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Strong and Courageous, Faithful and Fearless

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
March 7, 2022 1:00 am

Strong and Courageous, Faithful and Fearless

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew

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March 7, 2022 1:00 am

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Have any of you experienced any change in your life in the last couple of years? Change is hard sometimes, isn't it? But it is inevitable.

It's unavoidable. It's part of life. And it's essential to growth and maturity. Some change is good, some not so much. For most of us, it's the changes around us that we have no control over, we can do nothing about, that are the most difficult to adjust to.

We relish what is familiar, comfortable, and expected. And we don't like to be caught off guard or to have someone or some situation turn our life upside down. In truth, in many ways over the past two years, our lives have been in some measure turned upside down. The world outbreak of COVID pandemic has forced us to accept change, and change is not new.

It's part of life. I think back over the last hundred years, the changes that have taken place just boggle the mind. As a boy growing up in Clayton, I remember wagons coming in from the farm pulled by horses and there were a couple of guys that had a couple of draft horses that they rode bareback coming into town. And now we all travel by private car most of the time.

In those days, missionaries would go out to places like Papua New Guinea and Australia and it would take weeks on an ocean voyage, and now we got an overnight flight to Australia. When I was a boy, about three years ago, I contracted polio. And now we've got the little oral vaccine that you take, and it's no longer a threat in most of the world. It's very rare that we have cases of pneumonia. In those days, when we would print newspapers and books and things like that, all the type had to be set manually in those days.

And it was very rare that we had cases of pneumonia. We had to be set manually in little trays, and we've got a couple of those printing trays in our home. Libby's family, her father's family, a lot of them were printers. And now you can print from your cell phone. We have word processing, and it's just amazing the things that have taken place.

Early part of the 20th century, the first flight, Kitty and now we've got a Voyager out beyond our galaxy, exploring interstellar space. But as amazing as all those technological advances are, the cultural shift that has taken place, the changes that have occurred in our culture are even more astonishing. Just in the last 30 years, things have happened that I could not have dreamed of as a young boy. Those of us who are in the more seasoned years of life remember a time when you could walk around your neighborhood at night without fear. Children would roam free.

There was no threat of abduction or murder to little children. I can remember as a young boy on my bicycle, and we'd get a group of guys together and we'd play cops and robbers at night all over town. It was a different world in many ways. As we get older, we get more settled in our ways, and we resist changes. We are tempted to long and nostalgically for earlier times that we look on as better times. The truth is that in spite of the fact that we are now in a time where Christianity is mocked openly, and that was not a part of what the United States used to be like, those kinds of things shock us in many ways. And yet the truth is that the war against God and his ways has been with us since the Garden of Eden. There never was a time since the fall of man when evil was not rampant in the earth. And while the changes that we perceive in our time seem to us far worse than what has gone before, the battle for the soul of man has raged throughout history.

Now we in this day have a choice. We can face this new day, the new challenges, the new expressions of sin's war against God. We can man up and fight the good fight, or we can cower in fear, or we can continue in faith. We can run for the proverbial hills, so to speak, or we can return to the sovereign head of the church.

We can believe and we can worship him as we should. I don't know what you're facing tonight. It could be a change in your life that takes many different forms. Evil comes in unexpected ways sometimes, an illness, the loss of a loved one, financial reversals, and the attack of the enemy comes at us from every quarter, the breakup of homes and marriages, a child's rebellion, a friend's betrayal, the open hostility of the world against Christianity, which we're experiencing in our day. And it may be even persecution will come in the not too distant future. I don't know what is in store for you today or tomorrow, but I do know this. God is not surprised. He knows the end from the beginning, and he is at work in all of it for our good and for his glory. And so tonight I want us to consider the fact that because of who God is, because of what God has said and his promises to us, because of where he dwells, he is with us.

Because of this, we can enter the battle with confidence and move forward in faith and without fear. If you will turn with me to Joshua chapter one, and let's stand together as we read the first 11 verses of Joshua chapter one. After the death of Moses, the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua, the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, Moses, my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses from the wilderness and this Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the great sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life.

Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses, my servant, commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left that you may have good success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful 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. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

And Joshua commanded the offices of the people, pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, prepare your provisions for within three days you are to pass over this Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess. Let's pray. Father, we acknowledge that we are totally dependent upon you. Even our offering of praise is a sacrifice through Jesus Christ. It is only in him that we have hope. And yet in him we have hope that is beyond our comprehension.

And yet that peace that passes understanding stills our hearts in the midst of all the evil that is around us. Thank you that you are our God. You will be our guide forever and we rest in you through Jesus Christ in whose name we pray. Amen.

