At one of the churches that I pastored there was a dear saint named Dr Bill Randolph who at one time had been the president of Lancaster Bible College but who was now elderly and blind. I’m sure that this dear man had forgotten more about theology than I will ever learn. It was somewhat intimidating to preach with him there but every Sunday after church he would give me this huge bear hug and say, “Do you know why I like listening to you preach? Because I always learn something new.” That was Dr. Randolph. As he aged, Dr Randolph developed a philosophy of life that was summed up in a saying of his that stuck with me. He would say that the key to getting old was this, “Don't die until you're dead!" Today there tends to be a trend in the church in which when we retire from our jobs we retire from serving in the church. Folks, listen, retire from your job. You earned it. But never retire from serving Jesus, especially in the church. That’s the story of Caleb in the book of Joshua. With age he became more confident and more involved. As you age, your physical vision will naturally get dimmer but your spiritual vision should get clearer. Don’t die until you’re dead!
In Joshua 13:1 the Bible says that Joshua was old and advanced in years when the Lord said to him, “You are old and advanced in years.” God just says it. He doesn't beat around the bush. He doesn't say, “You know, Joshua, you look pretty good for your age.” He just says, “Dude, you’re old.” In our culture today, we don't look forward to getting old. In fact, we dread it and even try to avoid. And when we get there we won't even admit it. God doesn’t look at getting old in that way. God doesn't want you to dread getting old or fear getting old. He wants you to embrace it. In our culture we categorize age. With babies we measure age by weeks. As they get older, we measure them by half years and then full years. Then we reach a point where we begin to measure age by decades. I’m in my 50's. Ultimately, we reach the point where it's impolite to even talk about it. After God tells Joshua he is old, He then says, “But I still got work for you to do!” Folks, listen, you are never too old to serve Jesus. You're never too old for God not to have a plan for you, not to have a purpose for you.
In Joshua 11:23 we reach the end of the conquest of the Promised Land and we read these words, “Thus the land had rest from war.” The book of Joshua describes battle after battle but finally there's no more battle. Finally there's rest. This rest would be temporary. There would be many more battles ahead but for this brief time there was rest. I can’t help be thankful that amidst all the obstacles we go through in life there are those brief periods when God gives us rest. Those are precious times. But remember, they're temporary. There are more obstacles ahead. There are more challenges to face. But the Bible does teach that there's coming a day after the final battle is over that we will enter our promise land, heaven, and on that day from then on there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, no more pain and no more death. We will have peace, joy and rest for eternity plus perfect intimacy with God. There is coming a day for the one who has put their faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, when we will enter eternal rest, never to battle sin again, never to battle obstacles again. You see, my friend, for the Christian, it's true. The best is yet to come.
After Joshua and the Children of Israel win a huge battle, God gives them a command that seems a bit strange. He tells them to hamstring all of the horses of the enemy army and to burn their chariots. To hamstring a horse means that you cut its main tendon in its leg so that it was no longer good for fighting. Now, if I'm Joshua, I'm a bit puzzled because my army could use those horses and. But ever since Israel crossed the Jordan River God has been teaching them that if they want to have success, they must depend on Him. If God allowed them to have these items, they would be tempted to put their trust in their newly obtained horses and chariots rather than in the Lord. Isaiah 31 says, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses and trust in chariots…but they do not look to the Holy One of Israel or seek the Lord.” Psalm 20 says, “Some boast in chariots, some boast in horses, but we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God.” There are some big obstacles coming up in your life and when you face them you cannot rely on our own wisdom, checkbook or position. You must put our dependence on the Lord.
God gives us victories today in order to give us confidence so we will trust Him in the future. Folks listen, we have not faced our greatest obstacles yet. They are still ahead. That is why God gives us victories today, so that when a bigger obstacle comes in our future, instead of being fearful, we’ll be strong. Instead of being dismayed, we’ll be courageous. As you age, obstacles get bigger. A dear lady once said to me, “Pastor, growing old isn't for sissies.” If you don't think that's true, then go walk through your nearest nursing home facility. Let's be honest. Some of our biggest obstacles are still ahead of us. That is also true of parenting. You think it's tough to raise kids when they're terrible twos? You know what a lot of parents find out? That's not the toughest time because they ultimately become teenagers. And if you're raising teenagers and you think this is the toughest time, you might be surprised! Most parents will tell you some of the hardest times of parenting happen after your kids become adults. Some of the greatest challenges of our lives still lie ahead. That is why God gives you victories today - in order to give you confidence to trust Him for the bigger obstacles that will come in your future.
