RECEIVING GOD’S PROMISES
Notes extracted from Rick Warren
Joshua was one of the greatest generals who ever lived. He accomplished the impossible in spite of incredible odds and opposition. His life he was engaged in some kind of battle or other. Many of you can identify with that – life can seem like one long battle sometimes!
Background of Joshua 1 – the Israelites were on the verge of crossing into the Promised Land. They’d been 40 years in the wilderness. Now they were ready to cross the Jordan River knowing they were going in to possess the land.
Joshua 1:11 “Three days from now you will cross the Jordan to go in and take possession of the land the Lord is giving you for your own.”
God said, “Joshua, you’ve got a tremendous future ahead of you. I am going to do great things in your life. Everything I’ve promised and more. But it’s going to be a fight, a battle”. He says “you must take possession of what I want to give you“.
What will the future hold? The answer to that is it’s going to hold a mixture of blessings and battles. God says to you, “I have great things I want to do in your life. I have things you haven’t even dreamed of, how I want to bless your life. All your past is prologue, all your best days are ahead of you. But it’s going to be a battle. You must possess your future.”
In Joshua 1, God gives Joshua a pep talk. He says, “I know you’re going to be in battles for the next 20 years so I want to encourage you. I want you to do three things and these three things will sustain you through life.”
Twice in this chapter the word “success” is used. If asked, every one of us would want to be successful. What does it mean to be successful? Success in business? The arts? Sport? – these do not necessarily equal success in life!!
Jesus told a story of a very rich successful farmer who was rich in this life but a FOOL in regard to his spiritual life [life with ref. to God] – was he successful?
God’s instructions to Joshua. 1) Set up a plan. 2) Stay in the Word. 3) Step out in faith.
- SET UP A PLAN [Know were you are going]
God plans. He has a plan for your life. If you’re going to be like God you’ve got to learn how to plan. You need to know where you are going because that’s where you’re going to spend the rest of your life.
- 2-3 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people get ready to cross the Jordan river. . . . I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.”
“get ready”. God says, “Get ready for the future!” Prepare for what’s ahead! You must prepare to possess what God has promised.
Here is a wonderful example of faith and works – the Christian life is not a passive sitting around waiting for blessings to fall from heaven. God says to the Israelites “I have given you the Promised Land – now go and possess it”.
Paul says a similar thing in Philippians 2:12-13
12 …… — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,
13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
What is Joshua’s response? v. 11a “So Joshua ordered the people `Get your supplies ready’.”
Have you given any thought of what’s going to happen next year in your spiritual life? Or do you just kind of drift through life.
God says, “Do you want to be successful? First, get ready!” Don’t go through life unexamined. Look at where you’re going – get direction. Set up a plan. [Know where you are going]
Notice, “Moses, my servant, is dead.”
One of the ways you prepare for the future is to let go of the past. Joshua and Moses were very, very close. Joshua had been with Moses for 40 years. He had been his understudy. Now, Moses was dead. How would you like to replace Moses as leader? I’m sure Joshua felt a little nervous – or may be a lot.
Yet, God said Joshua, “I have a plan for your life.”
Sometimes we let past relationships keep us from receiving God’s promises. It may be a death, a divorce, a friend moves a way, or maybe you’re still saying, “How can I gain the approval of that person in my past.” God says, “Let go of the past so you can get on with the present.” He wants to work in your life and do great things. You will never possess your future as long as you perpetuate your past.
Does that mean you forget your past – cut off your roots? NO! BUT there is a difference between remembering your past / learning from it and clinging to it / living in the past!!
ILLUS.: A Meg-church in USA started and pastored by one man – He died and a new pastor came. Nearly every hall and classroom was in memory of the first pastor. After a year the new pastor could stand it no longer – being told Pastor “So-and-so” used to do this and that. One Sunday morning he collected all 23 portrait of the First pastor and line them up in front of the pulpit – He began his sermon by pointing to the portraits and reading Joshua 1 – “Moses my servant is dead” – i.e. let the past remain in the past let us get on with the present!
