TEXT: Joshua 3:1-17
Life can be tough!
• Reported attempted suicides increases annually.
• Drug use is epidemic, much of it an attempt to manage the pressure of life.
• Our land has so much alcoholics and many more that cannot face the day or night without a few stiff drinks or a six-pack.
• Many are depressed and taking downers just to go to sleep.
Each of us, from time to time, runs up against a problem that resists every effort we make to create a solution. My heart aches as I share in the challenges our people faces.
• Some are having problems in their marriages/relationships;
• Some are fighting habits that hang on to them like a pitbull.
• Others bring the story of a mountain of debt that has accumulated.
I’ve listened to older people telling of lonely days and the fear of being incapable of caring for themselves. There are myriad stories from those who are trying to cope with chronic illness, bad job situations, grief, or stresses that are pushing them to the limits of their endurance!
Christians, we live in a world were the Devil does his best to kill and destroy. Our status as God’s children does not exempt us from the curse of sin. Christians wrestle with the same temptations, get the same cancers, face the same tough bosses, and live in the same economic conditions as everyone else.
Here’s our word of hope – WE ARE NOT EXEMPT FROM THE PROBLEMS, BUT WE HAVE RESOURCES FROM GOD TO CARRY US THROUGH! The Word tells us, “God can do anything, you know–far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” (Ephesians 3:20, The Message)
Today, in the book of Joshua reading the story of God’s people who were taking possession of the Promised Land. Here we find lessons and principles for crossing our Jordan’s and possessing our “Promised Land”
In the 3rd and 4th chapters, we come to the place where Joshua is to lead the people into Canaan. Talk about pressure, Joshua had it! God pointed him in the direction of Canaan and said, “Go!” That was great, except for one thing. Right in front of Joshua and Israel there was a river, and it was flowing full to its bank – at flood-stage!
• What would he do?
• How could he obey?
• Could he go forward?
This Bible story has rich lessons of encouragement for us. Here’s the basic principle that I want you to take home today – I want you to right this down…OUR IMPOSSIBILITIES ARE GOD’S OPPORTUNITIES!
Let me first give you the MEANING of the crossing (3: 1-4)
The Lord declared, “Now is the time for occupation of Caanan!” There was a TRANSITION to be made! They were confronted with a definite moment of choice that would change Israel from a wandering nation to a settled nation, from a people living in hope of a promise to a people living in possession of the promise!
The ’crossing over’ was much more than moving the camp from one side of a river to the other. It was a time of commitment, a time of ending one era and entering another. To further complicate matter, a definite sense of uncertainty accompanied the crossing. On the other side of the river were walled cities, defending armies, and even ’giants’ – well equipped warriors. 40 years prior Israel had been presented with the same choice to make a transition and they refused! This time, Joshua was ready to move them forward.
If we would realize the Promises of God in our lives, the very first thing that you and I must be ready to do is to move ahead obediently into transitions – EVEN WITH ALL THE UNCERTAINTY THAT COMES WITH CHANGE.
Transitions are often traumatic and always require great faith in order to realize their full promise! How well do you do change? It is inevitable that change will come, but how you experience it, is YOUR DECISION!
What are some of those transitions?
• Childhood to Teen years — a transition too many of us ignore or treat lightly, which might partially explain why so many lives fall apart in that time of life!
• Teen to Career and Marriage — lots of questions, lots of uncertainty, lots of optimism
• From couple to family, then back 25 years later to couple! — very interesting time, accompanied by all kinds of physical changes, too
• Midlife transition from success to significance — midlife crisis is no joke!
• Preparing for the end of life, accepting our mortality!
Some of these transitions are driven by time, others by experience. Our kids grow up, our bodies age – and nothing can stop the transitions that come with the passage of time. But other transitions present themselves to us through things like: an unexpected job offer, a first heart attack, a separation, or the death of a parent. The fact is this – CHANGE IS INEVITABLE. Whether it is change we choose or change presented to us.
The question is – will you cower in fear of what lies on the other side of the crossing or move forward in confidence to enter a new place of promise?
Our text helps us to prepare for crossings, for those transitions by showing us a pattern of action.
Joshua focused the attention of the Israelites on the Ark of the Covenant.
Do you know what the Ark was?
The Ark was the visible symbol of the presence of God among the people of Israel. Customarily the ark was set in the Holiest of Holies in the center of the Tabernacle of worship. Only the high priest of Israel went into that room to present sacrifice before the Lord.
“Focus on the presence of the Lord,” he told the people, “for he is the One who will lead us into Caanan.”
As we prepare for the transitions, we must be centered on the Presence of the Lord and ready to FOLLOW.
