I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”Joshua 1:9 (NRSV)
I wonder. When you start something new, do you ever feel nervous? Maybe the first day of a new job? The first day of a new school year? Or the beginning of a new adventure? Do you ever get those butterflies in your stomach and start to question yourself? Am I going to know what to do? Will people like me? Will I have the right answers? What if I don’t know where to sit or who to talk to? Are my gifts enough? Or have you ever had good intentions to do something and then changed your mind at the last minute because you were afraid?
My friends, let me begin by saying, “That is absolutely normal!” We all get a little nervous sometimes, no matter how strong and confident and put-together we may seem on the outside. And recently with the world turned upside down the way it has been, we let our fears and our worries dictate a lot of what we do.
There is a story in the Bible about a man named Moses. Now we often look at Moses as a prophet and a great leader. After all, he led God’s people out of slavery in Egypt, through the Red Sea, and into the wilderness for forty years on their way to the Promised Land. But Moses was just a man. He had no specific training. Actually, he was known for being introverted because of a speech impediment, and he was not one to call attention to himself. But God chose Moses and promised to walk with him every step of the way.
When Moses eventually died at a very old age, his followers didn’t know what to do. After forty years, they were just about to enter the land of milk and honey that God had promised them. But how could they go without their leader? How would they know what to do and how to do it? Though they had been walking in the wilderness for forty years, everything now seemed to be turned upside down. Nothing felt normal. The world around them had changed, and they were afraid. Sound familiar?
Well God spoke to Joshua, Moses’ assistant, and told him to lead God’s people into the Promised Land. He said, Joshua, “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” It was something new, and I’m sure that Joshua was probably nervous and afraid. But like Moses, Joshua trusted in God. And rather than worrying about whether or not he was good enough, and whether or not he would know what to do, or have the right answers, he followed God’s instruction and led his people home.
My friends, over and over in the Bible, we hear stories of God calling people to go out and do something. And every story starts out the same way: the people are frightened and they doubt themselves and their own abilities, but God always assures them that everything will be okay and that God will always be there with them.
Now, don’t be nervous, but there are things that each and every one of us are being called to do. Now what we do may differ from person to person, because it depends on who we are and the gifts that we have to share. Some of us may feel called to volunteer our time, helping others. Others might feel called to a certain job or program or leadership role. While still others may feel called to share their gifts in other ways. Friends, the possibilities are endless! Because there are so many ways to reach out and make the world a better place.
But the first step is often the hardest. Many of us are getting comfortable in our homes and we aren’t sure if we want to start venturing out yet. And the way we worship and the way our church normally functions is changing because it has to meet the needs of our congregation and our community.
But I think right now God is calling all of us to be like Moses and Joshua, to step out of our comfort zones, to be brave and strong and courageous, and to not only listen for God’s call but to follow it. Like the prophets before us, we need to trust in God that God will go with us to guide us and to put the right words in our mouths.
When I was in seminary, the thought of standing in a pulpit and preaching to a group of people was absolutely terrifying. All my life I had been quiet and shy, and I was just going to be a chaplain. I going to sit with families and individuals and small groups, but I was never going to preach!
Well, there were four things that I learned in seminary that helped me to let go of what I was simply comfortable doing in order to truly listen for God’s call in my life. Because I’ll be honest, I was petrified! To say that when I started out I had butterflies in my stomach is an understatement. Sometimes it felt like I had 747s flying around in there!
Well, the first thing that I learned is that “God does not call the equipped, but God always equips the called.” So, I didn’t need to have all the answers, and neither do you!
The second thing I learned was that “I am and enough when I allow myself to be fully present.” I learned didn’t have to try to be like everyone else, and to do things like the people before me did. I just had to be myself, and so do you!
The third lesson helped to keep me grounded. “It is not about me and my abilities as much as it is about being a conduit or a vessel, allowing God to work through me.” And if God can work through me, then God can work through you too!
And the fourth and final lesson is: “God’s call has nothing to do with our plans.” Actually, God’s call usually takes our plans and turns them upside down leading us off in a totally different direction. (Do you remember the story of Jonah & the whale?)
My friends these four lessons are not just for ministers and worship leaders; they are for everyone! So, know that God doesn’t call the equipped, but that God always equips the called. Know that you are enough when you allow yourself to be fully present. Always remember that it’s not about you and your abilities, as much as it is about being a conduit or a vessel for God to work through. And finally, be ready, my friends, because God’s call usually takes you somewhere that you never planned on going!
As we heard earlier, when God spoke to Joshua he said, “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Friends, I encourage you to take those words with you, out into the world this week and listen for that still small voice inside of you. What is it calling you to do? Just remember whatever it is, you won’t be doing it alone.