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About this series
Facing The Future with Confidence
In this information age, it seems the more we know, the less we are really sure of! Experts tell us our families are disintegrating, our global economy is tenuous, and random violence is on the rise. Is it possible to live confidently in such confusing times? What does God's Word have to say about our future and our fears? Learn how you can face tomorrow and each day that follows with confidence and strength.More from this series
A number of years ago my wife had routine tests – like women have – and the bad part was, we got a call back. And the call said, “I really see something that looks serious, and I need to run another test.” And so, we went in on a Thursday – as best as I can remember – and he said, “We’ll run the tests and I’ll have results on Monday.”
And I have four children. At that time, they were all living in our home, and two or three of them were pretty young. And men, I know that you know what this is like, and women, many of you in this room have experienced this. But I went through a time of the most powerful uncertainty I’ve ever experienced. And I went with her, and we ran the tests.
And then I had Thursday, and then I had Friday, then I had Saturday, then I had Sunday, and then most of Monday before I heard the results. And I don’t know about you, but when you think there’s something wrong with your wife, and it could be serious, and if that biopsy comes back different, and if it’s a cancer that grows very quickly, you could lose your wife.
What I found was, one, I was afraid. I was really afraid. First, of the unknown. Then I was afraid that, somehow, I would fail, or God would fail me, or something would happen, and we wouldn’t make it through this, or I would fail my children. And then third – I guess, most selfishly, because I love my wife – I had the fear of abandonment: What will happen if we get some bad news on Monday, and we spend the next six months, or a year, and at the end of that, I find myself doing a funeral for my wife, and having four kids and saying, “How in the world do I go on?”
And I fasted, and I prayed, and I sought God, and at the time, I was studying for the ministry, and I realized: I was telling a lot of people about how Jesus was strong, and His Word was true, and a lot of those things that are really, really important, and that I believed.
And God said, Chip, I’ve got a little test for you. I’d like you to step up to the plate, and I’d like to walk you through a little personal, private tutoring by Me, and God the Holy Spirit.
And I want to take those truths that you have in your head, and I’d like to make a little journey into your heart, that when we get to Monday, regardless of the test results, I want you to walk into those tests knowing: Number one, you don’t have to be afraid of the unknown. Number two, you will not and cannot fail, because I’ll give you whatever you need. And number three, you’ll never be abandoned, whether you have Theresa or not, because I will never leave you or forsake you.
And we are living in a world right now as you look at the front of this handout, as you just scan that, some of those things can make you afraid.
And unless you go into total denial, we live in the most uncertain days I have ever seen in my life. And left to ourselves we can be very afraid. But here’s what I want to suggest: those responses that you have there, the fear of the unknown that we all experience, the fear of failure, and just the flat out fear that we will be abandoned somehow by family members or we are going to lose people – I want you to know that this could be the greatest, most strategic opportunity for the body of Christ in decades.
How we respond as a Church, how everyday believers like you and me in your home and your neighborhoods and at work – how you respond to that list of things and the attitude you have could be the most fundamental, strategic thing that the body of Christ ever gets a chance to ever respond to in your lifetime.
God placed you where you live in your neighborhood, where you work, with your kids, with your background, at this time in history, and He’s got a plan for you. Sure, He’s got a plan for the world, He’s got a plan for countries, but He’s got a plan for you.
And I’d like to spend the next several minutes walking through God’s Word, to teach you what He wanted to teach someone else who was in a time of uncertainty, so that two, or three, or four months from now, you literally will have a fellow student, or a coworker, or someone in your neighborhood walk up to you and say, “Could we have a cup of coffee or grab a Coke? Because I don’t know about you, but I’m reading the papers and I’m watching CNN, and I heard this thing on Fox, and I’m scared to death, and I’ve got anxiety!
And I’ve got knots in my stomach, and you are so calm. Would you tell me what in the world you have?” And you will have an opportunity, because of the grace of God working in you, to introduce them to the God of peace.
But you can’t do that if you’re as afraid as everybody else. And you can’t do that if – under the guise of, “Oh, I go to church, and I love God, and I read the Bible a bit” – if you live like everybody else. And the temptation is to think that in these desperate days, it’s never been worse, and this is terrible. I’ve got news for you. Uncertain times aren’t new.
So, turn, if you will, to Joshua chapter 1 – I’ve put some notes in there – and lets literally roll up our sleeves, and let’s study the text. There is a man who went through a very uncertain time, and God taught him something, and what He taught him, He wants to teach you.
And after we hear how God taught Joshua how to deal with his uncertain times, I want to move and principlize it. Because what we’re going to learn is, the very thing God taught Joshua was the very thing that Jesus taught His disciples.
