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“Creating an Environment of Faith”
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Today we’re ending our 3 part series in the book of Joshua as part of our larger series on Practical Faith. Our study today will look at the end of Joshua’s life and the campaign to take back the Promised Land, and hopefully from our study we’ll learn how we can create an environment for our faith to grow and mature as we move forward into the promises of God.
To pursue the presence of God, it’s vital we create an environment of faith within our lives and the church. The key is remembering that we cannot pursue God’s presence where God’s presence doesn’t reside. So we need to create an environment that welcomes God.
Now, please understand, not only does it take faith to enter into God’s presence, as the Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 2:8, “By grace you have been saved through faith,” but it also takes faith to remain there.
The Bible tells us
• By faith Abraham was declared righteous, and by faith not only are we saved, but we are sanctified, and justified as well.
• By faith we extinguish Satan’s fiery darts, we are delivered from the mouth of lions, and by faith we overcome the world.
• By faith healing takes place, nothing is impossible, and finally, it’s by our faith that God is pleased.
Therefore it’s by faith that we’re to live our lives and it’s by faith that we draw near to God.
But conversely our lack of faith displeases God and prevents Him from moving mightily in our lives (Matthew 13:58; Mark 6:5-6). And it was a lack of faith that prevented the Jewish people from entering into the Promised Land on the first go around.
The writer of Hebrews said, “‘Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.” (Hebrews 10:38-39 NKJV)
The writer of Hebrews is quoting the Lord through the prophet Habakkuk telling us not to be like that generation of Jews who started out by faith but fell away. Even though God promised them the land of Canaan, they never set foot inside of it, but instead died in the wilderness because of their lack of faith.
Further, faith is more than merely saying we believe in God. The Bible says that even the demons believe, yet they tremble in fear because they’re not saved (James 2:19).
Also, faith that doesn’t act upon what it says it believes, is a dead faith (James 2:16). Real faith is when our hearts draw near to God and receive His promises and acts accordingly.
The writer of Hebrews talks about this group of Israelites who didn’t enter.
“For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” (Hebrews 4:2 NKJV)
They clearly heard and understood what God had promised, but their hearts didn’t receive it by faith, and that’s because they didn’t create within their hearts an environment by which faith could grow and be nurtured.
We can know all about what the Bible says, but it must find an atmosphere where its power can be released. It’s this environment of faith that is missing, which is why many are falling back into the world and their old way of life. They never created an environment of faith within their lives and within their homes.
This faith environment is revealed in Joshua’s parting words to the next generation that made it in. Twenty years have now passed from the time they first entered into the Land, and Joshua is still speaking about God’s faithfulness saying that not one of God’s promises have failed (Joshua 23:14).
By faith Joshua drew near to God, and by faith remained there.
“Now it came to pass, a long time after the Lord had given rest to Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua was old, advanced in age. And Joshua called for all Israel, for their elders, for their heads, for their judges, and for their officers, and said to them: “I am old, advanced in age.” (Joshua 23:1-2)
What they were about to hear, and what we’re about to look at is sound advice from a leader who has lived through it all, and is now passing down the secret of creating an environment for faith to grow and mature.
The first thing to create an environment of faith is to
1. Remember God’s Past Intervention
“You have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations because of you, for the Lord your God is He who has fought for you.” (Joshua 23:3 NKJV)
Joshua is telling them to look back and think about all God has done.
• Joshua remembered his former life as a slave in Egypt and how God through many mighty miracles delivered them from out of their bondage.
• Joshua remembered the manna from heaven, the water gushing out of the rock, and how God’s presence went with them in the pillar of cloud and fire.
• Joshua also remembered the people’s rebellion of unbelief, and how God prohibited them from entering into the Promise Land the first time, and
• Joshua remembered how God parted the Jordan River, how He brought the walls of Jericho down, and the many victories because of their obedience.
If we want to create that environment of faith in order to stay in the presence of God, then we need to remember how God has intervened in our own lives, both the good and the bad.
The writer of Hebrews tells us to remember our suffering.
“But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings.” (Hebrews 10:32 NKJV)
We’re also to remember God’s promises as well.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17 NKJV)
By faith when we trust in God’s promises then He’ll release in us His supernatural grace.
“(There has) been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:4 NKJV)
God’s grace flows through faith in His promises, not in the keeping of commandments.
Our problem is that we have become so preoccupied with our problems that we forget about God’s blessings, promises, and what He has already given and done for us.
This is because we take God for granted. It’s a shame how we can cheer wildly for our favorite sports teams or at concerts, but we’re silent in our praise to God.
Do you have something to thank God for? Your present might stink, but if you recall what God has done, that is your starting point. Give Him the praise. Open up your heart and mouth and express your gratitude.
Therefore, to create that environment of faith, we need to remember what God has promised and accomplished, and let our praise ring out, because we can never have faith for the future until we look back and thank God for our past.
This leads to the second aspect of how to create an environment of faith.
