June 10, 2010 David Balzer

Joshua 1: God’s Antidotes to Fear

When is it hardest for you to trust God? What situations scare you the most?

Going to the Dentist? Starting a new job? Or a new school? Visiting your mother-in-law?

Mel Warner was telling me about an opportunity she had, a of weeks ago, to visit the Villawood detention centre. She was scared, but in the end she went. She sat and listened. And learned a lot.

And Mel’s got other scary decisions to make. Because she’s thinking about missionary work among Muslims.

Let me tell you about a time I was scared. It was last year before the church Open Day. And it was an afternoon we’d organised to do door-knocking.

Now, I’m not a when it comes to door-knocking. I find it DIFFICULT. But for some reason, the THOUGHT of door-knocking is actually worse than the DOOR-KNOCKING ITSELF. It’s never as bad as I imagine it’s going to be.

I was in the car outside the school here. Waiting for people to turn up. And my imagination was being its usual creative self. I imagined being abused by a large, y, tattoed man. And chased out of the yard by wild dogs. And knocking on the door as a -deal was going down.

I imagined feeling uncomfortable. And people laughing at me.

And as the time to start door-knocking passed. Noone else had turned-up. I realised that if I went, I’d probably be door-knocking by myself. I waited five minutes. Ten minutes. And still no-one.

And my imagination started to work on a different plan. Imagining all the valid reasons NOT to go door-knocking. I could be spending the time with my family. I can’t do much by myself anyway. It’s not really a church activity if only I do it. The lawn needs mowing.

But they weren’t really valid reasons. They were just EXCUSES. I was SCARED, and looking for any excuse NOT to do it!

I was at a cross-roads. And I didn’t know what to do. I knew what I SHOULD do. And I also knew what I FELT LIKE doing. And in the end I gave in. I started the car, and went home.

Every day there are cross-roads we come to/ where we have to make a choice. The choice to be obedient, and do what we know God would have us do. Or the choice to be disobedient, give in to fear, and take the easy option.

When is it hardest for YOU to trust God? What situations scare YOU the most? (share in night church)

What does God want us to know as we stand at those cross-roads? Weighing up the options. Deciding if we have the courage to go the right way.

He wants us to know that he has CURES for our COWARDICE. TREATMENT for our . OINTMENT for our INSECURITIES. He’s got ANTIDOTES for our FEARS.

You see, Joshua had exactly the same problem. Here at the start of the Book of Joshua, he’s standing at the entrance to the Promised Land. He’s been left in charge of Israel. Moses has just died. But just before he did, he passed the baton on to Joshua – given HIM the responsibility to lead God’s people.

There was a huge hole in Joshua’s life now that Moses was gone. He was the one who’d led Israel all the way from Egypt. Put up with so much. Shown such patience and wisdom and strength.

And Joshua had looked up to him for more than 40 years. He was always there to follow. To tell Joshua what to do, and when to do it. To make the hard decisions. To communicate with God.

In fact, the words that come immediately before this. At the end of Deuteronomy. Say this about Moses.

(Deu 34:10-12 NIV)  … no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, {11} who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt–to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. {12} For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

They’re pretty big boots to fill. And Joshua is the one who has to try to fill them.

And he can feel the weight of expectation. The whole history of the Jewish nation has brought them to this point. And every one of God’s people since the time of Abraham is looking over Joshua’s shoulder. To see whether he can finish the job. This is the climax.

And Joshua is SCARED. Scared of being able to follow after Moses. Scared of being able to live up to expectations. Scared of the HUGENESS of the task that lay in front of him.

How do I KNOW he was scared? Because God went to the trouble to tell him NOT to be. Three times in fact! “Be strong and courageous! Be strong and VERY courageous! Be strong and courageous!”

But God doesn’t just tell him NOT to, he gives him the MEANS to BE courageous. Four antidotes to fear.

And as we look at them, what we find is that they’re antidotes for OUR fears too. They help US as we stand at OUR cross-roads.

Here’s God’s four antidotes to fear.

He REMINDS us of his PURPOSES:

He ASSURES us of his PRESENCE:

He DIRECTS us to His WORD:

He SUPPORTS us with His PEOPLE:

Antidote 1. Reminding you of God’s purposes:

So let’s look at what God says to Joshua. Moses has died. He’s been buried, and the whole nation’s mourned for 30 days.

