Being Strengthened

What does it mean to be strengthened? Let’s use Joshua as an example. His leader Moses had just passed away, and he was the next one in line as leader over Israel to usher them into the promised land God had prepared for them.

Can you imagine all the thoughts that were running through Joshua’s head? He may have learned a lot from Moses and watched him lead, but it is quite another thing to actually be the leader over a great number of people. God knew this, and told him the following, I think, as a way of calming all those circling thoughts in his head:

Joshua 1:5-9 says

“No one will be able to stand 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 ancestors to give them.

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Laqw always on your lips; 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 afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord you God will be with you wherever you go.”

God encouraged Joshua to

*be strong and courageous

*know that He would be with hi always

*to be in tune with the Law, or the instructions of the bible, and obey it

-meditate on what has been written

-for when he does that, he will be prosperous and successful

*not to be afraid or discouraged

Then God restates for Joshua not to be afraid or discouraged, and he would be with him wherever he goes; God said these two statements twice.

Today I want to talk about what it means to be strong, and how we can obtain strength and stay that way.

When an athlete is in training, many elements are involved. For example, a daily regimen has to be followed for the runner, from working out in the exercise room to running and following the right diet to eat nutritional foods to keep strong. I’ve watched enough Rocky films to know all that needs to be done to get in shape and build muscle for the big fight. The goal for the athlete is to get ready, build muscle, and get strong. And while it may be true that they may wake up one morning not wanting to do the normal routine, they do it anyway, because they have one goal in mind: to win the race or be victorious for the fighting match. They have trainers in their circle that makes sure all the right things are being done to give them a fighting chance to be a top athlete for the big day.

It’s not a walk in the park to be strong. For the believer, being strong is more than having a bible on the coffee table next to the sofa; you know the one that never gets opened and read. It’s more than picking up the bible, opening it and reading a verse or two, thinking you have met your bible reading quota for the day. God told Joshua to meditate on the word day and night, and that takes effort and time. It was His way of telling Joshua to get involved with what was being told him, to make the instruction a part of his everyday life. When that is done, he would be successful in whatever he attempts to achieve.

It must have been assuring to Joshua when God told him he would be with him. Perhaps that helped in calming the stomach butterflies of nerves Joshua felt as he was about to take the leadership role. Don’t we all need that type of encouragement in our lives? Whether we’re about to do something big, or just want to make it through the next trying day, it’s nice to know that God is with us, no matter what. He promised that not just for Joshua, but for us as well. As he promised that to those of the Old Testament, he promised the same in the New Testament. In John 14 he told the disciples that he would not leave them orphans (verse 18), that he will come to us, and in verse 27 of the same chapter he tells us not to be troubled or afraid, because of the peace he will gift us.

Being strong has a courageous element to it. It means to be bold and brave with no ounce of fear. If we know that God will be with us as we do this thing called life, then fear should cower and quickly disappear. It should enable us to take that step forward. But this is what enables us to do that: knowing and incorporating what the instructions are.

Joshua discovered his purpose by shadowing Moses, taking his place as the next leader over Israel. He got encouragement from God who told him not to be afraid but to be courageous. And if he took the time to gain wisdom through reading the written word of God, he would be successful in whatever he did. So, I have a question for you.

What type are you when it comes to following instructions? Are you the type that looks over the booklet you get with the product you purchased and needs to be assembled, making sure you have all the parts before you get started? If so, you’re like me, as I want to make sure I have the correct number of screws and parts the instructions say I should have before I get started. Or are you the type that says, “I got this, I don’t need the instructions”, then look a bit befuddled when you have parts left over that should have been incorporated in the finished product?

For many of us, being courageous means taking a step to admit you don’t know all you need to know to move forward. It takes an element of bravery to no longer stay in the comforts of life and dare to do something different. It takes a dose of heroism to step away from being a part of what everyone else is doing, and step into the realm of realizing what you’ve imagined for years but thought it could not be done, bringing your imagination into reality. But I have to step back into what it takes to make all that happen, and to me that is delving into the godly instruction manual, which takes me back to that dusty bible on the table, or the unutilized bible app on the phone.

It’s the life manual, the bible, and why God provided it to us. What are the instructions regarding anger for example? If you are married, the instructions are to settle the anger issue before you go to sleep for the night (Ephesians 4:26). If there is an issue with feeling down, Psalm 42 speaks of placing hope in God, praising him in the process.

Joshua was instructed to obtain wisdom, and God tells us to do the same. But not just obtain it, but to meditate on it. According to the dictionary, that entails spending time in quiet thought for religious purposes or relaxation, or to engage in contemplation or reflection. I am all for the verse-of-the-day apps and listening to something that takes a few seconds. But what do you do out of that, other than checking off your list that you did something related to God for the day? I need more than that to get me through my day, and when I don’t do that, my day doesn’t go so well. For me, spending that quality time with God is a daily struggle. The enemy knows if I am victorious in that, he will lose ground, so he does whatever he can to distract me from that quality time. I have to admit, there are times when I don’t win the battle. Yet I must continue to fight. What helps me is to do five minutes in prayer, five minutes in praise, five minutes of reading, and five minutes of worship and thanksgiving. We’ll delve into that more later in this podcast. But for now, I will say when I do that, I feel stronger, I feel I have done something that strengthens me. Let know if that works for you.

