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1. Facing The Future In Faith (Josh. 1:1-9)

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Change causes everyone a certain amount of anxiety. We become very comfortable with the way things are - new situations can be unsettling and stressful. Generations change, leaders change, governments change, circumstances change; church leaders change. Whenever there is a change in leadership this causes a certain amount of instability, of wondering “what will happen now?” Many evangelical churches are at that place, in a time of change. It’s right and proper to remember and celebrate our church leaders who have gone before us. There is a time to reflect on the past and a time to face the future.

Change is scary for some and a challenge for others. But change for the right reasons is good. Sometimes we must change in order to accomplish God’s will. Indeed, it’s also right and proper to face the future in faith.

This is a continuation of my series of expository sermons on O.T. characters. We have studied various significant events in the lives of Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and now “Joshua, A Faithful Warrior.” I have titled this message, “Facing the Future in Faith.” The subject of this message is specifically the courage of faith - moving forward in times of change. The overall principle that we learn from this message is that as we face changes in the future, we have nothing to fear and everything to look forward to when we exercise the courage of faith in the God who is faithful.

Change requires us to exercise the courage of faith in three ways…

I. We Must Exercise The Courage Of Faith In Order To Face Watersheds (Josh. 1:2a)

1 After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’s assistant: 2 “Moses my servant is dead” (1:2a). This is a remarkable and stunning statement. Sometimes, God tells us things we know but refuse to admit. We get so used to the way things were that sometimes we don’t want to face the way things are or will be. It seems this was the case for Joshua and Israel.

In this statement, God is saying, “The time for mourning the loss of Moses and for wondering what you’re going to do next is over! Stop looking back and start moving forward! Now it’s time for change, time to pass the baton, time to move on with the next task at hand.” Because Moses had died did not mean that the Israelites would not move forward into Canaan. It meant that they would have a new leader to lead them into Canaan.

This was a watershed moment for Israel. Moses was 120 years old when he died and he had been Israel’s leader for 40 years. He was the only leader they had known since leaving Egypt. He had been Joshua’s mentor and model. Joshua had worked alongside him, he had seen Moses’ character, decision-making, responses to crises, personality. He had witnessed Moses’ relationship with God and his faith in God. No wonder they were grieving Moses’ death! But now it’s time to face the reality that things are going to change. It’s a watershed moment, a time of change for Israel.

When God directs change it is always for a good reason. For Israel, the time had come for the people to possess the land and Moses was not the man to take them there. Moses had been their intercessor with God. He alone had spoken with God at the top of the mountain. He alone had interceded with God on their behalf time and again. But where Moses was the intercessor, Joshua is the warrior.

Moses stood at the top of the hill with the rod of God in his hand, but Joshua led the people into battle with the Amalekites (Ex. 17:8-16). Moses was the man who spoke with God face to face (Ex. 33:11), but Joshua was the man who will go out before them and come back in before them, and who will bring them out and bring them in, so that the Lord’s community won’t be like sheep without a shepherd (Num. 27:17).

God has his person for every situation. He has a Moses and he has a Joshua, each perfectly suited to the next task. What Moses had done in the past was not the task Joshua would do in the future. And what Joshua is about to do was not the task for Moses. God uses individuals for specific tasks and He equips them accordingly.

As we face our own watersheds (turning points), God supplies those who are gifted for the task at hand, whether it is a special committee for a specific task, or deacons and elders suited to leading the church through a certain time period, or custodians, Sunday School teachers, children’s program workers, kitchen helpers, administrators and the like. He gives unseen and unsung heroes to the church, who work without reward or praise to help the church move forward.

God’s people face change from time to time. In Israel it was time for a new leader and a new home - that was a very significant change. For 40 years they had wandered in the wilderness – that had been their home. Now they face a complete relocation to a new land with a new leader, a land where they would face enemies, giants, and battles, where they would rub shoulders with pagans, where they would be tested in their faith, where they would have challenges that they had never faced before. And in every situation God proves himself faithful.

So, as we face change in the days ahead, we must exercise the courage of faith to follow God’s leading. We must prepare in faith, change in faith, and follow in faith, whether that means changes to our ministry, to our role in the community, or to how we relate to one another.

We must exercise the courage of faith in order to face watersheds. And …

II. We Must Exercise The Courage Of Faith In Order To Move Forward (Josh. 1:2b-6)

Now you and all the people prepare to cross over the Jordan to the land I am giving the Israelites (1:2b). I can hear Joshua saying: “Really? I am now the leader? I am Moses’ replacement?” Joshua must have quaked at the thought that he couldn’t possibly measure up to his predecessor.

