A Life of Faith… and Hard Work

A Life of Faith… and Hard Work

A Life of Faith… and Hard Work
Joshua 17-21

by Pastor Chuck Henderson

  • I bring you greetings from our partner in Malawi – Isaac Dzimbri…
    • And hope to introduce to you a new brother, Maya Kuthyola…
  • I am blessed to celebrate this day by looking back to a father who gave me a wonderful legacy of faith that included the world
    • I am blessed to celebrate my four adult children, their families, and – for now – 11 grandchildren
  • As I have been contemplating the incredibly challenging days of family and ministry that my brothers Isaac and Maya are seeking to navigate, and think back on my father’s life in ministry, I realize I too have been in full time ministry now for 45 years and a father for 38.  That’s a long while!
    • And you know what?  For all the effort to live by faith and seeking to claim all that God has for me through a saving relationship in Jesus Christ and the filling of the Holy Spirit, this life has just been… hard work!
  • The last time I preached to you, we examined the life of Caleb from Joshua 14, and I called us all – no matter what age you are – to rise to the challenge of whatever mountain you face!  We looked to Caleb and many of us were urged to rise to his example.
  • But many of us are not terribly adventurous or naturally courageous; our lives are just, well, ordinary and plain ol’ hard work; it’s true of how we seek to run our homes; it’s true of the 40, 50 or even 60 hours we put in at work; it’s true for all we seek to accomplish day in and day out – washing loads and loads of clothes, mowing grass, running kids everywhere… it’s exhausting
  • So, on this Father’s Day, I’d like for us to look at our text and see what God’s Word has to say to us all as followers of Christ, and then I will apply it specifically to our labors as fathers at the end
  1. Observe an example of this hard work of faith, 17:14-18
    1. Ephraim and Manasseh have a complaint, 14
      1. We are SO many; we need more land
    1. Joshua has a solution – go and take more! 15
    1. E & M have an objection, 16
      1. The hills have woods and are not really great for agriculture and cities
      1. The valleys are filled with Canaanites, and… they have chariots of iron, and… are really strong!
        1. Perhaps hinting for help?
        1. Perhaps feel that what other tribes have is not fair?
        1. Perhaps want a different assignment?
      1. Regardless, let’s read Joshua’s response…
    1. Joshua gives his final word, 17-18
      1. He affirms them
        1. You are more than you think
        1. You are stronger than you know
          1. A clear reference to the experience of depending on the Lord that the nation as a whole has had
      1. He then challenges them
        1. Go to the mountains and clear the woods! – do the hard work God has called you to
        1. Go to the valleys and defeat the enemy! – fight the good fight by the faith that God has given you

I love to sing and speak about grace – that salvation is all of God and His incredible, unmerited deliverance of us from all our sins.  It’s just so freeing.  But perhaps you have joined me in praying at times: “Lord, I thank You for Your salvation and the promise of heaven.  But… couldn’t you have made things a little easier for me on earth?”  It’s like that scene from Fiddler on the Roof when Tevia is talking to God and complaining about the incredible persecution of the Jewish people in Russia – 

“I know we’re your chosen people and that you love us.  And I know that because you love us, you give us suffering to make us better. But… do you have to love us so much?”

The NT makes it abundantly clear that we are saved by grace, but it is also just as plain that the sanctification processinvolves our learning to be faithful in our works, to endure, to earnestly strive and persevere:

  • “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling…”
    • “I beat my body into submission…”
    • “Faith without works in dead…”

Much like the Israelites, God places us in this “new land” and affirms us as His children.  But then He challenges us to bring our hearts and lives and all that we have into submission to Him.  We can complain like Ephraim and Manasseh about what He’s placed before us:

  • We wish our “land” was easier to work
    • We fear our enemies that have “iron chariots”

But Christ responds to us the same way as he did through the Joshua of old: 

  • You are more than you think for I have placed you in Christ and the Holy Spirit of God lives in you; I have created the church to be a bond of brothers and sisters who will come around each other I times of need to face the enemies that strike such fear
    • You are stronger than you know, for greater is He that is in you than he that is the world; you are also so stronger when you come together as brothers and sisters in true unity and love, and strike against the gates of hell
    • Then Christ goes on to say: It is I who has placed these challenges in front of you precisely to make you stronger in your life of faith; the matters of life that you are facing are not by chance, but by my design

Apparently, it wasn’t only Ephraim and Manasseh that needed to hear this message.  When we come to ch. 18, Joshua broadens his message to all of Israel — it reads like a “come to Jesus” speech…

  • Hear the call to the whole nation, 18:1-3  (In short…)
    • Quit your procrastination
    • Believe God’s promise
    • Take your possession

Oh, children of God, no matter what station of your life we’re in, we all have unclaimed spiritual territory to conquer

