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“Living God’s Purposes”
With all that is happening and still is happening with this COVID-19 shut down and how it has impacted the church, along with all that is going on in all of our lives, this message, or the basis of this message, as it deals with our faith and trust in God, has had me up quite a lot in the late night and early morning hours.
And so, living God’s purposes is to understand that God put us on this earth for a reason. God has a plan and a purpose for our lives. God wants to use us for a great purpose beyond what any of us could every possibly imagine.
However, we have a problem when it comes to God’s purpose, and that’s because of the barriers we put up in our minds and hearts. Barriers that say, “How could God ever use someone like me?”
And so, for God to use us for His great purposes, we have to change the way we think. The Bible says as a person thinks in their heart, that is who they are going to be (Proverbs 23:7).
Since God has a purpose and a plan for our lives, what we need to do is to find out what that purpose is, because if we’re not being used by God, what are we being used for, and what then are we doing with our lives, or even better, what are we doing with what God has so graciously given.
The Bible says, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9 NKJV)
What the Apostle Paul is saying that God’s plan and purpose for our lives is mind-boggling. In fact, it’s so fantastic that we can’t even imagine it.
Through Jeremiah the Lord says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you … thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV)
And in Ephesians 3:20, Paul says that God is able to do abundantly more for us than what we could ever possible ask or even imagine.
Now, the Bible says in the beginning we were made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27), and seeing that God is the Creator, He has made us to be creative as well, and in that creativity He’s given us the ability to imagine. So, let’s start imagining what God can and will do in and through our lives?
Unfortunately, many people have no imagination when it comes to what God wants to do. Even though we can marvel at man’s imagination, we still can’t imagine God using us.
However, God wants to use us in great and mighty ways. Therefore, we need to employ that imagination. Where is our imagination for God’s kingdom? And then when God starts revealing it, will we start living it?
Todays, I’d like to do a 3 part series within this series on practical faith by looking at the life of Joshua, and today I’d like to look at his beginnings in Joshua chapter 1, and the four things we need to do if we desire to be used by God for His purposes. And know this, that God has done remarkable things through ordinary people who imagined their lives as something more.
1. Dump the Doubts
One of the biggest purpose busters there is, is doubt. We must let go of our doubts so that we can to move forward into the plans and purposes of God.
Doubt limits our potential. It causes procrastination which causes us to miss out on God’s best. We see this doubt in the words we say, like the excuses we use when opportunities arise. It’s where we say, “I doubt that God could use me like that.”
The Apostle James says that if anyone lacks wisdom they need to ask God, and God will liberally supply whatever wisdom is needed. But then he adds a qualifier, a warning if you would.
“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt…That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:6-7 NIV)
Therefore, before God can use us we’ve go to deal with our doubt issues.
Joshua had a doubt problem as well. In the military they would say that Joshua had a confidence problem. And who wouldn’t. Look who he was following, Moses.
None of us would like to be the follow up act to Moses? Moses was like Johnny Carson with Joshua being Ed McMahon. Or if you’re into super heroes, Moses would be Batman, while Joshua was Robin.
And then there’s God’s assignment. He was to lead the children of Israel into the Promise Land, something Moses failed to do. And so Joshua begins to doubt thinking who does he think he is to do something Moses was unable to do?
And so, Joshua had his doubts. How do I know this, because right before crossing over the Jordan River and starting the campaign to take back the Promised Land, God had to give Joshua a pep talk, not once, but three times He tells Joshua to be strong and courageous.
God told Joshua, “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)
The Lord was telling Joshua to dump his doubts because He was going to be with him.
Doubt is a choice. People choose to doubt, rather than live by faith. What’s even sadder is that people believe their doubts and doubt their beliefs. Instead, let’s begin to dump our doubts and believe in what we say we believe in, and that God wants to use us and give us great and precious promises.
Now, there are two basic things that cause doubts.
a. Comparing Ourselves
Instead of looking to God, we start looking at everybody else. Yes they may have more talent, better abilities, along with more education and experience. Or they may be like me, better looking. Maybe, I should doubt my belief in that one!
The Bible says that comparing ourselves to others is a foolish thing to do.
“But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!” (2 Corinthians 10:12b NLT)
Joshua was constantly comparing himself to Moses, which is why I believe God had to remind Joshua at the very beginning that Moses was indeed dead (Joshua 1:2).
The second thing that causes doubt is remembering our failures.
b. Remembering Our Failures
Remembering our failures is like replaying a movie in our minds over and over again.
But God doesn’t want us to focus on our past. Now, let me just say that there’s a difference between knowing and focusing. Knowing our past mistakes helps us from repeating them, but focusing on them keeps us from moving forward. Focusing on our past is never going to help us in the present, nor will it allow God to use us in the future.
Think about people God used in the Bible. Moses was a murderer before he became the deliverer. Jacob was a liar and manipulator before he became the father of Israel’s twelve tribes. King David, who was a man after God’s own heart was an adulterer and murderer. Abraham, before he became the father of the Jewish nation, gave his wife away, not once but twice. It would seem like his motto was, “Save my life, take my wife.” And then, before they were Apostles, Paul was a religious terrorist, and Peter was hardheaded, had a temper, and was always putting his foot in his mouth.