But at the end of that, God speaks to Joshua. “Enough’s enough! Time to get on with it. I’ve got a PURPOSE for you. So hop to it!” Ch 1 v2.

(Josh 1:2-5 NIV)  “Moses my servant is . Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them–to the Israelites. {3} I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. {4} Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates–all the Hittite country–to the Great Sea on the west. {5} No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life.

This was God’s purpose for Joshua. And for Israel. He’d promised it to Abraham 400 years ago. And, in just the same way, he promises it to Joshua. “I WILL give you every place where you set your foot. Noone will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life.”

That’s my plan. That’s my purpose. All you have to do is work in the footsteps of that plan. Go along for the ride. Follow obediently where I tell you! And I will give you evey place where you set your foot.

What a wonderful purpose. What a great promise!

But what does that mean for us? Is that promise to Joshua meant for us, too? “Noone will be able to stand up against you!”

Some people would say, “Yes!” A particularly dangerous approach has been that of Christian political movements. Like the Sth African apartheid system, or the American-backed Israeli conflicts against the Palestinians. Or that of South American liberation theology. “God promised all-conquering victory to Joshua, so he’s promising it to US TOO!”

Or a little closer to home. Churches right here in Sydney that teach that we should expect EXACTLY THE SAME VICTORY in EVERY area of life because God promises it – health, wealth, personal relationships, evangelism, church growth. Even weight loss!

But it just isn’t so. It’s a wrong-headed way of reading the bible. I don’t know what they make of the way Jesus saw the Christian life. Mt 16:24

(Mt 16:24-25 NIV)  “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. {25} For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.

Or John 15.

(John 15:18-20 NIV)  “If the world s you, keep in mind that it d me first. …: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.

You don’t have to look too hard before you realise that following Christ is often about suffering. Phil 1:29

(Phil 1:29 NIV)  For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to SUFFER FOR HIM,

There doesn’t seem to be too much victory there! … Or does there! Let me suggest that if you look a little closer/ you see victory alright. Just not what WE might call victory.

We tend to think of victory as comfort, and ease, and well-being. But for God, victory is when HE gets the glory and praise. Victory is when his people grow into his likeness, become more holy. Become more like Jesus.

Try these verses on for size!

(1 Pet 1:6-7 NIV)  In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. {7} These have come SO THAT YOUR FAITH–OF GREATER WORTH THAN GOLD, WHICH PERISHES EVEN THOUGH REFINED BY FIRE–MAY BE PROVED GENUINE and may result in PRAISE, GLORY AND HONOR when Jesus Christ is revealed.

(2 Cor 12:7-10 NIV)  To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. {8} Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. {9} But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. {10} That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

God uses weakness and suffering to TEACH US ABOUT HIMSELF. To teach us to TRUST HIM. To bring him glory. And ultimately, they were the same purposes he had for his people in the Promised Land. To bring glory to himself, and to make a people who were holy.

So let me suggest/ the common ground we have with Joshua. God’s first antidote to fear is to remind us of his purposes. I MAY have a terrible time door-knocking. I may be chased down the street. But I know that God has designed it JUST THAT WAY to strengthen me. So that I can learn to trust him more. To give him the glory. And that’s victory – if I’m willing to be obedient.

Antidote 2: Assuring you of God’s Presence:

God’s second antidote for fear is that he ASSURES JOSHUA OF HIS PRESENCE. Look at the second half of v5.

(Josh 1:5 NIV)  As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU.

What a great promise for Joshua! In the same way that God was with Moses, he’d be with Joshua.

The LORD knew Moses face-to-face. Intimately. Completely. Absolutely. And DESPITE that, he promised to never leave.

Those of us who are married know our spouse pretty well. But we don’t know them COMPLETELY. In fact, there are probably things about YOURSELF you’re glad your spouse DOESN’T know. Little secrets. Things you’ve never admitted to anybody. Because you’re not sure they’d still love you quite as much. Perhaps even whether they’d stay with you!

But God knows them! And DESPITE them, he promises to never leave us.

And it’s being known and accepted so unconditionally/ that MOTIVATES us to be the people God wants. Listen to how Heb 13 uses this Joshua-promise. Heb 13 v 5

(Heb 13:5-6 NIV)  Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” {6} So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

The assurance of God’s presence gives us the confidence and courage to face whatever God’s got planned. “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

Antidote 3: Directing you to God’s Word:

God’s third antidote for Joshua’s fear is to direct him towards HIS WORD. Look at v7.

