Every year we choose a theme verse to help guide our school community in the classroom, in the boardroom and in every other room. It’s a special verse that can uniquely shape our character as we meditate on a very small portion of God’s word for an entire year. In the recent past, theme verses have come from the books of Philippians, Proverbs and Deuteronomy. As promised, God’s word does not come back void.
Our bumper sticker version for this year’s theme verse is, Joshua 1:7-9, “Be strong and courageous.” What’s in a theme verse? Let’s make a few initial observations together as we start off the year. As the Lord speaks to you throughout this school year, please drop me a line and let me know what you hear!
Here we go:
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Wow. There is so much here! This is an inspiring and rather daunting theme verse for our 2016-17 school year. Amazingly, without evening knowing it, I found out later that this verse was the scripture of encouragement given to Barbara Moses as she accepted the call to become Philadelphia Mennonite High School’s founding principal nineteen years ago! It is so encouraging and yet not all that surprising that as the Lord calls us forward into the future, that he reminds us of our past.
Dead Leaders, New Lands and Giants. This verse is the very first thing the Lord says to the people of Israel after the death of Moses, their leader out of slavery and in the midst of their wanderings for 40 years. Now God was calling them to move into a new land “flowing with milk and honey” yes, but also one described by their own reconnaissance scouts as inhabited by giants! “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes,” they said. How could the people of Israel be anything other than trembling in their boots? God knew the command they needed just at the time they needed it.
It Happens to the Best of Us. “Do not be afraid” is a phrase used throughout the Bible, and almost always the first thing spoken whenever people encountered angels. In a day and age marked by so much turmoil and uncertainty, isn’t it only natural to be afraid? Even in my work at the school, when I see schools struggling all around us and as we continue to make hard, important decisions, I have to admit that I get scared more often than I’d like to admit. Everyone gets scared, it happens to the best of us.
Amazing. What is most amazing to me about this verse is everything that is said surrounding the call to be strong and courageous. First, we are called to be obedient. Our strength must be demonstrated by following God’s word. Second, success is promised as a result of this obedience. We don’t really know what success will look like in our day and age, but we do know that God is making all things new and that Jesus invites us to pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.
Only Because He is With Us. Even after all of this, we still need to be reminded again in verse nine to be strong and courageous. And here’s the kicker, the ultimate reason for strength and courage isn’t because we’re so courageous, it is because God promises to be with us. He never walks away from us when we follow him to whatever nerve-wracking place he calls us to.
Not Safe, But Good. We are The City School Lions. Our theme verse from last year came from Proverbs 28:1, “The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.” One of the most compelling lion depictions I know of in literature comes from C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. My favorite anecdote about being strong and courageous is about the Christlike lion, Aslan. Upon hearing about Aslan in the midst of a scary situation, two young girls ask their friend Mr. Beaver, “Is he safe?” “’Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. ‘…Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’”
We follow the king. He’s not safe, but he’s good. Let’s go forward in strength and courage as we follow the king. Let’s encourage each other with stories about how God has given us the strength and courage we needed in times gone by. Let’s rejoice that God goes with us wherever we go when we follow him.