Joshua must have remembered Moses’ courage dealing with Pharoah, Moses’ determination as he led the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses’ unwavering faith at the Red Sea as he held out his rod, Moses’ meeting with God at the top of Sinai and the radiant glow of God’s glory on his face as he came down, Moses’ confidence as he brought water out of the rock, and as he promised them food from heaven. I can hear Joshua saying: “I can’t possibly do any of that. Surely someone else would be a better choice.”

Joshua must have remembered the criticism and rejection Moses’ suffered from the Israelites. How they accused Moses of bringing them out of Egypt to kill them in the wilderness. How they threatened to stone Moses to death. How they quickly replaced Moses with Aaron when Moses stayed on the mountain too long. The time when he (Joshua) and Caleb spied out the land and how excited they were about the prospects, only to be stonewalled by the Israelites because of their lack of courage and faith. And now Moses, their intrepid leader, was dead!

And God says to Joshua: You and all the people prepare to cross over the Jordan (1:2b). The reality of what was happening must have been crushing. The prospect of leading such an unpredictable, rebellious lot of people must have been utterly daunting. And God knew that. He knew that at such a time as this Joshua needed words of comfort, encouragement, and affirmation.

When God orders his people to exercise the courage of faith and move forward…

A. He provides us with reassurance. First, God reassures us of his provision. I have given you every place where the sole of your foot treads (1:3a). God renews his covenant, reaffirms his commitment, and restates his provision of the land for them to inhabit. What he had said to their previous leader is still true. And just to be sure that Joshua got it, God spells out exactly the boundaries of the land he had given them in Joshua 1:4.

Second, God reassures us of his promise. Just as I promised Moses (1:3b). God does not change; He is fully trustworthy. The very same possession promised to Moses he now gives to Joshua – just as I said to Moses. Those must have been sweet words to Joshua. He had no reason to fear. Yes, Moses was dead but Moses’ God was alive and all the promises and assurances and affirmations that God gave to Moses, he repeats now to Joshua.

Joshua could count on God just as Moses had. Their possession of the land was as secure now as it ever was, whether under Moses leadership or Joshua’s, because it is God’s provision and He is fully trustworthy!

When God commands us to exercise the courage of faith and move forward, he reassures us with his provision, he reassures us with his promise. And…

Third, He reassures us with his protection. No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live (1:5a). Any fears they might have are put to rest. They can go forward boldly. Any new situations they may face should cause them no alarm. They would be invincible and untouchable - no one could overpower them. And the promise was good for the rest of Joshua’s life! God gave him a lifetime guarantee: As long as you live.

So, when God commands us to exercise the courage of faith and move forward, he reassures us with his provision, his promise, his protection. And…

Fourth, He reassures us with his presence. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or abandon you (1:5b). Under Moses their shoes had not worn out, they had received food from heaven and water from a rock, the cloud shielded them by day and the pillar of fire gave them heat and light by night. God had been faithful despite their unfaithfulness. And God says: “Just as I have been with you for the past 40 years, so I will be with you in the future. I will not leave you nor forsake you.”

In Hebrews 10:23, God gives us a similar assurance of his faithfulness to his Word: Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, since he who promised is faithful. Similarly, in Lamentations 3:22b-26, 22 Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! 24 I say, “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in him.” 25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the person who seeks him. 26 It is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.

The Israelites could go forward with the courage of faith in the God who never changes and who is always with them, the God who is always trustworthy and always keeps his word.

When God orders us to exercise the courage of faith and move forward, first he provides us with reassurance. And, second, when God orders us to exercise the courage of faith and move forward…

B. He provides us with encouragement. Three times God repeats the same words of encouragement. Be strong and courageous (1:6)… Above all, be strong and very courageous (1:7)… Be strong and courageous (1:9). These were the same words Moses had said to Joshua in Deut. 31:7-8. But that was then and this is now. Then it was in the future; now it is reality and Joshua is understandably fearful.

