Joshua-Wayne Barber/Part 1
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2004|
|It’s in this spirit of possessing what is already ours, of experiencing what God has already given to us that we enter the study of Joshua.|
Possessing What God Has Given-Joshua 1:1-5
Okay, you say, “Wayne, what part of the New Testament are we going to go to next?” I want you to turn to the book of Joshua in the Old Testament. We’re going to walk through this awesome book, the book of Joshua. We’ve been through Philippians, we’ve been all the way through Galatians, and we have learned about living grace. Saving grace is Christ saving us. He’s the only way of salvation. Living grace is that Christ lives His life in and through us. That’s what living grace is. Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship. And it’s what we’ve been learning for quite awhile. Well, you say, “Wayne, why would you go to Joshua?” A big reason here. Matter of fact the message tonight is “Possessing What God Has Given.” Possessing what God has given.
Several weeks ago, I preached a message on Jubilee to you, how Christ is our Jubilee. Of course, it just all so fits together. Jubilee occurred on the Jewish calendar every 50 years. Jubilee was the sound of freedom. It was a time when Israel could go back and possess what was already theirs. They didn’t go back and get it, they already had it. But if they lost it during those 50 years, they could go back and possess it. Slaves were set free, possessions were reclaimed. It’s in this spirit of possessing what is already ours, of experiencing what God has already given to us that we enter the study of Joshua. It’s important in our study of Joshua that we understand that the nation of Israel, now under the leadership of Joshua as you’ll see in just a moment, was about to go back into the land that God had already given to them. They’re going to possess what God had already given to them; what was already theirs. For 430 years they had been out of their land. As a matter of fact, when Abraham finally got to that land, and in Genesis 15, God gave him a promise; a prophecy and a promise. You see this in Genesis 15:13, “God said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your descendents will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed 400 years.’”
Now, He was giving him a prophecy way out in the future. A lot of history had to take place for that prophecy to come true. Abraham and Sarah had Isaac when they were of old age. As a matter of fact, he was 100 and she was 90. Hebrews 11 said that God miraculously gave her the ability to bear children even after that time was passed. Isaac was the father of Jacob and Esau. They were fraternal twins. Jacob as you know was the younger of the twins, the last born. But it was Jacob who would receive the blessing, and it was Jacob whose name would be changed to Israel. And Israel had 12 sons, and this became the 12 tribes of Israel. Of these 12 sons, one of those sons was a favorite of Jacob, or now Israel. In the 36th chapter of Genesis he gave Joseph a multi-colored tunic. And you know the problem if you know the Old Testament and the story there. This made all the brothers furious. So much so that they sold him into slavery to a group of Ishmaelites who were on their way to Egypt to sell their wares.
Years later—now here he is in Egypt—years later, there was a famine in the land of Canaan. The brothers had long forgotten Joseph, thinking him to be dead. And as a reason of the famine in Canaan, they had to go over to Egypt to buy grain to be able to survive the famine. Joseph, in the meantime, after a very painful experience of being falsely accused, of being thrown into prison, had gained favor with the Pharaoh. In fact, he was the second in command to all of Egypt, unbeknownst to his brothers, who were coming over to buy grain. The story is a beautiful one; the whole family being reunited through this famine in Egypt.
Well, the whole family moves over into Egypt, and they’re there, settled in Egypt for over 30 years. They had great favor with the Pharaoh who was in power. But after that 30 year period of time, they had multiplied and multiplied and multiplied and a new Pharaoh came on the scene. And he was threatened by this group that was growing so rapidly, so he puts them into slavery, into captivity, for 400 years. Just like God said to Abraham back in the 15th chapter of Genesis.
And of course you know the story of Moses, those of you who have been around the Bible a little bit. You know that Moses now comes on the scene, floated down the river in a basket and one of the daughters of Pharaoh took him in and he grew up in the palaces of Egypt. And Moses was the man that God had appointed to set His people free, to take them out of Egypt and take them back into the land of which Abraham had been given. That land that they had been out of these 400 and some years. It is Moses who leads them out of Egypt—and I’m leaving a lot out of the story as you understand—through the Red Sea and through the wilderness. And all the time, with all the victories they went through, it was Joshua who was right by his side, a servant, a helper to Moses. But in Deuteronomy Moses dies. He’s not allowed to go over into the Promised Land. He’s not able to go over into the land of Canaan. So in Deuteronomy he dies. And this sets up our study in the book of Judges. It’s time to go and claim what God has already given to them. It’s time to possess what God had already given His people.
