Look Ahead With Anticipation
Next Joshua turned his attention to the future. At the end of his years, he was still invoking the promises of God and boldly declaring that “the Lord your God Himself” would conquer the remaining Canaanite nations (see Josh. 23:5).
Every one of us can point to things in our lives that are not yet the way God wants them to be. He wants to root out things that hinder and mar our Christlikeness.
God also wants to use us to bless and encourage other people in ways we have never dreamed. And He will do these things as we live in this blessed atmosphere of faith!
Among the many definitions of faith, perhaps none is more important than Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Faith is the ability of the human spirit to receive impressions from God that are born of His Word and made alive by the Holy Spirit. We simply know that something is going to happen, for God’s Word has been received and has activated this spiritual sense called faith.
The natural senses have to do with present and visible things. But faith has to do primarily with these future and invisible things that God has promised us in His Word.
Back in the most difficult days of pastoring the Brooklyn Tabernacle, my wife, Carol, and I were struggling to stay afloat with maybe 40 people attending on Sunday mornings. When our daughter, Chrissy, was about 2 years old, we noticed a lump under her eyelid.
I’d spent time praying about the problem. But I knew there was no faith in my heart, only apprehension.
We scraped up the money, and I took her to a doctor who recommended surgery. I knew what God had said in the Bible about healing; but I was filled with doubt and fear. I needed true, living faith, not theoretical faith.
The following Sunday, we were worshiping together at the end of the service. Suddenly my heart was flooded with a kind of divine light, and I was overcome with God’s awesome greatness, which makes everything on earth seem minuscule.
I envisioned my daughter being prayed for, and I saw her being healed! It was a real picture before the eyes of my heart. God had birthed something within me.
A teen-age girl brought my daughter forward. We gathered around her, anointed her with oil and prayed together for God to heal her. Within 48 hours, the lump was entirely gone, with no medical intervention of any kind.
Now what would happen in our churches if people came to each meeting with great faith and belief that God was about to do something wonderful? Unfortunately, many Christians who strongly defend the verbal inspiration of Scripture are the most unbelieving and cynical about God ever doing a new thing in His church.
My question is: If Jesus is the same today as He was in the Bible we defend, why shouldn’t we believe Him to do great things among us and through us, so we can touch people’s lives in powerful ways as did the first-century apostles?
Peter was no perfect saint, but God chose him and used him mightily on the day of Pentecost. God can do the same with us if we look to Him with childlike faith in our hearts.
Look Inward—But Carefully
In addition to looking back and looking ahead, Joshua called the people to take stock of their obedience. They were to obey the law of Moses and to separate themselves from the idolatrous nations that were among them (see Josh. 23:6-8).
This separation from ungodly things was for the purpose of maintaining the strength of the Hebrews for battle. Alliance with sinful things saps our strength and leaves us weak before the enemy.
Joshua knew this all too well from what had happened back at Ai (see Josh. 7:1-26). After the stirring victory at Jericho, the army suffered an unexpected and humiliating defeat because the sinful disobedience of one soldier, Achan, had separated the people from God’s holy companionship.
Introspection is a two-edged sword. There are special times for looking inward—for example, when receiving communion (see 1 Cor. 11:28-32) and at other moments of divine searching.
However, if this process consumes us, Satan can gain the upper hand, keeping us preoccupied with our failures rather than with Christ’s pardon and power. The apostles called people to cleanse their hearts before God and then move on to faith and the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
Look Away to Jesus
Joshua’s final instruction is stated very simply: “Be very careful to love the Lord your God” (Josh. 23:11). Our gaze must always be upon Him, for He is the one who will perform everything.
Satan wants us to focus on the problem, not the Provider. If we stop spending time with the Lord in prayer, the concerns of the physical world snatch our attention while the spiritual senses deaden and the promises fade.
The number one reason Christians today don’t pray more is that we do not grasp the connection between prayer and the promises of God. We are trying in vain to pray “because we’re supposed to” without a living faith in the promises of God concerning prayer.
When real faith in God arises, a certainty comes that when we call, He will answer. Soon we find ourselves seeking Him for wayward children to be saved, for a greater sense of the Holy Spirit in our church services and for spiritual gifts and power to be released.
Strength to keep believing often flows into us as we just take time to wait in God’s presence and worship Him. His promises become wonderfully alive as the Spirit applies them to our hearts.
God Is Waiting for You
Let us not be hesitant about trusting God. What really matters isn’t our efforts, but the wonderful truth that God is a faithful God (see Heb. 10:22-23).
It is not what happens to people that makes for tragedy in their lives; it is the missed opportunities to see God help them due to their unbelief that is the real tragedy.
Joshua must have had God’s faithfulness in mind when he ended his speech that day with this great crescendo: “You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed” (Josh. 23:14).
We, too, can finish our race in life with the same powerful declaration. Only keep believing in the God whose promises are forever true.
Jim Cymbala has been pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle since 1972. He is co- author with Dean Merrill of Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. He lives in New York with his wife, Carol, who directs the Grammy Award-winning Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. Dean Merrill assisted in the writing of this article. Adapted from Fresh Faith by Jim Cymbala, copyright © 1999. Published by Zondervan (www.zondervan.com). Used by permission.
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