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Biblical, battle-tested, real-life help for "living by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). — Steve Fuller

Moses Teaches Joshua About Faith and Feelings

All through the Bible

It’s strange when you think about it.

But throughout the Bible — God commands feelings.

He commands us to feel joy (Phil 3:1), peace (John 14:27), hope (Psa 42:5), sorrow for sin (Joel 2:12-13), love for Him (Deut 6:5), and love for others (1Pe 1:22).

But there’s a problem —

We can’t WILL feelings

It just doesn’t work.  (Go ahead — try.)

You can will yourself to take out the trash, read the Bible, turn off the television.

But you can’t will yourself to feel.

But God commands feelings

So what are we supposed to do?

That question struck me Sunday when I read Joshua 1 verse 9 —

Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Moses commands Joshua to feel —

  • strong — confident and assured.
  • courageous — no fear or worry.
  • not frightened — no nervousness or dread.
  • not dismayed — no anxiety or discouragement.

Put yourself in Joshua’s sandals

There you are.  Moses the powerful leader is not crossing the Jordan with you.

YOU are supposed to lead God’s people into the Promised Land.

But you are not feeling strong or courageous.  You are feeling frightened and dismayed.

What should Joshua do?

What do YOU usually do?

When you read commands to feel certain things — strength, courage, joy, peace, love — what do you do?

Most of us either —

  • ignore the command, or
  • feel guilty about how weak we are spiritually, or
  • will ourselves to ACT strong, courageous, joyful, or peaceful

But none of those are what Moses wants from Joshua.

The crucial key

Moses tells Joshua how to change his feelings — at the end of v.9 —

Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Moses knows that feelings result from faith in God’s promises.

So Moses points Joshua to God’s promise — he urges Joshua to trust the promise that God would be with him.

Think of how Joshua’s feelings would change when he understands that he’s not alone — but that with Him is the God who —

  • freed Israel from Pharaoh’s power
  • parted the Red Sea for Israel
  • closed the Red Sea over Egypt’s soldiers
  • provided manna in the wilderness
  • caused water to pour from a rock

Let’s say you are an 80-pound weakling — and a 150-pound bully is threatening you.

You would feel frightened and dismayed — not strong and courageous.

But what if you saw that standing behind you was your 200-pound brother — with 20 of his 200-pound friends?

Your feelings would change.

The key to changing our feelings is trusting God’s promises.

But how?

If I am feeling frightened and dismayed, and not strong or courageous — I am not trusting that God is with me.

So — how do I go about trusting God’s promise?

Here’s what I suggest —

Turn to God just as you are.  Trust that because of Jesus’ death He loves you and will help you (Heb 4:16).

Confess to Him that you are not trusting His promises.  Ask Him to forgive you through Jesus (1John 1:9).

Ask for the faith-strengthening work of the Holy Spirit (Mark 9:24).

Set your heart on God’s promise, pray over it, and meditate upon it, until you feel your faith getting stronger, and your feelings changing (Rom 10:17).

My little electric motor

In grade school I did a science project showing how electricity travels through wire.

I had a little electric motor with two wires, and a battery with two terminals.

When I hooked the wires to the battery — the motor whirred.

But when I unhooked the wires — the motor stopped.

Our hearts are the electric motor.  God’s promises are the battery.

Our hearts will only feel what God wants them to feel when they are connected by faith to God’s promises.

So when you read God’s commands about feeling — don’t ignore them, or despair of them, or will-power them.  No.

Find the promises in the surrounding verses — and connect your heart to them — by trusting them.

In time, your heart will be whirring with the feelings God commands.

Questions?  Comments?  Feedback?

I’d love to hear them — leave a reply below.  Thanks.

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(Picture by asolario on stockxchng.)

Category: Finding Peace and Joy, Strengthening Your Faith


2 Responses

  1. Paul Walton says:

    Hey Steve,

    I agree it’s so important to know how faith is the determining factor in our ability to overcome our feelings. But… I don’t see in the text that Moses is commanding Joshua to “feel” strong but rather to “be” strong, through faith, in knowing that God is with him. I know it just may be a matter of semantics but I think the difference is worth noting. We may not always “feel” God’s power working in our lives, but we are commanded to walk by faith and not by sight. What I see with my natural sight may cause me great fear, but by faith we go forth trusting, regardless of how we feel.

    Again I see that you are pointing to faith being the deciding factor, but I don’t see the command to trust being a “feeling” but rather an encouragement, and that by trusting we will begin to feel God’s Spirit moving in our hearts.

    “Utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself…Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.”

    I don’t know if we are commanded to “feel” strong, Paul certainly felt weak many times through out his ministry. I think it’s important to be honest about our feelings as Paul was, His “feelings” were not the determining factor, but rather it was God’s word.

    love you man,

  2. Steve Fuller says:

    Good question about whether “be strong and courageous” is a command to feel a certain way.

    The reason I think it involves feeling and not just doing is because in the verse the opposite of being strong and courageous is “do not be frightened and do not be dismayed.”

    Both fright and dismay are feelings. And since Moses says fright and dismay are the opposite of strong and courageous, it makes sense to take strong and courageous as feelings.

    As you say, there will be times when we need to step out and act before faith in God’s promises has freed me from fear and filled me with strength. But that doesn’t make our feelings of fear and dismay right. It just means we step out in action — while continuing to fight the fight of faith so our hearts can be changed.

    And thanks for raising the question of how Paul celebrated his own weakness.

    Obviously this doesn’t mean Paul lived in fear or dismay. It means that Paul could admit weakness (for example) in speaking ability and popularity.

    But he boasted in these weaknesses — he felt strong and courageous in spite of them — because he knew Christ’s power would be working in and through him (2Cor 12:9-10).

    Thanks for raising such great questions, Paul. Iron sharpening iron!

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