2. Anticipate God’s Future Intervention
“See, I have divided to you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from the Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, as far as the Great Sea westward and the Lord your God will expel them from before you and drive them out of your sight. So you shall possess their land, as the Lord your God promised you.” (Joshua 23:4-5)
Joshua could have lived out his later years content with what he accomplished, but he wasn’t. Instead we see Joshua still invoking God’s promises.
Even though they were living in the land, they hadn’t yet fully conquered it. They had grown complacent and comfortable. They had all they wanted or needed, therefore why fight and inconvenience themselves any further.
If we’re honest, there is still a lot within our own lives that have yet to be conquered. Things that are not the way God wants them to be. So we have to create that environment for faith by rooting out the enemy, and all that hinders our coming into God’s presence, and then anticipating God’s future promises.
God wants to revive and bless us with His promises, and He does so by intervening and destroying those things that paralyze our faith. God wants to intervene in a mighty way by our faith in our future with Him.
The writer of Hebrews describes faith this way, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV)
Faith believes God’s promises even though we have yet to see them, and faith is certain of their outcomes. Faith believes God’s word and God’s promises, and then living our lives based upon them.
Therefore, to create an environment of faith, we must possess a spirit of anticipation, a belief that God will keep His promises and do something wonderful through them. It’s anticipating God’s intervention in the future.
The final aspect in creating this environment for faith is
3. Allow God’s Present Intervention
“Therefore be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, lest you turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left, and lest you go among these nations, these who remain among you. You shall not make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause anyone to swear by them; you shall not serve them nor bow down to them, but you shall hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have done to this day. For the Lord has driven out from before you great and strong nations; but as for you, no one has been able to stand against you to this day. One man of you shall chase a thousand, for the Lord your God is He who fights for you, as He promised you. Therefore take careful heed to yourselves, that you love the Lord your God.” (Joshua 23:6-11)
To allow God to intervene in the present there are three things Joshua brings out.
a. Obey God
“Therefore be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, lest you turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left.” (Joshua 23:6 NKJV)
Obedience was the central tenant throughout Joshua’s life. At the very beginning before they even entered in the Promised Land the Lord encouraged Joshua to obey His word.
“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)
Obedience to God’s word needs to be central in everything we do. God places a premium upon our obedience, allowing it to strengthen our faith and bring blessing to our lives. The reason we have difficulty in obeying God’s word, however, is because it confronts our sins and our desire to live according to our own set of rules.
Obedience also runs contrary to our culture of independence, and so there’s a battle between our self-centered rebellion and God-centered obedience. To allow God to intervene in our present we must obey His word.
b. Be Holy
Holy means to be separate. To create this environment of faith we need to separate ourselves from sin and this world.
“And lest you go among these nations, these who remain among you. You shall not make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause anyone to swear by them; you shall not serve them nor bow down to them.” (Joshua 23:7 NKJV)
Joshua was telling the people not to have anything to do with the other nations, and those people who still lived amongst them who served these other gods. Such a separation is not biased or racially motivated. These people served foreign gods and practiced things that went directly against God’s word.
Today God is calling for the same sort of separation. Even though we live in the world, the world is not supposed to be living in us. The Apostle John tells us that we’re not to love the world or anything that is connected to it, because if we do, it’s a strong indicator that the love of God may not be within us.
The Apostle John said, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15 NKJV)
Making worldly alliances removes us from God’s presence. It spiritually depletes us and leaves us weak. Wrong conversations, inappropriate relationships, fascination with questionable things and practices all lower our shield of faith allowing Satan to rip us off.
However, whenever we speak about separation, people get uncomfortable thinking that it smacks of fanaticism. But a separated Christian, one who lives in the presence of God, is someone who loves God and wants nothing less than to live uprightly in His presence.
Therefore willingly, not reluctantly or grudgingly, but willingly we must give up all that is not of God or is questionable before Him.
The Apostle James says, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4 NKJV)
And so to allow God to intervene in our present we must obey His word and be a holy people.
c. Follow God
“Therefore take careful heed to yourselves, that you love the Lord your God.” (Joshua 23:11 NKJV)
Our failure to obey God’s word and maintain those standards of separation can be traced back to our failure to fully follow God, that is, having a heart that’s fully in love with Him.
Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15 NKJV)
Therefore, let’s not be like that generation who failed to enter into the Promised Land because of unbelief. Let’s not miss the opportunity that God has set before us today.
With sincere hearts let’s draw near to God by faith, completely trusting in Him, and let’s hold onto what we profess as true knowing that the Lord who has promised is faithful to complete it.
This is our choice.
And so to create this environment of faith we must
• Remember God’s Past Intervention
• Anticipate God’s Future Intervention, and
• Allow God’s Present Intervention by obeying God’s word, being a holy people, and following Jesus as fully devoted and sold out disciples of His.
And so, if we are to create that environment of faith, it all begins and ends with Jesus, therefore, as the writer of Hebrews says that we need to be looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
And so let’s end by singing and lifting up our voices making Jesus the center of our lives, and the center of His church. Amen
Wednesday Evening Bible Study