Joshua-Wayne Barber/Part 2
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2004|
|One of the greatest challenges in life is for believers to understand not only what is theirs in Christ, but how to appropriate what you have.|
Be Strong and Take Courage
Turn with me to the book of Joshua. I hope you’re enjoying this as much as I am. I tell you what, I haven’t done the Old Testament in awhile. And it’s just going to be a wonderful adventure in the book of Joshua.
Joshua 1, and tonight we’re going to look at verses 6-9. “Be strong and take courage.” Be strong and take courage. One of the greatest challenges in life for me, and I’m sure for you if you’re trying to share it with others, is for believers to understand not only what is theirs in Christ, but how to appropriate what you have. You ever study one of those ATM machines? And you put your card in. You’ve got money in the bank—hopefully—and you put your card in to draw it out. It’s your money. It’s in the bank. You put the card in, you pull it out and you wait for the sign to come up. It’s demonic! And it says, “Please punch in your personal identification code.” And you can’t remember it. Now, I just want to know, has this happened to anybody but me?
But you just stand there. You feel so stupid. You know, they tell you when you get that personal identification code. They say, “Put this in a place where nobody can get to it.” And you did; now you can’t even find it. What is yours is yours, but you somehow are not able to get to it. And that’s what we’re going to learn here in Joshua. In the book of Joshua, we’re going to learn to appropriate what God has given to us as we study how they learned to appropriate what God had already given to them.
For 430 years they had been out of their land. God had promised them a land. He gave that promise to Abraham, but they’d been out of that land for 430 years. Thirty years in Egypt had been a peaceful time as the Pharaoh was in good sync with the people. But then something happened. They changed Pharaohs. And the new Pharaoh saw this vast multiplying group, and he began to be threatened by them. So he put them in captivity. And they lived in captivity for 400 years, exactly the way God said it to Abraham back in Genesis 15. Moses is dead now, they’ve come out of Egypt, they’ve crossed the Red Sea, they’ve come through the wilderness, and now it’s time. It’s time to enter the land which God had already given to them.
Now, again, we don’t have a land, we have a life in Christ Jesus. But we need to learn how to possess this life. Even though, yes, we have it, let me put it this way: we need to learn how to experience the life that we already have in Christ Jesus. We learned last time in verses 1-5 some helpful things that as we go through life we can begin to better understand what’s going on. We learned in verses 1-5 that God creates a crisis in our life in order to put us in a position to trust Him; to totally depend upon Him.
Now, I want to promise you this. We should be walking by faith. Faith comes from hearing the Word of God. If we’re willing to walk by faith, I want to promise you God will keep us at the point of desperation. You don’t walk by faith until you live by desperation. You see, if everything is going well all the time, we’re prone to drift; and when we drift we’re not walking by faith, and God allows things to come into our life to bring us back to that point to where we depend upon Him. God put Joshua in a crisis right away, just after Moses had died. He puts him right into a crisis. In verse 2, “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all the people to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel.”
The Jordan River stood between them and the Promised Land; for them to possess the land, for them to enter the land they already had, they had to cross that Jordan River. But in 3:15 we saw the last time that the Jordan River was flooded. This was not the time to cross the river. This is the worst time it could be. Talk about a crisis! A flooded river. It was after the spring harvest and the snow had melted on Mt. Lebanon and had drained down to the river and the river was out of its banks. I mean, “Lord, don’t You understand? You don’t cross a river at flood stage.”
But God picked that time to tell them it was time to cross the river. God could have waited to another time, when the water was within its banks, but He didn’t. Now to relate to this, and hopefully you’ve made your drawing connecting some dots here. We must ask ourselves a question: What crisis am I in right now? What has God allowed to come into my life, has driven me to the point that I have no choice but to trust Him? What is God trying to teach me? What is it about Himself that He’s wanting me to experience? See, we don’t look at life that way. This is what causes us to enter what we have. We forget that life is all orchestrated. Some people say, “Is it His perfect will? Is it His permissive will?” I don’t know! I just know He’s in charge of it. That’s all I want to know, by the way. I don’t really care who wins the argument, I just want to know He’s in charge. When I’m in the midst of a valley, don’t come to me with whether or not it’s His perfect will or His permissive will! Hey, just let me be encouraged that He’s in control, and He’s doing something in my life. You see, God is in me and in you everything that we are not. And for us to experience Him we have to be at the end of ourselves, to where we’re desperate enough to cry out to Him.
