I love quirky motivational posters. A friend of mine once had a poster with an awkward looking duckling– wide-eyed and still fuzzy–with the caption,
“Arise, Go Forth, and Conquer!”
The phrase comes from Tennyson in Idylls of the King, but it is reminiscent of phrases given to Joshua as he prepared to lead the Israelites across the Jordan and into the promised land.
Joshua 1:2-3 (NKJV) 2 “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses.
God tells him several times to “Be strong and courageous..” (Joshua 1:6), “Be strong and very courageous.” (Joshua 1:7), “…be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
When I think of being strong and courageous, I don’t usually think of ducklings! I think of hero bodybuilders or armored knights of old…people who are prepared to crush and conquer and face an army. Yet God repeats the phrase to Joshua, including at last the command to “not be terrified; do not be discouraged..”, which indicates that Joshua was close to terror and despair, rather than filled with hope and adrenaline.
And little wonder. Joshua had to be experiencing a slight sense of Déjà vu. About forty years earlier, he had been part of the group of spies sent to scout out the promised land…spies who had come back terrified and discouraged. The entire nation was ready to rebel against Moses and even God. Now, forty years later, Joshua was to try again– this time as Moses’ replacement, a new leader for a new generation already prone to complain and rebel.
Some days I feel a little like Joshua– facing walled cities, giants, and feeling totally inadequate to the task. Some days it even feels like a struggle to “arise”, let alone going forth to conquer.
And then God reminds me…”Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses.” It’s not that God is literally leading me into the promised land as I go to the grocery store or face a difficult customer at work or walk around the neighborhood. But, figuratively, He is helping me win battles against temptation, discouragement, anger, and bitterness. He IS with me wherever I go, and He wants me to trust HIS strength and wisdom to triumph. I become “more than a conquerer” (Romans 8:37) when I stop trying to fight in my own strenth and rely on His. My strength may be minimal, my motivation questionable, and my wisdom lacking, but I can waddle confidently into battle, knowing that the victory is certain!
This is also true for my pursuit of prayer– My prayers are often flighty, inadequate, sporadic, and even grudging. I keep a prayer journal, and that can help with motivation, discipline, and even praise, but it doesn’t guarantee that I will draw perfectly near to God or follow Him with total faithfulness. The more I rely on MY efforts, the more I am fighting to replace God’s strength and wisdom with my own. God doesn’t want me on the sidelines, or sleeping in– He wants me in the game. But the outcome doesn’t depend on my ability or my performance (or my lack of feathers!)