In order for us to relate to this wonderful book, we must realize that God has not given us a land, God has given us a life. We need to learn from Joshua, because God is the same yesterday, today and forever. We need to learn by the journey of Joshua and the Israelites as they moved into a land God had given them, we need to learn how to experience, how to possess what we already have in Christ Jesus. Jesus said in John 10:10, “I came that they might have [not land] life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
Now look in the text with me at Joshua 1:1, as we begin to learn: How do you possess what you already have? Joshua 1:1. We begin with a change of leadership. “Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spoke to Joshua, the son of Nun, Moses’ servant.” Now, “it came about after the death of Moses.” Moses did a very smart thing under the direction of God. He’d done his homework. He had prepared the people for a new leader. Leaders change. They come, they go. And he had prepared them for a new leader. In Numbers 27:15-23 it says this, “Then Moses spoke to the Lord, saying, ‘May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh,appoint a man over the congregation who will go out and come in before them. And who will lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep which have no shepherd.’ So the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua, the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him. And have him stand before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation, and commission him in their sight. And you shall put some of your authority on him, in order that all the congregation of the sons of Israel may obey him.’”
Basically it was like an ordination; it was setting him apart. And they were beginning to understand that the power, the authority was going to shift to Joshua. We also see in Deuteronomy 31:1, of this happening: “So Moses went and spoke these words to all of Israel, and he said to them, ‘I am 120 years old today. I am no longer able to come and to go and the Lord has said to me, “You shall not cross this Jordan.” It is the Lord your God who will cross ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you and you shall dispossess them. Joshua is the one who will cross ahead of you, just as the Lord has spoken. And the Lord will do to them just as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land when He destroyed them. And the Lord will deliver them up before you and you shall do to them according to all the commandments which I have commanded you. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the One who goes with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you.’ Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous for you shall go with this people into the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. And the Lord is the One Who goes ahead of you. He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.’”
A wonderful picture of how Moses, directed by God, sets apart the leader that is to follow him. I don’t know much about that in its fullest experience, but I have experienced something close to that. I pastored in one church for 18 years. It came time for me to go, and I knew it in my heart. I knew it in my heart. And so I recommended the next pastor. They asked me to stay as their interim. And for eight months I had the joy of preparing a church for a new leader. And on my last day, that was his first day. They walked through my line and say, “See you, Wayne,” and they walked through his line and said, “Hello, John.” And they never looked back. As a matter of fact, somebody said they were going to write that up as the smoothest transition they said that they believed they’d ever seen in that part of the world. God just did a beautiful thing. But He did the same thing with Moses and with Joshua. He’d already set the people up to understand Joshua is going to change to be your leader. The day had finally come for Joshua to take the people back in to the land God had given to them.
And so verse 1 says, “Now it came about after the death of Moses, the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses servant, saying.” By the way, that little term there, “the servant of the Lord,” when He talks about Moses, that’s one of the most awesome things God could have done, it’s the greatest compliment God could have bestowed on Moses. He was a servant of the Lord. I thought about this as I was studying. I want that to be on my tombstone someday. If God would so honor it. “He was a servant of the Lord.” And then Joshua now has come on the scene.
The instructions God gives to Joshua are so awesome, to help you and I understand how to possess, how to experience what we already have in Christ Jesus. Three things I want you to see in verses 1-5 of Joshua 1.
God’s Unchangeable Principles
First of all, I want you to see God’s unchangeable principles. And there are many, but there are two particular ones that are found in this verse. It doesn’t take long in verse 2 to begin to realize the principles that come to the service. Remember, the same principles that they inherited the land are the same principles as we inherit the life. It’s exactly the same. “Moses, my servant, is dead,” He says in verse 2. “Now therefore, arise and cross this Jordan.”