ILLUS.: My sister Jayne and my brother’s wife Esther were killed in a motor accident in 1976. Some time later my brother wrote a little booklet entitled “Lessons I have learned in the night” – in the closing section he writes this – “Finally, I am learning to close the door on the past and look to God for the future. God, in his wisdom and love, has chosen to take Esther to himself, and therefore it would be sinful for me to try and live with memories, in an effort to bring her back. Following the death of that great leader, Moses the lord said to Joshua, Moses, my servant, is dead, now therefore arise and go over this Jordan.” Leigh continues “God has spared me for a purpose, and it is my desire to discover that purpose and do his will at any cost.”
God said, Moses is dead! It’s over. He’s buried. Moses was dead but God wasn’t. God had a plan for Joshua’s life that went far beyond what Moses had done. He said you’ve got to let go of the past – don’t live in the past. Many things in the past were good, some of them were bad. But let’s go on.
What do you need to bury? A bad failure, a bad experience, a hurt? Let it go. Joshua had to prepare himself.
Proverbs 13:16 (Living Bible) “A wise man thinks ahead”.
God says to Joshua, Set up a plan! Not your own plans – Not as the world plans, leaving God out altogether. Not as some Christians plan, tacking God on to their own plans, asking God to be a rubber stamp. BUT plan according to God’s criteria – knowing God’s way [Know where you are going].
- STAY IN THE WORD
God says to Joshua, “You’re going to be in the battles for the next 25 years, you’re going to be fighting, and the Bible is your instruction manual for conflict. It is the manual for the battles of life.”
Notice v. 7 “Be careful to obey all the Law. Do not turn from it to the right or the left that you may be successful wherever you go.”
“don’t turn from the right or left”. It is easy to get side-tracked today, as a Christian? Often people start out well and then they get side-tracked — sometimes by very good things. – by their career. Or by sport, or a hobby, or a financial difficulty, or an illness, or having more children, whatever. Somehow they lose their focus on the Word.
The Word. That’s the key.
- 8, one of the greatest promises of the Bible, “Do 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.”
Keep your mind saturated with the Word of God and you’ll be successful. The point is this: God’s promise of success has absolutely nothing to do with your ability. It is not your ability but your commitment to His Word that God promises will bring success in your life.
How do you stay in the Word? Three ways:
“Don’t let it depart out of your mouth.” — talk about the Word of God.
“Meditate on it day and night“ — think about the Word of God.
“Be careful to do everything written in it” – always obey it – do it!
What does it mean to stay in the Word?
It means I talk about it, I think about it and I live it.
2 Timothy 3:16 (Living Bible) “The whole Bible was given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realise what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and helps us to do what is right.”
God’s word “straightens me out”, it shows me the path I walk on, how to walk on it. It shows me when I get off the path, it shows me how to get back on the path, it shows me how to stay on the path. “It’s good for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished unto every good work”. The Bible says that God’s Word is your soul food.
Spurgeon once said, “A Bible that is coming apart is usually owned by somebody who’s not”. Usually your Bible is coming apart or you are.
I imagine Joshua is a pretty busy man. He’s the leader of an entire nation. He doesn’t have a lot of spare time. But he made time to read the Bible, to pray. He was a man of communion with God. Busyness is no excuse. You must make time to stay in the Word on a regular basis.
- STEP OUT IN FAITH
Many people think faith is just something you believe. Faith is more than mental assent. It’s more than just knowing. It’s an action.
ILLUS.: I can believe a plane will fly but it doesn’t mean anything until I get on board.
Some say, “I believe in Jesus”. So what? So does the devil. Faith means, “to commit yourself to”. You must step out in faith because faith is an action.
Three times in this passage there’s a phrase, “be strong and courageous [bold]” v 6, 7, 9. There are going to be a lot of things in your life that will distract you, discourage you, depress you but be strong and courageous. Step out in faith!