And what are you? You’re a disciple, aren’t you? So, Jesus wants to teach you, and He wants to teach me how to respond, in these uncertain times, in such a way that not only will you experience His peace, and His love, and His joy – not your head in the sand, not in denial, not pie-in-the-sky religiosity – I mean authentically, in your gut, and in your heart – to such a degree that those outside of Christ would say, “Man, I don’t know what you have, but I’d like to get a taste of it.”
Uncertain times aren’t new. Listen to this situation: “Now it came about” – verse 1 – “after the death of Moses, the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spoke to Joshua, the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, ‘Moses My servant is dead.’” He talks about the past. All these millions of people look to Moses. Moses went out in the Tent of Meeting – the cloud came down. When Moses was here, if you had a problem – ask Moses. Moses would get the answer. When the cloud would move, or the fire would move, we all packed our tents and we went with him.
The paradigm has shifted. Moses is gone. The leader is gone. The cloud is gone. The manna is going to be gone. No water out of the rock. All the miracles – that has past. There’s a new paradigm. “And Joshua, you’re the man. It’s a new world. I’m going to expect new things out of you, Joshua. Life has never been like this before.”
And so, after He talks about the past, notice the present: “Now, therefore, arise, cross this Jordan, you and all these people.”
And before we get into our little Bible story mentality, let’s think of a real man, in real life who watched Moses, who saw his face glow, who remembers when he would put the veil over it, and remembers all these miracles – and Moses is gone. And now, God says, “Now you take all these people, who have not been an easy group to lead, and you cross the Jordan” – now, here’s the promise – notice the future – “which I am giving to them the Sons of Israel.”
Hey! You remember the promises? I’m the God of history, and I’m sovereign. I’m good. I’m powerful. Remember Abraham, Isaac, Jacob? I made promises to them. Moses picked up the baton. Now it’s your turn. I’m going to fulfill My purposes for these people, and I’m going to use you.
Can you imagine how inadequate he felt? You’ve got to be kidding me! Oh, Lord, I don’t have what it takes! There’s no way I can make it!
What do you do, when it gets so uncertain that you’re not sure? Listen to the words of assurance. And don’t listen to them like God’s speaking to Joshua, though that’s the context. But listen to how a God who cares for a regular person like you wants to literally put His arm around you, the way He did Joshua – and He gives him words of assurance. And notice, the words of assurance have three specific promises.
He says, “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you. Just as I spoke to Moses, from the wilderness, and from Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates – all the land of the Hittites – as far as the great sea, toward the setting of the sun, will be your territory.”
Joshua is scared to death. There’s uncertainty. He doesn’t know what’s going to happen. What’s God say? What’s He say? “Your future is secure. Your future is a done deal. I said it to Moses; I will fulfill it – all the same parameters. Hey, Joshua, you may be afraid, but I’m the God of the universe, and I created all this. And I’m telling you that it’s a done deal.”
We’re going to find, in a minute, that’s the very thing that Jesus would say to His disciples. And it was the source of their security. He gives them a promise about the future.
Notice the next line: “No man will be able to stand you – before you all the days of your life.” What’s that promise? One, it’s a promise about his fear of the unknown. Now, He’s addressing the fear of failure: “Hey, look, Joshua, you’re bulletproof! Trust Me. Step out. Don’t worry about the economy; don’t worry about the war. Do you need to be prudent and make wise plans? I’m with you!”
The same power that raised Christ from the dead dwells in you, as a believer. Nothing will come your way in the next thirty, sixty, or ninety days, that the Spirit of God, using the Word of God, and the body of Christ, will give you everything you need to be victorious.
“I’m with you. You’re bulletproof.” That’s what He says to Joshua. That’s what Jesus would say to His disciples.
And then, notice the final word of assurance: “No man will be able to stand before you.” That’s great. “But just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you.” You don’t have to fear being abandoned. “I will not fail you or forsake you.”
Circle the words forsake you in your notes, will you? And under it, write the words drop you – the literal Hebrew word. It’s like God taking Joshua, or God taking you, like a carton of eggs, and walking down, and there are all these stones, and you’re afraid He’s going to trip. He says, I won’t drop you. I know about your 401(k), and where it’s not, and where it isn’t. I know your fears about the future. I know what you’re thinking about the economy. I understand where the relationships are. I won’t drop you. I’m for you. I love you.
Did you notice how God spoke to this man, during uncertain times, to address his fear of the unknown, his fear of failure, and then, that final fear that scares all of us? So, what about you? Before we talk about Joshua, let’s stop just a second. What are you most afraid of?
If I asked you to turn to the front page and you looked at that list and you could even add to the list. And you could add the fear of being single the rest of your life. Or the fear that your marriage is not going to get any better. Or the fear that one of your kids that is wayward will never come back. Or the fear of the health issue that you just don’t think is ever going to… What’s your greatest fear?