Now the Jordan River stood between the nation of Israel and the land that God had promised to them. They had to cross that river. Now the challenge was great. Joshua 3:15 tells us that it was at flood stage. This is interesting. Every year at the harvest time, the spring harvest, it would flood. It says in 3:15, “And when those who carried the Ark came into the Jordan, and the feet of the priest carrying the Ark were dipped in the edge of the water,” and then it pointedly says, “for the Jordan overflows all of its banks all the days of harvest.” In that harvest time, after the snows in the high mountains in the winter time, the river was swollen, as that water had run off Mt. Lebanon, down into the Jordan River, and it was at flood stage. Some people have estimated as to how deep it was, but whatever it was, it was an insurmountable type of situation. But God chooses this particular time. He could have waited, but He doesn’t. He chooses the flood season when it’s out of its banks. He chooses that time to tell them to obey Him and go on over into the land. You say, “Wayne, what’s the principle in all of that?” The principle is clear. It’s interesting in life, back then, and life today, how God chooses to put us in a crisis situation—now listen—in order to make us desperate enough to trust Him so completely that we can enter and experience what we already have. God always has and always will work on the principle of desperation.
You see, I might be able to stand up here and say it in a really great way; “this is what you have in Christ. Look at all you have in Christ.” We can do that, and that’s fine. But saying it and living it are two different things. And for a person to experience the life, he’s got to experience the death. He’s got to experience his own dying to self, and when he’s at the point when he doesn’t know what to do, that’s when he cries out and that’s when he begins to be able to enter what he already has. “Moses My servant is dead, now therefore arise. Cross this Jordan,” verse two says, “you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel.”
God never gives us, this is the second, God never allow us to experience all that He’s given to us at one time. Have you ever understood that in your Christian walk? He doesn’t let you experience everything that is yours at once. And there’s something in this that is so good. It’s a step by step process. It’s a walk. It is a journey, and the further you go, the more you begin to experience what He says has already been yours. There’s no wayto know how many people were in Israel at this time; some people say a million to a million and a half people. I don’t know. I could not justify that. I just don’t know. But there were a large number of them. So many that it threatened Pharaoh and it took quite a bit of time to get them out of Egypt.
But I want you to notice something here: “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore rise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land—and watch this phrase—which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel.” I want you to catch that phrase: “The land which I am giving to them.” Now, I don’t know about you, but when I study scripture things like that just stare out at me. I thought He’d already given it to them. “What do you mean ‘I am giving it to them,’ if He’s already given it to them?” All the way back in Genesis 15, when God cut the covenant with Abraham, promising him a land and a nation, and a seed, He says in verse 18, “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying ‘To your descendants—now listen—I have given this land.’” Not I am giving, not I’m going to give, I have given. When Moses was not allowed to enter the land, God said through him in Numbers 20:12, “But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.’”
In Numbers 33:51, He says “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you cross over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you and destroy all their figured stones and destroy all their molten images and demolish all their high places and you shall take possession of the land and live in it for I have given the land to you to possess it.’” God has said it over and over again, “the land which I have given to you,” but in our text He doesn’t say that. He says, “You take them over into the land which I am giving to Israel.” Do you notice what I am saying here? Has He given it or has He not given it? Why does He say “I am giving it” if He’s already given it?
Well, what I want you to see is that what God has promised to all of us and to them, different from the covenant that we’re in; He chooses not to let us experience it all at once. He enlarges our faith through the crisis experience He puts us into, and then the less there is of us, the more that we begin to experience of Him. But we had Him all along. We had Him all along. How many people I’ve heard stand up and share “this is what we have in Jesus. Shout, brother, shout.” And then follow along like a fly on the wall for a week and see whether or not they’re experiencing what they had, what they said they already know that they have. God has to bring us to that place of understanding that He doesn’t give it to us all at once. And we’ll see in the next point how that’s helpful.
Dwight L. Moody, I think it was Dwight L. Moody or R.A. Torrey, I believe it was Moody; he grew and grew and grew in his walk with the Lord. His faith was enlarged daily as he sought to trust Him. And when he came down to the last part of his life, he made a statement one day. After having been in prayer and in the Word, he cried out, “Oh, God, please stop blessing me. I couldn’t stand it if you blessed me anymore!” Now, I wonder why he didn’t say that 30 years before. You see, the longer you walk with God and the more you trust God, the more you understand even though you have all of Him, you don’t experience it all at one time. You experience it to the degree that you’re able to trust Him and willing to trust Him in your life.
