Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
In Wednesday’s article, I suggested that you take a “Backward Glance” to ponder the wonders of all that God has done in your life throughout 2020. Today I’d like to encourage you to consider how you will “forward march” as we launch out into 2021.
I’m sure that in recent days many of the people you came in contact with have greeted you with, “Happy New Year!” However, if that was all we had as believers to begin a new year, it would be a scant portion indeed. But thanks be to God, Christians have a great deal more than a mere “hopeful greeting” given to us by the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Today’s verse records the promise given to Joshua by God: I will be with you wherever you go.
You probably remember that Joshua was preparing to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land after Moses had completed his ministry of service to God. Joshua knew quite well the challenges he would inevitably face in leading God’s people. He had learned from Moses just how difficult the task would be. But he also knew, just as Moses had, that he would not be alone in the work God had called him to. And the same is true for you and me today as we begin our forward march into the new year.
To be sure, the new year brings with it both questions and concerns . . . doubts and fears . . . obstacles and opportunities. Will we hear a less than positive report on our health from the doctor? Will we find ourselves facing professional challenges? Will our marriage of many years march on for many more? Will we suffer the loss of a loved one? Will life ever return to normal after the onslaught of the coronavirus?
The list of uncertainties is long indeed. Yet we can hold on to something far greater than a hope for a “Happy New Year.” Why? Because we have God’s sure and certain promise that wherever we go, He goes with us. “Surely I am with you always,” Jesus says to His followers, “to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). “I will strengthen you and help you,” our Lord has promised us; “I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”: (Isaiah 41:10).
In that promise, I want you to remember something. “Going with God” is not a going by chance. It is not a random roll of the dice. God is guiding, governing, and directing your every step. He is in sovereign control of everything; nothing is left to chance or whim. So do not be discouraged! His promise to us — and it is impossible for God to go back on a promise (Romans 11:29) — empowers us to set aside every fear as we “forward march” into God perfect plan and purpose for our lives.
One final point: as we took a backward glance at the year of 2020, I made mention of the fact that it was a very difficult year, an unprecedented year in many ways. And for some of you reading these words, it may well have been the most awful year you can remember. You may have been battered by the loss of your job and resulting financial hardship; you may have lost a loved one. Your heart may still be aching from 2020, and the “march” forward I speak of here may feel like little more than a dismal “trudge.” I know this is true for some; I’ve spoken to some of you and prayed with you.
Just know that your loving Lord has not turned away from you, and He never will. Scripture tells us that, during His time on earth, Jesus was “a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3). We know too from Scripture that He was “tempted in every way” (Hebrews 4:15), which means that he was tempted to give in to discouragement and despair, just as you may be tempted to do this day.
But our Lord is not disinterested in your plight! “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). He is ready, willing, and more than able to lift you up when you feel that your strength is at an end. In fact, He wants you to live in His strength, not yours, because His supernatural strength is infinitely and eternally greater than our own puny, human strength.
“Let us go over to the other side,” He said to His disciples (Luke 8:22), knowing that they would encounter a terrible storm on the way. But He also knew He would take them through that storm and past it. He stands ready to do the same for you.
“Forward . . . March!” Christian. Your Master is at your side!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!