But, not only does God create a crisis, but we also learned that God doesn’t let us experience all that we have at one time. He doesn’t let us do that. I just wish He would, but I’m not so sure we could stand it. On the Mount of Transfiguration, just a little bit of His glory seeped out, and it just overwhelmed the three apostles that were there. And He just gave them a peek. We don’t get to experience what He’s given us in Himself. He lets us enter a little bit at a time. He says in the end of verse 2: “You and all this people, I want you to take them across this Jordan to the land which I am giving to the sons of Israel.” It was theirs, but they could only enter it as they are willing to obey Him. Only to the degree that they were willing to walk by faith could they enter what they already had.
He 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.” God just simply told Moses what He tells us in the New Testament, in the new covenant. He just simply says walk by faith. Walk by faith. Faith is trusting God; forsaking all, I trust Him. You walk yielded in surrender to Him. And if you’ll do that, then every step that you take, you begin to experience what you already had but didn’t even realize it. That’s the journey.
We also learned that no one can take from us what God has given to us. 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 [these are beautiful words] or forsake you.” I won’t abandon you, I won’t drop you. I didn’t bring you this far to teach you how to swim to drown you. I’m going to be there to carry you through. What a beautiful promise. Be careful when, sometimes—and I’ve done it—in frustration you carelessly say: “I’ve just lost my joy.” No, you didn’t lose it; you chose to walk away from it. Because your joy is in a person: the Lord Jesus. And nobody can take that from you, nobody. I just wish sometime I could blame somebody. “It’s them, Lord!” And God says, “No it’s not, it’s you. You’ve chosen to take your focus off of me and you’ve disinherited yourself for this present moment, from that which you already have.” Well, be careful with what you say many times about people taking your joy or stealing it. No, no man can take from us what God has given to us.
With the groundwork laid for possessing what is ours today, we move now to verses 6-9. You’ve got to keep connecting these passages. This is not a brand new message based on Scripture that’s isolated from verses 1-5; it all connects. Let me read the passage for you if you want to read silently with me:
Joshua 1:6-9: “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous. Be careful to do according to all the law which Moses, my servant, commanded you. Do not turn from it, to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do according all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Now the key to this whole message is found in the words “be strong, be courageous.” And you see it used three different times in three different verses. The word for “strong” is in a stem. They’re called stem in Hebrew and it means “be becoming strong,” be growing up, be growing strong. It’s not a onetime thing. It’s to be growing stronger and stronger and stronger and stronger. It’s the strength from within that He’s talking about here. It’s the strength from within that enables us to face whatever lies ahead of us. In fact, the Greek word is so clear; that’s why I love the Greek. The Hebrew is more conceptual. But the Greek is so precise. It is the word ischus, word that means “inherent strength; inward strength.”
Have you ever been around someone like that? I got on an elevator one time with a pro football player. He was holding his little baby like a teddy bear he won at the fair. He was about three inches taller than me and big as a refrigerator and he didn’t have to do a thing. I just sensed the strength in that man standing on that elevator. It made me feel like a little boy. That’s what He’s talking about. You be inwardly, inherently strong.
Now, He’s already alluded to the fact in verse 5 that there is going to be opposition. And we’ve got to get this in our minds. The warfare was not in the wilderness, the warfare was in Canaan, in the land which God had given to them. There’s going to be opposition to us, and so therefore what He’s talking about is that no man will be able to stand before you. But they’re going to try. They’re going to try. You’re going to have some things that you’re going to deal with in order to possess what God says is already yours.