I love what Manley Beasley did. Manley Beasley walked into a hospital room one night. And if you know Manley, he’s quite a character, and the lady said, “Manley, will you pray for my healing?” And Brother Manley said, “I don’t know if I will or if I won’t.” You had to know Manley to understand that. He said, “Before I do anything, though, would you tell me how you have experienced Christ in a way that’s different from ever before in your life? Would you just share that with me?” And she began to share and the tears began to stream down her face, and for over a solid hour she talked about how she had never know God like she had known Him through this illness, from being desperate and trusting Him. And Brother Manley made the statement, “Are you sure you want me to pray that God will heal you and release you from the very thing that has brought you to experience what you said you already had?”
God’s unchangeable principles. One of them is He’ll put you in a crisis and that crisis is such that you’re desperate and you’ll cry out to Him and it’s in crying out to Him that you begin to experience what He already has told you is yours. But it’ll never be all at once. Our faith enlarges and as we grow we experience the depths of the One that we’ve had within us all along.
God’s Unchangeable Plan
Secondly, not only do we have God’s unchangeable principles, but we have God’s unchangeable plan. And this is where it becomes very clear in verse 3. Verse 2 really doesn’t finish because you’ve got to go to verse 3. And in my Bible I’m so grateful that verse 3 always follows verse 2. It says in verse 3, “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses.”
Now, “the sole of your foot” is a very significant term. It’s the Hebrew word kaph. It refers to the inside of the hand, the tender part, or to the tender side of the foot. And very obviously here it has to refer to the foot because He said, “every place the sole of your foot treads upon.” It’s that tender part of the bare foot. You say, “Wayne, what in the world does that mean?” Well, think about it. When did they ever walk barefooted? When did God ever tell them to take their shoes off? When Moses was at the burning bush, Exodus 3, he was up on Mt. Sinai, or as some translations say Mt. Horeb, and God appeared to him in a burning bush. I’d like to have been a fly on the wall, wouldn’t you? I would have loved to have been there when that bush was burning, but not being consumed. It was the fire in the Presence of God and God spoke through that fire and spoke to Moses. What did He tell him? He says, “’Do not come near here,’ God said. ‘Remove your sandals from your feet?’” Now why? “For the place on which you are standing is holy ground, ground that is set apart unto Me.” “Do you understand, Moses, that you are in My Presence? Take your shoes off, son. Take your shoes off.” The ground was holy. Take off your sandals, consider the ground holy. The term sole of your foot has to do with considering the ground holy before God.
Do you see where I’m headed here? Do you understand what He’s saying here? “Joshua, every step you take and consider to be holy unto God, is yours. I’ve already given you the land, but every step you take in obedience to me, you walk into victory to me and you can claim that which I said was already yours. Every step you take in obedience to Me.” That means a holy life. “God I trust you, I will obey you,” and you walk in the fullness of what God says is already yours.
Joshua experiences this in his very first battle. They came to a city by the name of Jericho. In Joshua 5:3, it says this: “Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and behold, a man was stand opposite him with a sword drawn in his hand. Joshua went to him and said, ‘Are you for us or for our adversaries?’ And he said, ‘No.’” In other words, you’re asking the wrong question. I didn’t come to take sides, I came to take over. He says, “‘No, rather I indeed come now as the Captain of the Host of the Lord.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and bowed down and said to him, ‘What has my Lord to say to His servant?’ And the Captain of the Lord’s Host said to Joshua [listen to me now], ‘Remove your sandals from your feet for the place where you are standing is holy,’ and Joshua did so.”
You say, “Wayne, what’s significance is that? What are you trying to say?” Listen, they were about to go into a battle with Jericho and God’s ways are not our ways, God’s will is different that our will. And He says, “Joshua, unless you’re willing to bow before Me, you’ll never understand what I’m about to tell you. I want the people to walk around the city one time every day for six days, and the seventh day, seven times around, and then blow that trumpet.” And when they did, the power of God fell and the walls didn’t just fall in, they fell the opposite way they’re supposed to fall. I’ve been there and that’s one of the main things they talk about, how they fell that was so unique, because God destroyed those walls.
