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As we ended our time last week in our previous sanctuary, I talked on our need to have a great ending. And my opening statement was, “A good start needs a better ending, and a good ending needs a better start.”
In other words we need to have good ending so that we can have a strong beginning. If we start off weak, then we’ll never get traction so we can move forward in this life of faith God has called us upon, this journey to spiritual transformation, so we can become those disciples of Jesus.
Last week we looked at the end of King David, the Apostle Paul, and Jesus Christ’s lives and how we can likewise have a great ending, and today I’d like to look Joshua and his leading the children of Israel into the Promise Land. And through this study I hope we can learn what it takes to have a strong beginning that will see us enter into the Promises and God’s Promised Land.
So to have that strong beginning, we’ll be looking at the steps we need to take, from what God said in Joshua chapter one, as Joshua took over the leadership role for Israel.
1. The Past Is Over
“Moses My servant is dead.” (Joshua 1:2a NKJV)
There’s a popular saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
The past is an important reminder and instructor as to how we are to live in the present, and into the future. But I want to look again at something I said last week that we should also consider. And that is that “We’re far too consumed with what has taken place in the past that we make adjustments to our present to compensate. But the problem is, that in making these adjustments we never considering what they may bring to our future.”
We are to learn from the past, but we cannot let our past dictate or control our present or our future.
Far too many people are living their lives based upon what has happened, rather on what God has in store for them. And so God sometimes has to be abrupt in some of the things He says, like here when He said, “Hey Joshua, Moses is dead.”
The Apostle Paul tells us that we must be willing to forget the things of the past.
The problem has been that too many Christians are living under condemnation because they can’t forget, and therein lies the problem. We can’t forget. It’s virtually impossible.
Has anyone ever told you to forget something? What’s the first thing you do? Remember it!
And Satan has a way of reminding us. I’ve been driving down the street, minding my own business, thinking of nothing in particular and all of a sudden Satan brings back to my memory something that I did 30 or 40 years ago.
So, how can we forget? We do so by choosing to no longer remember it in our daily lives. We are choosing to no longer remember those things that have happened, the hurts, pain, and even the suffering we may have gone through. And unless we choose to no longer remember them and what someone else may have done, then the hurt will just continue.
And when we make that decision, it breaks the chains that continue to keep us in bondage.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at what the Apostle Paul said.
“One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13b-14 NKJV)
Paul knew where he was going, but he also knew that if he kept remembering those things that have happened to him in the past he would never get there. In other words, he wouldn’t have that great ending we talked about last week.
God has a calling for all of us; He’s got plans to prosper and not harm us, and to give us a future hope (Jeremiah 29:11). But if we’re clinging to the past, then the past is dictating our future, not God.
And so, while the past is valuable to teach us, we cannot dwell upon it, because when we do, we’ll never move forward into the future God has for us. We need to realize that what use to be is no more so we can move forward into God’s calling.
This is what Joshua and the children of Israel were now facing. All they knew was their wilderness experiences, but now a new chapter in their life was to begin, and while what happened was beneficial to remember, they must realize that God had something new.
In the same way we need to choose to no longer remember our past mistakes and even our successes, and that’s because God has something new for every one of us.
This idea is evident in the second part of verse two where God said to get up from where they were and cross over into what God has in store for them. This is at the heart of the second point of our message, and that is our need to
2. Move Forward By Faith
After telling Joshua that Moses is dead, God goes on to say, “Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them.” (Joshua 1:2b NKJV)
The unfortunate reality is that the majority of Christians are content with the past, with their wilderness experience; therefore they never move forward and possess their full inheritance.
Consider the tribes, or the families of Ruben, Gad, and Manasseh, who preferred the land on the East side of the Jordan River, that is, land outside the Promised Land. They loved it so much that they gave away their inheritance to live outside God’s promises, and in the end, they were the first group of Jews to be capture and go into captivity.
But moving forward, not knowing exactly where we’re going to end up, or what lay before us can be a very scary thing, and so what God told to Joshua He tells to us.