God tells Joshua, “When you face those who would take from you what I have given you, be inwardly strong.” Now that word for courageous is the word meaning to be stout, immovable. I love again the Greek translation, Septuagint, of the Old Testament, and it says it uses the word that says, “act like a man.” I like that. “Joshua, when you get in the face of opposition, you be strong, son, you be immovable. Act like a man. You face what’s coming to you and you deal with what it is.” You have to deal with it. The idea of being spiritually fit. It has the idea of being on the alert, being honed, being conscious of what may hinder you, being aware. So in my words, what I would say to get it across is: be growing strong from within, because when you possess what God has given, it’s not going to be without opposition. Stand firm in the face of the battle.
Well, how do you do this, Wayne? How do you do this? Many people have said to be many times, “Wayne, I wish you’d be more practical.” I always thought I was, but I tell you what, this book is practical from start to finish. The practical part of everything we’ve done for two years is right here in Joshua. It’s going to put it together for us, connect the dots, and we’re going to begin to understand what we have been studying for so long.
How do you do this? How do you grow to become strong, to face the opposition that is in front of us? The phrase is used again three times in three verses, and each time it’s attached to a principle that kind of frames our outline for what we’re going to talk about tonight. “Be strong, and take courage.”
Be encouraged by God’s promises
First of all, to grow inwardly strong, to be courageous, we must be encouraged by God’s promises. It is God’s promises that encourage and excite us into the light He has given to us. God told Joshua in verse 5, you remember that’s connecting it, not to worry about those who would seek to stand before him. He says that, “I’ll be with you, Joshua. Just like I was with Moses, I’ll be with you. I’ll not fail you, I will not forsake you.” Now, that’s a promise and a principle.
God will see to it that Joshua and Israel possess what is theirs if they simply walk depending upon Him. God is the source of all of our strength. He was a source of strength for Moses. He’s going to be the source of strength for Joshua. He’s the divine source. And what He promises, He delivers. And it’s just this thing that excites us. When we hear what God says, when we understand His promises, we want to step out on them. It excites us to experience the life He promises is ours. So He tells Joshua, “Be strong and courageous.” By the way, that’s not a suggestion. That’s in the imperative, that’s a command. “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give to them.”
Now, there is an assuredness. He assures Joshua, “It’s going to happen, Joshua. It’s going to happen. For you shall give this people possession of the land. Joshua, stand on what I’m telling you. Gain strength from my promise to you, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give to them.”
You know, the beautiful thing here is, he says, “Joshua, you’re simply one in a long line of those I’ve involved in bringing you and the nation of Israel to this place. Now stand on what I’ve said! Stand on My promise. Take it to the bank and move on.” See, God through His promises causes us to grow strong. If you don’t know the promises of God, then what are you standing on? What is it that excites you to say yes to God? What is it within you? The promises of God do that. They encourage our heart to face whatever comes in possessing what He says is ours.
Now, I want you to think about this. This is the land. He gives them a promise. His word is solid, you can stand upon it. But God didn’t give us a land, He gave us a life. What are the promises God has given to us that we can take to the bank, things that He has said that excite our hearts and encourage our hearts? In Ephesians 1:3, I love this verse, “Blessed—that word means “to be praised”—be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Why? What’s the promise here? What is it He says that is so solid for you and me? “Who has blessed us.” I love the tense there. Who is not going to bless us, who is not blessing us, but who has already blessed us. Well, what did He bless us with? “With every,” you say, “Wayne, I’ve got a King James and it says ‘all,’ that’s okay. “Every” and “all” kind of mean the same thing. You can use either one you want to. Relax! God has given you every what kind of blessing in the heavenly places in Christ? Every spiritual blessing has been given to us in the heavenly places in Christ.
Now, who does Paul write this to? He writes it to a discouraged group of people in Ephesus. If you’ve not been to Ephesus, I’ve been there, going to take a group when we go to Greece, I can’t tell you how when you go there you begin to understand Ephesians. The rich intelligentsia, it was one of the wonders of the world. People would come from everywhere to see Ephesus. And yet, here’s this little church there that’s been beat up. It was the height of paganism, the temple of Diana at the top of the hill, and as you’d walk up that hill, the huge libraries where they had the great wisdom and intelligence, as you walked up the hill little shops where they would buy the statues of Diana to take away and worship. These people were so lost but didn’t know it. And so you see, that little church was in the middle of it and they were just humiliating them and embarrassing them. And Paul says, “Hey! You’re rich, friend, spiritually rich. You have been given everything.”