No longer do we look to a visible symbol of God’s presence among us, we have the Spirit in our hearts! God has a plan, a way for you to make it through that difficulty that has you frustrated. But will you humbly let Him lead? Are you willing to follow his leadership in your life?
• He knows the way to reach that husband that seems so resistant to Christ.
• Teen- He knows how uncertain you feel about the future and wants to lead you to the right college, the right marriage partner, the right career!
• He knows the way for you to cope with that cancer, even using it to create new intimacy with Himself.
• He has a plan for the second half of your life as you desire to do something with more significance than making money.
• He has a plan for that business or work that you’re having.
• He has a plan for your marriage as you’re preparing for the challenges of parenting or as you move into the time of the ’empty nest.’
He is an eternal God and knows the very details of your life, that even if you’re facing an obstacle today, that scares you, remember what the Bible tells us, that, “though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you will fear no evil, for He is with you.”
But, will you take it to him, focusing in on his presence and ready to be obedient as He leads you today?
The significant point of the story, and even of the whole book of Joshua, is that GOD GOES FIRST. The Ark enters the water ahead of the people. The priests walk out and stand in the middle of the river “ahead of the people” (vs. 14). And then the people follow, they obey, they step out in courage and cross the river.
And that is exactly what you need to do in your life. You need to know that the Lord has promised to be there with you. You need to trust in him. Complete trust. When the Lord reveals something in Scripture to you, you need to trust it. And you need to follow it.
The Israelites were directed to get their hearts ready by renewing their understanding of their unique place as the ’people of God!’ “Let’s move into a state of high consciousness of the Lord’s law,” Joshua said.
The command, “Consecrate,” meant they were to observe special dietary restrictions, to abstain from drinking wine, to put off any celebrations. Such a command had been given before at the foot of Mt. Sinai in preparation for the giving of the Law.
The Bible describes us as “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God,” (1 Peter 2:9, NIV) It is clear that our holiness is not earned, merited – in any self-created. It is the work of God in us, and yet we are always called to make the choice to be God’s own, to live in awareness of His Presence, and to avoid unworthy actions that would diminish His reputation or offend Him.
From our text, I am prepared to assert that in times of transition we need to become even more conscious of God’s Presence. Even holy people can renew their consecration.
One way is the DISCIPLINE OF FASTING! If you’re not familiar with the concept, to fast means to abstain from some normal part of life for a spiritual purpose. We might abstain from rich foods, eating a plain diet as we seek God. We might engage in a total fast, taking no food in order to pray intensely. We might set aside entertainment – TV, music, games – to focus on God. The NT even refers to a married couple setting aside sexual intimacy for a time in order to focus on prayer. Fasting is not to impress God! Fasting is not to force God to act, like a hunger strike! Fasting is a time to focus, to listen intently to God.
Another way to consecrate ourselves, is to CREATE SPACE IN OUR LIVES FOR EXTENDED TIME OF WORSHIP & PRAYER. Transition times should be marked by pauses in daily routines when we retreat to meditation, to quiet times of listening, to earnest discussions with other Believers about God’s work.
God moves among holy people. The Bible says, “Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will accept…Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.” (Romans 12:1-2, NLT)
These acts of renewing our commitment, of making a new consecration, prepares us to follow Him through the transitions into new places. The more you consecrate yourself, the more discerning you can become…You can easily hear the Voice/prompting of God in your life…You can easily understand His direction and even unknown circumstances that you will face in your time of transition…You can even find strength as you face obstacles and detours in your pursuit for the things He wants to accomplish in your life.
Consecrating is a way of making a new declaration of dependence on our Lord and the power of His Holy Spirit.
3. MOVE OUT!
The day for stepping out arrives. Israel strikes her tents. The Levitical workers took down the Tabernacle. The priests step forward and shoulder the Ark. The sacred shofar sounds – announcing- “Move out!”
An awesome procession begins. I can hear the shuffle of a million feet, the bleating of sheep and goats. I can almost taste the dust as it rises. Down the center avenue of the camp towards the water’s edge the priests march. The river was overflowing its banks. It was an impossible barrier for a 1/2 million people.
What would happen?
Try to imagine what it must have been like to be the priests at the front of the group carrying the ark. You are walking towards a river with no bridge, no way across. According to the Bible, it was not until their feet touched the water’s edge that the Lord stopped the flow!
Ever met one of those people who are always preparing, but who never ‘moved out?’
