The End of FEAR - “A Straight Line”
This is Graduation Sunday at Cape Cod Church. There's something about the promise of the future for graduates that's exciting. Seeing the next generation finish up and go forward is special. Seeing their faith become real and put into practice is a beautiful thing. To see their transition from the old to the new in the context of our church is very rewarding.
We are starting a new series today called, "The End of Fear." Some people think of fear in terms of the physical. Fear of pain and death are examples of physical fear. It is seen in girl screams over a spider in the bedroom at home and their call for 11 year old Cody to come and take care of it. Some people think of fear in terms of the emotional. You solve it and get beyond it. Jesus dealt with fear as something spiritual. Fear starts in the soul and therefore it must be corrected in the soul. The subject of fear will be a good segway to our graduation emphasis this morning as well.
John 14:27 says, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid."
Jesus is saying to his disciples that he is going away (back to Heaven) but is not going to leave them alone. He will leave them with a gift. We see in this that Jesus did not just come to solve the question of eternity but also to provide for the present a very much needed gift. Over the next few weeks we will be exploring the gift of peace and confidence Jesus gives to his people. "The End of Fear" is the title of the series because this is the impact Christ's gift of peace and confidence has.
The book of Joshua is a great place to turn for this series. We will be looking at the first four chapters, one for each of the four weeks of the series, beginning with chapter one today.
1 - Move on from the Past
Joshua 1:1-3 says, "After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said, Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them. I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you.'"
Moses death leaves big shoes to fill. It will be hard not to disappoint everyone, but Joshua is the man. Under Moses, the people of Israel came near to the promised land of Canaan. 12 men were sent to spy out the land. 2 men gave a good report and 10 men gave a bad report. God had commanded them to go in and possess the land, but the bad report led to Israel disobeying God. In consequence, Israel wandered in circles for 40 years in the wilderness until all of the generation above 20 had died, except for Joshua and Caleb (the 2 men with the good report). It is now time for Joshua to lead the people across the Jordan River and into the promised land and God gives him a pregame speech. You have been on the bench for 40 years as a backup and now it's your opportunity to get in the game. You've been in the same place with the same people stuck in a 40 year rut.
This is a great place for us to start. It allows us to move on from the past. We can let fear of new places and new people keep us locked into people and places of the past. You did that and so you are this. You are with them and so you are stuck with them. It is like we are trapped in a box. There are invisible fences for dogs that keep them in their yards. A more accurate name would be electrocution fences. Dogs are stuck in their yards because of such fences and similarly we are wrapped in the box of the past and it keeps us stuck with the same old people and places. Christ turns off the fence and allows us to start new. The people and places of the past no longer control you and your are free.
2 - Embrace Struggle
Joshua 1:5 says, "No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you."
One on one, it's God to Joshua, "I got your back. I will be with you. No one will stand against you." It's not that they won't try. The will try, but won't be able to. The inference is that even when it looks like they will succeed, they won't. There are two promises here for us: (1) You will struggle. People will oppose you. (2) You will survive. We are waiting for the struggle to be over. We think there will be a corner we will turn to get on the straight way without additional struggle. How is that working for us? These two promises are very much in the mix for someone who walks with Christ. We have in them a reminder that living life is a fight. Remember that struggle happens over and over again. You make think that when you are in the middle of a struggle I (Christ) have abandoned you, but I haven't.
I saw a report in the news about a large tuna that was caught after hours and hours of struggle to land the fish. It turns out that when you go out on a charter boat for a chance to catch such a fish, they put you in a fighting chair. It all looks pretty tough. I think it's Falmouth Fish Market for me. In life there are lots of ways we can choose in order to avoid conflict and struggle.
There is really something special about the person who discovers that this struggle is worth it, be it with kids, marriage, work, etc. The story of Joshua serves as a reminder that we live in a broken world that brings struggle. Your capacity to grow is directly proportional to your threshold of pain. Following Christ is like this. Your threshold for pain is directly related to your confidence in Christ. He promises that he will never leave you. Struggle is not only unavoidable but it is essential. God takes us through it in order to get us to where he wants us to be.
3 - Draw Straight Lines
Joshua 1:7-9 says, "Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
God tells Joshua to be strong and very courageous because he knows that part of Joshua's heart is not quite where it needs to be yet. God seemingly has looked into Joshua's heart and seen the doubt that is simmering there. God's words to Joshua about being careful to obey are important. The advice given speaks to graduates in a very appropriate way. This is a good place for you (graduates) to wrestle with yourself. Determine that you will not deviate to the right or left but stay on the straight line of God's ways. It is not a map that he gives but just encouragement for the journey of your soul. Stay in line by studying Scripture and following it and not drifting away from it.
Culture begs you to draw a curved line and demands that you deviate from the straight line. You will constanly have to keep at drawing the straight line. Drawing a straight line free hand is hard to do. Scripture is the straight edge we need for drawing a straight line to follow. Culture says curved is batter than straight. Be assured the Bible is not outdated and is totally relevant. Scriptural guidelines help us flourish and live fully. I had a conversation with my daughter recently about one area of culture that pulls at us to curve away from the straight line. There hundreds of things from culture that pull at us in this way. God's words to Joshua are the key: "Be strong and very courageous." This is how we will stay straight and not deviate.
What are you afraid of? Once you answer this question, ask it again and see if there is something more under the surface and then be strong and courageous through Christ. Be careful to obey the commands of Scripture.
Bow your heads. God has given us in our souls a quiet confidence in him. Take your fears and set them beside him. Set your fears concerning your kids, marriage, work, etc. beside him. I am not telling you how this will work. Here's what I am telling you: God has promised to be with you wherever you go and he will bring you to the spot where you are neither afraid or discouraged.
Father, will you fill us with a reminder this morning of your presence. To those who walk in fear, to those who have learned to live with anxiety, give your gift of confidence and peace. God you love us and will never leave us. Father, finally, I pray for our graduates. As they step out of the shell of there present lives into more freedom than ever before, grant that they may not curve to the right or to the left as they remember you are with them to help them be strong and courageous. Amen!
Posted on Mon, June 8, 2015
by Alan Porter