As the Children of Israel made their way out of Egypt, beyond Sinai and through the wilderness, it is difficult to imagine what Moses must have felt. No doubt he was filled with an array of emotions and fears, stress and uncertainty. Through the course of his leading the Israelites, Moses appears frustrated as he strikes the rock which brings forth the waters of Meribah (Numbers 20:11). God had told him to speak to the rock, a clear instruction from the Lord. “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water…” (Numbers 20:8). Because he chose to strike the rock rather than speak to it, God told Moses that he will not be the one to lead the Children of Israel into the Promised Land. As Moses continued leading God’s people toward Canaan another leader emerged. Joshua seemed to be the perfect individual to lead the people into Canaan as they fought to take hold of the land that God had sworn to their forefathers. Moses would give the eventual blessing to Joshua and God would place him in charge after the death of Moses.
Joshua suddenly found himself in the leadership role of a lifetime. He was responsible for the people of God. But not only was he responsible for the people of God, he was responsible for leading them into the Promised Land. He knew there would be many battles they would have to fight, but he was obviously up for the challenge. Joshua had already displayed his ability to lead a military action through Israel’s victory over the Amalekites in the Sinai Peninsula (Exodus 17:8-13). Even though Joshua was an experienced military leader, there seemed to be no possible way he was without anxiety and fear as he realized he was now responsible for such a great number. God spoke to Joshua in what appears to be an inauguration scene. God commanded Joshua to be strong and very courageous. He promised that he would never leave or forsake Joshua. This must have been such a great blessing to Joshua and his outlook. Joshua trusted in God and knew that God would guide him as Joshua led God’s people toward the Promised Land.
Today many are hard-pressed, knocked down, beaten. The fear and anxiety that many feel is very real. Sadly, people look to so many other sources to relieve their fear and anxiety, to remove the stress and uncertainty from their lives. But God is the one who supplies all our needs according to his riches that are found in Jesus Christ. God continues to promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Just as God did with the Israelites, so he will do with us. The people of God faced battle after battle in the conquest of Canaan, and God brought about victory after victory. He does the same for us today.
Yesterday, I was honored to officiate the memorial service for a very special lady. Just three months ago she had an accident that required surgery on her hip. From all appearances, this sixty-seven-year-old was in good health. The only issues she had was some deterioration in her eyesight which she attributed to “getting older.” The scans following the accident revealed more than an injured hip. She had tumors in her brain and lungs. Obviously, the brain tumor was quickly the culprit for her diminished eyesight. The spots on her lungs provided the answer to the cough that she routinely experienced, which had previously been brushed off as the changing weather and allergies. Now, a fear for many had become her reality. Cancer. She knew that there would be a battle to fight. Like so many, she was ready to face it with dignity and confidence, which she did.
As she began her treatments, all went well. Radiation was complete and chemotherapy started. Her biggest fear was not that she would lose her hair, but that she would get very sick as the chemo destroyed both bad and good cells. She dreaded the sickness. Surprisingly, she didn’t get sick…just extremely tired. As the treatments rolled on, still no sickness. Perhaps this was going to be easier than previously thought. Much to her dismay, she knew last week that something wasn’t right. Upon arriving at the hospital, she was admitted with what seemed like some kind of infection. No one could say for sure what or where the infection was. A couple of days passed before the doctor spoke with her husband. It was Wednesday night when he got the word. Her cancer had grown rapidly and had thoroughly infiltrated her liver and other organs. The radiation hadn’t been effective. The chemo didn’t slow the growth. Her liver was failing. By Friday morning she was unresponsive. Her body was shutting down. The cancer was unrelenting, choking the very life out of her body. She passed away Friday afternoon.
She lost her battle with cancer. Isn’t that what people say? I cannot count how many times I have heard people say those very words. I suppose it is true, her body succumbed to the disease that had taken over. As difficult as the last three months have been on her and her husband, she never lost sight of the victory we have in Christ. As we face the battles of this life – anxiety, confusion, depression, fear, frustration, grief, pain, stress…cancer – God is at work in us to bring about victory after victory. It is up to us to put our trust in God, knowing that he is faithful. Just as this wonderful Christian lady understood the battle she was facing when she received that terrible news of tumors in her body, she understood that God was on her side, fighting for her to bring about ultimate victory. What a blessing it is to know that God loves and cares for us. May we ascribe to him all glory and praise as he brings about our victory over this life!