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When God Believes - Part 1

When you listened to the reports of the chaos of New Orleans this past week it surely seemed surreal. One person described the city as being like Baghdad when it fell. Another said that it was ?angel wings and God's spit? that held their house together at the height of the storm. Despite the warnings to evacuate, many people believed they could just ride out the storm. One man talked of paddling around his living room on his son's surf board, but then the water rose again and he retreated to the attic, and then it rose some more and he had to smash a hole through the roof and climb onto a nearby tree. He ended up clinging to the limbs of the tree for the next four hours hoping for rescue. Throughout this horrific ordeal, complicated by looting, snipers, sexual assaults and other unrestrained wickedness, there are countless reports of heroism, of courage and of faith. God has His purposes in having this level 4 hurricane hit one of the lowest lying cities in America, a city renowned for it's voodoo, for its? sexual depravity and violence. What is evident this morning is that in times of chaos, in times of tremendous upheaval and danger, God, by faith and through faith, calls people to an obedience to Him that is seen as courage and strength. If we consider this in local terms, that the population of New Orleans is about that of . . .

When you listened to the reports of the chaos of New Orleans this past week it surely seemed surreal. One person described the city as being like Baghdad when it fell. Another said that it was ?angel wings and God's spit? that held their house together at the height of the storm. Despite the warnings to evacuate, many people believed they could just ride out the storm. One man talked of paddling around his living room on his son's surf board, but then the water rose again and he retreated to the attic, and then it rose some more and he had to smash a hole through the roof and climb onto a nearby tree. He ended up clinging to the limbs of the tree for the next four hours hoping for rescue. Throughout this horrific ordeal, complicated by looting, snipers, sexual assaults and other unrestrained wickedness, there are countless reports of heroism, of courage and of faith. God has His purposes in having this level 4 hurricane hit one of the lowest lying cities in America, a city renowned for it's voodoo, for its? sexual depravity and violence. What is evident this morning is that in times of chaos, in times of tremendous upheaval and danger, God, by faith and through faith, calls people to an obedience to Him that is seen as courage and strength. If we consider this in local terms, that the population of New Orleans is about that of Edmonton , and the population of Biloxi is about that of Red Deer , we can begin to feel the scale of this crisis. But what would happen if you had a city of 2 million people that you wanted to voluntarily walk into a raging torrent of water? What would check the lawlessness, what would prevent chaos and wickedness from breaking out? We are about to begin a series that looks at the origins and impact of faith. As God calls people to faith? obedience, courage and strength become evident. Turn with me to Joshua 1: 1-9.

 

I. Consider the Twin Elements of Faith.      

 

As we get into the setting of this book of Joshua we have to realize that we are walking into a story at the mid point. It would be easy to miss that the first nine verses of this book are the voice of God speaking in very particular terms. He speaks to a man that is ready to hear, there is no query from this man, no requests for proof. Joshua was first introduced to us in Exodus 17 as a young commander of the army. We could conclude that Joshua was born and raised as a slave in Egypt and possibly was trained in Pharaoh's army. What we see with certainty is that at a young age, mid twenties, he was a recognized military leader. It was Joshua who went with Moses up on Mount Sinai the first time to get the commandments of God. It was Joshua that was sent with Caleb and ten others to spy out the land. Only Joshua and Caleb were faithful in their reports, only Joshua and Caleb as the men of their generation survived the next 40 years of delay and preparation. When Joshua was in his early sixties, Moses handed over the leadership of Israel to him, at the  LORD's  direction. It was Joshua that was to lead the 2 million people we call the nation of Israel , into the promised-land. It was said in Numbers 27:18 and Deuteronomy 34:9 that the Spirit was upon him. Joshua was the man closest to Moses, and Moses was the man closest to the presence of God. The preparation of Joshua had been very precise, God had orchestrated the perfect person for his perfect purposes. What I want to consider though, is the key component of faith, for without it all the rest of the preparations  would have been useless.

 

Let me invite you to consider the nature of faith in God, and thus faith in God's requests upon your life, to be composed of twin elements, like the two blades of a propeller. The first blade is that of divine faith that comes to us as a gift. The New Testament has numerous references to the gift of faith that comes from God to us, passages life Ephesians 2:8,9. Hebrews 11:6 says that without it, it is impossible to come near to God and to please Him unless there is faith. This is the first element of faith, the gift of faith. This is not some divine commodity that God gives out, for we can easily think of faith as an intangible product that God creates and then endows upon a person. Rather the gift of faith is directly related to the work of the Spirit in a person. It is in essence the imparting of God Himself to you, as He believes so He calls us to an awareness of His belief by the presence of His Spirit in us. In today's terms all who are Christians are saved because of this faith that has brought us to a confession of sin and a hope in the Savior. We are all like and even greater than Joshua in this sense because of the Holy Spirit indwelling us, and that is why this book is most relevant for us right now. The first element is divine faith, the belief and the self awareness that God has which is now imparted to us in some degree by the action of the Spirit.

 

The second element of faith is that which is called forth from us as an act of obedience. It requires everything of who we are as a person. W.H. Griffith Thomas described faith as ?a conviction of mind that calls us to a confidence of emotion which is crowned by a consent of our will.? Faith thus involves our intellect, emotion and will, all of the elements of personhood. Three times in the passage of Joshua 1:1-9 God tells Joshua to respond obediently in faith by being strong and very courageous. All of Joshua's intellect, emotion and will are involved in the faith that is seen as courage and strength. This is the second element of faith. Hebrews 11:6 says that without these two elements a man can neither come near to God, cannot please God and does not believe that God has pleasure in those who seek Him. And so we begin the book of Joshua with this propeller of faith, a divine gift through the imparting of the Spirit coupled to the action of our obedience as our starting point.

 

II. Consider the Spectrum of Faith.      

 

Are you familiar with that television show called W5? It refers to the 5 W's of investigative reporting, Who, What, Where, Why and When. The spectrum of faith is that God imparts His Spirit and calls your obedience to every one of these areas of your life and His kingdom. Let's visit the text again and see briefly how this works for Joshua.

 

1. Who... The torch of leadership is now deliberately put into Joshua's hands. What Moses began, you now build upon. Faith is an act of continuance, having been shown?continue in the way. That means as Moses influenced you, now you and all this people are to take the next steps. Faith was more about the moment than the mother-lode. They had been promised a land, that was like the mother-lode. But it was the moment that was more important, the moment of obedience, the moment of absolute dependence on God. You see God is far more concerned with the moment of faith, the right now of dependence and obedience as a core component of our relationship with Him, than He is with the reality of heaven which awaits us. Faith will involve you, those who have lead you, flaws and all, and those whom God is putting right beside you for you to influence, moment by moment. For Joshua that number was 2 million. It will call him to be strong and very courageous,  it will do the same to you, even today.

2. Where... Every place you put your foot down I have given to you. What an interesting phrase. It refers to the future tense of obedient faith and the past tense of divine provision all in one breath. ?I have given? rings like a decree or a promise or a covenant. Indeed it was a covenant God had made with Moses and those before him. Where will faith take you? What boundaries has God set for you to enter into and take possession of in His name? The covenant that includes you and I today we call the new covenant in Christ's blood. It is the covenant of forgiveness of sin through faith in Christ as Savior. It is the covenant that sends us in the power of the Holy Spirit to right here ( Jerusalem ), around here (Judea and Samaria ) and to the remotest places from here. These were the last recorded words of Christ in Acts 1:8. The spectrum of faith involves the dependence to move from the familiar to the less familiar and even to the absolutely unknown. Let's stop there and next week we?ll look at the What, When and Why.