10Now the priests who carried the ark remained standing in the middle of the Jordan until everything the Lord had commanded Joshua was done by the people, just as Moses had directed Joshua. The people hurried over, 11and as soon as all of them had crossed, the ark of the Lordand the priests came to the other side while the people watched. 12The men of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh crossed over, ready for battle, in front of the Israelites, as Moses had directed them. 13About forty thousand armed for battle crossed over before the Lordto the plains of Jericho for war.
14That day the Lordexalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they stood in awe of him all the days of his life, just as they had stood in awe of Moses.
15Then the Lordsaid to Joshua, 16“Command the priests carrying the ark of the covenant law to come up out of the Jordan.”
17So Joshua commanded the priests, “Come up out of the Jordan.”
18And the priests came up out of the river carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord. No sooner had they set their feet on the dry ground than the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran at flood stage as before.
If you ever read the story of Joshua, you can miss all of the nuances and significance of this spectacular moment. It coincides with many eventful moments in our lives which seem insignificant, but are powerfully transformative in our walk with Christ and in life. I remember when I crossed the threshold of my first apartment with my bride or bringing my baby home for the very first time. In the moment, it seemed simple and inconsequential, but everything changed from that moment. Transitions are powerful moments which are the culmination of a sequence of choices and labor to produce a harvest of fulfillment and fruitfulness. This is the nugget, NOTHING JUST HAPPENS! Today, as we begin a journey of moving forward in our efforts of following God’s plan, we recognize the power of all of the little choices and consultations which build into a symphony of work to bring glory to God. In life, we didn’t get to this point over night! In fact, we had to journey through some losses, some pain, some setbacks, some struggles, some sleepless nights, some difficult decisions, some departures, many limitations, many questions with not enough answers, just to get to this point and through it all, God was working it all together for our good.
When Joshua looks back over the totality of his journey, he sees that not every L was a loss, but they were definitely a lesson. I wish I could go back an undo what I did in certain situations, because I didn’t know what I know now. But, I also see the value in those moments because I had to learn a valuable lesson to grow and become a better leader, pastor, father, husband, and son. Those lessons God is teaching you in the moment of disappointment are for your development and for your demise. I want to encourage you today to learn the lesson from your past and as John Maxwell says, “Fail Forward”.
Lesson #1: Inspiration always precedes Instruction
Joshua learned a valuable lesson from Moses and from wandering in the desert. God will tell you what He is going to do before He tells you how he is going to do it. In fact, when the book of Joshua begins, God speaks directly to Joshua and tells him that he is to prepare God’s people to take possession of the land and he gives him a repetitive command, be strong and courageous! Courage is not the absence of intimidation or intellect, but it is the presence of bold faith in the midst of the opposition and uncertainty. Today, its time to use the mustard-size faith which can move mountains. It’s time to stand strong and boldly go into the direction God is calling us as a people and as a family. It’s time to maximize this moment and boldly stand on the side of faith and anchor our faith in God’s promises. Why? Because God’s people live by promises not by explanations! God seldomly tells us how He is going to do what he is going to do and when He does tell us how He is going to do it, it’s more than likely the opposite of what we thought. If you are waiting on the HOW, you’ll miss the WHAT! Faith trust in the WHO and lets the WHO work out the HOW!
Lesson #2: Investigate before Initiate
Joshua learned a valuable lesson when it came to sending out the spies in Joshua 2. Joshua changed the method which failed Moses. When Moses sent the spies in Numbers 13, he sent twelve and only ten came back with a negative report. Joshua had learned your circle will shrink the closer you get to the promise. In fact, God will downsize your circle to upsize your influence. When Joshua sent the spies, he sent only 2! The spies were not looking for problems, they were looking for possession. When you make faith steps, your circle has to see what you see and believe what you believe. Why? Because fear travels faster than faith! How do you squash out fear? Don’t let it have a voice! Don’t invite it to the meeting! Don’t let it speak into the hearts of God’s people. If you have people in your life who are circling the same problems, struggling with same issues, always discouraged, always in need, always afraid, you need to find a new circle! Joshua had placed his trust in men who had his heart and they spoke the same language, faith. It’s a powerful lesson, but it’s one worth learning.
Lesson #3: Initiate, Initiate, Initiate
Joshua watched for forty years God’s greatest general lead God’s people through the wilderness. Moses led by his hand, it was a sign of the delivering power of God. It was the hand of Moses who stretched the rod into the Nile and turned it into blood. It was the hand of Moses which stretched out his hand over the Red Sea. It was the hands of Moses who were lifted up by Aaron and Hur while Joshua was in the valley fighting the battle. But, what how God got the people out of Egypt wasn’t going to be the way He got them into the Promise Land. Joshua was going to have to move from what God was going to do for His people to what God was going to do through His people. In other words, what got them there wasn’t going to get them here. God starts out His message to Joshua declaring, “wherever your sole treads upon, I will give it to you as your possession. God was going to use their steps! It was a new way of living and believing! God was going to use their feet to bring possession to His people. In fact, the first miracle was God’s people circling the walls of Jericho by their feet! I hope you are getting the picture. Too many believers are waiting on God to do something for them, when He wants to do something through them! It’s time to use your feet and CROSS OVER!
