After 39 years in Christian school employment, you’d think I would greet the start of another school year without concern or nervousness. Alas, not so much… Unfailingly on Labour Day Monday, I encounter the same emotions as in previous years. Along with the rush of anticipation for the start of a new school year comes a familiar blend of sorrow, excitement, anxiety, confidence, fear and hope:
- sorrow at the passing of summer holidays and yet excitement to return to the daily rhythm of school life;
- concern about what is to come and confidence that we are prepared for the challenges;
- fear of “what may be” as well as excitement of “what may be”;
- uncertainty if I can do this and security in the knowledge that I am not alone with God at my side.
Scripture tells us of a moment in Joshua’s life
when he stands at the threshold of a new era. Moses has been taken by the Lord and now Joshua has been handed the
mantle of leadership. He has some big shoes to fill, and the challenges are intimidating.
The task is clear: Joshua is to lead the people of Israel into their new promised land. It sounds pretty straightforward—all he has to do is guide a rather argumentative, and at times, grumpy and demanding group of people who have diverse needs, desires, and requests into a land full of threatening opposing forces and physical challenges. He’ll need to deal with overseeing staff, managing difficult budgets, and balancing the demands of strategic planning while at the same time solving the daily problems and challenges that arise. (Sound familiar?)
In the first chapter of Joshua, God gives Joshua his leadership mandate: “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.” Joshua 1:5-6 (NIV)
In Hebrew, the words for “strong” and “courageous” are virtually identical in meaning. Joshua is to march forward fearlessly knowing that God is with Him and he is simply the instrument of God in this work. As God had been with Moses, so He will be with Joshua.
The same words are extended to us. God comes to us with the reminder that we should enter this year with strength and courage because He will never leave us or forsake us. These words of comfort underlie a truth that I’ve seen in our movement, and experienced personally, time and again: our God never abandons us. He has always been present and that promise will continue to be true.
Joshua 1:7 begins with a repeat of the words “be strong and very courageous” but commentaries note that the tone has changed. In verse 7 rather than comfort, this phrase is one of command—of warning. Joshua is commanded to stand firmly and obediently on the word of God.
We too have the same call. As we begin yet another school year, it is my prayer that we will heed the call to be strong and courageous, living in obedience and faithfulness while being comforted in the knowledge that our God will never leave us nor forsake us. May you truly experience our God’s blessing as you embark on your leadership journey this school year.