Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now. Joshua 23: 6-8
In the 23rd chapter of Joshua, we read his farewell address to the children of Israel. Joshua is getting up in years and knows that his days are numbered.
We’ve learned in the past the value of faithfulness. We are by nature selfish and there is no inherent faithfulness in our lives. It is a virtue we must learn as we grow. God, on the other hand is totally faithful and it is His desire that we learn to mirror that character trait in our own lives. Faithfulness means being reliable, trustworthy, responsible and devoted.
But there is another virtue or character trait that Joshua addresses here. Steadfastness.
Are faithfulness and steadfastness the same? Not exactly. Let me put it this way:
Faithfulness is finishing the race well under normal circumstances.
Steadfastness on the other hand is finishing the race well under very difficult circumstances.
Steadfastness is the ability to be fixed in one direction, to be steadily directed and to have an unwavering faith in God in the midst of great trouble and difficulty. Steadfastness walks hand in hand with determination, with courage and with fortitude. God wants us to remain steadfast in our faith even if we are under great trial or stress.
This should bring to mind the great martyrs of the centuries – men and women who endured criticism, insults, beatings, tortures, imprisonment and even death for the sake of their faith, people we look up to, admire from afar and applaud their heroism.
Our contemporary culture promotes selfishness, greed and immorality. The very thought of having to ‘suffer’ for one’s convictions is foreign to many people, in part because so few have convictions worth dying for!
God’s people should and must be different.
In this chapter, Joshua is very old and about to die. He was worried about the future of Israel. Would they continue the work he had started? And given the various lapses into sin that he had witnessed over the years, he had to give them a piece of advice regarding steadfastness in their faith.
He summoned all the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel. When they were all gathered around him, he reminded them of what the Lord has done for them in the past . He also cautioned them that the task of possessing the Land was not yet finished and there were still victories to be won.
And so, he encouraged them to be steadfast and remain focused in one direction because there would be troubles and difficulties ahead, obstacles to overcome and victories to be attained. Aware that he would be leaving them soon, he urged them to remain strong in the faith.
They must not associate with the wickedness around them lest they be influenced into the wrong path.
They must not serve or bow down to the idols of the pagans because the Lord is a jealous God and His anger will burn against them.
They must be steadfast in their faith so that what they have worked for so diligently in the past will not be lost to succeeding generations.
He made eminently clear to them that steadfastness – the determination and commitment to remain faithful in the face of any and every challenge and trial – was the key to dwelling safely and successfully in their promised Land.
It is no different for us. Being steadfast in the faith means we keep on obeying God even if other people are doing differently.
Being steadfast in the faith means we keep on living a holy life even if others are living lives that are immoral and shameless.
Being steadfast in the faith means we continue to walk in the ways of God even when those around us mock or ridicule us for our beliefs.
Being steadfast in the faith means we dare not compromise the clear and revealed Word of God as found in the Scriptures.
Being steadfast in the faith allows for no political correctness nor the fear of what other people will think. Steadfastness concerns itself with what God thinks, not what men think.
Steadfastness – a magnificent and beautiful character trait.
The ‘People of the Book’ – both Jews and Christians – are finding themselves these days increasingly criticized and marginalized. As secular thinkers promote their hostility towards faith and religious expression, it is incumbent upon us to remain steadfast, unmoved and undeterred by the ungodly forces that would seek to silence us at the very least and do away with us at the very most.
It is the hour for God’s people to do more than be quietly faithful within our own circles, but to have the courage and strength of character to demonstrate a steadfastness in our faith in the face of any kind of attacks that may come against us in the future.
As Joshua admonishes us: But you are to cling to the Lord your God, as you have done to this day. 23:8