Now, you can sit down and try to list all the blessings you’d like to ask God for, but He’s given you spiritually every one of them already. You don’t have to ask for patience, you already have it. You don’t have to ask for peace, you already have it. You don’t have to ask for joy, you already it. God promises it to you in Christ. That is something He has said that should incite your heart of what He has promised.
Verse 16 tells us how to appropriate it. It sounds almost like He’s speaking to Joshua in the Old Testament. Ephesians 3, “He said that He would grant you, I pray this [he was praying] ‘according to the riches of His glory [which he says in verse 8 are unsearchable, there’s so many of them], to be strengthened with power through His spirit [but where?] in the inner man.” Just exactly what God told Joshua: “I will be your strength from within, and you’ll be able to stand against whatever comes to oppose you, to possess what is already yours.” You see, we need to learn to stand on the promises that are ours, to allow the Spirit to be our strength from within.
And, by the way, we don’t have physical enemies. They had the Amorites, and the Amalakites, and the termites, and everybody that was in the land of Canaan. We don’t have physical enemies. He tells them in Ephesians who the real enemy is. It’s not those intelligentsia, it’s not the rich and the powerful. He says in 6:4, “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers and the powers and the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
And then, in the book of Galatians which we just studied, he tells us something else about an enemy. He says in verse 17, “for the flesh, it sets its desire against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, for these are in opposition to one another so that you may not do the things that you please.” And then in Romans 12:2, he says, “Don’t be conformed to this world.” And what you see is a triune enemy that we face. We face the world, the flesh and the devil. And they work in tandem to defeat us in our walk with Christ. And that’s our opposition, and it comes to us in many forms, it comes to us in many ways, but we have to wrestle with that, with the fact that it’s a spiritual warfare that we’re in. And here we are, trying to possess what we already have, to enter into the life that we already have, but there’s so much opposition. The flesh pulls us this way, the world has already set its traps, and the devil attacks those who seek to walk in obedience to the Lord. So we must learn God’s promises in the midst of this.
Understand that we’re in boot camp down here on earth. We must learn to be encouraged by what God has said and this excites us into the life which He has already given to us. When we begin to hear with our ears how He loves us, when we begin to hear what He has promised to us, when we begin to hear the riches that we have that are unsearchable, it excites us to want to possess what He says is ours.
Now, I want you to remember something. You’ve got to tie this to the crisis. Don’t forget, this is not isolated Scripture. He’s going to put you into a crisis where this is going to become real in your life. I don’t know how many times we were going into Communist Romania, and many times for a month or so at a time, and we would go in at different places and different ways, we would meet somewhere in the country and there was no Plan B. And I remember the verse that was so beautiful to me in the fact that He said in Hebrews that He will not leave us nor forsake us. I never felt alone, even though I stayed by myself. We were not allowed to know where the other person was staying so that if the secret police stopped us we couldn’t tell them anything. And if you missed a rendezvous, you’re just in a country that doesn’t speak English, and is very hostile towards Christians, and it was an interesting life. You didn’t have Plan B. All you had was faith. If God didn’t come through, you’re sunk! I remember how many times “I’ll never leave you nor forsake you,” that promise kept coming back to me. It encouraged me to step out and enter what God had already given me.
I remember one night we went to a pastor’s church and preached. You could always tell the Communists who were there. Almost every church I could have spotted them. And this church in particular. The guy sat there, and I mean, bone-chilling, sobering, mean stare at you. He had sunglasses on in a dark night, and a dimly lit church. It was kind of easy to figure out who was who. And I never will forget the boldness to preach the gospel right in his face. And it wasn’t to slam him, it was just something that God gave me when I was over there that I will never, ever forget, and will always be grateful for understanding that.
