God promises to keep those who are his. He promises not to forsake us. He promises not to let anything come between us and his love. He promises that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. He promises to conform us to the image of his Son. He promises not to let us fall into a temptation for which he will not also provide a way of escape. He promises to occasionally discipline us as a son whom he loves. He promises that a day is coming when he will come to claim his people and that all strife and tears will cease and that we will be with him forever.
The problem is not that God has neglected to make promises to us or that he doesn't keep those promises. It's that either we don't believe what he says, or we're not interested in what he promises because we still love the world too much.
In Joshua 1, God tells Joshua how he, and the people, should respond to the gift of the land. In verses 6-7, God commands Joshua to be strong and courageous to carefully observe the instruction---the law---he had given to Moses. He expands on this second command in verse 8 by telling Joshua to keep his word in his mouth, to recite it day and night. What would be the result of keeping these two basic commands? God promised that they would prosper and succeed in whatever they did.
We're more accustomed to equating obedience and the fear of the Lord, as the Book of Proverbs talks about. But these verses give us the flip side: Obedience to God can be equated with a kind of strength and courage in the face of the world and its threats. That's precisely why Jesus said we should not fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, we're to fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt. 10:28).
Do Not Fear
Don't be afraid of people who will make fun of you for being a Christian. Don't be afraid of those who might persecute you. Don't be afraid of losing your job, your family, or your life. Be strong and courageous. God alone is to be feared. Obey him.
Often it's our fear of the world that lies behind our disobedience. We fear what we might lose: our reputation, our money, our job, our safety, our lusts, our ambitions, even our life. So we try to take control of our circumstances and do whatever it takes to hold on to what we want.
Knowing that God is generous and faithful to his promises helps us be strong and courageous because we can trust his character as we pour out our lives for him.
This means that as Christians, we can be generous with our money and time, knowing that God cares for us and will provide for us. Don't worry!
This means we can take the gospel to tough neighborhoods and hostile nations, knowing that God will keep his promises---that his sheep in those neighborhoods and nations will hear his voice and that nothing can separate us from his love. Don't fear!
This means that we can have the courage to be faithful as parents and as spouses, doing what is right in those relationships day after day, even though the results are not always visible. Don't be anxious! Take courage.
This is an excerpt from The Gospel Project for Adults Bible Study from LifeWay. The Gospel Project is an ongoing 13-week Bible study curriculum for all age groups that helps people see Scripture as one over-arching story that points to what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. Find out more and download one month to review free at www.gospelproject.com
Jonathan Leeman is a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., editorial director of 9Marks, and author of The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love, Reverberation, Church Membership, and Church Discipline. His PhD work is in the area of political theology. You can follow him on Twitter.