But God use them just as He wants to use us.
The Apostle Paul said, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.”
(Philippians 3:13 NKJV)
And so the first thing we need to do is to dump our doubts. The second thing if we want to be used by God is to believe.
2. Believe God’s Promises
This is where I believe the rubber of our faith, meets the road of life.
Even at the beginning God reminds Joshua of the promise He made.
“Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses.” (Joshua 1:3 NKJV)
What I do know and believe is that when God makes a promise He keeps it. If He says He’s going to use us, then He’ll use us. If he says He’ll bless us, then He’ll bless us. God keeps His promises and His word.
Even at the end of his life Joshua confirmed this reality.
“You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” (Joshua 23:14 NIV)
If you want to be used by God, believe in His promises. Now, the place where we can find His promises is in the Bible. If we’re going to grow in our faith, we’ve got to build our faith on God’s word. The Bible says that faith comes by hearing God’s word (Romans 10:17). I cannot begin to tell you how many Christians I counsel who are discouraged and depressed, but are at the same time biblically illiterate.
To Joshua God promised three things.
First, He promised strength. In verse 5 God said that no one would be able to stand against Joshua. What we need to do is to believe that whatever God asks us to do, He’ll give us the strength to do it. There’s an old adage that says, “Where God guides, God provides.”
Second, God promised Joshua success. Several times God tells Joshua that he’ll be successful. But God’s promise of success isn’t in the world, but rather it’s in what God is calling for us to do for the sake of His kingdom.
Third, God promises support. In verse 9 God commands Joshua to be strong and courageous, because God would be with him wherever he went. It’s said that God’s word done God’s way will not lack God’s support.
If we want to get God’s promises for our lives, then we need to get into the Bible. This is what God told Joshua.
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8 NKJV)
Notice the order of the wording. Success doesn’t’ happen until there’s obedience. Success is not based on our ability; rather it’s based on our commitment to God’s word.
And so first we need to dump our doubts, and then believe in God’s promises.
3. Lean on God
To lean means to depend on whatever we’re leaning upon. If we lean on a wall, we’re trusting the wall will hold us up. And that’s what God is asking for us to do when it comes to our relationship with Him.
To Joshua God said, “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5 NKJV)
God is saying, “Joshua, you can lean on Me.” And that’s what Joshua did. When Joshua leaned on God he couldn’t be defeated. But when he stopped and leaned upon his own understanding, then he failed.
After defeating Jericho and Ai Joshua and the elders were feeling pretty confident. When a group of men came into their camp seeking a treaty, telling Joshua that they were from a far away land, Joshua and the elders looked at their clothing and supplies and made the treaty. Only later did they realize that these people lived right next door, and because of that, the Jewish people weren’t able to attack them and possess their land.
Joshua forgot to inquire of God first; he leaned upon his own understanding and didn’t look to God and get His take on the matter.
The Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV)
Who or what are we leaning upon for strength? Is it other people, possessions, or power? These are shaky ground that will let us down. We can’t even lean upon ourselves, and that’s because we make promises we can’t even keep.
But having a faith that works in times of uncertainty is having faith that God will hold us up and keep His promises.
4. Step Out In Faith
There comes a time when we have to stop discussing what God has called us to do and do it. We have to step out by faith. If God tells us to do something, it’s time then that we stop praying about it and start doing it.
We have to step out by faith in spite of our feelings, fears, and doubts. There’s a time when we have to get off our blessed assurances and get our rear in gear.
This is what Joshua did.
“Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people.” (Joshua 1:10 NKJV)
The moment had come. God commanded they move. So they had to finally go for it. They had to cross the Jordan River, which at any other time wouldn’t have been a problem, but now the river was big and scary. It was the flood season and there were no bridges.
They had to step out in faith, which is what they literally did. The priest carried the Ark of the Covenant in front and literally stepped into the water. Here they were with water up to their waist. But they believed God’s promises and stepped out in faith, and God stopped the waters several miles up. And the people crossed over.
So the question becomes, what is our Jordan? What are those barriers that are stopping us from being used by God? Whatever it is, we need to step out in faith. And please understand, the first step is always the hardest, because it’s not going to make a whole lot of sense, but we have to move forward by faith anyway.
God said to Joshua, “Be strong and very courageous.” Courage isn’t the absence of fear; rather it’s moving forward in spite of our fear. God’s miracle and purpose is waiting ahead of us, not behind us.
Some say, “I’m too old for this stepping out business.” But Joshua was about 80 years old at the time.
Others say, “Now isn’t a good time.” But look at what Solomon says, “He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.” (Ecclesiastes 11:4 NKJV)
Solomon was saying that if we’re waiting for the right time or perfect conditions, then we will never get anything done.
Can we imagine what God wants to do in our lives if we would just believe? There’s no greater thrill than being used by God.
And if God isn’t using us, then we’re wasting the life He has so graciously given.
So let’s dump our doubts, believe in God’s promises, lean upon the Lord, and step out by faith into the plans and purposes of God.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study