If I took out one of those little pens, and I had a whiteboard, and you could walk over to the whiteboard and write down your top two fears, what would you write on the whiteboard? I want you to get that clear in your mind.
We are not about an academic exercise, where we’re here to learn how God spoke to Joshua. We are here to learn how God spoke to Joshua, because He wants to speak to you.
The Spirit of God wants to take the Word of God to give you hope, and encouragement, so that you literally will live differently – not by your power, but by His grace. Have I given you enough time? What are you most afraid about?
Because now, let’s go to the text, and find out how God specifically helps him work through his fears. He gives him a call to confidence in verses 6 through 9.
It’s one thing to get these words of assurance: “Hey, hang in there. It’s going to be okay. I’m going to be with you. Don’t worry about it. I’m for you. I’ll be with you.” But the sixty-four-dollar question in my life, and the one in your life, I think, is, how does this work? I don’t know about you, I’m going to get up very early, and I’ve got to go to work on Monday morning.
But I need to figure out how to live a life that’s characterized by the peace of God, and the power of God, and the assurance that Christ is real.
And that’s not theoretical. That’s right here in the text. Verses 6 through 9 tells you how to do it. Notice, as you scan it very quickly, there’s a phrase that’s repeated: “Be strong and courageous” – verse 6. “Be strong and courageous” – verse 8. “Be strong and courageous” – verse 9. That’s going to be our responsibility. He’s going to teach us how to be strong and courageous. “Be strong and courageous” – verse 6. Why? “For you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give to them.” You’re afraid of the unknown. I want you to know, the future is secure. You be strong, you be courageous, and I’ll take you through.
Verse 7, “Only be strong and courageous” – in case you didn’t hear me let me repeat that. “Be careful” – or, literally, “observe, look into carefully” – “to do according to all the Law” – or all the Torah – “which Moses My servant commanded you; don’t turn from it to the right or to the left.” Why? “So that you may have success wherever you go.”
Circle that little word success, lest we get the idea that He’s promising Joshua he’ll never have a problem in his life. The Hebrew word for success means, “to be prudent, and to seek God, and thus be successful in following His intent and guidance for you.”
“Success” doesn’t mean, Scripturally, that you’re never going to have a bad day, that you’re going to be healthy, that you’re going to be wealthy, and you’re going to have a nice house and a condo in L.A.
“Success” means you will discern, be strong and courageous, be careful to look into the Scriptures, listen carefully to the truth Moses gave you. So, you do it on a day-by-day, practical basis. And as you do, you will learn what the Scripture calls “wisdom,” and you will live in such a way that you will fulfill God’s purposes for your life. That’s the promise.
Now, notice, He goes on – because the question is, in my mind, where do you get the strength? We’ve all met people who have it, right? Where do you get the strength? Where do you get the courage to live out this radical, different kind of life, when everyone else is shaking in their boots?
Look at verse 8: “This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night.” Why? So that you can be a very smart Christian? No. So you can impress people with how many verses you have memorized? No. So we can put a little star on the refrigerator for all your kids that say, “This is how many verses they know, and they’ve been in Sunday school ‘x’ weeks?” No.
“This Book of the Law shall not come out of your mouth,” you should meditate, ruminate on it. Have a world view that looks at the economy, your family, your health, your possessions, and your time in such a way that you look at it biblically, through God’s perspective, so that you may – what’s the text say? What’s it say? So that you may do, so you may obey, so you may act as a follower, or believer of Yahweh so that you can live the kind of life that reflects Him. The Scripture will inform you. You take in the truth in such a way that you can obey.
And then, notice the promise: “For then” – does it say, “God will make your way prosperous”? What’s it say? “Then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” The word for prosperous here is, “to be prudent; to seek God in following His intent for your life.”
It has the idea of the power or ability to live God’s way. And then, notice, if we haven’t got it yet – in verse 9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Now, before we go on, let me just do a quick little definitional work. It’s pretty obvious that, again, there’s a promise about failure, there’s a promise of God’s presence, and there’s a promise that we’re not going to be abandoned. And whatever it revolves around, in the midst of a fallen world, you be strong, I be strong here, in a revolutionary way.
Now, let me ask you, what do you think it means to be “strong”? We’ve said those words; they’ve got to be really important. You know one of the best Bible study tools? You ready for this? I’m just going to let you in on this. Webster’s Dictionary. The word “strong” means, “the state or quality of being strong; force, power, or vigor.” It’s the power to resist strain, stress. It means being tough. It means being durable. It’s the power to resist attack. Impregnability.