In the book of Judges we read a very sad story of a warrior named Jepthah who made an impulsive commitment to the Lord saying that if God would give him victory in battle, he would in turn sacrifice to the Lord whatever came out of his house first to greet him when he returned home. My guess is that Jephthah and his family had some pets and was pretty sure that one of those pets would come out of the house first. God gives Jepthah the victory and he comes home it is his only daughter that comes out of the house first to welcome her dad as he's returning. If I were Jephthah, I would have broken my commitment. Even though I don't like this story, I do learn from it that I need to be serious about commitments I make to the Lord. Is there a commitment you made to the Lord in your past that you've gotten away from? Maybe you made a commitment to spend time with God every day reading your Bible and praying but you have gotten away from it. Maybe you made a commitment way back that you were going to tithe regularly and you've quit doing it. Isn't it time to come back to your commitment? Let’s learn a lesson from Jepthah.
In James 4, the Apostle addresses believers who are making plans for the future without consulting God. These Christians were making decisions about when they were going to do things without seeking the counsel of God. They were making decisions about where they're going to do things without seeking the counsel of God. They were decisions on how long they're going to do things without seeking the counsel of God. They were making decisions on exactly what they're going to do without seeking the counsel of God. They were even setting goals for their future without seeking the counsel of God. The problem with making decisions about our future without consulting God is that we do not know what our life will be like tomorrow, or next week, or next month or next year. God is the only one who knows exactly what our lives will be like in the future. If I don't know what's going to happen in my life tomorrow or next week or next month or next year, but God does, does it make any sense at all for me to plan without consulting Him? James says, we should say, “If the Lord wills we will do this and that.” Those aren’t magical words we simply say. It means you consult God's will before planning your future.
In the Old Testament we see Joshua and Israel fall into deception at the hands of the Gibeonites for one very important reason – they did not seek the counsel of the Lord. Folks, listen, the number one way that God wants to protect us from deception is through our seeking His counsel before we make decisions. And the main way we discover the counsel of the Lord today is the Bible. Scripture gives us the counsel of God. If you are not committed to knowing the Bible and making the Bible a priority in your life, you will fall into deception. The Psalmist taught us that the Word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. It shows us what steps we are to take. With the Gibeonites, Joshua decided to just go by his own human wisdom, his own human reasoning. He felt it was a safe bet. He didn’t seek the counsel of God. Instead, he enters into a treaty and led Israel into deception. We do it all the time. How many times do we make plans for tomorrow, plans for next week, plans for next month, plans for next year but we never seek the counsel of God as we make those plans? It’s Scripture that will protect us from deception.
It is easy for us to allow secret sins to creep into our life. When that occurs, how should we respond? First, you confess it to God. The Bible says that if we confess our sin He's faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us. The word confess literally means to say the same thing as. It’s saying, “God, I confess to You that this is in my life and I agree with you that it is a sin. Please forgive me.” Second, you repent. The word “repent” means to turn away from that sin. If there's a certain place you go to do this sin then you quit going to that place. If there's a certain person you're doing this sin with, then you break off the relationship. If there's something in your home that you use to commit this sin, then you get that out of your home. And finally, you admit it to another brother or sister in Christ. The Bible says that we are to confess our sins one to another. Chances are good that if this sin has been in your life long enough that you've become addicted to it. You need someone that you can admit this to who will pray for you and keep you accountable.
In the book of Joshua, when we read about the sin of Achan, we see a path. Achan saw the items, then he coveted the items, then he took them. He saw the items. He desired the items. And ultimately, he took the items. Now, why is that significant? Because that is the path of sin all throughout the Bible. Let me give you an example. Go back to Genesis 3 and notice how Eve's sin took place. Remember the ground rules. God said here in the garden you can eat of every tree but not this one tree. When the woman saw that the tree that it was a delight to her eyes and desirable so she took from its fruit and ate. She saw, she desired, she took, just like Achan. King David did the same thing in 2 Samuel. One evening David was walking around on the roof of his house and from the roof he saw a woman bathing and she was very beautiful in appearance. David desired her so he inquired about who this woman was. He then sent messengers and took her and had an affair with her. He saw, he desired, he took. One of the greatest ways to guard your heart from desiring sin is to guard your eyes from what you see.