Lessons of Courage from the Old Testament 5
Stepping Out in Faith
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
July 31, 2005

 

Main Passage: Joshua 1:1-9 (NLT)

 

Years ago I used to collect comic books. It’s a hobby that cost me a fair amount of money, but hopefully I’ll get it back someday if I ever sell them. That was the justification for the hobby, but ultimately it was a hobby I enjoyed. Why did I enjoyed it? Because it opened to me a world of heroes... something I think we lack far too often in real life. I loved reading about the incredible exploits of Spiderman, Aquaman, Superman, the Flash, Daredevil, Batman, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men.

But not all heroes have to be found in the fantasy world of comics. We have the occasional hero today, and the Bible is full of heroes… people who made a positive difference in their world for God. We’ve talked about some of them this past month… Moses, Daniel, David, Esther And there are others… Elijah, Joseph, Peter, Timothy, Paul, Barnabas, and more. But this morning I want us to look at one person in particular out of the Old Testament who took over the leadership of the Israelites after the death of Moses and led them into the Promised Land. That person is Joshua. We already read the passage from Joshua chapter one earlier in the service. It’s where God called Joshua to assume the leadership of the Israelite nation after the death of Moses, and in so doing called him to step out in faith and lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. So this morning, I want us to look at that passage again and draw out some of the secrets of stepping out in faith and becoming someone who can make a difference in our world for God.

 

Secrets of Stepping Out:

1. Believe the promises of God.

A while back, I was reading the results of a survey in which people were asked what character defect they are least able to tolerate in others. Do you know what topped the list? You tell me… what are some of the character defects you are least able to tolerate in others?

[Participation]

According to the survey I read, the number one character defect that people are least able to tolerate is… Dishonesty.

You ever hear someone say something like…

“I can’t stand it when he says one thing then does another.”
“I hate it when people deceive me.”
“I can’t tolerate people who lie.”
“They’re covering up the truth.”
“She lied to me, and it hurt.”

Those are the kinds of statements that you might hear from a person who has been lied to by someone else. And I think at one time or another we’ve all experienced this. We’ve all had someone lead us on to believe one thing while covering up the truth.

Maybe you’ve been lied to when shopping. You’ve been told this product will meet all your needs and will work perfectly, but then you get it home only to discover it isn’t what you needed. Or maybe you bought it on sale and you find out it was on sale because it doesn’t work. You’ve been taken.

Maybe you’ve been lied to about your job. You’ve been hired to believe one job description, only to discover expectations are quite different.

Or perhaps it’s been a bit more personal for you. Perhaps you’ve actually had someone cheat on you in a relationship while you were left in a cloud of deception. The betrayal was bad enough, but the deception piled on top made it that much worse.

Dishonesty. Nobody likes to be lied to, yet we run into it all the time. We live in a world of lies and broken promises. And as a result we become a society of skeptics and cynics.

Unfortunately, we sometimes carry that same skepticism into our relationship with God. We’re afraid He won’t come through for us. We’re not sure we can trust Him to do what He says He’ll do. And it paralyses us from doing anything for Him because we’re afraid of the risk.

But you need to understand, if God promises something, He means it. If He says He’ll do something, He’ll do it.

Psalm 145:13 (NIV)
The Lord is faithful to all His promises…

You can trust God. You can believe His promises. That’s good news. And the Bible is full of promises that God has made. Just rapid fire, here are some of the promises of God…

Matthew 28:20 (NLT)
“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 7:7 (NLT)
“Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened.”

James 1:12 (NLT)
God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

James 4:7 (NLT)
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.

Matthew 11:28 (NLT)
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

John 6:35 ( NLT)
Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry again. Those who believe in me will never thirst.”

John 11:25 (NLT)
“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again.”

Those are just some of the promises of God. The Bible’s packed full of them. And if you believe them, you know what happens? You gain courage...

The Result = Courage

God made a promise to Joshua. He told Joshua that He would give the land on the other side of the Jordan River to the Israelites, and He was going to use Joshua to lead them there. Joshua could have doubted that God would fulfill His promise, but instead he chose to believe in God’s promise and it gave him the courage to lead the Israelites across the Jordan and eventually claim the land as theirs.

 

2. Know you will be victorious.

Well, God promised Joshua that the land would become the property of the Israelites. So you know what Joshua did? He made preparations to cross the Jordan River and take over the land. He knew the land was promised to them, so they would be victorious. In fact, he told his officers…

Joshua 1:11 (NLT)
“Go through the camp and tell the people to get their provisions ready. In three days you will cross the Jordan River and take possession of the land the LORD your God has given you.”

Joshua knew he would be victorious. And it wasn’t because Joshua was mighty or because he had any great power or strength; it was because God was mighty and God had great power and strength. This became clear to all the Israelites just a few days later when they reached the walled city of Jericho. The Israelites knew that this strongly fortified city was a city they would have to conquer if they were to take possession of the land. But there was no way they could conquer this city. They simply didn’t have the military might to pull it off. But God gave them a plan, which they chose to follow. They marched around the walls of the city once a day for six days, and then on the seventh day they marched around it seven times while blowing trumpets, they gave a loud shout, and miraculously the walls tumbled to the ground. God gave the Israelites victory that day.

You know, it was a miracle, but it wasn’t a surprise. At least it wasn’t to Joshua. Joshua was confident that they would be victorious. That’s the result… when you know you will be victorious, you can live with a sense of confidence.

The Result = Confidence

Proverbs 16:3 (NIV)
“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”

You can be confident of that.

Now, let me add something. It might not always look like you’re headed for victory, but with God, even when it seems like we’re going to be defeated we’ll end up victorious.