We all need encouragement, especially in times of change and uncertainty. There are enough things to discourage us and often not many to encourage us, so we all need encouragement. We need encouragement especially in those times when we are fearful of the future: “What’s going to happen now? How is it all going to work out? How long will it take?” We all need encouragement…

And we all need affirmation that what we are doing is good and appreciated – “You can do it!” A young woman I know had been training to run a half marathon. On one of her practice runs she only completed 11.5 kilometers instead of the full 20 kilometers. She told me that she wasn’t able to complete the course because she made some mistakes that day: (1) she hadn’t eaten enough before starting; (2) she hadn’t practiced for 2 weeks; and (3) she started out running too fast. Perhaps what she also needed at that time was someone to encourage and affirm her: “You can do it!”

It’s certainly understandable that Joshua would have needed encouragement and affirmation at this time. After all, he’d never been in this leadership position before, even though he had been told it was coming, and even though he had had considerable leadership responsibilities like spying out the land. Now, reality was hitting home. The prospect was daunting to say the least, even to such a brave man as Joshua.

This was an intimidating task, leading this ragtag bunch of refugees from Egypt, leading this fickle group of rebels, who might oppose you at any moment. How would you feel if you were in Joshua’s position? It might be like being told that you are going to lead the Syrian rebels, or even Hezbollah. “Are you crazy? If Moses the greatest prophet ever (Deut. 34:10) had a hard time, how do you think I can do it?”

It takes strength and courage to face such a task. Our strength and courage are rooted not in ourselves but in God – faith in the God who is all-powerful and fully trustworthy; faith in the God of Moses and Joshua. Remember: Their God is our God.

The courage of faith is rooted in (1) God’s provision: 3a I have given you every place where the sole of your foot treads; (2) God’s promise: 3b just as I promised Moses; (3) God’s protection: 5a No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live; (4) God’s presence: 5b I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or abandon you. God completes what he starts. His word is infallible and unfailing. That’s why we can be strong and very courageous.

Only through the courage of faith can we face the future confidently in times of testing and change. When it’s time to move forward, God says, Be strong and courageous. You’re going to start moving forward now, Joshua. The time for grieving for Moses is over. Things are changing so don’t be fearful or weak-kneed now. Don’t give up when the going gets tough. Don’t turn back or lose heart. Don’t turn away from Me. ‘Be strong and very courageous.’”

Why do we need special strength and courage when we move forward in faith? Here’s why. When we move forward, we need to be strong and courageous in order to accomplish God’s purposes. God’s purpose for Joshua was to distribute the land I swore to their ancestors to give them as an inheritance (1:6). For that, he would need supernatural strength and courage. The enemy was still there – those they had seen when they spied out the land; those giants in whose sight they were like grasshoppers! They were still there. “Remember, Joshua, what you said back then: ‘We can do it! We can overcome them and take this land.’ Well, now’s the time, Joshua.” That’s why we need supernatural strength and courage in order to accomplish God’s purposes.

So then, first, we must exercise the courage of faith in order to face watersheds. Second, we must exercise the courage of faith in order to move forward and…

III. We Must Exercise The Courage Of Faith In Order To Stand Firm (Josh. 6:7-8)

Moving forward requires that we stand firm. That sounds like an oxymoron, but it isn’t. We need to move forward in order to accomplish God’s purposes and we need to stand firm in order to be faithful to God’s word. Above all, be strong and very courageous to observe carefully the whole instruction my servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go (1:7).

Only by exercising the strength and courage of faith can we fulfill the purposes of God and be faithful to the word of God. Change is tough – it challenges us. It can be so disruptive that we want to give up. That’s why we need these words of encouragement. That’s when we need to be focused on fulfilling the purposes of God and being faithful to the Word of God. And that takes strong courage to stand firm.

Facing watersheds and moving forward create insecurity, but stand firming on the Word of God gives us stability. In order to stand firm for God…

A. God’s word must characterize our speech. This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth (1:8a). We must talk about it with our family and friends. We must teach it to those who don’t understand. We must explain it to those who are not Christians.

B. God’s word must control our thoughts. You are to meditate on it day and night (1:8b), by reading it regularly so that we know it and understand it, by meditating on it deeply so that it becomes part of who we are - shaping and directing how we think, act, feel, relate, react, make decisions and choices. May the word of God fill our minds and always be on our lips. Let’s delight to talk about it with one another and demonstrate it to one another.

C. God’s word must direct our behavior. You must carefully observe everything written in it (1:8c). You can only practice God’s word if you know it and understand it. And when you know it and understand it, then our obligation is to obey it, practice it – carefully observe everything written in it - so that it becomes part of our everyday thinking and behavior. Notice that these instructions are so important that God repeats them twice in verses 7 and 8.