As we finished the service that night we went over to the pastor’s little house and we were going to eat dinner. Somebody had driven over a hundred miles to get potatoes so we could have French fries. They had heard that Americans liked French fries. I always accused them of knowing I was coming because I just love French fries. And they had chicken livers. I’ve never liked chicken livers. But they tasted like T-bone steak that night when I realized how poor these people were and what they had done to give us that meal. And they will not eat—you can beat them over the head—they will not eat until you eat and they only eat what is left over.
We ate our meal and then they were going to take us and lead us out of town, because under Communism you’re stopped every mile, every three quarters of a mile, and checked. And this pastor knew his way around those road blocks. We went out and got in the car, five of us and the pastor was in front of us in his little car. And I’ll never forget what happened. As soon as we started off, there was a car right on our bumper, probably a foot away from the bumper. No lights were on, with four men inside. It was very obviously secret police. And we were riding down the road, and Dorie Van Stone was with us, and she began to get really nervous. And she began to pray, and she began to quote these Scriptures. And it just hit me when I was studying this passage, she began to go by “God, you promised you’d never leave us or forsake us.” And she just kept going, because we just didn’t know what was next.
And all of a sudden the pastor had a horrified look on his face and he said, “Oh, no! I’ve got a box of Christian tracts in the trunk of the car. One tract sent a man to prison for almost ten years.” He has a whole box of them in the trunk. He was supposed to have left them and forgot them! And here we are with the secret police right behind us, the pastor in front of us, and we prayed, “Oh, God! God! Give us wisdom. Oh, God, You said all the wisdom is in Christ Jesus. He’s a treasure house for the wisdom and knowledge of God. Give us understanding of what to do.
We came to the intersection and the pastor turned left. And just like that it hit this pastor to turn right. And we so confused the secret police, they didn’t know which one to follow. So they followed the pastor, which gave us the opportunity to make a huge loop and go back around and take that box of tracts and throw it over into a field so that later on the pastor could get it without getting caught. And when we went by where the way was that we were supposed to go out, the pastor was up against the wall and they were frisking him and had their guns out, had his car doors open and the trunk open, and we just eased right on by and went right on out of town. I’ll never forget those times.
When life is going well and you’ve got money in the bank and food on the table and children are healthy and everything’s fine, I want to promise you that these promises won’t mean a thing to you like they will when you’re at the point of desperation and you have nothing else to do but to turn to God and you cry out to Him. And in the midst of the crisis you stand on the promise that God has given to you, and God manifests Himself in a way that shakes you to your boots. That’s what it’s all about! We’ve got to be encouraged by the promises of God. When you’re in a crisis situation, understand what God has said. You don’t need to know what Wayne has said if it’s not what God has said. Forget what Wayne has said. What has God said? I’m not the authority. God’s Word is the authority, which leads me to my second point.
Examine God’s word
Not only should we be encouraged by God’s promises, but we need, if we’re going to know God’s promises to be encouraged by them, we must examine God’s Word. This comes up in verses 7-8 as clear as can be. If we’re going to stand on what God has said, then we need to know what He has said. It’s amazing to me how many people struggle with this. I did for years. I got so involved in ministry that I forgot about what the whole purpose was about. If it’s not in here, it’s not worth doing.
God tells Joshua in verse 7, “Only be strong and very courageous.” I like that word “very.” He sort of emphasizes it a little bit there. “Be careful to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth; but you shall meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it, for then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have success.”
It’s in the Word of God that one discovers not only the promises of God, but he also finds the will of God; not only the promises by which to be encouraged, but the will of God by which to be directed. And the two have to fit together. To do God’s will one must know what His will is. The phrase, “so you will have success wherever you go” is an awesome phrase. The word “success” is the word meaning “you’ll learn to act wisely in whatever you do.” Success is not having a great business and money in the bank. It means you’ll learn to act as you should, prudently, with discretion and discernment in the midst of the battle. It carries the idea of making wise choices, of discerning situations and how to respond properly when the temptations come. Because, remember, the flesh is going to tempt us to step outside of what God has given to us. And we’re going to be able to discern when those temptations come. We’re going to be able to discern the traps that the world has set around us. We’re going to be able to discern the warfare that we’re in.