(Josh 1:7-9 NIV)  Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. {8} Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. {9} Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

There’s the encouragement to be strong and courageous (on the one hand) And there’s the command to obey God’s law. How do the two connect? The RSV makes it a bit clearer.

(Josh 1:7 NRSV)  Only be strong and very courageous, BEING CAREFUL to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you”

The WAY to be strong and courageous – the method of achieving that end – is by obeying God’s law. It’s God’s antidote to fear.

But it’s more than just obeying a set of rules. It’s a whole MINDSET. “Do not let God’s word depart from your MOUTH; MEDITATE on it day and night, so that you may be careful to DO everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” It’s a WHOLE APPROACH to life. Words, thoughts, actions.

It’s the sort of thing I’ve found true in my life.

It’s when I’m not reading the Bible that I find it easiest to give in to temptation. For the sorts of thoughts and words to creep in which have no business being there. Dirty, puny, angry thoughts. Discouragement and apathy and fear become monsters that are hard to see a way past.

And the weird thing about the way Satan works, is that the times you MOST need to be filling yourself with God’s words/ are the times you want to do it/ LEAST. When you don’t feel like spending time with God – do it anyway. Because that’s probably when you really need it.

It’s by reading the bible that you’re reminded of God’s promises. Of his character. His faithfulness, his wisdom, his love, his commitment to you in Jesus.

And it’s by DOING what he wants, that your DESIRE to do God’s will changes. The more you obey God, the more you LOVE to obey God.

So, God calls Joshua to IMMERSE himself in God’s word. “Be careful to obey it all. Don’t turn to the right or the left. That’s the way to success and prosperity. That’s the way to be strong and courageous.”

Antidote 4. Supporting you with God’s People:

So now, after those antidotes, Joshua moves into action. Verse 10. He issues the order. “Pack up. Get ready. Three days time, and we’re crossing the Jordan. We’re going to take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own”

And he gives a special word to two and a half tribes. The one’s who’s inheritance is on the desert side of the Jordan. They’ve promised to help the REST of Israel to win their land. And Joshua reminds them of their responsibilities.

Verse 15. “Help your brothers” he says. (Josh 1:15 NIV)  â€%9 il the LORD gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land that the LORD your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise.”

God’s people maintain their strength – with solidarity – with unity. A commitment to God’s purposes. A commitment to each other, and to working together.

And that’s God’s 4th antidote to fear. He supports Joshua with God’s people. Look at how they answer him. Verse 16.

(Josh 1:16-18 NIV)  Then they answered Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. {17} Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the LORD your God be with you as he was with Moses. {18} Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey your words, whatever you may command them, will be put to . Only be strong and courageous!”

“We will support you just like Moses. May God be with you like Moses. Be strong and courageous.” Great words for a leader to hear from his people.

And when you’re standing at YOUR cross-roads, summoning up the courage to do what’s right, God’s given you his people to help. That’s the great thing about being part of a church. None of us is an island. We need other people.

Take someone with you to those cross-roads. Stand there together. Tell them about your struggle. Ask their advice. Their support. Ask someone to pray for you.

If there’d been someone else there with me on that Saturday afternoon, I wouldn’t have chickened out. Who knows what might have happened – what God had in store – if I’d been obedient.

Working together with God’s people to serve him is great! The Blacktown festival is coming up again soon. That was a great time together, wasn’t it? By ourself, it would have been almost impossible. But God’s antidote is that his people are a body – each part playing it’s part. No part is INDISPENSIBLE. (Every part is needed) No part is INDEPENDENT. (Everyone needs other people)

We’ve got a responsibilty to each other. You standing beside someone – even if it’s just at church – can be God’s antidote for fear for that person. Your support might be the thing God uses to help them make it through the week. To make that stand against their boss. Or to resist that temptation to sin. Or to speak up for Jesus in the lunchroom. Or to make the tough decision about their children. Or to perservere one week more in a bad marriage.

We sometimes put the Bible heroes up on a pedestal – make them out to be SUPER-human. But Joshua was like anyone else. He stood at the cross-roads, and he was scared.

But God had four words for him. Four cures. And they’re God’s words to you this morning.

He reminds us of his PURPOSES – All that happens is for his glory, and that we become more like Jesus.

He assures us of his PRESENCE: – “I will never leave you nor forsake you”

He directs us to His WORD: – “Don’t let it depart from your mouth. Meditate on it day and night”

He supports us with His PEOPLE:

Let’s pray.

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