In fact, three times the Lord told Joshua to be strong and courageous.
There are many sayings when it comes to courage, let me paraphrase the one I use quite often.
“Courage isn’t the absence of fear; rather it’s moving forward in spite of our fear.”
But how can we be so strong and courageous?
The answer is seen in several places in what God told Joshua that day.
The first is verse five where God told Joshua that as He was with Moses, He would also be with him, and that He would never leave or forsake Joshua.
But the place that stands out the most is Joshua 1:9
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 NKJV)
We can move forward by faith knowing that God is with us.
We must be careful, however, of becoming complacent, which is why I believe God gave this command to Joshua. When things start going well, we start becoming complacent.
God has given us promises, visions, goals, and dreams, and He wants us by faith to move forward into them. However, how will we know that it’s God, and not us? It’s when they are based upon God’s nature and God’s word.
The Psalmist said, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
And so if God’s word is what leads us, then we need to take the next step, which is …
3. Obey God’s Word
Twice the Lord told Joshua to observe, or obey, and do what God’s word says.
“Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you … that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.” (Joshua 1:7a, 8b NKJV)
Wouldn’t it be convenient if we could just pick and choose which parts of God’s word we want to obey and which ones we don’t, because we think they are too hard or demanding?
Like when you get to the Fruit of the Spirit and say, “Let’s see, I’ll take love, joy, and peace, but hold the patience and self control please.”
God told Joshua to not only know what the law says, but to put it into practice. We need to not only know what God’s word says, but we are to do it, that is, we are to put it into practice.
The Apostle James says, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22 NKJV)
And when we obey God’s word, then the promise is that God will bless.
“All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 28:2 NIV)
What are these blessings?
Our problem is that we see only what we can’t do in God’s word. Like …
Now we can get a better handle on why King David said,
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2 NKJV)
And so, once we’ve put away the past and moved forward by faith obeying God’s word, we need to …
4. Be Prepared When God Calls
After God had said these words to Joshua, Joshua knew that it was time to prepare the people for God’s call. He said to the people,
“Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess.” (Joshua 1:11 NKJV)
They had to “be prepared.”
As God’s people we need to be prepared in the same way Joshua told the people to be prepared.
First they had to prepare provisions. They couldn’t store up the manna, because they only received it on a daily basis, and once they got into the Promised Land the manna stopped. So they had to take steps to prepare what they needed.
We need to prepare ourselves as well, which means not leaving God out of the picture. If we need a job, God will help, but He won’t have businesses calling us as we sit on the couch eating bon-bons and watching T.V. But God will give us guidance as to where we are to go, and will give us favor when we get there.
Next, they had to prepare their hearts to see God work in a miraculous way.
The Jordan was a rushing mighty river, which at this time was overflowing its banks. They saw it, and so they had to prepare their hearts to move forward by faith, not worrying about the circumstances.
So we have to prepare our hearts for those miracles God has in store for us so that by faith we can move forward into them.
Here is another saying that is worthy of remembering. “Faith is not the absence of doubt, rather it’s the courage to believe and move forward in spite of our doubts.”
Finally, they had to prepare themselves to receive God’s promises
They were told to then go and possess what God had already given them.
God has given to us promises that we have yet to possess, and mainly it’s because of fear. But God tells us to move forward anyway by faith, because He is always with us and will never let us fall.
Now, when I do fall it was because God didn’t ordain the path I was taking; rather it was a path of my own making and my own desire. But when I’ve moved forward by faith in the plans and purposes of God, then God moved in a mighty way, and I have many testimonies to prove that.
Will we be ready? Notice the people’s response to Joshua.
“All that you command us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.” (Joshua 1:16 NKJV)
This then needs to be our prayer, our motto so that we can begin strong and have the better ending.
In the words of the song that we’ll end our time together today, it says,
“Where you lead me I will follow,
Where you lead me I will go.
Where You lead me I will follow
Jesus take me down that road.”
“I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back, no turning back.”
Wednesday Evening Bible Study