Deuteronomy, Devotionals

Deuteronomy 1:20-21: Do Not Be Afraid! Do Not Be Discouraged


As the old man continues his talk, he turns toward the screen with his arms open wide. His booming voice echoes off the canyon walls. The sound vibrations resonate in your chest as his words invade your heart. You can’t help but look over the horizon. And even though the view is different from the picture on the screen, you realize the words he has spoken are just as viable and relevant now as they were on the day they were first proclaimed. You peer at those around you knowing they felt it too…

“I said to you, ‘You have now reached the hill country of the Amorites that the Lord our God is giving us. Look! He has placed the land in front of you. Go and occupy it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Don’t be afraid! Don’t be discouraged!’” Deuteronomy 1:20-21 NLT

Bam! You’re there! The Promised Land (PL) is right in front of you! “Go up and take possession of it as the LORD…told you” (NIV). Here it is in front of you. It’s already been given as promised. It’s literally yours for the taking!

What’s going through your mind? What do you see? What are you anticipating? What are you excited about? Afraid of?

My PL is me as a published author of various Bible studies. A speaker at colleges and universities; at conferences, retreats, and churches. I’m sharing the message God has ignited in my heart. I’m teaching students and young adults about the Vibrant Relevance of God’s Word in our daily lives. It’s exciting! Beautiful! And TERRIFYING! Self-doubt and questions invade my mind like the locust invaded Egypt (Ex. 10:1-20). Who am I? Who wants to hear what I have to say? Who wants to read anything I write? What makes me think I can do this? I don’t have experience…and on…and on…and on…

Then God brings His east wind and says, “You can’t. BUT I CAN AND WILL. Do not be afraid! Do not be discouraged!

Why does He say that? Because I still have to do the work—I still have giants to face. I need to write my Bible study, blog my devotionals, finish my website, write query letters, find an agent who believes in me and is willing to represent me, sell my work to a publisher, and speak. This is intimidating and scary. There has been and are going to be many obstacles. BUT God has promised to be with me every step of the way; not to fail me or abandon me (Josh. 1:5). And I confess, there are days I have to cling to this promise as I force myself to move forward through my anxieties.

God’s command to take possession of our PL is a challenge of faith. The Israelites were neither large in stature, numbers, or power—but their enemies were! And they had to fight them in battle before they could occupy the land. We also have giants to face. For me, it’s difficult to break into the publishing world as a new writer. I have to face agents and editors and publishers—oh, my! Am I afraid? Yes! But I choose to trust God. What about your land? Who are your giants? Professors/teachers? Admission staff? Entrance exams? Finances? Bosses? Board members? HR representatives?

However, the most terrifying giants we will face are the ones inside of us. These are the ones that will keep you from entering the land. Doubt. Fear. Anxiety. Complacency. Laziness. Faintheartedness. Selfishness. Pride. But as God promised to drive out Israel’s enemies, He will “drive out” ours when we’re faithfully obedient to Him.

Another challenge is, we’re lazy and easily discouraged. We want things to be comfortable and easy—but they’re not. Truth is, no one ever said possessing our PL was going to be easy (Jn. 16:33). But lucky for us, Paul unlocked the secret to hardening our resolve: focus on what God has given us to do, not on what we do or don’t have. Paul learned how to be content and thrive in any situation, including prison, because Christ’s strength coursed through him (Phil. 4:10-13).

Beloved, occupying our PL is going to take hard work. There’s going to be tears. You’re going to sweat and maybe lose a little blood. But it’s worth it! If Jesus can take a poor child’s lunch, bless it, and use it to feed over 10,000 people (Lk. 9:10-17); he can use my writing and whatever purpose He’s given you, multiply it, and use it for His glory. Like that small boy, we just have to hand it over to Him—to bless and use. It’s His anyway, we’re just stewards of what He’s give us. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love [Him] and are called according to His purpose for them” (Ro 8:28, NLT).

Just so you know, it’s okay to be afraid. But it’s not okay to give into your fears. God has proven Himself to be faithful and promises to be with us on our journey to and in our PL (Exodus 23: 20-33) “See, I am sending an angel before you to protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you. Pay close attention to him, and obey his instructions. Do not rebel against him, for he is my representative, and he will not forgive your rebellion” (vs. 20-21, NLT). Beloved, our success in fulfilling God’s purpose in our lives hinges on our faithful obedience to Him. Period. But we still have to go through the process of conquering and occupying land. Why? So our faith can explode in growth. So we will KNOW our God is a God of His word, that He can be trusted to protect and guide us through the most challenging of circumstances, and that He has indeed given us a good land.

So I echo Paul’s question: “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Ro. 8:31, NLT).

Journal exercise: Look up Exodus 23:20-33. List the “If You” statements and the “I will” statements. Compare them. What is our responsibility? What does God promise? What did you discover? How does this apply to you and your PL? What is God speaking to your heart?


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