Pastor Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Community Lutheran Church; Message on Joshua 1; Date: 8 February 09

For more sermons and other writings check out pastor’s homepage: http://www.geocities.com/mayeredgar

 

 

Listening Courage

 

Last Sunday was one of those Sundays that defines a community. I have the feeling that in years to come, we look back at last Sunday and recognize that we not only “crossed the Jordan” – not only declared our intention for more in God – but we actually engaged in – to stay with the imagery – engaged in our first battle for “the promised land” – our “Jericho”. I cannot recall ever having been so nervous about a message before. Over the last twelve months we learned a lot about healing by faith and prayer in the Bible and the teaching inspired us but then a few weeks ago Greg Storey – the father of a young family – a brother from our church family – was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas which has already spread into the liver. There was now a real battle on for his healing and what was so unnerving about last Sunday was that we were put on the spot. I was put on the spot. Would we do battle for the healing of Greg with boldness – real confidence of victory? Would we dare to have faith in the promises of God as they are recorded in the Bible – Matthew 8:16-17: “ … [Jesus] healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.’” James 5:14-16: “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him … and the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well … “ Matthew 10:7-8: “ … [Jesus] gave them authority … to heal every disease and sickness … [and he said:] ‘As you go, preach this message: The kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick … ‘“ John 14:12: [Jesus said:] “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these … “?

If you have missed last Sunday, listen to the message on our homepage. Come on board with this. Last Sunday we ended up saying: “All of us who have faith for Greg’s healing, come forward and we pray for him togetherImmediately – as a church – we got up from our pews and came forward – and what a sight this was. We declared our faith in God and his promises with courage and boldness. We didn’t care whether in the eyes of others we looked foolish, imbalanced, unreasonable and slightly fanatical. Others – even other Christians – may brush us aside – saying: “Who’s ever heard of cancer being curedYet, we chose not to go by medical experience and we chose not to go by medical opinion but trust – with boldness – the radical promises of God – James 5:14-16: “Is any one of you sick? … the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well … “

During the week I said to Mandy – Greg’s wife: “We have backed God into a corner nowPeople are now looking whether God would make his promises come true. It is now up to him to bring glory to his name according to his faithfulness. And by the way this is how other people in the Bible backed God into the corner of his promises. For instance, Moses prayed – and I paraphrase from the Bible – Exodus 32:11-14: “Yes, God, the people sinned but before all the other nations you promised to deliver them and give them a land of their own. If this does not happen now and you punish your people with death, what will they say? What will this do to your name and reputation – to your glory? The other nations will say that you could’t do what you promised … ” This kind of praying boldness honours God. It shows trust in his promises, is concerned about his reputation (not ours) and recognizes his nature of grace.

Then, last Thursday about twenty pastors had breakfast together and I shared what happened here last Sunday. After I spoke, Les Holmes told all the other pastors that on Monday he looked up my sermon on the net and recognized our courage. He immediately rang me and wanted to know how Living Grace responded to the preaching. Then he declared to all the other pastors how pleased he was that this church – Living Grace – made such a bold stand. The next pastor to speak was a minister from Highfields – John Moore from the Church of Christ. He revealed that their church had been on the same journey. They were in the habit of praying for the sick but then likewise came under the conviction that praying the words “if it is your will” was wrong. God also challenged them to trust his promises as they are – James 5:14-16: “ … the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well … “ After the breakfast another pastor (Herman Ruyters) came up to me and confided that their church was another church which was no longer praying “if it is your will”. They pray – with faith – for healing – according to the will of God. It’s out there but we seem to be on the right track.

This morning I want to expand on what God said to Joshua when he was about to cross the Jordan and take the promised land. I want to expand on what the Bible teaches about faith courage – how to be bold as a church expanding the kingdom of God. God said to Joshua – I quote from the Bible – Joshua 1:2-9: “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 … I will give you every place where you set our foot, as I promised Moses … No one will be able to stand up against you … As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people … Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law [all the teachings] 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. Do not let this book of the Law [Teaching] depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everthing written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have 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

God told Joshua to be strong and bold and courageous but he gave him a key which would allow him to be like that. He gave him promises: “I am about to give them the land.” “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” “I will never leave nor forsake you.” “The Lord your God will be with you wherever you goBoldness – courageous faith – comes from rehearsing these promises. The key to boldness was to soak up these precious words from God. The enemy may look strong and we may not know what to do next but we remember what God said because the promises of God are certain: “I will be with you.” “I will never leave nor forsake you.” “The Lord your God will be with you wherever you goThis is why Christians read the Bible because the Bible says – Romans 10:17: “ … faith [courageous trust in God] comes from hearing the message“ and the basic message is good news – Gospel – promises from God.

