Many people approach change like my good friends Calvin and Hobbes.
Like Calvin, many say “I hate change!” and avoid it at all costs.
Since change is part of life, we should not be saying, “How can I avoid change?” Even “How can I survive change?” is perhaps not the right question to ask either. Instead, we should be asking, “How can I thrive in change?”
The Old Testament leader, Joshua, was no stranger to change. Throughout his lifetime, he progressed from slave to servant to spy to soldier to statesman. Along with way, he had to deal with the death of his mentor, Moses, and the loss of friends. He faced a fear of failure, the challenge of leading a nation into the unknown, and facing numerous enemies.
The first chapter of Joshua’s book provides us with a several principles of how to survive and thrive in change. We are to anticipate and prepare for change, step out in faith, be strong and courageous, and fill our life with God’s Word. The first principle comes from an observation about verse 1. The remaining three principles are direct commands in verses 2-9. Weaving them together, we learn that we are to take the first step of faith and then follow it with further steps of obedience.
Anticipate and Prepare for Change (Joshua 1:1-2). Verse 1 begins with a statement of change, “After the death of Moses …” While it sounds sudden, it was not unexpected. In Deuteronomy 27, Moses was told by God of his impending death. Moses took the necessary steps to prepare his successor, Joshua. Moses commissioned Joshua in the sight of the people. Joshua and the nation of Israel knew this change was coming.
As a pastor, I’ve had the joy of performing many weddings over my 30+ years in ministry. Before agreeing to perform the wedding, I require the couple to meet with me for 6-8 sessions of premarital counseling. I want to make sure they are prepared for marriage, not just for the wedding itself.
The better you anticipate the change … the better you prepare for change … the better you are able to adapt and thrive.
Step Out in Faith (1:2-5). Joshua is given a direct command in verse 2, “Go over this Jordan.” Considering the river was at flood stage (3:15), this was a daunting challenge. When you add in the fact that crossing the Jordan was like throwing the gauntlet and declaring war on the people of Canaan as well as the fact that Joshua was not taking in a group of hardened soldiers, you can imagine his trepidation and fear.
It is significant that the promise of success comes after the command to obey. Like the Oklahoma land rush of 1889, God explains that Israel can claim every piece of land they walk on. While there will be opposition, no one will be able to stand against them.
Like a child is unafraid to walk through a scary forest because they are holding on to their daddy’s hand, so Joshua and Israel do not need to be afraid. God promises, “I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.”
Be Strong & Courageous (1:6, 7, 9). The command to “be strong and courageous” requires more than a superhero’s mask and cape. It requires stepping out in obedience to what God calls us to do.
When my children were younger, we read a number of stories and books. Many times we would come to the end of a chapter and the hero or heroine would be in danger. When my kids would beg to know what happens next, I’d say, “Wait until tomorrow.” After they went to bed, I’d flip ahead a few pages to see how they story would turn out. When God tells Joshua that Israel will inherit the land, God was explaining how the story would end.
God again encourages Joshua with the promise of his presence. “…for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua could be confidence because of God’s promise and his presence.
Fill your Life with God’s Word (1:7-8). When we talk to young believers about spiritual disciplines, we encourage them to read God’s Word. I find it interesting that God gives Joshua two instructions. He is to obey God’s Word and to meditate on God’s Word. Rather than emptying his mind, he is to fill it with God’s promises and instructions. Instead of merely reading and thinking about it, he is to commit himself to obedience. Only then will he enjoy true success. Only then will he accomplish what God wants him to do.
As you think about your life this week, what obstacles are in your way? What Jordan Rivers do you need to cross? What is God calling you to do? What is the step of obedience that he is asking you to take? Take the first step of faith and then follow it with further steps of obedience.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on September 23, 2018. It is part of a series of sermons on the book of Joshua. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.