THEME: The Need for Obedience and Faith
This week’s lessons describe another part of the conquest of Canaan, and teach us important qualities of leadership from the life of Joshua.
This leads to the fifth characteristic, which is that Joshua obeyed the Lord completely. This was the most striking of his characteristics. If you go back to the very beginning of the book, you’ll recognize that in the first words of God to him, this is what he was encouraged to do: “Be careful to obey all the law my servant gave you. Do not turn from it to the right or to the left so that you may be successful wherever you go. Be careful to do everything.” Later on we are told, in 11:15, “As the Lord commanded His servant, Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua. And Joshua did it. He left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses. He obeyed the Lord completely.”
One of our problems is that we don’t do that. We start out, but then we drop back. We obey in part, but we don’t obey totally. We sometimes look at the commands of God as a list of things we have to do to be fully blessed. Then we say to ourselves, “Now, how many of them do I have to do to get just enough blessing to make me happy? And how many of them can I fortuitously leave undone?” What a formula for disaster! In the case of Joshua, it is repeated again and again that he left no survivors, city by city, until he had completed the campaign.
Now we’re not in the business of tearing down cities; but we are in the business, as Paul says, of tearing down strongholds, and every thought that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. That’s an intellectual battle and a spiritual battle in which we’re engaged. But it should be done in the same way and with the same methodology. That’s what made Jonathan Edwards such a great defender of the faith. He not only told the truth; he demolished his opponents. I recall John Gerstner saying of Jonathan Edwards, that when Edwards attacked an opponent he not only defeated him and drove him from the ground, he even brushed off the dust from the spot upon which his opponent stood. One reason we fail in our Christian lives is that we don’t carry through to the end. We’re not willing to obey God utterly.
The sixth and final point is that not only did Joshua obey God completely, but he believed God implicitly. The reason I say that is because this campaign was conducted entirely on the basis of faith in God’s promise. In verse 8 of this chapter, we read, “The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid of them. I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to stand against you.’” And so Joshua said, “If that’s what God has promised, that’s what God will do.” So on the basis of God’s promise, he moved ahead without the slightest doubt whatsoever that God was going to give him the victory.
I like the way R. C. Sproul talks about belief. There is an important difference between believing in God and believing Him. The issue is not whether you believe in God; that is, it is not whether you believe that God exists up there somewhere, or that he is some kind of deity somewhere who has nothing to do with you. Rather, do you believe what God has said? When God speaks in Scripture, do you say, “Yes, Lord, that’s your Word, and that’s the thing I’m going to operate on because your Word is the Word of truth, and I’m going to stand upon it”? This is what Joshua did. And it made him a great man.
Well, I’ve given six characteristics of Joshua. That’s a big order. And you may say as you look at those six things, “Well, I’m not Joshua. And I am so lacking in all of those things, I really don’t know where to start.” Well, I don’t know where you should start either. But God will tell you where to start. The important thing, however, is to start. I’d suggest that you think over those things and pray about them. Ask God what it is you lack, and consider how you should operate as a Christian. You don’t have to become a great Christian leader all at once. But you do have to start if you’re to grow and prosper in the Christian life. Ask yourself if you’re being deterred from things that are really important in order to do short-term things. If so, you’ve got to get that straightened out and begin to work on it. Or maybe you have failed to encourage others. Good management is through other people. Do you have an opportunity to do it? Are you allowing the opportunity to pass by? Are you taking short-cuts? Are you discouraged by previous failures? Are you failing to obey God? Do you actually believe Him?
If God says to you in any one of those areas, “Yes, that’s the problem. That’s where you’re failing,” then you get down on your knees and confess it and say, “God, begin to work with me and make me strong.” We don’t need a generation of failures. We don’t need an army filled with weak soldiers. We need people who know God, and are able to stand strong, and fight the battles that God gives us to fight in our day.
What is the fifth leadership characteristic? How did Joshua carry it out?
What is the sixth leadership quality we see from our passage?
What is the difference between believing in God and believing God? How have you observed evidences of each definition?
What are some things that can cause us to start out well in obedience, but then fail to totally obey?
Are there any of these six characteristics you need to cultivate in your own life? Pray and ask God to show you any area you need to work on.