God makes countless promises and we can trust each and every one of them because the Bible confirms –Ephesians 1:3 – I quote: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in ChristGod the Father – by his Spirit – made us have faith in Jesus Christ – made us certain about him. He came from heaven to shed his blood – for us – on a cross. By his perfect sacrifice we have peace with God. Our sins are no longer held against but – instead – we inherit one promise after another from God – “every spiritual blessing in Christ”. The Bible is anxious that we know that – Romans 8:32 – listen: “He [God the Father] who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all thingsImagine: “All things

This is the key to our boldness. Remember Jesus and let your mind absorb that in him we have every spiritual blessing. He is our Saviour. He is our Lord. We love him. He speaks to us the same words which made Joshua brim with courage: “I will never leave nor forsake you.” “I will be with you wherever you goHe said – let me quote his precise words – Matthew 28:18-20: “ … All authority [all power] in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go . make disciples of nations … surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age

Be bold. Yet – coming back to Joshua – how did he know when precisely to be bold in a specific situation? For instance, in order to begin their conquest the people of God needed to cross a river which at this time of the year was a torrent – probably a mile wide.[i] How were they to cross this river as a nation? Joshua seemed to know and gave some bold orders – Joshua 3:5: “ … Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among youThen – the next morning – he led them all to the river and declared – Joshua 3:9-17: “ … Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. This is how you will know that the living God is among you … See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan [the river] ahead of you … And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord … set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream, will be cut off and stand up in a heapThis was a bold announcement but we read: “ … as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water … stopped flowing … the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground

It was one thing for Joshua to know that God would never leave nor forsake him but how did he know what was required at the Jordan crossing? How did he know what would happen? It was rather courageous of him to let the priests take a step into the river (with the holy – precious – ark on their shoulders) when the river was still flowing and only when they almost touched the water surface did the miracle happen.

Immediately after the crossing Joshua was bold again and again how did he know what to do? How did he dare to follow a strategy which must have appeared absolutely foolish to the nation – not to speak of his military commanders – Joshua 6:3-5 – I read from the Bible. These were the instructions: “ … March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days … On the seventh day march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight inWhat apparent madness! This took seven days of courage: marching around a fortress – blowing trumpets – and then on the seventh day shouting at thick walls. Joshua was risking his credibility but Jericho was taken precisely in this way. How did he know?

He knew in the same way that we know what to do. He was hearing from God. God gave him some core promises, which positioned him, but then kept spelling out how the strategy of taking the land would unfold. Are we hearing from God? Are you getting instructions from God that are so detailed that you can follow a certain course of action with boldness?

Sometimes you don’t have to know the details but simply work on having faith in the basics. At a recent pastors’ conference from another denomination all the pastors heard the testimony of a colleague who had a freak accident riding a motor-bike on the beach. It was getting dark. He was about to overtake another motor-bike but then had his front wheel hit something which crashed the bike and had him flying forward over the handle-bars. He landed in the sand but could not get up. They put him into hospital as a quadriplegic. As he was lying there in hospital – day after day – his wife put some head-phones over his ears and had him listen to one sermon after another on faith – having faith – trusting God – the promises of healing – with the result that faith was kindled and he is walking now. According to the x-rays he shouldn’t be able to do anything – whenever he goes for a check-up, they immediately put him in a wheel-chair with a neck-brace for insurance purposes – but he is okay – a walking miracle by faith.

This man didn’t have to know the details of any of God’s strategies. He was simply lying there – exercising faith – against all the odds. He was simply going back to the core promises: “I am with you alwaysHowever, what if you need to know more? How can you understand what God is saying to you?

There is no time to expand greatly on this topic but let me summarize the following: You can be certain and bold in your actions when (1) God has given a specific promise in the Bible. For instance, you can pray with confidence for the Holy Spirit because God promised in the Bible – Luke 11:13: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask himThen, (2) you can act with courage when a general Scripture promise can be reasonably applied to your situation. I quote Charles Finney on this subject. He said: “Suppose in a time when sinfulness is rampant, you are led to pray for God’s intervention. What promise do you have? This one: ‘When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him’ (Isaiah 59:19). Here we see a general promise describing a principle of God’s government, a promise you can apply to your situation as a reason for faith in prayer” (Charles Finney: Lectures On Revival, Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers 1988, p52) – and then action.

