Bible Reference: Joshua 1:2, 3, 5-7a, 9
How is your memory?
On this Memorial Day weekend, I’m asking you to remember the faithfulness of God so you can move forward to face the present with confidence and the future with hope because God, time and again, has proven His faithfulness in all He has done through history.
Remember? It’s an invitation or an encouragement to stir our consciousness to a past event, a moment in time, or maybe a task yet to get accomplished. Buddies get together and reminisce about the days they had in adventure. “Remember when?” Or maybe a teacher gives an assignment. “Remember students!” Or a parent says, “Remember, son. You promised me you would do this.”
Throughout the scriptural witness over and over again, God says to all of us who hear His word, “Remember!”
Jeremiah said it this way: “This I recall to mind. Therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses never run out. His mercies never fail. Great is God’s faithfulness” (Lamentations 3: 21-23).
The faithfulness of God in the past gives birth to courageous faith to move us forward into the future. It moves us forward not only to embrace all the promises God has made to us, but also so we can offer our lives for the purposes of Jesus Christ in the world.
The scriptural witness, over and over again, encourages us to remember a rainbow in the sky as a sign of the covenant that God would never again destroy the world with a flood. It encourages us to remember God’s promise to the patriarchs Abraham and his wife Sarah in their old age. She, barren, would have a child of promise after 25 years waiting. Then God would ask Abraham to show he trusted God and valued God’s love even above Isaac, this child of promise, by sacrificing him. God showed Abraham the truth – He will provide.
To Isaac who would later marry Rebecca – Remember? Jacob and Esau were born, and Jacob, later – the child of destiny – would be renamed Israel as he wrestled with the angel of the Lord and said, “I’ll not let you go. I pray you, bless me.”
To Jacob was born Joseph, the favorite son, hated by his brothers. With a many-colored coat, he was sold into slavery. Then, wrongly accused when he with integrity obeyed God’s covenant, he unjustly ended up as a prisoner in jail. From there, God elevated him to be second-in-command of the Pharaoh of Egypt, and God used Joseph’s life to spare Israel and all of God’s people through a worldwide famine.
Remember? Can you trace the finger of God’s faithfulness in history? Can you see the power of God’s Spirit at work in the events of time?
Remember. In the life of Moses – from a burning bush, God called him to go back to Egypt and face the Pharaoh. God used Moses to do ten powerful plagues to convince Pharaoh to let God’s people go from slavery, including the tenth plague called the Passover. God instructed Moses to have the people smear the lamb’s blood on the doorposts so the angel of judgment would pass over those households of faith, God’s people. With those ten plagues, God freed His people from slavery.
Then, at the Red Sea, He gave them great victory over Pharaoh as the Red Sea divided, and they crossed on dry land. Time and again, the power of God showed the faithfulness of God. We have a God we can trust with courage and with peace.
Through forty years in the wilderness, the people journeyed as God provided manna and water. Even quail flew into the camp. God was visibly present through a cloud at day and a pillar of fire at night as if to say to the people, Remember, I’m right here with you and among you. I will never leave you or forsake you.
Those forty years in the wilderness lead us to the very passage we read this day from Joshua chapter 1. Moses has died, and God has asked Joshua to be the leader of God’s people that they would move forward into the future, to embrace the Promised Land God had spoken about to Abraham many years ago. Joshua was frightened and sad. He lacked the confidence to move forward and do what God called him to do.
Maybe that’s our experience sometimes, too, as we in faith strive to walk with God. We believe in God. We believe we are His people, but we lack the confidence to fully embrace the promises of God into the abundant life Jesus promised us. Or we lack the confidence to move forward in faith to courageously embrace what God has called us to do – serve Him in the kingdom.
Why do we become paralyzed? Is it our fear of the challenges God might ask of us? It is just really hard work sometimes to obey God.
A fear of the unknown? I recall something Brennan Manning wrote: “Hope knows that if great trials are avoided, great deeds remain undone, and the possibility of growth into greatness of soul will be aborted.”
God has high expectations for us in His kingdom. He has great blessings in store for us. Our character can be strengthened and shaped by the Spirit of God as we move forward to do what God asks of us.
