Great Faith for a Great Future
What a strange year this has been. For me, it’s hard to believe it’s September! Although we are still in the midst of navigating the coronavirus pandemic, many of us are asking, ‘What now?’ And God's 'What now' is not limited or constrained by who wins the upcoming election: God is playing the long game.
What now? Here's the 'what now': we’re going to say ‘YES’ to the mission that God has given us. We’re going to say ‘YES’ to the purpose of God.
We’re going say ‘YES’ to the command of Jesus to go everywhere and take the good news of who he is and what he has done and what it means. We’re going to make disciples here in Bathgate and West Lothian, and we’re going to extend our faith and reach beyond, into new places, new nations, new cities.
To get us ready for the mission God has for us, I want to reflect on the first few chapters of Joshua and identify some principles that will prepare us to the possess the promised land of God’s purpose for our lives and for our church.
1. THE SETTING: CHANGE
As we come to Joshua 1, it’s difficult to appreciate the degree of uncertainty filling the hearts and minds of God’s people. They had just traversed a wilderness, having been consigned to a pattern of wandering for forty years due to their lack of faith.
Finally, they were on the verge of inheriting the promises God had spoken to Abraham about 500 years before, but they were faced with a big problem:
Moses my servant is dead (Joshua 1:2)
How could Joshua ever hope to replace Moses? How could Joshua ever step into the leadership role of a legend?
Moses was the only pastor the people of Israel had every known; he wasn’t just a guy; he was the guy: he had led them out of Egypt, out of slavery, with signs and wonders; he had met with God face to face; he had delivered the law of God and through him God provided water and manna sustained the people for all these years. Now he was gone; how’s the new guy going to do?
Note that the future builds on the past but it doesn’t replicate the past. It’s one thing to wander in the wilderness, but it’s another thing to possess God’s promises. The new situation will require new faith, new leadership, new strategies, and new provision. But first, God has to get Joshua into the right frame of mine.
2. THE PROMISE: A PLACE AND GOD’S PRESENCE
The good news for Joshua – and Israel, is that meets his people with promises. We need to understand the difference between God’s promises and ours. If we make a promise that we’ll do something tomorrow – we can seriously mean it and have every intention to do it. But we can’t even guarantee that we’ll be alive tomorrow, or that a pandemic lock won’t interfere.
With God, however, it’s different: God has within himself all the power necessary to execute his promises. That means that when God makes a promises – this is what I will do – it’s not conditional, it’s a guarantee in the fullest sense of the Word.
Look at what he promises – his presence and a place:
PRESENCE: As I was with Moses, so I will be with you (Joshua 1:5)
PLACE: I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. (Joshua 1:3)
This is good news: God will be with us and will give us all he has promised.
3. THE PRIORITY: GODS WORD
Even though God has promised to do all of this, there is still a proactive posture to which God calls Joshua. First, the Lord gives Joshua a priority:
Be careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you (Joshua 1:7).
To get the job done means to do it according to God’s word. We cannot pursue God’s promises through autonomous (self-law) means. Second, the Lord gives Joshua a process to ensure that he does things according to the word:
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night (Joshua 1:8).
The process by which God will bring Joshua into his promises is to constantly meditate on God’s word. The word meditate means to moan, growl, utter, speak, muse. This is an active, verbal, expressive way of thinking about and chewing on the word of God, rolling it over in our minds.
This is why we prioritise meeting with God in his word every morning. The first thing we do before we go out into the day is to meditate in God’s word.
4. THE PRODUCT: SUCCESS
Every one I know wants to be a success; nobody sets out in life – in their marriage, at work, in friendships – and says, ‘I’m going to do everything I can to be an absolute failure!’. This doesn’t mean that we don’t self-torpedo good opportunities; our capacity to mess things up is remarkably creative and resilient. But deep in our hearts, we want to be successful. And this is what God promises Joshua: If you do things my way – meditating on and obeying my word, you’ll be successful:
Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go (Joshua 1:7)
For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success (Joshua 1:8).
Success isn’t a bad word; God wants us to be successful. But He redefines what success is. Success does not mean getting done whatever we want; rather
SUCCESS is fulfilling the purpose of God; success is accomplishing his intention.
5. The POSTURE: PROACTIVITY (STRONG AND COURAGEOUS)
In the Bible, whenever something is repeated, this is intentional and done for the effect of emphasis. And so when Jesus says, ‘Verily, verily …’ He’s saying, ‘Hey! Listen up! This is important!’.
In Joshua 1:1-9 – in just these nine verses – we have one instruction repeated three times:
Obviously, the Lord wanted Joshua – and wants us – to be strong and courageous. Why is strength and courage so important to the Lord? Simply because it demonstrates trust and confidence in Him – and thus, when we are truly reliant on him, we can be strong and courageous.
To be strong is to be firm and confident; to be courageous is to be stout, strong, bold, and alert. We can be strong and courageous because God is with us He will keep his promises. We remain strong and courageous through meditating on his word.
We live in times of transition and change; we have never been in this kind of situation before. None of us have ever lived through a pandemic. This kind of transition causes uncertainty to emerge in our hearts. This is natural, but it should not be the final word. Rather, God calls us to a proactive posture of strength and courage because God is with us and He will keep his word. God is with us and He will keep his word. It is through meditating in and on his word that he affirms these promises to us. Remember:
God is with us and he will keep his promises.
This is what God affirms to Joshua in the end of this section:
Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
Remember where we started: Moses my servant is dead. For Joshua and the people of Israel, that meant a new leader and new way of living in a new land. Everything was different For us, in this pandemic era, many things are also different. But that’s OK because:
the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
GREAT FAITH is rooted in God’s Promise
GREAT FAITH is built by meditating in God’s Word
GREAT FAITH is activated through strength and courage.
The future is securely in God's hands, and we can move forward with absolute confidence in him.