How many people want to cross over? What are you waiting on? The difference between where you are and where God is calling you is the distance of one faith step. Now, I dont want to minimize the fears and “concerns” when taking faith steps, because faith steps dont vacate the fears and concerns. Faith is not the absence of fear, but it is the means to overcome it. I have done some things that had my heart beating out of my chest. I have made some faith moves which made no sense in the natural. I have made some faith moves in which I wasn’t sure how it was going to all work out. In fact, can I confide in this moment, I’m in one of those moments right now! We are launching this campaign and we have limited resources, we have the weight of a comprehensive campaign on our shoulders with promotions, print material, information receptions, etc. My wife just recovered from surgery and isn’t 100% and we have made some major decisions as a family that has placed more pressure on us. But, we also recognize that we will never see what God has if we wait for the perfect timing or have the right resources or the right ____________. God is always waiting on us to take the step of faith. In fact, faith steps are the most discomforting and often create the most vulnerability to criticism and discouragement. But, if you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat. If you want to see the miraculous, you have trust God with the impossible. Faith doesn’t make it easy, Faith makes it possible!
So how do we cross over? How do we get our feet moving? The Bible shows how God led his people to cross over.
After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. 4Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits3:4 That is, about 3,000 feet or about 900 metersbetween you and the ark; do not go near it.”
5Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”
- Faith focuses Forward
The Bible tells us God’s presence went ahead of the people because they were moving into uncharted territory. Faith is a perspective as much as it is a persuasion. When you are getting ready to make a move, God has to reposition your perspective, just like He did the children of Israel. This is not a geographical issue as much as an emotional and psychological issue. Remember, they had just lost their hero, Moses, who had led them for 40 years. They had a lot of reasons to look backward, but if they would have looked back, they would have missed what lied before them. The pull on our hearts is real and the tension is visible when we are making steps to move forward because we have an attachment to the way it was. We have a connection to the familiar, we are comfortable with what we’ve experienced and it gives us a nostalgia of the “good ole days”. Yet, God has so much more! In fact, I love what Pastor Craig Groeschel says, “If God met all of our expectation, He will never be able to exceed them.” God wants to do more than we can even imagine or think, but for those realities to come into place, we must focus on what’s ahead, not on what’s behind!
2. Faith works between our steps and our situations.
15Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.
We see God working in between their steps and their situation. We see how the priests stepped out into the Jordan and when their feet touched the water, the water began to recede until they stood in the middle of the Jordan. While they were in the middle, God’s people, over 1,000,000 men, women, boys, girls, and all of their cattle, livestock, property, tents, possessions, etc. walked across the Jordan river. WOW! God is working right in the middle! I hear people talk about the miraculous and supernatural power of God and make statements like, “when are going to see miracles, signs, and wonders?” Can I tell you miracles, signs, and wonders follow those who make bold steps! The reason we don’t see the miraculous is because we aren’t willing to get in the middle of a miracle!
I have to be honest, I hate the middle! I love to start and I love a great finish, but I hate the middle. I was working out today and we had a 21 minute treadmill block and right in the middle of the workout I was contemplating quitting! My legs were hurting, my body was sweating, and even worse, I was running in place! I knew that if I just held on and pushed through the pain I was going to get to the finish line! You may be in the middle of something that has placed you in an uncomfortable situation. You see, taking faith steps are not in isolation, they are in connection. It’s the continuity of faith steps which gets us to the other side. You cannot cross over with just one step! It takes God working in the middle to get you across!
God wants us to see two things in the text, one God’s presence was the sustaining power that enabled them to stand in between the Jordan. But, secondly, they were standing for everyone who was following them. Behind their obedience, was a generation of Israelites experiencing the miraculous. Can I tell you that there is more behind your YES than just sacrifice and obedience! You are the modeling agent to this generation of the miracle working power of God. My kids are going to remember this mark in history. Many people who will follow us will ask us, How did this all happen? Many of our own family will marvel at how God used us in this moment to take bold steps and do something that has never been done to receive something that has never been seen or exchanged. There are so many people behind our YES if we will stand in the middle. Your continual YES is bigger than you think! It’s louder than you can fathom, and its greater than all of your NOS! In fact, can I give you a word, One YES can obliterate a thousand NOS! WOW, that is something to think about and I encourage you to keep saying YES until you CROSS OVER!
3. Faith speaks from the Other Side
This goes to my opening passage, the priests who were standing in the middle of the Jordan, were now watching men who had already crossed over, come back and pick up twelve stones to be a memorial and witness of the power of God. They were going to be speak from the other side. In fact, when Jesus said to the people, “If they keep quiet, the rocks will cry out!” When Jesus was speaking, he was speaking of the testimony of what the rocks symbolized. In this passage, the rocks were drawn out of the middle of the Jordan to speak as a testimony to the future of the miracle working power of GOD! These stones were unseen when they went in but now that they are on the other side, they have become a visible testimony and stepping stone to the progress the Israelites had made. When we cross over, we see things differently because we have changed positions. In fact, our faith informs us of what God can do and speaks to us to cross over. I believe now is the time to cross over to the other side. God is bidding us to cross over? Will you join Him? Will you join us as we take bold steps?