There is a significant moment just before the beginning of a sprint race. The athletes have done their months, if not years, of preparation. They are dressed to run, warmed up, stretched off. The blocks are set correctly. The race starter issues the command, “On your marks” at which the athletes settle into their blocks.
Feet are correctly located. Fingers placed just behind the start line. Arms straight but not locked at the elbows. Head and neck in line with the spine. Eyes focused on the track. Gentle breathing with face and neck muscles relaxed.
Then there is this moment, this significant moment, when there is a second command “Set”. Runners hold their breath. Hips rise slowly to a position above the shoulders. Shoulders vertically above or slightly forward of the hands. Feet pushing hard into the blocks.
This is the moment of concentrated composure, total focus on the race which you are not yet running. A moment of listening for the B of the bang. A moment that needs great courage before beginning to run the race.
At the beginning of the book of Joshua, the Israelites and Joshua himself are in such a significant moment. God has taken them out of Egypt. For forty years they have wandered in the wilderness. Moses has died. Now Joshua, his assistant, has taken over and God says to him and the people, get ready to cross the River Jordan and enter the Promised Land.
The whole of Deuteronomy are final instructions from Moses. God had taught them much. They had learnt about the promises of God. They had seen Him provide for them in miraculous ways. Now was this significant moment for courage, for them to be courageous before entering in. A moment that fear could creep in and cause doubt and distraction. God, like an athlete’s coach, had kept spurring Joshua and the people on. At the beginning of Joshua 1:6-9 God repeats, “Be strong and courageous” three times in four verses. At this significant moment just before entering into the promises of God, they need to be focused, composed and courageous.
We are starting a new sermon series we are calling “COURAGEOUS”. We have been looking at the promises of God to us from Romans 8 in a series called “Convinced”. There is so much God wants us to be convinced of. That we are more than conquerors, that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. Having grown in conviction of these promises, what next?
Before entering the race, before moving into the outworking of these promises, there is this moment, this significant moment. A moment to gather ourselves together to be “on our marks” and be “set”. To focus on the journey ahead into what God wants to do in and through us. Not to shrink back, but to be strong and courageous.
We are preaching from the first six chapters of Joshua through the spring and summer to discover how God spoke and worked in the Israelites at the crucial moments before and during the initial entering of the Promised Land. I invite you to take time over the coming months to take stock of what has been in the past, the promises of God in Christ from Romans 8. Focus on what God wants to do next in your life and the life of the church, the outworking of these promises. But also, and crucially, to compose ourselves before setting off. Listen to God’s call to be strong and courageous so we can move forward together in faith into His promises.
You can hear the talks from the COURAGEOUS sermon series here.