We’re back with Part 2 of our February series, Strong + Courageous, where we're discovering what it means to live by faith, lead with strength, and lean on God in every situation. This week, we continued studying the book of Joshua and explored the many problems of the Promise Land, along with Joshua’s response to each of the unexpected challenges he faced as he and the Israelites entered Canaan.
Pastor Eric shares some of the many problems Joshua faces upon entering the Promise Land and the 3 noteworthy choices he makes in response. We’re encouraged to follow Joshua’s example and choose position over pressure, obedience over opposition, and trust over treasure as we pursue God’s will for our lives and journey through our own faith adventures!
If you weren’t with us for Part 1 of our series, be sure to watch the replay. As a quick refresher, we covered chapter 1 of Joshua last week and we discovered how all of us–no matter where we’re at or where God’s calling us to go–we can all be strong and courageous as we lean on His presence, His promises, and His power.
When we wrapped up last week, we saw Joshua make this declaration to the Israelite nation as they prepared to enter the Promise Land after 40 years of wandering the desert in the book of Exodus:
Joshua 1:10-11 (NKJV) 10Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, 11“Pass through the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess.’ ”
In Part 2, Promise Lands + Problem Lands, we’re taking a look at the bold decision and act of faith that Joshua stepped into and what happened when the Israelites did (finally!) make it into the Promise Land. As we’ll soon learn, the Israelites do make it to God’s promised land, but they quickly discover that it’s not a perfect land. Let’s explore how Joshua responds to these problems and obeys God’s call!
Pastor Eric kicks off Promise Lands + Problem Lands with a comical, painfully relatable story about his and Pastor Alexa’s first vacation together as newlyweds that perfectly encapsulates what it’s like to have an expectation for things to look one way, only to have them look completely differently in the end.
Similar to Pastors Eric and Alexa’s experience in Myrtle Beach, the Israelites were expecting Canaan to be a land flowing with milk and honey, a land that would be full of the blessing and provision from God. Yes, some of that was still to come; however, that is not what the Israelites encountered at first. The Promised Land actually looks a whole lot more like a problem land. Take a look at just a few of the problems Joshua and the Israelites faced upon entering Canaan:
Simply put, the Promise Land was not a fantasy land. It was not an easy land and it was not a perfect land. But even when things were not playing out as everyone expected them to, Joshua continues to be strong and courageous. He remains steadfast in his trust and his obedience to God. Joshua did not allow the problems of the promised land to discourage or defeat him. Instead, he chooses to take heart and stay the course God had for him.
When we run into problems while we’re running after God’s call, it can often leave us feeling discouraged, confused, and sometimes even questioning God. It’s important to remember that facing opposition does not mean we've missed God’s will, but rather it often means we’re right in the center of it! Opposition is just part of the territory when it comes to being a follower of Jesus.
John 16:33 (NIV) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Here’s what we learn from Joshua: It’s not about the problems we face, it’s about how we respond to those problems that makes all the difference. When we talk about problems in this context, we’re talking about the direct opposition we face from the enemy when we take territory back for God’s kingdom.
God does not lead us into problems to teach us a lesson–that is not His nature, nor His heart. And that is not Joshua’s story of Promise Lands + Problem Lands! We cannot allow ourselves to be unaware of the enemy’s devices. Satan’s goal is to destroy, kill, and steal from us at all times and at all costs. Jesus came so that we may have life and have it more abundantly!
So here’s the big question: How do we remain strong and courageous when problems arise in the Promise Land? What do we do when we allow discouragement, disappointment, or disillusionment to take us off course? We’re looking at 3 problems Joshua faced and the 3 choices he made in response to help us navigate our own challenges when we face them!
The first problem Joshua had to face was the problem of the Jordan River. He was responsible for getting 2 million people–adults, kids, elderly, those with physical disabilities, and all the livestone, belonging, and their livelihood–across a massive, treacherous river within the next 3 days. Needless to say, there was a lot of pressure on Joshua to figure out how to solve this problem! His entire reputation, his credibility, and even his people were now at risk. Take a look at how the choice Joshua makes plays out:
Joshua 3:2-3, 14-26, 17 (NIV) - 2After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. [...]
14So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16the water from upstream stopped flowing. [...] 17The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.
This is a miracle! The entire nation of Israel stood on dry ground and completed the crossing of the Jordan River. Instead of relying on his own ability, Joshua chose position over pressure and made the decision to rely fully on God. Joshua lead the Israelites into the Promise Land not by his own might or power, but instead positioned himself and his nation behind the physical representation of God’s presence and His power. Joshua chose position over pressure!
When a problem arises, like Joshua, we too can first consider our position and remember that we’ve surrendered our lives to God as our Lord and Savior. Because of this, we can reposition ourselves to not be the one who is in front or in control or receiving the glory upon success; we can put ourselves behind God and trust in Him and let Him do the work. When we face obstacles and opposition, we do not have to carry all the pressure to fix it. Amen!
Zechariah 4:6 (NKJV) This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.
In Promise Lands + Problem Lands, Pastor Eric reminds us of the story of the building process of what’s now VFC during the time of the 2008 recession. He highlights the importance of position over pressure through the choices of Pastors Jeff + Beth during this season and we see God’s provision and promise come to fruition even today.
1 Peter 5:7 (NKJV) Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7 (AMPC) Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.
Let’s take the pressure off of having to fix every problem on our own and instead position ourselves behind God’s power, casting our cares upon Him because He cares for us. If God is great enough to stop the Jordan River from flowing so 2 million Israelites can cross on dry ground, He’s great enough to help us with whatever problem or opposition we face!