Growing strong and courageous from within will be to the degree—and I want to say this in a way that you don’t hear “law” in it, but I want you to understand responsibility in it. Sometimes we confuse the two, but there is a responsibility here—it’s going to be with the degree we are willing to spend time in God’s Word. I don’t mean you’re more spiritual if you spend an hour and a half; that’s not what I’m talking about. It’s an attitude toward the Word. But to the degree we’re willing to spend time in God’s Word, willing to surrender and obey whatever He says, will be the degree to which we grow strong and courageous from within. There will be no strength and no courage if you don’t know what God says and the context in which it’s said. Life can hit us in the face so suddenly that we’re caught completely off guard if we’re not spending time with God in His Word.
Verse 3 lays out for us what is involved in doing just that. I love this! It’s just so clear! “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouths.” That’s an interesting phrase. It has the idea of one who speaks with authority. I just love this! Joshua was their leader, we know that. And if he did not allow God’s Word to be his wisdom, then what he said to the people would have no authority. So don’t let what you get from here depart from what you say here. It’s amazing to me how many years I thought I was so intelligent and didn’t have any authority on anything I said, because I wasn’t in the Word of God. I did ministry; as a matter of fact, I was in the ministry eight years before I got saved. It’s really good to have saved ministers. It’s amazing what a difference that will make in a church!
So often when I bring this up, you don’t know me that well, I’ve only been here two years. I thought I’ve shared a lot of my life, but you still don’t know a whole lot about me. I’ve been on that other side. I’ve played that game. I know how to play it. I know how to get numbers. I know how to do those things, that’s not what we’re about. No! No! There’s no authority unless it comes from the Word of God. Let this Book never depart from your mouth.
It’s just incredible to me how many folks, even today, and I’ve been there so I can’t really throw a rock, how many people speak intelligently in church and have no authority in what they say, because it’s not filled with what God has said. “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have success.”
Now, that word “meditate” is the word that draws for us the most powerful picture and practical picture of how to entertain this Scripture in our lives that I know of. It can be translated to “ponder.” And this is a cute translation. I mean, it really means this: it means to groan when you’re enjoying something. You know how you just mull over it. It’s like eating that rib eye, 22 ounces, cooked just right with a baked sweet potato and all that good stuff they put in there; and a salad with Thousand Island dressing on it. And you take that thing and cut it and eat it. Have you ever heard somebody that’s really enjoying it, just mmmmm! They’re not talking to anybody. They’re just enjoying it. It means to “ponder” something to the greatest extent of enjoying it. Mmm!
You’ve never heard that before, just go out to eat with me sometime and I’ll show you what that’s like. It’s one of my greatest recreation is going out to restaurants. Somebody, years ago, and I tried to find it for this message and I apologize because I couldn’t, but it stuck in my brain and it will not leave me. It was a scholar who was commenting on this word, “meditate,” and he made a statement which he should not have made because it just captured my mind. He said it’s like a cow chewing a cud. Now, have you ever thought about that?
But those cows will chew that cud! I used to love the cows. When I was in Chattanooga, the guy behind me had 40 some acres that were just cattle. It wasn’t mine, but they came up to my fence all the time and I got the advantage of seeing them and not having to take care of them. And I loved to walk out there sometimes and I listened to them for so long. You’ve got to be one of them or they won’t respond to you. And they always had their backsides turned to me, and I don’t know why that was, and they’d be eating the grass and I’d walk out there and they know a brother when they hear one. And I’d walk out there and I’d say, “Mooooo!” If you do it right, they’ll turn and look around. And they’ll walk over and just get to the fence. I’d tell those cows anything I wanted to tell them. They’re the only creatures that listened to me in the whole city.