Another reason for courage is (3) when the signs of the times or God’s ordering of events indicate a specific gift of God is ready to be given. For instance, right now there are at least two Toowoomba congregations entering into a fast and about four or five people from our own church have approached me – independently from each other – about fasting together as Living Grace. After a while – after a number of these pointers – you prick up your ears. This may be God.

Then (4) – to quote Finney again – “ … if you find yourself longing for good things, then you are to take it as an indication that God wants to give that particular blessing – and so you are called to believe it. God doesn’t tease his children. He doesn’t ignite desire in them for a certain blessing and then becomes unwilling to give it. Rather, He cultivates these longings He is willing to gratify … “ (p54). Finally, (5) God can speak to you in mental pictures or impressions which you receive in prayer – the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. You learn to trust what you receive in prayer.

When you get to this kind of leading from God – and if we want to become confident in this kind of leading from God – then we need to learn still another lesson from what God said to Joshua when he was about to take the promised land. God said: “… Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law [all the teachings] 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. Do not let this book of the Law [Teaching] 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 … ”

“Be careful to obey all the law … do not turn from it to the right or to the left … do not let the law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night … be careful to do everything written in it … “ God is holy and therefore he demands holiness from his people. Jesus came and died – not to provide easy living for slack Christians – he sacrificed his body and blood so that the power of sin would be broken over our lives and we would live a new life – a holy life – where – Romans 8:13 – “by the [power of the] Spirit you put to death the misdeeds [the sins] of the body … “ Joshua discovered – early on in his campaign – that the entire nation suffered defeat in battle because there was sin in the camp. One man disobeyed God and this one sin frustrated the promises of God for the entire nation (Joshua 7). I won’t expand on this – for now – but holiness is crucial in the eyes of God. Do we lie? Are we greedy? Do we gossip? Do we hold unforgiveness? Do we keep the sabbath day holy? Are we obedient in our offering? Do we lust after the opposite sex? Are we proud? We are meant to ask ourselves all of these questions and more – in a painstaking way. God said to Joshua and he is saying to all of us: “Be careful to obey all the law … do not turn from it to the right or to the left … do not let the law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night … be careful to do everything written in it … “

Yet, at this point of time I want to stress that this kind of holiness is required also for becoming confident in discerning God’s voice. Without holiness it is very difficult to hear from God. If God communicates by raising holy desires (for lost souls, etc) and giving impressions in our mind, then we need to live in an environment of his truth and purity. For instance, you cannot watch a movie with confronting images of murder and sex and then expect God to compete with the emotional impact of these images. We cannot expect God to compete with the world – the focus and feeding of selfish desires – lust and greed. He won’t. If we want to become confident in discerning the soft impressions of the Spirit, we need a commitment to holiness – a commitment to be stimulated by what stimulates him – and maybe a safe church environment where we make mistakes together and learn together. One healing evangelist shared that when he is running his campaigns, he won’t even read the newspapers or watch the news. There are to be no distractions from God. Otherwise the power diminishes as the consecration – the holiness – diminishes.

And please do not think that this is all just hard work. The word of God is more than a text book for study purposes. The word of God is more than a source of information. The word of God has life and imparts life. The word of God is precious. It is a spring of living water. It comes with power. When I need to recharge my batteries or when circumstances seem a little overwhelming, then I love listening to a sermon. On the internet you can listen to the best preachers for free and I do listen and I receive life from the word that is preached because as you sit before the speakers, something begins to stir in your soul by the Holy Spirit. For instance, when I sense the need that I – once again – need a greater revelation of God’s love for me and want to fall in love with God myself, then I listen to some preaching by Heidi Baker because she preaches love – and loving God – as someone that knows and her preaching the truth of God about love imparts in me that very same truth. The Bible says – Isaiah 55:11: “ … my word that goes out from my mouth . will not return empty but will accomplish what I desire … “ Jesus himself said – Matthew 4:4: “ … A person does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” and Jesus made this confession when he was starving after forty days of fasting. More precious than bread is the word of God because it comes with nourishment and real power. In Acts 10 we find another instance where the preaching releases the power of God – v44: “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the messageFaith – the supernatural gift of faith – our life in God – comes from hearing the word.

