This past week, we saw those mysterious Magi return east across the desert sands and endless dunes to their homes – yet richer... more noble... more wise, on account of having worshipped the Christ Child in spirit and in truth! They, in a very real sense, are the paradigm for you and me in the worship of our Lord!
This morning we pivot to take one last look at the Holy Child and His parents, but they, too, are gone! The house in Bethlehem now used by others. We gaze toward Egypt, but He is not to be found there! We scan the Judean hills, but He is nowhere to be found! He can be seen as a Holy Child no more! Time has had its way! Days have turned into weeks... weeks into months... months into years... years into decades!
As we change Church seasons, we see that He is now in the prime of His life... and He is preparing for the great tests He must endure – first in the wilderness, then finally along the Via Dolorosa -- which we remember and study during Lent. He has several tests in between!
This morning we are privileged to have read together one of the greatest of the many famous Old Testament passages! Joshua, son of Nun also had great tests of faith and the Almighty likewise prepared him to succeed. The name, Joshua, we might want to recall, in the Greek is Ιησους, which in English is translated Jesus (meaning Jehovah is Salvation)!
There are four key words in this stellar text before us this morning. Four words, which if understood, move us rapidly down the road to our own success in the great tests we all face both individually and collectively.
The first word is SUCCESS. Verse 8: …for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
“Success at what?” we ask. For Joshua, it was success in moving roughly three million people across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land following their 40-year wilderness wandering.
It was General Douglas McArthur who famously and unabashedly declared: “There is no substitute for victory.” And that is the spirit of this word “success.” That is the spirit of the text. There is no substitute for success. There is no substitute for succeeding at what we are called to do!
Does this word apply to us? Most definitely! God calls all of us to perform some unique work for him – regarding ourselves… regarding family members… regarding friends… regarding strangers… regarding His Church and His Kingdom! We may think our calling is small and inconsequential, but He does not! He has called us to it... and it is He that helps us find success in accomplishing it!
By the way, the Joshua text read together this morning is quoted in the New Testament when the writer to the Hebrews reminds us that God will never leave us nor forsake us! So it does apply to us!
God certainly calls us to accomplish labors for Him – and sometime they seem impossible! Indeed, humanly speaking, they often are impossible! The formula for success for the people of God is found in the three other key words of this text!
There is the word MEDITATE. Verse 8: This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein…
It is one thing for us to read the Bible; it is quite another to meditate upon what we have read! To meditate has been likened to the chewing of a cud. God has equipped certain animals, such as the white-tailed deer, with a rumen to store food when it is gathered in haste. Once the animal then finds a safe and quiet place, it simply brings up its “cud” (clump of food) from its rumen to chew on it slowly, extracting all of the flavor and nutrition it possesses.
This is a great description of meditating on the God’s Word! If you and I are not doing this daily, we are – to put it frankly – dysfunctional! Meditating on God’s Word is how we obtain insight into life. It is how we gain a wise perspective concerning the challenges which would block our way to success in our callings.
The Word of God has been aptly called the “Instruction Manual” of life. Elsewhere the “Blueprint” for life! Everyone needs guidance and help navigating through the many issues of life! But we cannot truly have success in our callings unless we are meditating on God’s Word to us in the Bible.
Then there is the word COURAGE. Verse 6: Be strong and of a good courage. God encouraged Joshua three times with this word “courage.” Why? Because He knows how much we need it! We are all fallen, and often – when walking by sight – we only see the problems and the challenges… and have not the courage to wrestle our way to the solutions!
The armies of Israel could only see Goliath and his size and his shield and his sword and his spear; they could only hear his voice. But David could see God behind him… over him… beside him… in front of him – it gave him courage to gain the victory!
Courage requires faith because -- when it comes to man -- nothing in life is ever a “sure thing”! It was dear old St. Augustine, 5th century Bishop of Hippo (North Africa) who stated it so well. Faith is believing what we do not yet see. The reward for such faith is to see what we have believed!
St. Paul wrote to the Church in Rome: If God be for us, who can be against us? Courage from God is indispensable in life!
Lastly, there is the word NEARNESS (the nearness of God). Verse 9: …for the LORD thy God [is] with thee whithersoever thou goest.
So where is God? Good question. He is Spirit and has not a body like man. In the final analysis, He is everywhere (Omni-Present) but in some places more present than others!
Draw near to God, wrote St. James, and he will draw near to thee. As a dear old radio preacher used to close his daily program which I listened to growing up: Walk with God and he’ll walk with you! And it is true!
There is a very dear poem regarding the nearness of God…
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there was only one set of footprints.
This bothered me because I noticed
that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.
So I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during
the most trying periods of my life
there was only one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most,
you have not been there for me?"
The Lord replied,
"The times when you have
seen only one set of footprints,
is when I carried you."
The nearness of God! The nearness of God has always supported the saints of God, including dear Elijah in his many and great struggles! He traveled 40-days and 40-nights to Mt. Sinai to be near God when his life was hanging in the balance – hunted down by Jezebel!
So here we have the formula for success in doing God’s work in life! SUCCESS = MEDITATION on God’s Word + COURAGE to obey and act + the NEARNESS of God.
How do you and I score? Take away any one of the three requirements and success is in jeopardy!
How important is success to us? Important enough to follow God’s instructions?
My how we do need success among Christians in our day! And my but how far short the average Christian falls when it comes to an honest evaluation.
Let us therefore make a new resolve – to meditate on God’s Word daily… to exercise faith that reveals itself in God-centered courage… to walk near to the Lord so that He will walk near with us…
To find the success which is so critical in our day!
This is the Word of the LORD... and may it endure world without end.