Philippians 4:13 claims that a servant of God can do all things--all things--through Christ who gives him strength. That includes the otherwise impossible. God will give you every place you step your feet for the glory of His name if you'll only let Him.
I loved broadening our scope to include Joshua, Abraham, and David in the last chapter. Each of their names made the team cut in the Hebrews 11 hall of faith. I was surprised and somehow refreshed to think that a measure of their challenge to walk by faith was likely found in continuing to believe what God said about them in spite of fears and failures. Isn't it encouraging to realize we're not alone in our struggles?
I'd like to now set our sights back on Joshua, our primary protagonist, because he specialized in leading God's children to their promised lands of faith and fruitfulness. Joshua had a reputation for believing God against all odds. Though he lived centuries before Jesus, his example offers endless applications to New Testament believers. Joshua's life helps us understand and accept our fourth statement of faith: I can do all things through Christ. Through the might of the living God, Joshua did what he knew he could not do. Like us, he was told in advance he'd be able. We might call it preassurance rather than reassurance.
Let's take a fresh look at that preassurance in Joshua 1:1-9: "After the death of Moses...the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' aide: 'Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them--to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates--all the Hittite country--to the Great Sea on the west. No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their fore-fathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you;...that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 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.'"
Down through the ages in the Old Testament, God seemed to speak and accomplish much of His work through one primary individual (or at the most a few). Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, and an arm-long list of prophets pose a few examples. By and large, God chose to accomplish his agenda most often through simple math: One plus one.
I'd like to suggest that John the Baptist may have been the last prophet in the One plus one equation. As "a voice of one...in the desert" he cried, "Prepare the way for the Lord" (Matt. 3:3). Beloved, the fullness of the Godhead Himself came down from heaven to forever fulfill the one man calling to all humanity, Jesus "the One and Only" came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
No matter how mighty servants like Moses and Joshua were, "one and only" shoes tend to run large and slap around awkwardly on a walk. When Christ came to earth, He stepped His feet into those shoes, and for the first time in all of history, they were a perfect fit. From that moment on God's plan was not to use just one but many: a corporate body of believers for each generation, each bringing his or her gifts to the mix.
Christ broke the mold from the very beginning when He purposely commissioned 12 apostles. Christ called the Twelve to join Him in the work He was doing. He commissioned them and supernaturally empowered them to accomplish divine tasks in His name. Further, Luke 10:1 tells us that "after this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where He was about to go." They too were equipped and empowered to do in His name what they otherwise couldn't. Bug-eyed to be sure, they did "all things through Christ" who gave them strength (Phil. 4:13, KJV).
New Testament math didn't stop with 12 plus 72. In the Gospel of John, Christ gave the open invitation and basic requirement for accomplishing remarkable works in His name: "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father" (John 14:12). Anyone. That's a wide-open roster.
Christ's final instructions before leaving earth were, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matt. 28:19-20). Let's get over the mentality that God mightily uses a few chosen people in each generation to fulfill His kingdom agenda and everyone else is basically insignificant. You were meant to bring forth much fruit. You can be effective. Powerfully used. I'm talking to you. Not your preacher or Bible study teacher. your legacy can still have an impact in a dozen generations if Christ tarries. You don't have to look a certain way, receive a certain gift, attend a certain denominational church, practice a certain kind of ministry, or establish a nonprofit organization! All you need to be mighty in your generation is a shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit (the Word of God, Eph. 6:16-17). Through Christ you can absolutely, unequivocally do anything God places before you (Phil. 4:13).
So why do we so often balk at the task? I believe the answers lay in Joshua 1. There God warned Joshua not to fall for two of the most effective deterrents to a promised-land existence. "Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged." In our previous chapter we touched on the element of fear in our mention of insecurity. I'd like to explore it further at this time because fear is the very factor that keeps many of us from fleshing out our fourth statement of faith. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, but frankly we won't if we're too afraid or too discouraged to try.
Remember, where need abounds, grace more abounds. God's mercy is new every morning, and like manna in the wilderness, He apportions it according to our need. If you struggle with fear or feel bound up with discouragement, God offers hope!
Understand that Joshua never faced anything so frightful or potentially disparaging that God didn't see him through it. As if to remind him of the facts, God said, "The LORD your God will be with you wherever you go" (Josh. 1:9). When Jesus told His disciples not to be afraid in the storm, the reason wasn't the removal of their frightful circumstances but the presence of their Savior. "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid" (Matt. 14:27).
Remember, faith is never the denial of reality but is a belief in a greater reality. In other words, the truth may be that terrifying or terribly discouraging circumstances surround you. The reason you don't have to buckle to fear and discouragement is the presence of God in the middle of your circumstances. Call upon Him to step His One and Only shoes onto your territory and take over like the commander of the Lord's army (Josh. 5:15). Hear Him say to you the words He said to Joshua: "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy." That place, that circumstance, is holy because God stands on it with you. You don't have to fill His shoes, Dear One. Take off your sandals and walk barefoot in His wake.
Beloved, whether or not you want to admit it, God gifted you out of his glorious grace and for His name's sake. Christ has spoken over your life as His present-day disciple: "This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples" (John 15:8). Perhaps, like me, you have grievously failed God in the past. Perhaps, like me, your prior confidence was unknowingly in your own ability and determination to stay on track. I honestly thought my genuine love for the Lord would keep my handicapped feet on the path all by itself. I clearly remember telling God that no one would ever love Him more than I and that He'd never be sorry He called me. Then I fell headfirst into a pit. Tragically, not for the last time. Over and over the words rung in my head like church bells drowning in discord: I failed God! I failed God!
Somehow I don't think I'm the only one who ever felt that way. Failure takes all sorts of forms and hits all sorts or unsuspecting , sincere followers of Jesus Christ. We don't have to sin grievously to feel like we've failed. Sometimes all it takes is feeling like we've proved ineffective and untalented too many times to try again. What about you? Do you feel like you've failed God in some way? Are you too scared or discouraged to try serving God again? Do you allow Satan to demoralize you by preying on your fear that you are nothing more than a failure? Then hear these words: God-will-not-fail-you!
Grab onto the Lord with everything you have. Cast yourself entirely on His ability to succeed and not yours. Blind yourself to all ambition except to please Him. Walk in His shadow. Grab onto the hem of His garment and find the healing and grace to go where He leads. In that place you will be equipped to do the impossible. There you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.
Dear One, let Christ intercede for you according to the will of His Father. He knows the plans He has for you. Plans to give you a hope and a future. You can because He can.