The background: The Israelites had been wandering in the desert for 40 years. They had the chance 40 years earlier, and they blew it. Now they get the second chance. They’re at the edge of the Jordan river, ready to cross over into the new land, knowing that the moment they cross that river it’s an act of war against the seven other nations already living there. There would no telling how long it would last. Every one of the seven nations was larger and stronger than the Israelites. Now you know why God is says, “Be strong and courageous”.
What gave Joshua the confidence to move ahead? v. 9 “Remember I have commanded you to be determined and confident! Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for I, the Lord, am with you wherever you go.”
God said, “Remember who you’re doing this for. You represent the King of Kings. You’re on assignment from the Almighty God. Who do you think told you to do this? If I told you to do it, I’m going to be with you.” When God tells you to do something, He gives you the power to do it. God has never sponsored a flop. God says “I’m going to be with you; step out in faith!”
“Afraid” and “discouraged”. These are two enemies that will keep you from becoming all God wants you to be. Fear keeps us from getting started. Discouragement keeps us from continuing.
This double whammy hits us — fear and discouragement — and they keep us from making our lives count. They keep you from being all God wants you to be. It’s fear that keeps us in the desert, when we could be living in the Promised Land. It keeps us from becoming all God wants us to be. He says, “Don’t be afraid! Don’t be discouraged! I am with you!”
Joshua was a man of courage. What is courage? Courage is not having no fear. Courage is moving ahead in spite of your fear.
Courage is when you move ahead in spite of your fear and you witness to that person at work or you tackle that assignment or try that project or go after that dream. You do it in spite of your fear.
Literally, in this story, they had to step out in faith. In chapter 3, they came up to the Jordan River, – probably overflowing – it was springtime – the flood stage. Normally the Jordan River is about 100 feet across, 20 feet deep. But in the flood stage it had swelled over the banks. Even today, for a modern army to cross a river like that takes some time. But for a group of rag-tag slaves who came out of Egypt, it was impossible! God said, “I want the priests out in front carrying the Ark of the Covenant. I want the priests to start walking out into the water, taking the step of faith, trusting Me and I’m going to do a miracle.” He didn’t tell them of how He was going to do it.
The priests took the Ark of the Covenant in front of the whole nation of about a million people and began to walk into the Jordan River. God dammed up the river, further up stream at a place called Adam, about 17-19 miles north. I don’t know how He did it. The fact is the water stopped.
Joshua 3:15 “As soon as the priests stepped into the river the water stopped flowing and piled up.” As it piled up, the water lower down began to subside. Eventually it was dry. The priests had to stand there in the middle of the river while one million people passed through, then they were the last ones to leave. They had to have extended faith that it wouldn’t start up again. They literally had to step out in faith. It’s a beautiful lesson for us.
The principle: the first step is always the hardest. Always! In anything! In writing a term paper / essay in an exam, what’s the most difficult sentence? The first sentence. If you play rugby, the first tackle is always the hardest tackle. After that you of get used to it, it’s not so bad. The first step is always the hardest.
What is your Jordan River? What is the barrier that is keeping you from becoming all God wants you to be? Where is it in your life? Is in a relationship? A career? Something you’re holding on to that you don’t want to let go of? Is there something keeping you in the desert and out of the Promised Land?
What I admire most about Joshua was that he was a man of conviction. He was willing to stand alone for what was right. He was willing to go against popular opinion. He was willing to do the unexpected, the unusual. Even when society said, “Do this!” he said, “No, that’s not the way to do it.” He was a man of conviction. The Bible says that 40 years earlier, Moses had chosen 12 spies and they had gone into the Promised Land to spy out the land and they came back. Ten of the spies said, “No way! We can’t do it! They are powerful and strong. They are like giants. They’ll eat us up. We were like grasshoppers in their sight.” Everybody said, “Yes, that’s right! We can’t do it.”
But there were two men who said, “We can!” Joshua and Caleb. They said “We can do it! We can take them on! They’re like bread ready to be eaten up. Let’s take them on!” The entire nation said no, but two men said yes. It’s interesting, forty years later, God had to let the entire adult population die off and only two of those original people got to go into the Promised Land — Caleb and Joshua.
