Some people are chronic worriers. They worry if they don’t have something to worry about. Yet the Bible teaches us very clearly that God doesn’t want us to worry. Jesus asked – “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” (Mt 6:27 NLT) Worrying will not lengthen our lives. The truth is, worrying may shorten our lives.
Here are two verses of scripture that tell us how we as God’s children should approach life –
- John 15:5 ‘…for without me ye can do nothing.’
- Philippians 4:13 ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.’
Without Christ we can’t do anything. With Christ we can do everything.
Today I want us to see how staying focused on God can not only take us through our difficult circumstances, but can also allow us to be used for His glory.
In the third chapter of Joshua we come to a time when the nation Israel was facing some very difficult circumstances. As a matter of fact, it was an impossible situation. Yet God had a very specific purpose for allowing their difficulty. God wanted to show them that He was with them and that He could help them overcome any obstacle in their lives. In other words, God wanted to show them that they could do all things through Christ who would continually give them strength. Perhaps He needs to teach some of us that same lesson as well.
Let me set the stage for you. Forty years prior to this, the nation of Israel had the opportunity to enter into the Promised Land, yet the failed to do so because they ‘let the giants get them.’ The reports of giants in the land frightened them and caused them to rebel against God. The result was forty years of wandering in a wilderness. That’s what unbelief will do to us. It will put us in the wilderness of despair.
Now, forty years later, they have the opportunity once again to enter it, only this time, God has raised the stakes. If you look at a map of Canaan you will see that the first time they had the opportunity to enter, they were at a place called Kadesh barnea. (Numbers 13) To enter into Canaan from Kadesh barnea was simply a matter of following the terrain and going north. Now forty years later, they have the opportunity to enter, only this time God hasn’t taken them to Kadesh barnea; instead He has led them up along the east bank of the Jordan River. Not only do they have the giants waiting for them in Canaan, now they have to figure out how they are going to cross the river. To make it even more difficult, scripture says that the river was at flood stage.
Was God being hard on them by placing this additional obstacle before them? In many ways God was preparing them to receive His future blessings. God was going to use the crossing of the Jordan River as a means of building their faith.
What is faith? We might describe faith in many ways, but biblically speaking, faith is confidence in God. The Bible says that without faith in God, it is impossible to please God, therefore God is always in the process of building our faith in Him. The Bible says, ‘the people who know their God will be strong and take action.’ (Dan 11:32 HCSB)
There were three lessons God wanted to teach His people:
- Lesson #1 God Will Go Before You
- Lesson # 2 God Will Be Beside You
- Lesson # 3 Others Will Come After You
If we could learn to live by those three principles, we would view many of our problems from a different perspective.
Lesson #1 God Will Go Before You
Joshua 3:1 And Joshua rose early in the morning; and they removed from Shittim, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. 2 And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host; 3 And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.
God was not sending His people into Canaan; He was leading them. Finding and following the will of God is not a road map, it’s a relationship. God wanted to guide His people into their Promised Land and the way He would lead them would be by the ‘Ark of the Covenant.’ What was the Ark of the Covenant?
A. The Sacredness of the Ark of the Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant was the most sacred part of Old Testament worship. The Ark was a box approximately 2′ x 2′ x 4′ and covered with pure gold. It was kept in a place called the Holy of Holies, where the high priest would enter only once a year to offer the blood of the lamb that had been sacrificed for the people’s sins. On top of this gold covered box was a lid made of solid gold and called the Mercy Seat. It was on this Mercy Seat that the high priest sprinkled the blood of the lamb. On each end of the Mercy Seat was a gold cherub and dwelling between the cherubim was a cloud called the Shekinah Glory.
What made the Ark so sacred was because it represented the purity of God. Scripture teaches us that if anyone touched it or looked upon it, they would immediately die. In order to transport it from one place to the next, it had to be carried by two poles. To conceal it from the vision of men, it was covered by the veil that hung between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. Yet it was with this sacred vessel that God was going to guide His people into the Promised Land.
B. The Symbolism of the Ark of the Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant represented God’s purity. But is also represented God’s presence with His people. In the book of Exodus we read – ‘there will I meet with thee, and I will commune with thee.’ The Ark of the Covenant was God’s throne upon earth.
During the years of the wilderness wandering. the Ark was kept in the center of the camp. Now that they were about to enter into the land, it was brought to the front and it was the Ark that would lead them in. The years of rebellion were now over and it was time for God to be their Lord.