You see, when you’re saying yes to God and every step is holy, then you don’t know what’s next because only God is giving that. And every time you take a step in your Christian life and you say, “okay Lord,” and “yes, Lord,” you don’t have to know where it’s going, and it doesn’t have to make all the sense in the world to you, but you’re willing to say yes to God and that’s the way. Faith is obedience. That’s the way we walk in that which God says we already have. That’s the way we claim and possess what God says is already ours.
What did Paul say in Galatians 2:20? “The life I now live I live [by what?] by faith.” You can see it in the Old Testament. Every step that I take is holy unto God. I’m willing to say yes and walk in the fullness of the life that He says is mine in Christ. So the plan of God has never changed. It’s never changed. Just as Joshua had to learn to obey God, to enter the land which was promised to him, we must learn to obey Him and to obey His Word. We’ve said it over and over again, and you already know this. And, by the way, it is situation by situation by situation. And little by little we begin to experience what God said is already ours.
God has integrity with everything He does. It’s not frivolous and it’s not cheap. It comes at the expense of our willingness to say yes to Him. And when we do, we consider the ground we’re standing on to be holy. We consider it holy and we begin to enter what we say we already have. We begin to experience the fullness of what God says is ours. The unchangeable principles of God. He always puts us in a crisis experience and never allows us to experience it all at one time. And the integrity of it is the unchangeable plan of God; that it is only as we consider each step holy as unto God that we enter that which He has for us.
The Unchangeable Promise of God
In verse 4 He gives the boundaries of the land He promised Israel. “From river Euphrates eastward to the Mediterranean Sea westward was given to Israel.” Because of their disobedience they never took all that God gave to them, but that’s history. One day they will have it all, by the way, when He comes back and puts everything to rest. But there are two things that are going on here, and that’s why I’m not dwelling on verse 4. That promise is not to us. There are two things; it’s like a two-lane highway.
I was going down to do a meeting at a church in Dilley, Texas. It’s south of San Antonio. Dilley, the only motel they had, had a sign on the door of each room, “No skinning of deer in the room.” And I was deeply grateful that they put me in Pearsall, which was a little bit different. It’s about 22 miles closer to San Antonio from there. They gave me a car to drive because they didn’t want to come pick me up after every service. And so the first night I went down I just noticed as a walked out to the car, the license plate was out of date and from New Jersey. Now, I think what happened was there was a local car dealer that let me use the car, and I’m certain somewhere in that car was a legal plate. But the one I saw was still on the back of the car. Well, I got in that car every night very tentatively. I didn’t know, what if a state trooper pulled me over? First of all, I wasn’t real sure where Dilley was. Secondly, I don’t know who it was that loaned me the car, and thirdly, I just look guilty. So I didn’t know what was going to happen.
So I got in the car every night and I was doing two things. There were two lanes on that highway. I’m watching with one eye this lane, and I’m watching with the other eye this lane. I’m looking for the Smokey to come. Second night, sure enough, here he comes. And when he saw me he was just going regular, he just sped up and got me. Don’t you hate it when a state trooper does that? And they get right up on me and you don’t know what to do. He hasn’t got any lights on, he hasn’t made any signals, and he just keeps driving. Then he pulled over to my left. “Oh, thank you, God. He’s going to pass me.” But he didn’t pass; he just stayed there, same speed. There were two things going on. Two lanes. In this lane I had a Smokey and I’m trying to figure out what he’s going to do. In this lane I’ve got to get off at a certain exit to go to Dilley, Texas. Finally, when it got down to Dilley, he just looked over at me a couple of times and realizes I was too dumb to be too bad. I just pulled off and he right on going and I said, ‘Thank you, God, thank you!’
But two things were going on, and two things are going on right here. You cannot get inside the life of Israel, how God’s speaking to Israel, the promise He’s giving to Israel. You cannot do that. However, there’s an application of this that fits right into the New Testament. We’ve been studying it for a whole year in the book of Galatians. He’s saying the same thing, the same thing in a different way. Two things are going on at the same time. So verse 4 you have to skip right on by, but verse 5, there is a promise He gives to them, and I promise you that the promise He gives to us, because He said He’ll never leave us or forsake us. And our victory is always going to be in Him. Look what He says in verse 5, “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you. I will not fail you or forsake you.”