The bible continues with the story of Joshua. As God promised, Joshua went into battle, and won, and all the while God was involved in Joshua’s life. How do I know that? Because throughout the book of Joshua, there was constant conversation, strategies provided, and encouraging words from God to Joshua, who relayed that to the people of Israel. His leadership skills made the soldiers and leaders confident that Joshua knew what he was doing, that he was operating in concert with God.

It’s all about the instructions for Joshua, and it is God’s life manual that provides the strength we need for our life journey. Those directives enable us to build those spiritual muscles needed to battle through negativity, punch through sadness, and run through the wall of adversity. It directs us towards God-0given solutions (forge ahead or stand still), while getting strengthened.

Earlier I talked about the five minutes of how to spend time with God, so let’s delve into that more.

Prayer is necessary in our relationship with God. It is not some formal dissertation; God doesn’t need that. What he wants is for you to provide the gateway to have a conversation with you. It’s not because he doesn’t know what is going on in your life; it’s because he wants you to acknowledge you need him to be involved in your life, and his guidance will make all the difference in your situation. Cast your cares upon him, because he cares for you. So, converse with him throughout your day; you may be amazed by how God will honor you when you give a value of worth to him by giving him quality time through prayer.

As you read God’s word, remember what you read as you go through your day. That is what meditation entails. It involves reflection, remembering what words jumped off the page as you were reading. It involves writing down what thoughts came to mind as you thought about what you read. And by the way, having a journal with you as you’re reading is very important, because you can jot down thoughts as you are praying and as you are reading. When a prayer is answered, you can review when you prayed about it and the date the prayer was answered, and praise God for the answer.

Our churches have usually a time of music with the praise and worship team. Is there a difference between the words praise and worship, or are they synonymous? There is a difference.

Praise means offering a commendation. It means to offer a glorification, an approval of what something or someone has done. Psalm 100:4 speaks of entering into God’s gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise, giving thanks and praise to his name. Praise causes one to remember with (in this context) God has done for us, and because of that we can offer a hallelujah of thanks.

Worship means giving honor, reverence, and respect. The Old English word for worship is wierde, which means worth. When we worship, we are giving God worth, with the raising of our hands, with the clapping of our hands, with standing for the reading of scripture, and so on. When the praise and worship come and sing songs, the lyrics are to honor and reverence God for who he is, and remembrance of he has done.

Thanksgiving is just that: thanking God for what he has done, and even thanking him for answers you have yet to receive. This is another way of honoring God for who he is.

As we spend these minutes with God, have some music playing in the background, as you offer description of who God is to you, and as you offer praise and worship. As you do this, he will offer strength to you, peace to you, and whatever else you need to be successful during your day.

Thanks for listening, and I hope you will join me again for another podcast topic, rooted in biblical truths that will get you thinking about God (with a splash of humor), that you can apply to your everyday life. Be encouraged and strengthened.

An Update

I did not know it has been so long I had written a post on this blog! Perhaps it was because I was busy working a parttime job, having a book published, or just wondering what to do next. But after visiting my mother today, I felt it best to write a piece to get some thoughts out of my head that have been building for a while.

Since 2015 we have been dealing with dementia, so we are in year seven, and my mother had her 88th birthday this past May. We continue to live with the disease together, and what you read about its symptoms are what we experience:

  • Her memory is waning. I try to keep in contact with her friends and called one so they could talk. Unfortunately, my mother did not remember her; very unfortunate. But the friend took it in stride and continued with the conversation. And speaking of conversation, a lot of what we talk about isn’t much, because I know she will not remember literally moments after I tell her something.
  • Good news: her appetite continues to be strong. I try to bring her favorite foods of the planet: fried chicken and Mr. Good Bars candy. Her weight is not going up or down, and her nutritionist is pleased with that. Not so good news: There is difficulty in grasping anything, particularly food. Today when I visited her, it was like she was wearing her fruit salad, it was all across her chest, like not much made it in her mouth, and the rest of it was sprawled out on the floor next to her bed. Since she was in a deep sleep, I cleaned her up and got the fruit salad off the floor.
  • It is hard to know the best time to visit her, because she is in such a deep sleep, like today I didn’t bother her, just dropped off her candy and left. I have tried different times from before lunch to mid to late afternoon, and all but once she has not been awake. Then I feel bad when I wake her up, though she is happy to see me.
  • She has been combative with the staff. She is not that way with me, but I have gotten calls about it. Because she is so determined to do things herself, she falls a lot. The good thing is she does not seem to be injuring herself, though she may be sore in some areas because of it.

Because of the above, I wonder how long I have left with her. But if I am honest, I feel like I do today: like she has been gone for a few years, and I am visiting the living dead. I am grateful she still remembers me, her grandson and some of our relatives and her pastors, but there just doesn’t seem to be much left of my mother. And because of that I feel like I am visiting an empty shell of a person I knew so well. And that is what I miss. I can’t talk to her about anything, really. I ask the usual questions of how she is feeling, and her answer I am not sure is real, as she doesn’t want me to worry about her. She deals with depression a lot, and now she is no longer walking around or being in the hall in her wheelchair. Now she is just in the bed, oftentimes asleep.

There is nothing I can do at this point but pray for her. Pray she sleeps through the night (many times she stays awake), pray she isn’t combative with the staff, and pray that if that time comes when God calls her home, that I will be able to handle it, if in fact I am still here on planet earth.