Maybe some of you are saying, “I don’t know why I should step out on faith. It’s pretty comfortable right where I am. I like my life as it is. Why should I step out? I’m getting older.” Joshua was 80 years old when God called him to cross the Jordan River and go into battle for the next 25 years.
It is never too late to say “Yes!” to God – to make our lives count.” That’s what Joshua did.
The verse that best reveals Joshua’s character is 25:15 – Joshua said at the end of his life, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Have you made that decision in your home – in your life? It’s a choice. What kind of person are you going to be a year from now?
God says, “Make your choice.” The future begins with a commitment. “Choose you this day whom you are going to serve.” Other gods? Or God.
Joshua 3:5 “Then Joshua told the people, `Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow God will do amazing things among you!'” They’re getting ready to cross the Jordan and he says, Consecrate, dedicate, surrender yourself to God, for tomorrow God will do amazing things among you! All the past is prologue. The best is yet to come.”
“Consecrate yourself for tomorrow God will do amazing things among you.” There will be battles. Even when the children of Israel got into the Promised Land there were still battles to be fought, giants and problems to be overcome. Even in the Promised Land there are battles. But there are blessings.
The name Joshua means Deliverer, Saviour. He was the deliverer for his people. He delivered them into the Promised Land and he beat off all these seven nations and 31 different kings. His name means Deliverer. Hundreds of years later God told Mary to name her boy Joshua. Jesus is a Greek word for Joshua in Hebrew. Jesus was named after Joshua because he, too, would be a deliverer. God said just like that great deliverer of old I’m sending a new deliverer to the world.
What’s the parallel? The parallel is that the other Joshua (Jesus) wants to take possession of your life. Just like the first Joshua was to take possession of the land, Jesus wants to take possession of your life. The only question is will it be a battle? This chapter is packed full of promises. The promise of power, of presence, of prosperity, of peace, of all these things in his life. In v. 5 He says, I’ll be with you and no one will be able to stand up against you.
Many of you have already taken that first step and opened your life up to Jesus Christ.. If you haven’t, do it today.
After you’ve taken that first step of faith, I challenge you to make three commitments – if you haven’t already done so:
- I’m going to spend time praying and planning. Set some goals — some spiritual goals. How much of the Bible do I want to read? Set up a plan to memorise Scripture, to have a daily quiet time, start tithing, get involved in a ministry, some kind of spiritual goals. Set up some family goals, some physical goals, some financial goals, some social goals, some mental goals. All these areas God wants you to work in. Career goals. Balance your life. But first make a commitment to pray and to plan.
- I make a commitment to stay in the Word. Make a time. Make a commitment to increase the time spent daily in God’s Word.
- Make a commitment to step out in faith. Join a small group. Get involved somewhere in a ministry. Begin giving of your financial resources. Share your faith with others.
Set up a plan, stay in the Word, step out in faith. God says, “Then I will bless you, there will still be battles even very tough battles, but remember the I will be with you”
Father, what a great man this Joshua was, not in and of himself but because He was committed to a great God. May we like him, be men and women of conviction and character and compassion and communion and courage. May we possess the future – receive all that you plan for us. Lord, you desire to bless your people I pray that today we would recommit ourselves to you.
RECEIVING GOD’S PROMISES
“Three days from now you will cross the Jordan to go in and take possession of the land the Lord is giving you for your own.” (v 11b)
- Set up a Plan [Know where you are going]
“Moses, my servant, is dead. Now then, you and all these people get ready to cross the Jordan river . . . . I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.” (v 2-3)
“So Joshua ordered .. the people `Get your supplies ready‘.” (v 11a)
- Stay in the Word
“Be careful to obey all the Law . . . do not turn from it to the right or the left that you may be successful wherever you go.” (v 7)
“Do 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.” (v 8)
- Step out in Faith
“Be strong and courageous!” (v 6, 7, 9)
Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (v 9)
“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. . . . But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15