As I write this devotional, our nation is in turbulent times. Nationally, we face astronomical debt, moral bankruptcy and disruptive division. We are more politically separated than ever before. According to a September 2018 study by Zachary Neal, the divide between Democrats and Republicans is the worst it has ever been. He said, “What I’ve found is that polarization has been steadily getting worse since the early 1970’s. Today, we’ve hit the ceiling on polarization. At these levels, it will be difficult to make any progress on social or economic policies.” One respondent named Nancy summed it up, smartly: “History shows repeatedly that nation states generally only last 200-300 years….Romans, Ottomans, Incas, Aztecs, etc. We are poised to fall, so you better take those Mandarin Chinese online classes!”
I doubt that is the best response, but the world is in a dangerous and uncertain place. Individually, we feel helpless and insignificant, and may think we cannot make a difference. What can people and churches do about divisive and turbulent conditions?
The people of ancient Israel must have felt just as helpless and powerless after four hundred years of slavery in Egypt and forty years of wandering in the wilderness of Sinai. In Joshua one, they were poised at the entrance to the Promised Land. I am sure it did not escape their attention that they were standing in the very place where their forefathers had balked in unbelief forty years before (Numbers 13—14). With two exceptions, all that former generation had died, leaving a new group to face the challenges inherent in settling a new land. If they went forward, they knew they faced an uncertain future. If they went back, they would die in the desert. What would they do? How could they survive?
Fortunately for them and for us, neither God nor His promises had failed, and that day the nation of Israel stepped forward, trusting His promises. Their leader, Moses, had died, but at exactly the right time, God raised up Joshua for the next step in their journey. Everybody knows that times of transition are difficult, but God was there, providing their needs. Whether facing turbulent times or not, you can always trust God to do what He says He will do.
Biblical events in the Old Testament Scriptures serve as examples for New Testament believers. Paul told the Corinthians: “These things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11). He reminded the Romans that, “whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). This means we should read the Bible, learn its lessons, and persevere and be encouraged, even in the face of troubles.
What was the answer for Joshua, and what is the solution for us, as we face turbulent times?
ONE: Rely on God’s Power – “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you…No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life” (Joshua 1:3, 5). God had promised to give them the land, now all they had to do was to obey, relying on His power to do what He promised.
Within a few weeks Israel witnessed God’s power as they crossed the Jordan River on dry ground (Joshua 3:17); then surrounded the mighty city of Jericho, where the people merely shouted and “the wall fell down flat” (Joshua 6:20). No matter how large the obstacle, God is stronger. The One who created the universe by His spoken word, has power to protect, lead and guide people who love, serve and follow Him. He is no less powerful today.
TWO: Depend on God’s Promise – “Arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel….This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success” (Joshua 1:2, 8).
No doubt, Joshua remembered the words of God spoken by Moses a short time earlier when, “He commissioned Joshua the son of Nun, and said, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the sons of Israel into the land which I swore to them, and I will be with you.’” (Deuteronomy 31:23). God’s Word and promises bring success. Read, study, memorize and meditate on His Word and He will help you to obey it.
THREE: Trust in God’s Presence – “Just as I was with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you….Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh 1:5, 9). Centuries later, God promised: “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
God’s presence is more than a comfort; it strengthens you to do what He calls you to do. God will be with you and enable you to honor Him in words and deeds, no matter what opposition you face. With Paul we claim, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). His power, promise and presence can win the day in turbulent times! Remember: No nation or problem is too much for Him!