Suppose you had awakened at the stroke of 12:01 a.m. on January 1, and there, standing before you, was an individual in shining clothing which you immediately recognized as an angel, and you then heard these words: “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8). Would you be afraid to tackle the New Year? Would you be afraid of the future?
You may say, “Just a minute, aren’t you getting a bit theatrical?” OK, I concede that what I just suggested is a bit far out, but hear me out. Unless I was absolutely convinced that an angel had appeared, I would prefer to stand on biblical principles or, even better yet, a clear statement of Scripture.
Those words were spoken by Joshua to God’s people as they prepared to march across the Jordan into Canaan, which is a type of heaven in Scripture. What God told them, however, is clearly repeated in different words in several different passages.
If you believe that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, as the New Testament book of Hebrew states, then there are three promises and two commands which follow. Notice:
Promise #1: The Lord goes before you.
This simplifies things greatly. All you have to do is stay close enough to Him to walk in His footsteps, and when He goes to the left or to the right, you change directions quickly. Following Him, though, is like following someone who carries a torch in a dungeon. Stay close enough and you have light to walk, but lag behind and you are quickly engulfed in darkness.
Promise #2: The Lord will be with you!
Question: Would you hesitate to take on your enemies if you knew that he Lord was with you? Of course not! When you know that you walk together, there is no concern or fear about the future. Who cares if you are a David taking on a Goliath, if you know that one plus God makes a majority any time, any place.
Promise #3: The Lord will never leave you nor forsake you.
That same promise is made twice in the New Testament to God’s children. As Jesus walked with the disciples up at the Mount of Olives for the last time, He said, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age,” and again the writer of the book of Hebrews quotes Him saying, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you,” and the structure of the sentence means, “not even for a moment!” That’s good news in a bad news world.
Now there are two responses which you need to make in the light of what God says:
First–don’t be afraid. Then–don’t be discouraged. Those are God’s directive for you as you walk through the unknown hills and valleys of the future. We usually fear what we have not experienced or what we cannot understand, and, frankly, if I didn’t know that the Lord would go before me, and be with me, and never leave me, I would not only be afraid, I’d be scared senseless.
Discouragement, however, is often a graver danger than being afraid. Why? Because we get tired, and when we get tired, we get discouraged, and when we get discouraged, we forget that God is in control. So, where are you in relationship to this great passage which you will find in Deuteronomy 31? If you only knew God’s plan for the future, how easy it would be to trust Him.
Resource reading: Joshua 1: 1-18