Think about the prophet Elisha. In the Old Testament book of 2 Kings chapter 6, we’re told about how the King of Aram had it out for Elisha. In fact, he wanted to kill him. You see, the Arameans were at war with the Israelites. But every time the Arameans set up an ambush, Elisha warned the king of Israel about it. Time and time again Elisha foiled the plans of the Arameans, so the king of Aram decided to send his army after Elisha specifically.

We’re told the king found out Elisha was staying in the city of Dothan, so he sent a great army there to surround the city and to seize Elisha. Well, the army was mobilized during the night, so when Elisha awoke the next morning he found the city surrounded. Elisha’s servant was the first to see the army, and he was terrified. He didn’t know what to do, he didn’t think there was any hope… he was sure this was the end for Elisha. But Elisha didn’t seem fazed. And the servant couldn’t understand how Elisha could remain so calm. So Elisha reassured him…

2 Kings 6:16-17 (NLT)
“Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!” The LORD opened his servant’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.

Wouldn’t that be quite a sight? We sang a song earlier this morning declaring our desire: “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. I want to see You.” Can you imagine if your eyes were opened like the eyes of that servant? Opened so that you didn’t see only what was physical but you saw what was spiritual, too? Opened so that you could see the armies of Heaven surrounding you and protecting you from every attack of the enemy? I wonder how many times we limit what God can and will do simply because we throw in the towel too soon.

With God on our side, we will be victorious. There really cannot be any other outcome. Get it?

 

3. Devote yourself to God’s Word.

Hebrews 4:12 (NLT)
For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are.

This isn’t just some book that was written centuries ago and isn’t relevant for us today. It’s the eternal Word of God that is every bit as meaningful today as it was when the words were first written down. If it wasn’t it wouldn’t be worth the paper it’s written on. And you would do well to devote yourself to it. How do you do that? Let me give you four practical ways to devote yourself to God’s Word…
 

How Can I Devote Myself to God’s Word?

  1. Read it.

    Try to find a few minutes everyday just to read it. Maybe 10-15 minutes every morning when you wake up. Or during your lunch break. Or in the evening. I don’t really care when, just do it. Even if you can only do it for three or four minutes, start reading it. It will change your life.

    2 Timothy 3:16 (NLT)
    All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.
     

  2. Meditate on it.

    How is meditating different than reading it? When you meditate on it, you dwell on it. Instead of just reading the words, you stop to consider what they mean, and specifically what they mean for you. You contemplate what you’ve read, and you ask God to speak His truth into your life. God told Joshua in our passage this morning…

    Joshua 1:8 (NLT)
    Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may be sure to obey all that is written in it.
     

  3. c. Memorize it.

    Memorizing Scripture is one of those things that Christians have done for centuries, but today we can’t seem to find the time. Or maybe we just don’t think it’s that important. But memorizing Scripture is a habit you can instill in your life that will help you grow spiritually by leaps and bounds.

    Psalm 119:11 (NLT)
    I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
     

  4. d. Obey it.

    It’s not enough to read the words of the Bible and understand their meaning, and it’s not enough even to memorize the words and be able to quote them back whenever asked. You’ve got to put the Word into practice by applying it to your life. God told Joshua…

    Joshua 1:7 (NLT)
    “Obey all the laws Moses gave you. Do not turn away from them, and you will be successful in everything you do.”

    Psalm 119:1-2 (NLT)
    Happy are people of integrity, who follow the law of the LORD.
    Happy are those who obey his decrees and search for him with all their hearts.
     

Okay, let’s say you do all four of these… you read the Word, you meditate on it, you memorize it, and you obey it. What’s the result? What do you gain? You gain guidance.

The Result = Guidance

Regardless of what decisions you have to make or what circumstances you find yourself in, the Word of God can guide you. It will make a difference in your life. The wisdom and the inspiration of Scripture will come alive for you and will help you every step of the way.

 

4. Realize God will not abandon you.

In the passage Kim read for us earlier, there were only nine verses. And in two of those verses God declared to Joshua that He would not abandon him.

Joshua 1:5, 9 (NLT)
“For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you…
I command you—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

God promised Joshua that He would be with him wherever he went. And He’s made the same promise to you and to me. And remember, He keeps His promises.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NLT)
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.

I’ve been in five provinces and 25 states, and God’s been with me in every one. I’ve traveled by plane, boat, train, automobile, and subway and God’s been right there with me all the way. I’ve had good times and bad times, times of honours and awards and times of failure and betrayal, and God has never left me alone. What does that do for me? It gives me strength.

The Result = Strength

It gives me strength because I realize with God on my side, I can do anything. Not because of who I am, but because of who He is. He’s the Almighty God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Ruler of the Universe… He’s the One who can do the impossible. And He makes that strength available to me and to you.

 

5. Give God the Credit.

Remember what Joshua told his officers?

Joshua 1:11 (NLT)
“In three days you will cross the Jordan River and take possession of the land the LORD your God has given you.”

Joshua didn’t try to take any of the credit for what God was going to do. He didn’t pretend that he was the one that would be responsible when the land on the other side of the Jordan became the property of the Israelites. He publicly acknowledged that God was the one who was going to give them the land.

Have you ever felt like you really wanted to impress somebody? I know I have. Sometimes I’ve caught myself secretly hoping someone will notice what I’m doing and they’ll be impressed and they’ll tell me I’m doing a good job. I like to be recognized for what I do, and I like it when people praise me. I think most of us are like that.

But the truth is, without God I’m nothing. There is nothing of any lasting value that I can do apart from God. I’ve tried and I’ve failed miserably. But God takes me in my weakness, and in my weakness He is made strong.

Why is it important to recognize this? Why is it important to direct the credit to God? It gives you perspective.

The Result = Perspective

It helps to keep your feet on the ground.

 

So there you have it... some secrets to being a person who can step out in faith and make a difference in this world. What are you going to do with it?

 

 

 

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