I hate public speaking.
I have always hated public speaking. In fact, my favorite thing to do in public is stay silent. Just speaking to one person I don’t know well makes me anxious; speaking to fifty people I don’t know well is my nightmare.
Yet I have given speeches or sermons publicly almost twenty times. The crawling, gnawing, breathless fear that grips me is the same each time, but each time, I do it.
And the only real reason I can come up with for why is that I believed God was asking me to. So I did.
So did Moses. He has just finished speaking publicly to the Israelites. The long, weighty, insightful sermon he spoke to the people he’d been leading for over forty years is over. Moses is about to die.
And after everything he had to say to the children of Israel, Moses still has something else to say to a very important person. Before he dies, Moses speaks to Joshua, the next man who will lead the nation of Israel.
Joshua is being called by God, just like Moses was. Just like Moses was, Joshua is being asked by God to do one of the scariest jobs you can think of.
So what wisdom does Moses have for Joshua? What wisdom does he have for those of us who can also hear God calling us to do something scary for Him?
Step 1: Be strong and courageous
Easier said than done, right? That’s the thing about fear and so many of those other bad feelings that fester in your belly and disturb your heart – you can say you want to be rid of them all you want, but that doesn’t make it happen.
So how exactly do you become strong and courageous? I’m still figuring that out, but I think the key must be in what Moses says to Joshua next:
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”verse 8
Maybe we can’t make ourselves stop feeling something, but we can speak to those feelings. We can turn our thoughts to truth instead.
So when Satan tries to tell us that what God is calling us to do is way too scary, we can tell ourselves that God will be with us.
When Satan tries to point us to our past failures as proof that if we attempt to do what God asks, we will fall on our face, we have to remind ourselves that God goes before us and will lead us to the right steps to take.
And when Satan insists that no one will support us if we obey God, we can know for a fact that we’ll never be alone, because God will never leave us or forsake us.
And I believe, that as we keep telling our fears and the devil’s lies what the truth is, then slowly but surely we will become strong and courageous. The fear will lessen. The anxiety will loosen its hold.
Because God will hear our whispers of faith, and will rush in to fulfill them.
Step 2: Obey God
Fear is not the only threat to the plans God has for us.
Other enemies are pride and apathy and doubt.
Because if the Bible is filled with stories of people who were called by God, but who weakened their impact by sinning against God, who’s to say we won’t fall into the same traps?
That’s exactly why Moses established a regular public reading of the law.
Then Moses commanded them: “At the end of every seven years…when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place He will choose, you will read this law before them in their hearing…so they can listen and learn to fear the Lord your God and follow carefully all the words of this law…”verses 10-12
It sounds like a lot. It might even sound like overkill.
But when you think about how easy it is for our hearts to change or for our minds to forget God’s words, it makes a little more sense.
And when you think about the mistakes we are so prone to making and the wrong turns we took that seemed right to us, it makes more sense.
The Bible isn’t just entertaining, it’s a reminder of who God is and what He asks of us. And if we want to succeed in what He has called us to do, we have to know God’s law and pray over God’s law and ask Him to help us keep it.
Step 3: Persevere to the end
Tell me if I missed it, but this chapter is the first time we’ve heard God say these words, isn’t it?
And the Lord said to Moses: “…these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. And in that day…they will be destroyed. Many disasters and calamities will come on them…because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods.”verses 16-18
Recap: God straight up said that He knew the Israelites would sin against Him and that their lives would blow up in their faces because of it.
Of course, this isn’t technically a surprise – we know God knows the future. We also know how awful humans can be.
No wonder so many people called by God, from Jonah to Jeremiah, have felt dismayed and hopeless over answering the call – they saw how wicked people can be. They didn’t see results. They lost hope.
But we serve a God who knew what choices the Israelites would make and still pursued them. He still loved them. He still sent them prophets and warnings. He still forgave them. He still died for them.
And who knows how many individual Israelites were saved even though the majority deserted God? And who can quantify the impact the words that God spoke to the Israelites have had on generations of Bible readers since then?
If God is calling you, no matter how hopeless or useless the work seems to be, keep at it. Even if it’s as small as a prayer list. Even if it’s as big as a ministry you run yourself. Keep at it.
God knows what He’s doing with you.
“I want to take you on a journey.”
I know you’ve heard this before, but hear it again: everyone is called by God. Everyone has a gift, a talent that He has given them that He wants them to improve for His kingdom and His glory.
Everyone isn’t called in the same way. Some people have ten talents and are called to do really visible, complex things for God. Some people have one talent and are called to do something for God in the background, something few will ever see.
But everyone is called. We are called to lead others to Christ, but we are also called because God wants to teach us, grow us, love us through the journey to our calling.
It’s a fantastic thing, to see God working in your life; to see God using you. It might be scary; it might be out of your comfort zone; but it is the best thing you could ever choose to do with your life.
But don’t take my word for it.
What do you think? What has God called you to do? Share this with someone who God is calling (hint: that’s everyone!)