On Sunday, September 30, 2012, the congregation of First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, held an installation service to formally install me as Senior Pastor. Here are the comments I made to the congregation at the end of the service.
I began by reading Joshua 1:1-9.
1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 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 good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
In many respects, I can identify with General Joshua this morning. While I don’t claim to have his leadership abilities, I can identify with his circumstances. Joshua followed Moses, one of the greatest leaders who ever lived. I am following Pastor Tim Jones and Pastor Sam Hollo, and the other godly pastors who have served the church.
Israel spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness. First Central has wandered a bit over the past five years. On more than one occasion, you probably wondered, “Aren’t we there yet? Do we have to circle this mountain one more time?” Like Israel on the verge of entering the Promised Land, we, too, need to recapture vision, direction, and momentum
I can also identify with the challenges Joshua faced. Crossing the Jordan River was no easy task because the river was at flood stage. Crossing the river meant a declaration of war on the people of Canaan. On top of that, Joshua was not leading a group of Navy SEALS, Green Berets, or Army Rangers. He was leading a ragtag group of shepherds, farmers, and brick makers. With New England becoming more unchurched and spiritually resistant, pasturing a church is no easy task either.
Since I can identify with Joshua’s situation, I take encouragement from the three commands God gave Joshua. Each command was followed by a promise.
Joshua was told to cross the Jordan (2-5). Accompanying the command was the promise of success. Like the Oklahoma land rush in the 1860’s, Joshua and the people would receive every acre of land they walked on. However, the promise of success comes after command to obey. The Jordan River would not part until the people stuck their toes in the water.
I am reminded that we have to take the first step in faith, and then follow it with further steps of obedience.
Shortly after arriving in Chicopee, we purchased a GPS system for our car. My wife nicknamed it “Maggie.” As helpful and reliable on Maggie is, she only works when we bring her along or plug her in. Not so with God. He promises Joshua, “I will be with you. In fact, I will never abandon you or leave you alone.”
The second command is to be strong & courageous. In case Joshua didn’t get it the first time, God told him three times (6, 7, 9).
I’m guessing Joshua was intimidated and unsure of the challenge. I can certainly sympathize with him. That’s why Joshua, and I, need to be told to live boldly and courageously.
Once again, God promises Joshua that Israel will inherit the land. When my children were younger, I used to read to them at night. Generally, the chapter would end on a note of uncertainty and the kids would beg me to read another chapter. I told them they’d have to wait until tomorrow night. But as they were getting ready for bed, I would read ahead to know how the story turns out. By promising success, God was telling Joshua how the story would turn out. He would be on the winning side.
Once again, God promised that he would be with Joshua and not leave him alone.
The third command is that Joshua was to meditate on Scripture and obey it (7-8). Joshua was to think on Scripture so much that he would mutter it to himself. Rather than merely read it and memorize it, he was put it into practice and obey it. The Bible should fill our minds and transform our hearts.
Once again, God promised that Joshua would be successful. He would be successful in what God wanted him to do.
What is your Jordan River? What is the obstacle you face today? What does God want you to do? How does he want you to obey?
Take the first step in faith and follow it with further steps of obedience. Be strong and courageous. Live boldly because of God’s promises. Become a student of the Scriptures. Meditate on God’s Word and obey it.