You may be seated. As you know, our pastor has come down with a stomach bug and he gave me a call late yesterday afternoon. He said, I'm trying to get hold of Eugene to see if he'll preach for me in the morning and would you preach tomorrow night. And so it's a privilege to be able to come and to share God's word with you tonight. We are in a time of great upheaval and change and it's a challenge to faith and to faithfulness. And so I think that this passage has a lot to say to us tonight and in the days that we are facing together.

So I want to encourage you tonight, first of all, with the fact that we can go forward with faith because of who God is, the person of God. You know, for 40 years the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness. They were led by a man who spoke personally with God, the creator of the universe, a covenant God who had revealed himself to them and entrusted them with his word and revealed to them his name, his covenant name. And now they faced the death of Moses and were called to a new beginning under the leadership of Joshua.

They were to go into the land and take possession. Change always brings a certain degree of uncertainty and anxiety as we face the unknown, the future. Sometimes the trepidation can just paralyze us and there's no possibility of moving forward. But like the Israelites on the brink of Jordan, we can move forward with faith in the person of God and who he is.

Change is a part of life and for you it may be a present reality. In this Old Testament example, however, we find a perfect example that is recorded for our instruction. These ancient accounts of what took place in the history of Israel are historical truth, but they also provide us with spiritual truth and reveal to us things that apply to us today. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, said that these things took place as examples for us and they were written down for our instruction. So don't be like the dad who tries to put the bicycle together without ever reading the instructions, you know, and comes up with some interesting configurations. But let's go to the example that God has given us.

Read the instructions and learn from that example. Now, like Joshua, like the Israelites, we can face the battle ahead and we can do it in faith because of who God is. Look with me at the beginning of verse 5. God's Word says, No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. God had given Joshua a promise of success, of being able to overcome the battles that he would face. No Og king of Bashan, no Sihon king of the Amorites, not the Amalekites, not Pharaoh, not the Hittites, not the Egyptians, not the Canaanite kings all allied together. Nothing could stand before those whom God had given the victory.

The Israelites had witnessed the awesome power of God time and time again. And no army could stand no matter how numerous they were, no matter how well armed they were, no matter how well trained. No man could stand against Jehovah God. God is invincible. He cannot be conquered. He cannot be overcome.

And because of who he is, we can face the battle with certainty and assurance. Not only is God invincible, he is also immutable. That theological word that means he never changes.

God is unchanging. Look at the next part of verse 5 there. God says, Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. How was he with Moses? Well, Joshua knew about that, didn't he? Joshua had a history with God. Joshua was there when the army of the Amalekites was conquered as Moses stood on the hill and lifted the rod and Joshua prevailed over the Amalekites. Joshua was there with Moses on Sinai when they received the tablets of the law. He had witnessed God's provision for his people by the hand of Moses.

They'd been given manna from heaven, meat in the wilderness, water when they're in the desert. God says, As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. God is impartial and immutable. He does not change. His dealing with his children is grounded in his own love and his own character.

His enabling power will be with Joshua now just as it was with Moses. He is unchanging and that unchanging nature is affirmed in the very covenant name that he gave them when he revealed it to Moses there in the burning bush and he said, I am who I am, the self-existent God, the one who never changes. He is eternally the great I am.

He is who he is and he will never be anything other than who he is. He is the unchanging immutable God and because God is invincible and immutable and never changing, he is always faithful. Last part of that verse 5, God says, I will be with you.

I will not leave you or forsake you. God never abandons his people. No matter how bleak the prospect from our finite perspective, God's promise is that he will never forsake his own. Israel and Joshua can go forward in faith because of who God is, the covenant God who will never leave, never forsake his people. These things took place as examples for us, Paul says.

They were written down for our instruction. So let's think for a moment about what this Old Testament account says to the New Testament believer. In Paul's words to the Roman Christians, how may we through the encouragement of the Scriptures have hope? It's easy in days like we're experiencing to lose hope and think, well, it's just going to get worse.

It's never going to get any better. But the reality is that through God's promises in Scripture and understanding who he is, we can face these days with certainty and hope and faith. So applying this to ourselves, first of all, the invincible, immutable, faithful God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He doesn't change.

He is who he is. And his promises to you are just as sure as were his promises to Joshua. In fact, in Christ, Paul says in 2 Corinthians, all the promises of God find their yes and amen in Christ.

And we are in him. God declared to Joshua, I will not leave you or forsake you. And to us, the promise is the same. Jesus himself said to his disciples before he ascended, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. And in the letter to the Hebrews, that promise of his never leaving, never forsaken is given to the New Testament believers, reiterated there for us. Because of who God is, we can go forward. We can face the future in faith and without fear. But our faith is not only in the person of God, it is also in the promise of God. God is trustworthy and he keeps his promises. And so we can go forward in faith in the promise of God as well as in the person of God.

