[This was written based on a sermon I gave at St. Paul UMC, Dahlonega in August 2017]
“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:14-15
Here in the South, bugs hitting your windshield are a part of life, especially in the summer. You can’t help but get those splats on your windshield when driving, especially at night – love-bug season in Florida is the worst! But when driving, what do we focus on? Do we focus on the messy windshield or on the road? If we focus on the bugs, we end up in the ditch or worse.
In his farewell speech, Joshua recounts God’s goodness and gives Israel a choice – a choice we also need to make. Joshua mentions gods, or idols, and we think of man-made objects, carved of wood, stone or precious metals, but let me give you a definition of an idol – anything that takes our attention away from God. We make idols of our circumstances and let them take our focus from God. Like focusing on bugs on the windshield, this can be dangerous.
A good deal of Joshua’s message was reminding Israel of God’s continued PRESENCE in their lives. Our part is in the listening and God’s part is in the leading and loving.
As we move into a relationship with Jesus and look at our identity in Him, we become dependent on God’s POWER – the same power that raised Jesus from the grave! A power that comes from God’s grace. We are called to walk, as God welcomes and wakens us to this new life – dependent not on our feeble attempts to make life work but on Him.
In Genesis 17:1, God told Abraham to “walk before Me FAITHFULLY”. In Isaiah 40:31, the prophet tells us, “those who walk by faith shall not faint…” (Isaiah 40:31). We walk by faith and God Himself provides the faith as a gift!
We are in a spiritual battle. Everything that Jesus did while on earth was spiritual warfare – taking back what man had forfeited back in the Garden of Eden. Jesus calls us to walk with Him and that presents another choice of commitment or surrender. Commitment is a mental agreement; surrender is an agreement of the heart. Too many times we are committed to God but we haven’t surrendered to Him. We control what we can explain. And we try to explain God or make Him into something we can explain. Well, if I could explain God, He wouldn’t be god enough for me!
You are in the oven because you are not done yet! We often hear, “God will never give you more than you can handle”. I don’t believe that; God will never give you more than He can handle! And He promises to be there with you. Psalm 23 says “yea, though I walk THROUGH the valley of death, thou art with me”. God says, “I will never leave or forsake you”.
Recently, I was blessed to take a trip to Jordan. While there, we could hear bombing happening in Syria (we were about 7-8 miles from the border). I chose not to worry and probably slept through most of it. After coming back, I’ve had some visits with my doctor. I was diagnosed with diabetes. Not being naïve, I choose to not claim that as part of my identity. I can give in to fear and worry (and do sometimes) but I choose NOT to because I trust God and what His Word says about me; I base my identity in Him. I’m not asking for healing – though I want to be healed – but I’m asking God to reveal Himself more to me.
There are three disciplines we must follow: first, choose which voice you listen to. Jesus says in John 10 that He came to bring us life – abundant life. He also says that the enemy comes as a thief to steal, kill, and destroy. The enemy cannot steal anything that you don’t have, he cannot kill what is not alive, and he cannot destroy what has not been built. You have something he wants or he would not be bothering you!
Second, screen everything through faith. Since God gives us the gift of faith, we should use it and screen all that life throws at us and not little all the little bugs and garbage of life enter our world. Keeping our focus on Jesus is key.
And finally, pray HARD! Remember Daniel in the lion’s den; if he was not praying hard then, I don’t know what constitutes praying hard. We need to have some serious one-to-one, heart-to-heart talks with God – where we listen as well as we speak (maybe more than we speak). We should pray like our lives depend upon it – because they do. This is not to get God to change our circumstances (though I admit to wishing often He would do that) but to get us through our circumstance.
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”
Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. 4 The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.”
Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.” (Zechariah 3:1-4)
Zechariah’s vision shows us that in the midst of the battle, the Lord takes away our sins. The Lord Himself snatches us from the fire and puts us in right standing or “clean clothes”. We can claim the names God gives to those He loves: Restored, Renewed, Clean, Free.
Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light. Amid our darkness, God reminds us of what He told us in the light of better times. What is your choice today?
Meditate on Colossians 1:15-18 – In Him (Jesus) ALL THINGS hold together!