But those cows, I don’t know how many stomachs they have—it’s three or four, it’s a bunch, more than one—they’ll chew that cud and chew that cud, and you can hear them while they’re chewing. They’re enjoying that thing. You think I’m being silly, but that’s the word! Pondering what they’re chewing. And then what do they do? They swallow it. And then what do they do later on? It burps back up and they chew it some more. Chew it some more! Chew on it and chew on it!
You say, “Wayne, you’re being facetious!” No, I’m not! If you’ll get into God’s Word and start meditating on it, chewing on what He says, “Does He say that? Does He say I have all things? Does He say that He loves me? Unconditionally? Does He say that I’m not under some legalistic standard? Does He say all of that?” Ponder it! Ponder it! Swallow it. Go to work, and watch what happens. He’ll burp it up on you before the day is over. I promise you! I promise you! You get into the Word of God and you won’t finish the day before God will bring that Word right back up to you.
And you’re sitting there in your office or doing whatever you’re doing and you start chewing on them again. “That’s really good.” John Phillips who has written all the books, a set of commentaries exploring everything, I spoke with him at a conference and we were out to eat and I said, “John, what’s your secret to studying the Scriptures?” I always want to learn from people who can help me. He said, “Wayne, I spend at least five hours a day just meditating on God’s Word, without a pencil in my hand. Just letting God repeat that Word to me over and over and over again.” That blessed me. That’s exactly what that word is talking about. You’re applying this. I’m so committed to this Book, and I understand that people sometimes don’t understand me, and I’m so sorry for that. But I want you to know that why I do what I do is because I love this Book! In this Book we find the promises of God!
This Book! Studying God’s Word so radically changed my life 20 some years ago, I could never go to anything else. Been there! Get in to this Book. If you want to know what the promises of God are that will encourage and excite your heart, to possess what God says is already yours, you’ve got to get into the Book for yourself. To hear it from Wayne is one thing; to hear it from God, purely from the Word, is quite a different experience. And He lets you meditate on it and chew on it and chew on it and chew on it, and it begins to take root in your life.
There are three steps to studying God’s Word, in case you don’t know how to do this. I just want to hit them briefly. If there’s ever anything we can do to help you, that’s where we’re headed as a church, to be an equipping church. To help people, to equip people to get into the Word for themselves.
The first step is observation. What does the text say? That’s the first step, always. You never interpret before you observe. This is the problem many have of jumping into a Scripture without its context. Any text without a context is a pretext. So you observe: What is He doing here? What does the Scripture say?
Secondly, is interpretation. Why do I use the languages? Not because I’m trying to impress anybody. Because interpretation goes into those languages, you’ve got to dig a little deeper to find the truest meaning. You say, “Wayne, I don’t know those languages.” Listen, don’t hear me wrong. If you never had known those languages, the Holy Spirit will bring that truth to your heart. But here’s the difference: when you get into interpretation and you begin to learn how to do it for yourself, what happens is a 19 inch black and white boring television set with basic channels, becomes a 60 high definition TV with satellite! Does it change the meaning? Absolutely not! But what it does, it brings it up on the table where nobody can doubt what it is. And it puts the icing; it puts all the good stuff around it. You begin to understand it for the first time.
Then, application. And application is not, “Now that I’ve studied and interpreted, what does this text mean to me?” No, no, no! Please understand! You can make the Scriptures a cookbook if you want to with that approach if you want to. No, application is now that I know the truth which is without any private interpretation, then I need to learn how to adjust my life so that I can walk and live in what I have just discovered. What changes about me do I need to make in order for the Scripture to be real in my life if I truly meditated and studied God’s Word?
He says, “Meditate on it day and night.” It’s so important. It’s not for information that we can use to argue with our brother. No! It’s for transformation of our life, to cause us to enter and stand on that which God has said to yield to Him. And it becomes His life in us and we experience to the degree we’re willing to study, to meditate, and to say yes to Him. That’s not a legalistic law. That’s just a commonsense principle God gives us in His Word, a responsible principle. You see, some people take this message of grace with passivity. No, no, no! Discipline and determination are the two nails that keep us on the cross. We discipline ourselves to study, we determine that we want to be able to experience what God has. Now we can’t go much beyond that, because God has to take that and then He brings us in, but we’ve got to be in the Word of God.