Looking back at the text, we consider the example from the scripture in verse 6. God says, be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them, only be strong and very courageous, being careful according to all the law that Moses commanded you. God promised an inheritance to Israel. He gave this promise to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. He promised that their offspring would inherit the land.

He had revealed to Abraham the 400 years of bondage in Egypt, and yet he had promised that they would return and receive the inheritance of the land. And now he tells Joshua that it's time that he is to go in and possess the land and divide it among the people. Back in verse 2 of this chapter, he had promised that he would give this land to all the people.

Moses, my servant, is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people unto the land that I am going to give them to the people of Israel. This land was to be given to all the people.

Not only that, the whole thing was included in the inheritance. Verse 3 says, every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses from the wilderness and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the great sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. God had promised the inheritance, and he promised that all the people would receive this inheritance, they would receive the whole land. And then God kept that promise, and he kept that inheritance for them.

He had prepared it, and he kept it. During the 400 years of Egyptian bondage, they didn't have any of that land. They were slaves in Egypt. And yet God had not left the land to deteriorate and become a wasteland. He had the heathen nations keep the land and cultivate it and develop it and leave it for his people.

And we're told in Deuteronomy that they would receive cities they didn't build and houses they didn't fill and sisters they didn't dig and vineyards and olive trees that they didn't plant. God prepared the inheritance and kept it and preserved it for them. He kept the land through the heathen nations, and then he drove them out, and he gave the land to his people.

But he didn't drive them all out at once. The land would have to be kept and prevented from being overrun with wild animals and the wild growth of briars and weeds and corrupting the vineyards and the gardens and the groves. And so this land was God's gift to the nation. It was an inheritance of his grace to them, but they had to go in then and possess it.

Receiving the inheritance would require strength and courage and obedience. See, God's promise came with a command. Going all the way back to Abraham, we find this is God's way.

When Abram was 99 years old, we read in Genesis 17, when Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, I am God Almighty. Walk before me and be blameless that I may make my covenant between me and you and may multiply you greatly. And now on the verge of a fulfillment of the promises that God has given, God points Joshua to this book of the law, this record of what God has done over the years with his people. And this book of the law is to be like an instruction manual in a way. Look at verse 8. God says to Joshua in verse 8, this book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful 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. There's a key phrase in that verse for our understanding of what the instruction is here. God says that this book of the law shall not depart from your mouth. The Hebrew idea of meditation includes the idea of just murmuring the scriptures.

As they would think and meditate on the scriptures, they would murmur those words. There's something about kinetic memory connected with our retaining scripture. If we speak it out loud, it helps us retain it. It helps us to memorize it.

It helps us keep it going. And sometimes your mouth will go where your mind has forgotten what's next. But God says this book of the law is not to depart from your mouth. You have to meditate on it day and night.

A story is told of young students in the Hebrew school who questioned the rabbi about the possibility of studying Plato and Aristotle, some of the philosophers, and the rabbi's response was, okay, you're free to do that. Any time you can find other than day and night, we are to meditate on the word of God. We are to keep it in our hearts and guard it. And so God's instruction to Joshua was that he was always to have the word of God at hand, to meditate on it day and night, be careful to keep it, to observe it.

So, how then is this example from the Bible an encouragement for us? Like his promise to Israel, God has promised us an inheritance as well. We are his children, his heirs.

We are entitled to receive the inheritance because we have legitimate claim to the estate. As children, we are joint heirs with the only begotten son, Jesus Christ. Paul writes in Romans 8 that we are children of God, and if children, then we're heirs, heirs together with Christ, heirs of God. Every child of God shares an inheritance. And just as all the people of Israel were to be given the inheritance of the land, even so, all who trust in Christ share an inheritance that is imperishable and undefiled and unfading and it is kept in heaven for you, Peter says. We all receive the inheritance, and we get it all.

I love Ephesians chapter 1 verse 3 where Paul says, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who have blessed you with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. We receive it all. He has promised the inheritance. He has prepared it and kept it for us. And we get it all, but not all at once. Like the Israelites, there's a process of possession.

Israel was delivered from the Egyptian bondage, but they had to go in and take the land. And we are saved from the penalty of sin, but we have to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation is followed by sanctification. And this receiving of our inheritance is a process of growth and maturity and it requires change. It requires fighting. It requires growth that almost always comes through suffering and death to self. And like Joshua, we are to be successful and prosperous in the battle, but if we are to be that way, we need to hear from God. We need to know what God has said. Whenever change and warfare and persecution and things like that come against us, our greatest need is to know what God has said. We need to have our marching orders in order to faithfully obey in the fight. We can confidently face the battle moving forward with faith in the person of God and with faith in the promise of God, and we can do so without fear because of where he dwells, the presence of God.