• There’s the guy who proposed to his fiancé 5 years ago, but still won’t set a date to get married;
• The person who’s always preparing himself/herself for a job, but not really applying for a job (too lazy);
• A Christian who would always attends seminar about business, how to manage a business, attending symposiums, etc., but is not really determined to start his own business, not really believing God that God will bless him;
• The Christian who talks about doing ministry, but never steps up and actually does it!
Transitions demand a moment of decision when all the preparation leads to putting it on the line and MOVING OUT! There is always this principle to be aware of: “The greater the potential for reward that is created by the choice, the greater the risk.”
But are we really risking if we’re following God’s Presence and living a life of consecration? Sure we are! Israel was entering the Promised Land under God’s guidance. They had all the promises written down and stored in memory – BUT they still have to possess the land. There would be battles, there would be difficulties. Mute testimony to that fact lay just a few miles ahead in the form of a fortified little city called- Jericho!
There comes a moment to commit to the process, to step out, to risk it all. In those moments we discover who God is, and understands the depth of His love for us. Sometimes even more exciting is the opportunity to find out who we really are!
It may take some moments approaching desperation, moments when it is time to get our feet wet, but if we are living in the promises we can step ahead knowing that the Lord will make the way.
I urge you to make the kind of commitment to the things of God from which there is no retreat. As we move out to live in the new place of God’s provision, let’s be done with human efforts and solutions of men. Let’s proclaim our total dependence on the Heavenly Father and our readiness to do what he directs.
The prophet Isaiah gives us God’s word: “When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end– Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you…” Isaiah 43:2-3, The Message
Let’s take sight of the promises and complete the crossing. The source of our true confidence is summarized in this wonderful passage – “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6, NKJV) (HINDI KAILANMAN TITIGIL AT MAPAPAGOD ANG DIYOS SA PAGTUPAD NG KANYANG PANGAKO SA IYONG BUHAY, WAG KANG SUMUKO, WAG KANG PANGHINAAN NG LOOB, MANATILI KANG MANAMPALATAYA AT IHAKBANG ANG PANANAMPALATAYA MO…MAARING BUMAGSAK KA NA, SO WHAT, ALALAHANIN MO NA MAGING ANG PAGBAGSAK NATIN AY KAYANG GAMITIN NG PANGINOON UPANG GAWIN NYA ANG KANYANG NAIS SA ATING BUHAY! LAGING GINAGAWA NG DIYOS ANG BAHAGI NYA, GAWIN MO ANG BAHAGI MO – HUMAKBANG KA, MANIWALA KA, MANAMPALATAYA KA, YAKAPIN MO ANG KATOTOHANANG, YOU ARE A CHILD OF GOD AND YOU WERE MADE FOR GREATNESS!) Move out!!!
For a final word, let’s look at one more text today – read Joshua 4: 4-9
4. MEMORIALIZE GOD’S WORK.
We need to establish memorials of the special times of God’s provision, not so that we can live in the past, but so that the miracles of yesterday can strengthen the foundation for the faith we need to face the challenges of the present day.
MEMORIES CAN HELP US TO HAVE CONFIDENCE IN WHAT GOD CAN DO. (DARATING SA BUHAY NATIN NA PALAKI NANG PALAKI NANG PALAKI ANG MGA PROBLEMA NATIN…MAARING PABIGAT NANG PABIGAT NANG PABIGAT ANG ATING MGA PASANIN, ANG MGA ALAALA NATIN NG KABUTIHAN AT HIMALA NG DIYOS SA ATING MGA BUHAY AT MAGSISILBING PAALALA KUNG SINO AT ANONG KLASENG DIYOS ANG ATING PINAGLILINGKURAN.) As you remember all of what God has done, your faith is strengthened, it boost your confidence, not on yourself, but in God, and you eliminate fear and doubt in your heart and mind. The memories of God’s continuing provision in our lives strengthens other Christians as well. Take time to make memorials.
• Keep a prayer journal.
• Everyday think of all the things that you can be thankful for.
• Share your testimony.
Transitions will come! Life is not static. God points toward tomorrow, and sometimes all we see is an impossible situation. Remember, what I said in the beginning of this sermon, OUR IMPOSSIBILITIES ARE GOD’S OPPORTUNITIES!
As you prepare for your crossings, your transitions, take a lesson from Joshua:
• FOLLOW! Focus on where God, by the Spirit, is leading you.
• CONSECRATE your life, renewing your commitment to Him, listening carefully for Him.
• MOVE OUT! Don’t go just half-way toward the challenge and give in to the temptation to quit. Look to the promise. Take courage from the Word. Join with others in pilgrimage!
• MEMORIALIZE! Remember the former victories and build your faith in the God who is at work in you today.
Cross your rivers and possess your Promised Land! Amen