“Be careful to do according to all that’s written in it,” he says. Verse 7 says, “Don’t turn from it to the right or to the left.” Allow it to totally affect you to where even what you say—that depart from your mouth—is seasoned with it. Boy, that’s just to me the perfect picture of those who enter what God says is already theirs. Who are those who are possessing what God has says is given to them in Christ? They are those who are yielded to God’s will, who are meditating in His Word, not turning from it to the right or to the left. People that want to experience what they already have heard that by grace is already theirs in Christ. Paul says of the Word of God in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired”—and this is prophetic because they didn’t have all the canon put together at that time—“by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
There’s a play on words there. The word “adequate” is the same word as “equipped,” but they’re just different forms of that word, and what it means is so that the ship in the harbor is so fully stocked and supplied that it’s ready to make the journey. You see, that’s what it’s all about: the Scriptures. “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” Without it, His promises are vague, His power is untouched, and life overwhelms us. It completely defeats us. He says, “For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”
The word “prosperous” is the word meaning many things in Hebrew. It can be translated many ways, but its main meaning is “victorious.” That’s what it means by success. Not success as the world sees success, but victorious. To be able to walk through a trial and face it with integrity because you know the promises of God and the Word of God and you know the life that is within you and as you yield to Him, He gives you the discernment and the wisdom and the strength to bear up under whatever it is you face.
The word translated “success” is our word we saw earlier. It means to act wisely and prudently. We must be encouraged by God’s promises. It’s part of the journey. In the midst of the crisis, we fall back on the things God has said. But to do that, we must be examining God’s Word daily. Meditating on it day and night so that when those times come, we’re ready, and when they’re not there, we just enjoy to the fullest what God has for us.
But finally we must learn to expect God’s presence. “Have I not commanded you?” verse 9, “Be strong and courageous. Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go.” “Do not tremble or be dismayed. I am with you.”
The word “tremble” is the word that means to stand back, to the point that you’re so overwhelmed that you are paralyzed in your tracks by fear. The word “dismayed” means to be so frightened you fall to pieces. Don’t be dismayed; don’t tremble, because I’m with you. Knowing the promises of God and meditating on the Word will keep us from this type of response. When we’re standing on the promises, when we’re allowing God’s Word to permeate our lives, when we begin to learn to expect God to show up, we learn to expect His presence.
An old gentleman who is dead now helped me with my walk with the Lord many years ago. He said, “Wayne, practice the presence of Christ. Because if you’re saying yes to Him, He will immediately manifest Himself in some way. Maybe it’s in strength for the journey, maybe it’s in joy or peace, but whatever it is, He’ll manifest that life within you. Even though you know you have it, He’ll let you know He’s there.” He never leaves you. Expect the presence of God.
“What do I do, Wayne?” Here it is! This is what you do: be encouraged by the promises of God; but to know them, examine the Word of God. But learn to expect His presence. Don’t beg for it, expect it! He shows up when He’s honored by saying yes to Him.
I was standing at the door of a church I pastored years ago, and I was having a tough time. I didn’t know these truths well, and I was just trying to learn them. A man who had cancer and was about to die walked out and he looked at me and I said, “Hey, Brother Mason, how are you doing?” He said, “Wayne, I’m doing fine. In the Lord, I’m doing fine. How are you doing, Wayne?” And I made the mistake of saying, “Well, I’m hanging in there. Have you ever seen that picture of that cat hanging there on the limb—I’m just hanging in there.”
And you know what he said to me—here’s a man dying of terminal cancer and knew he only had about two months to live—he squeezed my hand again and he said, “Son, don’t you ever let me hear you say that again. Life is not hanging in there. Life is standing fast on the promises of God!” Boy, that rocked me! What I thought I was going through compared to what he was going through was nothing! And he helped me. That’s how we live this life: possessing what we already have.