He is with us. Look back at the text in verse 9. Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous, do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. God is with you wherever you go. It's interesting there is a two-fold nature of the command.

It's first positive, then also negative. God says be strong and courageous, and then he says don't be frightened and don't be dismayed. Be strong and courageous. You know, what lay ahead for Joshua and for the Israelites was in many ways a terrifying prospect. The sons of Jacob were sheepherders for the most part. They were not warriors. In fact, this current generation that's coming into the land of Canaan knew very little of war because all the warriors that had faced those early battles and seen what had happened in Egypt, they'd all died off because of their disobedience.

They had to spend 40 years in the wilderness letting that generation die off. And now these young upstarts who have known nothing but nomadic wandering in the wilderness are facing fortified cities, hostile terrain. They have to drive these nations out of their homes, stand against the alliance of kings and the deception of crafty schemers. And humanly speaking, there is a great deal to fear, and God's word to them is be strong and courageous. Don't be afraid and don't be dismayed. Strength and courage are required for their obedience.

They have to go in and take possession of the land, and this is no easy task. This instruction to Joshua is also profitable for us today as believers. Paul says that we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.

Salvation is a gift from God. It's an inheritance of his grace, but we must fight. Isn't it interesting how many times this Christian life is referred to in the New Testament using the metaphor of war, battle? Paul says that he has fought the good fight. He encourages the believer to put on the armor of God because we are wrestling, he says, against the forces of evil.

He declares that we are led by God in triumphal possession and that through the love of God we are more than conquerors. Like the Israelites, we must be strong and courageous. And the flip side of that coin is that we must not be afraid or dismayed.

The command is also negative. Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed. What lay ahead for Israel was indeed daunting and formidable, and yet they were not to be afraid, not to be dismayed. Where do they find this strength and courage to lay aside the fear, to move forward in faith, to obey and to prosper in the task that they were given?

The answer is given in the command itself. What God requires of his people, he provides for his people. God says to Joshua, do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Wherever you go, God is with you.

The strength, the courage to obey, the freedom from fear and despair, all this flows from the presence of God. He is with his people wherever he calls them to go. And he will never leave you. He will never forsake you. We've already seen that God is unchanging.

He's the same yesterday, today, and forever. And so the promise to Joshua and to Israel is given to us as well. In fact, the very name of our Lord declares his presence with us. He is Emmanuel, God with us.

That's one of the essential meanings of his coming into the world. He is with us and he will never leave us. He will never forsake us. When he was about to be crucified, he promised his disciples, even though I have to go away and you can't come where I'm going, I will send you another who is like me, a comforter, a paraclete, a helper, one who will come alongside you and be with you.

In fact, he will be in you. When the promise is repeated in the Hebrews, where it says that I will never leave you nor forsake you, in the Greek language there, there are five negatives in that phrase. The language of the New Testament could not put it more emphatically.

We can't very well translate it into English. One of the best attempts I think is found in the closing stanza of the hymn, How Firm a Foundation. That last verse says, That soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose, I will not, I will not desert to his foes. That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I'll never, no, never, no, never forsake. God will not leave you nor forsake you. So, what does all this mean for the believer in the heat of the battle when it seems that the devil himself is unleashed and all hell is raging against the souls of God's children, when the darkness of the world is so thick you wonder if any light could ever penetrate?

Remember the promise of his presence. As a believer, you are hidden with Christ in God, and the very Spirit of Christ indwells you. So when the enemy of our souls comes against us, he finds us hidden in God. And in those times when God in his purposes for us and in his infinite wisdom allows the devil to get to us through him, what does he find?

He finds us filled with the King, the Lord, the Spirit of Christ himself. So you're on the winning team. You can fight the good fight. You can face what we see in our day without fear. You can because God is God, and his word is true, and he is with you. Trust who he is. Trust what he has said.

Rest and be refreshed in his presence. And in that way we can go forward with faith in the person of God, the promises of God, trusting what he has said, and fearless because God is with us. We know his presence. Let's pray. Father God, you are great and greatly to be praised, and there is nothing in all creation that can stand against you. And yet so often we look at what is around us and how we perceive what goes on, and we forget that the things of this temporal material world are just shadows that point us to the reality of the heavenlies, where Christ is seated on the throne, where we are seated together with him, where he ever intercedes for us, and where the world and the flesh and the devil and death itself are defeated. Thank you, Father, that you are our God, that you have promised us redemption and forgiveness and life eternal, and you are with us. We thank you in Jesus' name. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-26 23:16:36 / 2023-05-26 23:28:32 / 12

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