Now I want you to notice that “No man will be able to stand before you.” I want you to understand what that’s saying. It doesn’t say he won’t try to stand before you. The term won’t be able to stand before you has the idea of being able to stop you,to take away from you something that God has given to you. And God said, “Listen, if you’ll consider every step holy, if you’ll take every step as unto Me, you’re going to walk into a land that I said is yours, and I’m going to give it to you step by step as you walk into it. And as long as you’ll walk that way, desperate for Me and obedient to Me, no man can take from you what I have given to you.” When we walk by faith, when we yield to Christ and to His Word, no man can take from us what is ours in Christ. No man can take from us the joy of our hearts, nobody can take the peace from our hearts, nobody can take the beautiful fruit of the spirit that He promised to produce in us in Galatians 5:22-23. I hear so many people so often say “I just lost my joy,” and I want to take them to the book of Joshua and I want to show them, “No sir, no man can take from you what God has given to you. What you did was forfeit it when you chose to do things your way instead of doing things God’s way.”
I want you to remember that. The days when there are no patience in your life, the days when there is no peace in your life, the days when there is no joy and no love and the things that God says is ours, when they’re not there, nobody took them from us. “Well, Wayne, that person was mean to me.” No sir, you had a choice and if you consider every step holy, no matter what the circumstances are, you walk in what is already yours in Christ Jesus. “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life, just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you. I will not fail you or forsake you.” To deepen the effect of the promise, God says to Joshua, “Just as I’ve been with Moses, I will be with you.”
You’ve got to be a fly on the wall there to understand how Joshua took that. Wow! Joshua was there when he saw God do the victories through Moses. He was only a servant, but he was at the side of Moses. And He says, “Just like I was with him, I going to be with you.” Joshua, having only been a servant to Moses for forty years, probably thought of himself just in that matter. He’s not as wise, he’s not as strong, he’s not powerful as Moses; but God makes it clear it wasn’t the wisdom of Moses, it wasn’t the strength of Moses, it was the fact that God was with Moses. And He says, “Joshua, I will also be with you. The wisdom comes from Me, and the strength comes from Me, Joshua, and like I gave it to Moses, I will give it to you.”
Leaders can change and they will change, but God never changes. And if a leader is willing to walk with God and a leader is willing to let Jesus be Jesus in his life, he walks in the fullness of everything God says is his. And no man, no man, can take away what God has given to His people. Joshua would be strong. Joshua would be wise, to the degree that he was willing to bow and say yes to God. To His Word and to His will. No man would be able to stop him, no man would be able to take from him what God had given to him.
Verse 5, “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you. I will not fail you or forsake you.” That word, “I will not fail you or forsake you,” has the idea “I will not drop you, and I will not abandon you. I will be with you, Joshua. I’ll not run away from you when you’re in trouble.”
When I first went to the church in Chattanooga, God began to do some great things. And all of a sudden—well, I’d never heard of a church of Satan, I’d never heard of that in my life. I didn’t know there was one. But evidently there are and they’re everywhere. It’s amazing that anybody would want to worship the very one who was cast out of heaven and is nothing more than a rebel and his judgment is sealed. But they do. We’d begun to get letters from them. And they were signed with blood, human blood, I guess, or animal blood, and it was a big splotch of blood on the bottom of them. For about six months I would get these letters. They would threaten to kill my family. They threatened to do all kinds of things, just very nasty and very cruel things they’d write. Most of the time they would spell my name wrong and I thought that was kind of comical.
But it was interesting how we just didn’t give it any attention at all. As a matter of fact, after awhile I started pinning the notes up on the bulletin board in the foyer, hoping somebody could recognize the handwriting. Then they started dispatching about 18 of them—they never came at one time, there were about three to five at one time—that would come to our services and sit in different spots all over our service. And while we were preaching and while we were singing and praising God, they would sit there and talk and pray to Satan that he would do all kinds of destructive things to us. One of the people finally came to me and said, “Wayne, aren’t you going to recognize this kind of stuff?” I said, “Listen, you recognize it, you dignify it. Why dignify anything like that? Why don’t we keep preaching Christ Who has the power over all of them?”
