing this God encourages Joshua, “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them” (Joshua 1:6).  Then again he says to Joshua, “Be strong and very courageous” (Joshua 1:7).  And then for a third time God says to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go“(Joshua 1:9).

The Lord was not playing the role of a motivational speaker who fills people with unrealistic optimism and wishful thinking saying, “Just believe in yourself and you’ll do great things.”  “You’re strong enough.  You’re brave enough.  And God loves you.”

No.  The Lord was telling the truth.  God knows that Joshua will survive if he will face his fears and he knows we will, too.

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