On Sunday 28th October 2018 I preached at Becontree Avenue Baptist Church. Knowing that many folk are going through difficult times, I chose to base my talk on Joshua 1:1 – 9
1After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2″Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them–to the Israelites. 3I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates–all the Hittite country–to the Great Sea on the west. 5No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.
6″Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. 7Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Whose ever been afraid?
The English language has many words to describe that feeling:
The Bible mentions the word “afraid” 206 times. “Fear” is mentioned 253 times. So this is obviously an important topic.
I’m sure we’ve all been there. Situations we have to face, things we have to go through. They take us out of our comfort zone and we just don’t like it.
For most of us, its not knowing what’s going to happen, a fear of the unknown that gets to us.
Some time ago a friend of mine asked me to pray for him as he was having to undergo an unpleasant medical investigation involving a camera. After the event I spoke with him and he told me the worst part was the ½ hour in the waiting room before the procedure.
When I started school in 1959 I was left at the school gates by my mum and had to wait with 40 other four and five year olds for our teacher to come out and collect us. None of us had been allowed into the school before to see what it was like, or to meet our teacher. It was all so strange – we even had outside loos with no roof on so they were cold and wet in the winter!
Changing class in primary school could be challenging especially if your new teacher is new to the school and no one knows him or her. What is he or she going to be like? Will I like him or her?
Even at secondary school we have new teachers, new subjects to face.
All through life we have beginnings and endings. New challenges and dangers to face: from babies learning to walk, to children learning to ride bikes without stabilisers or learning to swim without arm bands and floats and then in later years learning to drive.
Change brings excitement and it brings worries. For adults its changing jobs or even retiring from work.
Moving house can be a great challenge and seem daunting to many people. When my niece Katy was about three, my brother and his family were moving to a bigger house. Katy was distraught because she didn’t like the toys that were in the new house. She thought that you left your toys in your old house and inherited the ones left in the new house. A silly thing to those in the know but to three year old Katy it was too much to bare.
Moving to a new country to make a new start can be worrying.
Fear and worry are very closely linked. I am told that the root of the German word for worry is strangle, and sometimes that is exactly what our worries and our fears do to us.
Somebody once described worrying as sitting a rocking chair. It can take a great deal of effort and gets you nowhere.
The American preacher and author Max Lucado in his book “Come thirsty” writes this about worry:
• 40% never happens
• 30% is about unchangeable deeds of the past
• 12% focuses on the opinions of others that cannot be controlled
• 10% centre on personal health which only worsens if we worry about it
• 8% concern real problems that we can influence.
Lucado concludes that 92% of our worries are needless.
God doesn’t want us to live our lives full of fear. Many times in the Bible he tells people not to be afraid, or he says “Do not fear”.
If only we can see situations as they really are, as God sees them. We get so engrossed in our lives that we either forget who is really in control, or perhaps we’ve never actually made that step of faith and placed our lives in the hands of Jesus.
We may have heard about Jesus, we may have even read our Bibles and been to church for years, but we’ve never actually taken that step of faith and put our lives in God’s hands.
So lets look at our Bible passage for this morning. Its about a man who had every reason to worry, bearing in mind the task he had been given.
Joshua has just taken over the leadership of the Jewish people from Moses who had obeying God, led them out of Egypt and through the desert for 40 years.
Joshua had a difficult task.
According to Exodus 12 there were 600,000 men plus all the women and children. Just imagine being in charge of all those people and responsible for them! I wouldn’t want the job.
Joshua was to get all these thousands of people and all their animals and possessions over the River Jordan and into the promised land where they are to not only conquer every town and city they find but then settle down and live there.
Many of us find it enough just to organise the family holiday or moving house. But moving all these people and animals and then fighting battles to remove the existing inhabitants? That seems overwhelming.
But now Joshua has to lead the people into the promised land and conquer it. So what does God say to him?
• v3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.
• v5 No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life.
• v5 As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.
• v6 you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.
• v8 Then you will be prosperous and successful.
• v9 the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.
And what does God expect Joshua to do?
1. v7 Be strong and very courageous
2. v7 Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you
3. v8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night
4. v9 Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged.
Do you notice that several times God stresses to Joshua he is to be strong and courageous. Often our courage fails us when we have something new or difficult to undertake or we are uncertain of what we are doing.
There are some big challenges ahead for Joshua and his people. The River Jordan to cross and then cities to over run and armies to defeat. If you read Joshua you may think it’s rather unpleasant that God condemns all these people to die, but if you look into the religious practices which included human sacrifices then you would understand how angry God was with the Canaanites.
We all have our own challenges. We have strongholds of the enemy in our lives to be overcome, difficult people to deal with, awful situations to work through, as we make our way through life. Or perhaps God tells us not to compromise with non believers just as the Jews were not compromise with the Canannites. And maybe, as we read in Joshua 7, “sin in the camp” prevents us fulfilling God’s plan. Maybe its our wrong lifestyle or habits that stop us in our tracks. That’s why we need to do as God commanded Joshua in v 7 & 8 of our reading: “v7 Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you and v8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night.”
In our own lives God tells us to do some difficult things. It’s not because God is a spoil sport but because he loves us that he tells us to avoid certain situations or not to get involved with certain people.
Whilst Joshua was alive the Israelites did as God told them and all went well. However after Joshua’s death they decided that they knew best and brought a whole heap of trouble on themselves.
So today as we have new challenges or just have our everyday tasks and duties lets hold onto God’s promise to Joshua and claim it as our own: Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.