A pastor writes from experience: “The ministry of the Christian is the ministry of the Spirit. He not only ministers words to another, but he ministers the Spirit of God. It is the Spirit of God that inhabits the words … In the old days when I was in Africa, I would walk into the native meetings when I did not understand the languages and listen to the preacher preach for an hour, and I did not understand a word he said. But my soul was blessed by the presence of the Spirit of God … “ (John G Lake: The Complete Collection Of His Life Teachings, New Kensington: Whitaker House 1999, p227).

This means – to come back to our original point – that if we want to trust the promises of God with boldness and further hear from him how these promises are to unfold in practice, then we learn to love the word of God – the Bible and preaching. If we keep struggling with devotion times and reading the Bible (and we all do to some extent – there is a discipline required to break through the sinful self – the flesh), then this only indicates that we need to draw closer to him – let go of sin, die to the world, become committed to him alone. Give it time – commit to maturity – and all of us – without exception – will experience life and power and joy in the word of God. We will live in an environment of his truth where it becomes easier and easier to discern his voice and instructions. We become familiar with his character and we become more certain about the kind of desires and actions that are in accordance with his character.

God is holy and therefore his word is instructing us about holiness which is a condition for God’s favour. God said to Joshua: “Be careful to obey all the law … do not turn from it to the right or to the left … do not let the law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night … be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful … “ But this is not just hard work but life. God himself meets us in his word.

All right – what now? Last week we confirmed God’s core promises and stepped out in faith praying for the healing of Greg Storey according to the will of God. We don’t waver but keep letting the truth of God sink into our inner being and draw courage from God. Jesus said  – Matthew 28:18-20: “ … All authority [all power] in heaven and on earth has been given to me … surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” James 5:14-16: “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him … and the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well … “ Matthew 10:7-8: “ … [Jesus] gave them authority … [and he said:] ‘ … Heal the sick … ‘“ John 14:12: [Jesus said:] “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these … “

However, has anyone here heard more from God? Does God have a certain strategy for Greg’s healing? Are we to declare a fast or anoint him again with oil? What are we to do? Has anyone here received a dream or impressions in prayer? This is going to become increasingly important for Living Grace as we are about to take new territory. What is God saying to us? We are to be bold – yes – courageous – but in what sense? There is going to be an increasing need to hear from God his word for the church – and for yourself. The advice is: Commit to holiness and live in an environment of God’s truth where he can further impress on you what he wants. God said to Joshua: “Be careful to obey … do not let the law [my teachings] depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night … be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful … “ In addition – we can add now – you will keep hearing from him and recognize his voice.

In the case of Greg, I am not 100% certain about what to do but when I was at their place and we were praying for him – while we were praying – I had the sense that his sickness was indeed our “Jericho” – the first battle after crossing the Jordan – and it came to me that God’s people conquered Jericho on the seventh day and that this Sunday would be the seventh day after we stepped out in boldness last Sunday. Maybe this day we should do what God’s people did on the seventh day before Jericho. I read again the instruction from the Bible – Joshua 6:4-5: “ … March around the city . with all the armed men … On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in

Marching, trumpet blowing and shouting do not have the power to make walls collapse but they are a bold expression of faith in the God who can. If we just remain sitting in our pews, then it is rather difficult to declare our faith because our faith is still mingled with doubts. We remain unsure. Therefore, some faith action will help us to commit and be public about our trust in God. It will honour God.

What if we sang another song and during the song stir ourselves up to have faith in God – for the healing of Greg. Then, we consecrate ourselves and receive Holy Communion. We fill ourselves up with God. After Holy Communion we put Greg in the middle of the chapel (Mandy and I and a few others may stay with him) and have the men – the fighting men – march around him for seven times. [If you are a visitor or still unsure about this, please don’t feel compelled to join in. There is no pressure and no condemnation] We do this in silence – except for the trumpet(s) and maybe waving some of the banners [armies are using banners and flags even to this day] – because this is what Joshua said in the Bible – Joshua 1:10: “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shoutFinally, after we have circled Greg seven times we likewise shout. It will require courage because it will look silly and it will invite gossip from others but God responds to faith – bold faith. We will shout – as loud as we can. What do you think? Does this resonate with you? Amen.

 



[i] Dale Ralph Davis: Joshua, Fearn: Christian Focus Publications 2000, p38: “The crurent was strong because of the drop in elevation … This means that the river Israel faced that springtime was no placid stream but a raging torrent, probably a mile wide and covering a mass of tangled brush and jungle growth … “