If you and I are going to defeat the giants in our lives, we have to learn how to walk with God on a daily basis. Every true Christian knows Jesus as their Savior. They have to or they are not a child of God. But unfortunately, every Christian is not following Jesus as their Lord. Jesus wants to be the Lord of our dreams, our desires, our decisions and our delights. Many of you have heard me speaking of writing out the Title Deed to my life. I decided a few years ago that I cannot say that I fully trust God unless I believe that His desires and dreams for me are better than my own. God wants us to come to the place to where we can trust Him to give us what is best. As the old hymn says, ‘Whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.’ The person who can truly sing that is the person who has come to trust in Jesus not only as Savior, but also as Lord.
Lesson #2 – ‘God Will Be Beside You’
Joshua 3:6 And Joshua spake unto the priests, saying, Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass over before the people. And they took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people. 7 And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee.’
One of the great problems many of have in following God is that we believe that God can, but we often don’t believe that He will. We recognize His omnipotence, but we fail to trust in His grace and goodness.
I refuse to be discouraged, to be sad, or to cry;
I refuse to be down-hearted, and here’s the reason why:
I have a God who’s mighty, who’s sovereign and supreme;
I have a God who loves me, and I am on His team.
He is all-wise and powerful,Jehovah is His name;
Though everything is changeable, my God remains the same.
My God knows all that’s happening, beginning to the end;
His presence is my comfort; He is my dearest Friend.
When sickness comes to weaken me, to bring my head down low;
I call upon my mighty God; into His arms I go.
When circumstances threaten to rob me of my peace,
He draws me close unto His breast where all my strivings cease.
When my heart melts within me, and weakness takes control,
He gathers me into His arms,He soothes my heart and soul.
The great ‘I AM” is with me, my life is in His hand;
The ‘God of Jacob” is my hope; it’s in His strength I stand.
I refuse to be defeated, my eyes are on my God;
He has promised to be with me as through this life I trod.
I’m looking past all circumstance to Heaven’s throne above;
My prayers have reached the heart of God, I’m resting in His love.
I give God thanks in everything,
my eyes are on His face;
The battle’s His, the vict’ry mine;
He’ll help me win the race.
Lita Kurtzer, Zion’s Fire, March-April, 1992
My life verse is Hebrews 11:6 ‘But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is , and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.’ What is faith? Faith is confidence that causes us to trust. Therefore, Hebrews 11:6 could be read as – ‘Without confidence in God, it is impossible to please God, for God will reward the person who puts their trust in Him.’
I read a story the other day that blessed my heart. Many of you have heard of John and Charles Wesley. Charles Wesley wrote many of the hymns we sing and John was known for his preaching. It is recorded that Charles sometimes said, ‘If the Lord would give me wings, I’d fly.’ Whenever Charles said this, John would reply, ‘If God bids me fly, I will trust Him for the wings.’ I like that! If the Lord tells me to fly, I’ll trust Him to give me the wings!
What kept the children of Israel from entering into the Promised Land forty years earlier? We might say that it was their fear of the giants, but in reality it was their lack of faith in God.
NKJV Hebrews 3:17 Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
In order for the Lord to bless them, He had to bring them to the point of where they had confidence in Him. How would the Lord develop this confidence? We might think that He would give them a smooth road to travel and thus teach them of His goodness. But that’s not how He did it with them, nor does He do so with us. No, instead of a smooth road, the Lord gave them a raging river.
Joshua 3:8 And thou shalt command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, ye shall stand still in Jordan. 9 And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the words of the LORD your God. 10 And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites. 11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan. 12 Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man. 13 And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap.
It encourages my heart greatly to know that God will go before me into every situation and that while I am in the storm, He will be right there beside me.
Lesson #3 – ‘Others Will Come Behind You’
Joshua 4:1 And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying, 2 Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man, 3 And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night.
I use a lot of personal examples whenever I preach or teach. I don’t do so because I want to talk about me or because I think that I am something special. I tell you these stories, some of them over and over again, because I believe that these truths are real and here’s how I have experienced God in my life. I also tell them to remind myself of all that God has done for me.
God knew that His people would be facing some fierce enemies and therefore there would be many moments when they would be tempted to doubt or fear. To help them keep their eyes on Him, He had them build a special memorial.
Joshua 4:20 And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal. 21 And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? 22 Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. 23 For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over: 24 That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God for ever.
A few years ago I preached a message from this passage and in that message I gave you three reasons why we need memorials in our lives:
- Because OUR CHILDREN need a RECORD of our faith
- Because WE OURSELVES often need REASSURANCE of our faith
- Because THE WORLD needs a REALITY of our faith
Are you currently facing a Jordan River? If so, keep in mind –
- God will go before you.
- God will be beside you.
- Others will come after you.