In just a couple of days, 2012 will be over and 2013 will be starting. For many of us this is very exciting and for some of us, this is completely terrifying. We are standing on the edge of something new and we are not sure what is going to happen. Could this be a good year, one full of excitement and adventure? Or is this going to be a devastating year, one that drops us to our knees at every turn?
This is the exact place that we find Joshua in our Scripture passage today. Joshua is on the edge of something that will go very, very right or go very, very wrong. The leader of the children of Israel, Moses, has just died and Joshua has been picked to take his place. The children of Israel have never known another leader. Moses has been the guy for the past 40 years. Those are some big shoes to fill!
Illustration: A few weeks ago, I was questioned by a number of the men in our church in preparation for my ordination. One of the questions, and forgive me because I don’t remember the exact wording of the question, had to do with me stepping into the role of senior pastor were something to happen to Bro. Brian. The person who asked the question wanted to know if I would be able to step up to the responsibility. I’ll be honest: I was extremely overwhelmed by the question. Overwhelmed to the point that I was unable to answer the question for several minutes. Just the thought of stepping into the leadership role of something like this church was difficult to grasp.
Illustration: One of the pastors who is extremely influential to a number of pastors, me included, is John Piper. You may have never heard of him, but, trust me, he’s a big deal. He has written a number of books and has been at his church in Minnesota for a ridiculously long time. Recently, he determined it was time for him to step down from the preaching ministry at his church and they began to look for someone to take his place. He preached his final sermon at his church last night. That means next week, the new guy takes over. The thought of stepping into the pulpit that Dr. Piper filled for so many years has got to be incredibly overwhelming.
I am positive that Joshua was feeling overwhelmed. He had just traveled for forty years with Moses and he saw all of the incredible and amazing things that God had done through Moses. He saw God use Moses to part the Red Sea. He saw God use Moses to provide water out of a rock. He saw God use Moses to provide manna and quail. He saw all of these things. And then, suddenly, Moses is gone and Joshua is in charge. It is at this point that God shows up and gives Joshua a pep talk. God sits Joshua down and tells him that everything that had been promised to Moses was still in effect now that Joshua was the leader. God was still going to give Joshua the land that He had promised and that there will be no enemy that will be able to stand before Joshua and the children of Israel.
There were two things that Joshua needed to keep in mind as he began this new adventure as the leader of the children of Israel. First, any strength and courage that Joshua would have must be found in God alone. Second, Joshua needed to make sure that his life was grounded in the Word of God. Let’s take a look at each point as it applies to Joshua.
Point 1 – Joshua’s strength and courage had to be found in God alone.
In verses 1-6 of Joshua 1, there are at least six different personal pronouns where God is telling Joshua something. He promises Joshua He is giving the land to him. He promises that He will be with Joshua. And most importantly, He promises He will never leave Joshua or forsake him. Joshua had only to find his strength and courage in God. Why? Because it was God who was going to do all the work. There was nothing that was going to take place in the life of Joshua or in the lives of the children of Israel that God would not be involved in. Every step that Joshua took, every piece of land that he claimed, every battle that he won would be the direct result of God working for him. Joshua could have strength and courage for what was about to take place because he had God Almighty already working for him. Can there be any greater ally than God?
Point 2 – Joshua’s life needed to be grounded in the Word of God.
Verses 7-8 demonstrate the need for Joshua to be grounded in the Word. Obviously, at that time, Joshua didn’t have the full text of the Scripture like we have today. In fact, at this point, he most likely only had the Law that was handed down to him from Moses. But God tells him that being grounded in that Law is absolutely necessary for Joshua’s strength and courage. Joshua would need to know the Law inside and out, backward and forward. He would need to make it the tool he went to when times got difficult. God made it very clear that he was to know the Law and he was to obey that Law.
And what was the result of Joshua finding his strength and courage in God alone and being completely grounded in God’s Word? The answer is at the end of verse 8: “For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
Which brings us to this question: What does this have to do with me? It’s great for Joshua and we can read to find out what happens, but 2013 hasn’t been written for me yet. You can’t tell me that everything is going to be great and wonderful this coming year.
You are right and, if you look at our text, God isn’t telling Joshua that everything is going to be great and wonderful. There is no promise of easy days. However, the same things that were needed of Joshua are also needed of us. We must find our strength and courage in Christ alone.
I cannot promise you that 2013 is going to be an easy year. There is no guarantee that everyone who is in this room with us today will be with us this time next year. Not to be morbid, but we are going to say goodbye to some very dear friends this year. Some of us are going to get sick and some of us will have surgeries. This is because we live in a broken world that is screaming out for Jesus to come and fix it. However, as we find our strength and courage in Christ alone, we will be able to face whatever challenges come our way.
At some point in the future, my family and I will have to make a very scary decision, one that will have a huge impact on our lives for many years to come. To be honest, the thought of making that decision keeps me awake some nights. It has been a matter of a lot of prayer and a lot of discussion between Tina and me. I have cried over it, wanting to make sure that I am pursuing God in this decision. And as scary as it is, I know that God will be with me.
Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Philippians 4:13 says I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
When our strength and courage relies completely on Christ, we will be completely at peace, knowing that God is working for us. Our lives must be grounded in God’s Word. The Bible is full of the benefits that come from being grounded in God’s Word.
- There is purity from sin when we stay grounded in God’s Word.
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. (Psalm 119:9)
- There is direction for the way we are to go when we are grounded in God’s Word.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)
- There is joy to be found when we are grounded in God’s Word.
Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. (Psalm 119:111)
- There is an explanation for the joy we are experiencing when we are grounded in God’s Word.
but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15)
I read the Bible…a lot. I know this is something that you would expect to hear a pastor say. I know, I’ve been told, even by some of you here, that I’m one of those weird guys who just loves to read the Bible. But this is what I’ve found…the more that I read the Bible, the more I want to read the Bible. And as I read the Bible, I am better able to understand the circumstances and situations that come my way. That doesn’t mean that it gets any easier. Doesn’t mean that it is all roses and cupcakes. What it does mean is that I can see God’s hand in my circumstances and I can understand that He has a plan.
As we begin this new year, many of you are thinking about resolutions that you are going to make…and break over the next couple of days. I can’t think of a better way to start a new year than by praying and asking God to help you find your courage and strength in Him alone and to help you become grounded in God’s Word.
If you are here today and you do not have a relationship with Jesus, the Jesus you need to know in order to find your strength and courage in God, why not make today the day that you begin that journey? You may be feeling a tug, urging you that now is the time. If that is you, I would love to have the opportunity to speak with you about the Jesus who left Heaven, was born on Earth, died on the cross for your sins and mine, and who defeated death by rising again. That Jesus wants the opportunity to forgive your sins and present you as holy before God. If you want to talk more, I’ll be down front.