Well, unbeknownst to me, many of our people grabbed hold of that and they started finding them in the service and sitting around them. While I was preaching, they were there with their heads bowed, praying that God would thwart the power that they had, that He would shut it down. And after about three month’s period of time, never having said a word from the pulpit, never giving mention to it at all, they disappeared. And we never saw them for 15 more years.
It’s incredible. God said it. Didn’t He say that? No man can stand before you. “Well, Wayne, the devil’s a spirit.” Yes, but he has to inhabit the body of a man. No body, no spirit is left unclothed, 2 Corinthians 5 tells us. And so, any way you look at it, he’s not going to have any power over anything God is doing. As long as we walk in obedience to Christ and His Word, no man, no man, can stand in our way and stop what God wants to do in our midst.
God’s unchangeable principles. I want us to understand this as we walk into 2004. I want us to understand that God’s going to put us in crisis, after crisis, after crisis, after crisis. Because only when we’re rendered to the point of desperation can we cry out and experience what we already know that we have. But God’s not going to let us experience it all at one time. It’s only to the degree we’re willing and the measure we’re willing to obey. And our faith will begin to enlarge, and as it enlarges we’ll begin to understand the depths of that which before will seem like shallow waters to what we have experienced.
God’s Unchangeable Promise
God’s unchangeable principles; not only that, but God’s unchangeable plan. Every place that the sole of your foot treads. That’s individual. That’s each one of us. As we learn to trust God in our own personal walk. But God’s unchangeable promise. No man, no man, can stand and take away what God says is rightfully ours in Him. You see, I want you to think about with me for a second as we close. Apply this to your life. Just apply it to your life. Are you right now frustrated with God because He hasn’t done something that you know in Scripture that He’s promised to do? Are you frustrated with Him? Are you impatient because you’ve done this and you’ve done that, and God hasn’t done what you thought He was going to do? Is the situation you’re in right now closing you up and are you getting to the point that you begin to feel like you’re at the end of your rope? From the Scripture do you realize that’s the greatest place you could be? Do you realize that this is God’s way of leading you into a place of desperation?
I’ve never thought of myself as a counselor; I try, and I work at it, but I’ve never really thought of myself. I’ve always had sort of the attitude that it ought to be a counseling session, five minutes is probably long. Two minutes to tell me your problem, about 30 seconds to show you where it needs to be a change of lifestyle and learning to say yes to Christ, and then maybe two minutes to two and a half minutes to decide whether you’re going to do that or not. And if you’re going to do that, it’s great cause I’m going fishing. I just always thought that was the way it was! I was the only staff member left on the property one day at a church. Everybody had gone home. I was there late and a man came in the door because some of the personnel had forgotten to lock it. It was about 6:30—people had been gone for awhile. He walked into me and he said, “Man, is there somebody here who can help me? Is there somebody here?” I said, “Well, I can try.” “Well, who are you?” I said, “I’m the senior pastor.” He said, “Oh, good.” I’m thinking, “I don’t think so.”
Then he told me a story that was horrifying. I mean, it was just terrible things in his life, and he said, “I’m at the end of my rope. I’m at the point where I don’t know what to do.” And I said, “Well, praise God!” And he looked at me and he said, “Praise God? Is there anybody else around here that can help me?” And I said, “No, you’re not listening to me. I’m not trying to be trite when it comes to your pain. But what I’m trying to tell you is God has finally backed you into a corner. What can you do right now to help yourself?” He said, “Nothing.” I said, “Man! That’s it! At the point of desperation is when you cry out to God; and when you cry out to God, that’s when he’s able to move in your life and that’s the only time He’s able to get the glory for what He’s done.”
See, that’s what it’s all about. Are you at that point in your life? Are you at the end of your rope? Has God driven you there? That’s not a bad place. As a matter of fact, it’s a wonderful place. Are you willing to obey God no matter what He says? Do you realize that no one can take from you what God has given to you, so even in the midst of your desperation, when you say yes, you can still walk in the joy He says is yours? You only give it away when you refuse to obey.
The book of Joshua is going to be an exciting journey as these Israelites, God’s people, learn to possess what God has already given to them. And we’re going to learn from them. How we walk in the life that God says is ours in Christ. But we can learn from each other.