  • When we’re young…We put off conquering lusts of the flesh, thinking they’re just too strong for us We put off spiritual disciplines because we have so much to do with school and sports, children that rob us of sleep, jobs that require so much time, school that takes all our mental energy
    • When we’re middle aged…
      • We get stuck in emotional and mental ruts and look for other avenues to give us joy besides the true spiritual ways
      • We strive with all our might to advance in work and manage our children’s crazy schedules, and neglect the One who gave us the jobs and children in the first place
    • When we’re old…
      • We listen to Fox news or CNN far more than we do the Word and become filled with worldly fear and wrongful trusts
      • We fear our declining strength and desperately hold on to anything that brings us a feeling of security

But just as God promised the children of Israel in Joshua’s day, He challenges us today.  He will test us, to be sure; He allows us to face trials and tribulations in this life; that is our spiritual reality! But He also promises that He is IN us; He will go BEFORE us; and He will be WITH us every step of the way.  He calls us to quit indulging our fears; to quit procrastinating the necessary spiritual battles.  Quit letting fear control your life.  Fight the good fight of faith at every stage of your life, for your God is great and deserves our very best effort!

And when we do, we will…

  • Understand the conclusion when all is said and done, 21:43-45
    • God’s promise was fulfilled (Gen. 15:12-21)
      • @ 500 years later
    • God’s power was manifest
      • A general description of truth – Israel did take the land and the enemy was subdued
      • An admittance of exceptions was granted
        • Though the power of the enemy was broken, specific pockets of resistance were still there (the Jebusites and others); but overall…
    • God’s power was proven (v. 45)

Does your heart not resonate with this kind of testimony by Joshua???

Is this not what you would like to have your life and lips testify in your old age??? 

  • All of God’s promises are true and not one of the good promises which the Lord has made has failed
    • God’s power has been manifest throughout my life and all I have is from Him; all has come to pass for His glory

Even in our church — as we face this NEXT initiative and look at the mountain of challenge to expand our ministry and build this addition to our building…

  • Do we not long to experience such a work of God that we can testify to generations to come the joy of stepping out in faith to trust God?  To testify from our corporate experience that our Father is worthy of such trust when faced with the iron chariots of this land?
  • Does your heart not long to exhibit such faith in your Father that generations to come will hear our testimonies of His power for victory over all things in our lives?

Oh, beloved, I beg us to rise to the challenge of being a people who do not shrink in shame and complaints about the work that it takes to clear the woods from the hills in our lives nor hide in fear from the perceived iron chariots in the valleys.  Let us work hard and do so by faith in the promised victory of our sovereign and all-powerful God.  

Even if we don’t have a name like Caleb or our lives are not recorded in some book, may we be faithful to work at clearing the mountains of our lives and fight by faith against the enemies in the valleys, all for the glory of our God and the generations who will come behind us.  

But quickly, allow me to very specifically apply this to those of us who are fathers and grandfathers this day in 5 ways:

  • Affirmation: God gave you the children you have. (woods… chariots…)
    • Challenge: Stop complaining either that you had them at all or wish that you had different ones!
  • Affirmation: Being a good dad is one of the top three hardest things you have to do in this life.  It just is.
    • Challenge: You still have to do it, so stop your whining!  It’s hard work, so get over it!
  • Affirmation: Fathering is something you must do every day, every hour, every moment (go clear… go fight…)
    • Challenge: Quit your procrastination!
      • For fathers of young children, you can’t let the “Canaanites” abide in the land or they will come back to haunt you later
      • For fathers of teens (in the faithful words that John Kloke reminded us of at our last men’s breakfast), “Engage!  Engage! Engage!”
  • Affirmation: Fathering a child to the point of godliness is impossible. (chariots of iron)
    • Challenge: you MUST depend on God both for yourself and for them, for only HE can give the victory.

Finally, for my older men here, my grandfathers, let us remember that Joshua was faithful to his call and leadership; but the time came for him to let the tribes go into their lands to work and to conquer; the time had come for them to fulfill their God-given assignments 

  • No longer could, nor should, Joshua lead every battle
  • He had done all he could and now it was their responsibility 

That leads me to this…

  • Affirmation: The direct responsibility of fathering ends as your children enter their own God-given assignments.
    • Challenge:
      • Stop beating yourself up for your adult children’s poor decisions.  You did the best you could to set them up for spiritual success; the rest is up to them.
      • But, never, ever, stop fighting the war of intercessory prayer.

 I pray this has encouraged all our souls this morning to rise to whatever hard work God has given us.  May we do it by faith as individuals, and as a church.  May our legacy be that we cleared the mountains of the woods, and conquered the chariots that were in our deepest valleys.