Maybe it’s just plain busyness. We don’t move forward in confidence because we’re preoccupied with the tyranny of the urgent in the daily responsibilities of life. So all those things push what God asks of us on the back burner.
Maybe it’s a lack of faith, like when the twelve spies went into the Promised Land at Moses’s request and came back with glowing reports of a land overflowing with milk and honey – abundance for all. But then also saying, Wow! The people are giants! Stronger and militarily powerful. We just can’t do it! Only Joshua and Caleb said, “If God has promised it to us, He’ll give it to us in great victory!” But the word of the ten spies prevailed, and the people of God doubted God’s promise. Thus, they were destined to wander for forty years in the wilderness. Their generation had to die off before they could cross over under Joshua’s leadership.
Maybe our past failures chase us like twin dogs of shame and guilt. We just don’t believe we can do it. The point is, a moment in time comes for all of us when we are called by God’s Spirit to move forward with courageous faith, to cross over and embrace the fullness of the promises of all God has for us in abundant life.
A moment comes when we either move forward in faith or turn back to the wilderness. Through the years, I’ve visited with a lot of recovering people struggling with a variety of addictions. They talk about a journey of faith, when they come to a certain moment in time where they realize that God loves them and forgives the past. Yet, they somehow are paralyzed from moving into a world of recovery, of new beginnings because they’re afraid.
I’ve also talked to a lot of women and men who into their adulthood are haunted by the painful memories of an abusive childhood. Maybe it’s a father who was mean spirited in his own bondage to drunkenness. Maybe he verbally or physically abused them in such a way that they struggle with depression or have low self-worth and no confidence to face life in their adulthood. Maybe they live with a desire to please people thinking the only way their lives will have value is if they keep everyone around them happy. This leads to some kind of weird perfectionism believing that by human achievement, they’ll finally matter.
Oh, that God would heal the hearts of His wounded people so they would believe the promise of His love, and in courageous faith, they would not only deal with the challenges of the present but be full of hope for the future God has in mind for us.
In Joshua chapter 3, it is interesting that as Joshua led God’s people to the Jordan River, God instructed the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant to step into the strong current of the Jordan River before the waters parted for them to cross over.
Often our life of faith is like that too. We need to move forward in faith, even if there is no visible proof that our God is at work in the circumstance. We need to move forward in faith, and then God will reveal His power to work to fulfill the promises He has made. We need to step forward in faith into the very current of the flow of life’s circumstance, and then God will act as He has promised.
Ultimately, God calls us to step into the sovereignty of His power and love. He rules with authority and power to fulfill all His purposes in time and history. He has the authority to do whatever He wants. He will fulfill all His purposes and all His promises in this world.
All those Old Testament victories and momentous events were curiously followed up by the people pausing to celebrate. Do you know what happened each time God did something fantastic for them? They built an altar and sang songs of praise. They worshiped Him as their God. They gave credit where credit was due. They worshiped God and acknowledged His power to do great and awesome things for them.
So, as New Testament people, we remember that it is Jesus who is the faithful One. He was faithful to do the Father’s will, to empty Himself of divine glory and power. He surrendered to become a servant, a man on earth. He surrendered to death on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins and mine. God exalted Him and raised Him from the dead. Death has no mastery over Him. Every promise of God is “yes”in Jesus Christ.
When Jesus makes us promises, we are not only forgiven, but we also belong to Him, the Resurrected One. He has filled us with the power of the Spirit, so we can approach life with confidence that we are never alone. We belong to God. He will go with us everywhere we go. He has given us victory everywhere we journey.
Romans 8:37 tells us, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us,” and “Nothing will separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ” (vs. 39). I’m thinking about the young girl Mary and the Angel Gabriel who said to her, “Nothing is impossible with God.” And she said, “Let it happen to me just as you’ve said.” She moved forward to offer her life to be the mother of the Lord, the Son of God. She said “yes” to her part in the plan of God because she took God at His word.
Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13). This becomes our profession of faith, too. So, as I remember the faithfulness of God, God’s Spirit gives birth to a courageous faith, and I am equipped to deal with the present. I am full of hope to move into the future God has in store for me.
Remember? God’s faithfulness fills you with courageous faith. Amen.
Rev. Lee Laaveg