When Joshua takes over leadership of the people of Israel at the beginning of the book that bears his name, there are many issues confronting the immediate future. First of all, Moses is dead. Moses had been the leader for the last forty years, had safely led Israel out of slavery, across the Red Sea, and presented Israel with the law. Moses had kept this tattered conglomeration of tribes together as one. Many would be wondering what would happen to the community after Moses was gone. Secondly, Joshua was tasked with leading the Israelites into the promised land. While this may seem like a simple task, since God had promised them this land for generations, Joshua remembers well the last time Israel had this opportunity and failed to trust God. Kadesh Barnea was not a happy moment for Israel, and the fear of this being another devastating moment had to occupy his mind. Finally, the land was not empty. Even if they were able to successfully cross the Jordan River, they still had to defeat the inhabitants of the land; inhabitants that had strong armies walled up within impenetrable defenses. How could this ragtag army defeat such powerful foes?
As Joshua assumed command of the nation there were many issues that could have easily dominated his attention, yet God reminds him that only one issue really matters, being focused on the law of God.
“Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful.” (Joshua 1:7-8)
God reminds Joshua that success will only take place through a renewed focus on the Law, and that Joshua’s focus should not be on the upcoming battles, but on meditating on the law day and night. The spiritual battle, God said, is the most important. So be strong and courageous. Many people/circumstances are going to try to grab your attention, but it is meditating on the law that is most important.
Quite honestly, it’s very easy for us (myself included) to lose focus and start fighting the wrong battle. A friend develops cancer, and we pray continually for healing. We beg God to use God’s infinite power to heal. But this is a spiritual battle. Yes, we still pray for healing, but even more so we pray for faith, for perseverance, and for our friends to remain faithful. There is a disagreement at church and we rush for mediation, we seek counsel from other church leaders, and we even involve the elders in hope that the issues will be solved. But this is a spiritual battle. Satan is trying to drive a wedge between two Christians. We need mediation, but even more so, we need the Spirit to bring peace. A family is struggling with a parenting situation as the teen and parents can’t see eye to eye. We offer books to read on parenting, we give advice on discipline, we share stories of our own struggles. All of those steps are important, but this is a spiritual battle.
We tend to focus on the problems right around us, but these are spiritual battles. Our finances, our job loss, our parenting frustrations, our issues with neighbors…these are spiritual battles. The devil is really good at getting our focus off of the most important thing. The devil gets us focused on the details, on the specifics, on the immediate issue we are confronted with, and in so doing we start fighting individual battles instead of focusing on the most important battle. We often want to try to solve a problem, so we focus on the immediate need. But these are spiritual issues, spiritual battles. We must always remember to keep our focus on the most important thing.
Be strong and courageous, God says, be strong and courageous.
Keep your focus on the word of God. Meditate on it. Think about it day and night. Live into the life of God.
There are many things trying to grab your attention, but the most important is about spiritual life. Don’t lose sight of what is most important. Stay focused on God.