Think about a battle you’re currently facing or have faced recently. What would it look like for you to choose position over pressure?
When we face challenges and unforeseen circumstances in our day-to-day lives, how can we functionally apply the concept of relying on God instead of on ourselves?
We’re called to ‘cast our cares upon Him.’ What does this mean for us in real life?
The next problem Joshua had to face was the problem of Jericho. Jericho was one of the most important cities in Canaan and God intentionally made this the Israelites first battle because if they could get through Jericho, they could get through the rest of the land. As we all know, Jericho was fortified by strong walls that served as a gateway into the country. Joshua turned to God for guidance on how to tackle this problem and the response he received didn’t quite make sense…at first:
Joshua 6:2-5 (NLT) 2But the Lord said to Joshua, “I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. 3You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. 4Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. 5When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.”
Talk about some strange instructions! God knew that in order for this plan to succeed, it would require total and complete dependence upon Him. Rather than trying to face this opposition on his own, Joshua chose obedience to God’s commandment. Because of this, Joshua and the Israelites saw God’s results and they successfully took over Jericho. We, too, must learn to walk with radical obedience to God’s direction, even when it doesn’t make sense to us.
In Promise Lands + Problem Lands, Pastor Eric highlights the true meaning of obedience under the framework of the New Covenant that we, as believers, operate under. We don’t live in an IF/THEN kingdom; we live in a BECAUSE/then kingdom. Our framework is not performance based; it’s love based. Because God loved us, then we can experience all He has promised us.
Simply put, we are not obedient for love; we are obedient from love. Because we know how deeply we’ve been loved, our natural and genuine response is to follow and obey God’s commandments. Obedience for love is bondage; obedience from love is freedom.
1 John 5:3 (NKJV) For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
James 1:22 (NIV) Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
In other words, this is a framework for living. We read God’s word, we listen to His direction, and then we obey. Choosing obedience over opposition means that we actively engage in reading God’s scripture and then we actively engage in applying it to our life. We surrender to God’s way and when we do things God’s way, we get God’s results. God’s words are not just opinions for healthy living; they are the roadmap for our lives!
Obedience oftentimes gets a bad rep within the Christian church. Under the New Covenant framework, we know that obedience is a natural response to Jesus’ love for us. How can we live with radical obedience, even when it doesn’t make sense to us?
How can we apply God’s Word as an active road map for our lives?
Share about a time when you chose obedience over opposition and saw God’s faithfulness come to fruition in your circumstance?
The next problem Joshua has to face is the battle with the nation of Ai. This nation was much smaller and less powerful than Jericho, however, God gave the Israelites a very simple instruction to not take any of the plunder for themselves once they defeated a land. Instead, God asked them to burn it and get rid of it as opposed to keeping the riches for themselves. We see this portion of Joshua’s story unfold in chapters 6 and 7.
God gives this command for 2 reasons: Much of the enemy’s plunder at that time were items that were deeply rooted in demonic activity and items and false idols that were worshiped. God was trying to make a distinction with the Israelites that this is not the way we live. Secondly, God didn’t want them to plunder the nations they conquered because He didn’t want the Israelites to trust in earthly treasures but to instead be in Him who supplies all of their needs.
Unfortunately, we see that the problem with Ai was that one of the Israelites, Aiken, had a greater desire for earthly treasure than his commitment to God’s provision. In Joshua chapter 7, we discover that Aiken took some of the plunder for himself, hid it away, and this causes the blessing of God to be removed from Israel. Because of this, the Israelites lost the battle of Ai when they should have won the fight handedly.
In our own lives, problems often arise in our Promise Land that are directly connected to treasure. Our problems are often tied to things, stuff, and money (the accumulation or lack there of). When it comes to our treasures in life, God is simply asking us to choose to trust Him over trusting our earthly treasures. We’re called to let Him supply our needs!
It’s so easy for all of us to get fixated on the increase of earthly treasures and get distracted by how much we do or don’t have. All the while, God is asking us to just trust Him with our treasures! God intends for us to be the most blessed on earth. He stores up the wealth of the wicked so He can give it to the righteous. The takeaway is this: God is concerned with where we place our trust.
1 Timothy 6:17 (NKJV) Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.
Philippians 4:19 (NLT)) And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
When we place our trust in God and not in treasures, it sets us free to not be constrained by what we do or don’t have and allows us to live in a position of freedom to be a blessing to all those who are in our world!
In our current culture, it’s all too easy to put our trust in uncertain riches (1 Timothy 6:17). What types of early treasures are tempting to put our trust in?
What are some differences between earthly treasures and God’s glorious riches?
How can we avoid investing and placing value in early treasures and instead trusting in God’s promise to give us richly all things to enjoy?
It’s highly likely that as we take territory for God’s kingdom, we will face opposition. We can be strong and courageous like God calls us to be by choosing position over pressure, obedience over opposition, and trust over treasure. Amen!
Thank you God for your Word. Please help us to take the things you’ve spoken to us through this message and apply it in our daily lives. May we not be hearers only but doers of your Word. Lord, as we pursue promise lands that you’ve called us to, may we face problems without being afraid. May we stand confidently behind you, leaning on you, trusting you, obeying you, and walking your path. Help us to face challenges in the promise land with joy and a conviction that in Christ, we are more than conquerors and that you are well able. God, we choose to surrender any and every problem we’re facing today, we trust you today, Lord. We love you and we honor you. In Jesus’ holy name, Amen.