What does it mean to obey and practice God’s word? It means not veering away from it to the right hand or the left, not deviating from its truth a single iota. Just because there’s going to be a change, don’t start to compromise the truth, don’t think this is an opportunity to lower the standard. Just because things are going to be tough for a while, don’t start to get soft on obedience. Let’s keep our eyes straight ahead with no deviation. Let’s keep on the straight and narrow path of God’s word. It takes courage to carefully observe everything written in it (1:7b, 8c). It takes courage to be unyielding, turning neither to the right or the left (1:7c).

If you stand firm for God - fulfilling his purposes and keeping his word - then you will have success wherever you go (1:7d)then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do (1:8c). The assurance of success for Joshua and the Israelites was based on their obedience to the word of God. And this is the assurance for our prosperity and success - fulfilling the purposes of God and keeping the word of God.

Biblical prosperity has nothing to do with financial increase. It has everything to do with fulfilling God’s purposes and keeping God’s word. It takes courage to stand firm for what’s right but that’s the recipe for a “prosperous and successful” Christian life. It will be prosperous because we will grow spiritually. It will be successful because we will influence others and see fruit for God.

Final Remarks (1:9)

Remember our thesis: As we face changes in the future, we have nothing to fear and everything to look forward to when we exercise the courage of faith in the God who is faithful.

Courage lies at the root of dealing with change successfully. Without courage, we will be weak and give up at the first obstacle. So, be courageous! Be assured of your convictions! Don’t let circumstances discourage you! Satan uses discouragement to weaken Christians. He knows that without courage he has stripped us of the most important tool in our arsenal and he has effectively taken us out of the battle.

Why should we do this? Because God has commanded it. Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged… (1:9a).

But, how can we do this? We can do this because God is with us: …for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (1:9b). The opposite of strength and courage is fear and dismay. But, remember, God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment (2 Tim. 1:7). Fear is the product of trusting self and not God. Dismay is the product of anticipated failure rather than success.

We so easily get down in the mouth when adverse circumstances assail us. We think we’re beaten. We can’t see how God can deliver us and discouragement takes over. But God says: Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (1:9b). He doesn’t prosper us one minute and then abandon us the next. He never leaves us nor forsakes us (Heb. 13:5). He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). The antidote for fear and dismay is strength and courage – not in ourselves but in God.

Like Joshua, we all face fears and inadequacies at times. God knows that in advance and he encourages us and reassures us of his faithfulness and trustworthiness. So, we need to trust God to enable us to become all that he wants us to be, to expand the borders of our ministries both here and around the world. One of my colleagues in Burkina Faso (West Africa) trusted God about impacting a rural area of the country with the gospel. In faith he acquired a piece of land, not knowing how he would develop it or what it would be. Today, his faith that God would use that property to impact that entire community has come to fruition with a vibrant primary and secondary school, a church, a medical clinic, and a vocational trade school. All because in faith he claimed God’s promises for that project.

We need to trust God’s promises, power, and presence, that he will never leave us nor forsake us, that his love and commitment to his people are unchanging. We need to trust God for the prosperity of our churches. Biblical prosperity is found in walking worthy of the gospel, trusting God in faith for the future, walking in submission to God’s word - studying it, knowing it, meditating on it, teaching it to others, and obeying it. If we are obedient to God’s word, he will guide us, empower us, comfort us. And that gives us the ultimate strength and courage to go forward for him in faith.

God reminds us of his character and the truth of his word. This gives us strength and courage to face the future in faith, to face watersheds and, at the appropriate time, to move forward and always to stand firm.

God knows us through and through. For he knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust (Ps. 103:14). The apostle Paul dealt with fear and weakness when he was opposed by the messenger of Satan, his thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7). And God empowered him, encouraged him, and assured him so that he could meet that enemy head on – My power is perfected in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

The unmovable foundation for our lives, especially when facing an unknown future, is faith in God – his promises, his purposes, his presence, his power. The key to successful Christian living is keeping God’s word - reading it, knowing it, inculcating it, practicing it. If we are active in fulfilling God’s purposes and faithful in keeping God’s word, we will face watersheds with confidence - confidence in God’s character, his trustworthiness, his faithfulness, and his comfort. And we will move forward in the strength and courage he provides. We will stand firm on our convictions concerning the Word of God.

Remember: As we face changes in the future, we have nothing to fear and everything to look forward to when we exercise the courage of faith in the God who is faithful

Related Topics: Character Study, Christian Life

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