God says, What I want from you is, I want you to be strong. What does “strong” mean? It means you don’t cave in, like everyone else. You don’t give in, like everyone else. You don’t read the news and run scared. It doesn’t mean you pull in your tent stakes, and say, “Oooh, I’m going to protect my money. I’m going to protect my time. I’m going to make sure my family is okay.” It means that you’re strong. You don’t give up; you don’t give in. And you say, God, in the midst of unbelievable resistance, and pressure, and stress, and fear, I will choose to do what’s right. That’s what it means to be strong.
I’ve got two young men who spent a lot of years in my house. They’re twin boys, and they’re my sons. And over the years, they both ended up lifting weights. And so, there’s a little rivalry there. And you know how I know which one is the strongest, and how they make sure the other one knows who’s the strongest? It’s really easy, isn’t it? You get a bench press out, and one of them lays down at this one, and one of them lays down at this one, and you put on two hundred fifty pounds, and then two-sixty, and then two-seventy, two-eighty, and three hundred, and whoever can overcome the resistance of gravity, to push off the weight, is the strongest one.
And that’s a good picture of what it means to be strong. You live in a fallen world where the media, and the world are telling you, “Look after you.” You’re living in a world that says, “When it gets hard, give up; find a new partner.” You’re living in a world where everyone at the high school says, “What the heck? You’re not really going to do that religious stuff?”
And God says, “You be strong. You endure. You walk with Me.” When you feel like it? Sure! But when you don’t feel like it? Absolutely!
And by the way, not only do you need to be strong, but it’s one thing to be strong, and know the right thing to do, but He says, “Be courageous.” The word courageous – ready for a definition? Very simply, it’s, “the attitude of facing and dealing with anything recognized as dangerous, difficult, or painful, instead of withdrawing from it. It’s the quality of being fearless, brave; one having valor.”
You know what God’s looking for, right now, in this turbulent world is not a bunch of Christians who go, “Ooh, ooh, ooh! What’s going to happen? What’s going to happen? What’s going to happen? I better make sure all my money’s in a safe place. I better make sure all my family’s in a safe place. I’m not going to travel. I’m not going to do this. I’m not going to do that.”
He’s looking for a group of people who understand, He’s sovereign, He’s good, He’s powerful, He has a purpose for your life – in your life, and my life – and we’re going to be difference makers. And we’re going to change the world, or we’re going to be salt that does something to flavor how people think.
And we’re going to be light that exposes fear and anxiety. And we’re not going to not do it on our own, but by the power of His Word, empowered by His Spirit, as we live in authentic community together. We are different.
And it’s not easy. And that’s why God spoke to Joshua like this. Joshua was scared to death.
Courage isn’t the absence of fear. Courage is being scared to death, and saying, “Well, I tell you what, to give the way I used to give now is a scary thing.” Sure it’s scary. And do it. “To take a stand, publicly, at a time like this is pretty scary.” Well, sure it’s scary. And then you do it. “To make Christ the number one priority in my life, in my school, in a way that lets people know it’s not about just going to church, or being religious, but it’s about what I think, and how I act with the opposite sex, what I put in my mind, and what’s important to me.” It takes courage.
See, courage is going beyond knowing what’s right, and having the sheer guts to get up, and pull the trigger, and do it. And I would daresay, without being judgmental – because we all struggle – the Church of Jesus Christ, in America, is in a courage crisis. We’ve got twenty-five percent of the population of America saying, “I’m born-again. I believe in God. I believe in His Word. I believe in Jesus.”
And we’ve got the highest divorce rates in the world, highest murder rates in the world, and the average evangelical believer gives two point five percent of their income. We’ve got a major disconnect.
You know why? We’ve got millions of people who understand, in their head, This is true, this is right, and I say I believe this. But when it gets right down to having the sheer courage to get up, and live, and speak, and align their priorities in a way that reflects Scripture, they go back to the dugout, and they never have a real at-bat.
It’s when you’re courageous that it’s risky, but it’s when you’re courageous where you see the hand of God, and the Spirit of God.
I want to spend the next portion of our time talking about: how do you experience that? How do you get that strength and how do you get that courage?
And here’s what I want to tell you.
This passage I’m teaching it and I’m down here trying to listen to me and say, God, will You help me put this into practice? Because I’m in over my head. And I’ve been gettin’ up early in the morning and talking with God and saying, Lord, what am I going to do? What am I going to do? What am I going to do? And you know what He’s saying? Trust Me. Am I with you? Yeah. “Is this my agenda or is this Yours? It’s Yours.” Okay. You know what I expect you to do Monday, Chip? What? Be strong. Okay. What does that mean? Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t whine. Don’t cry. You can cry out, but don’t cry.
And I expect you to be courageous. And I expect you with your words and with your time and with your money and your life to model what it looks like to be a courageous man of God. And tell you what, you do that, I’ll take care of the rest.
Now, the big question is: how?
God didn’t bring you in this building on this day, for just like no reason. And He didn’t bring you here so that, at the end of the day, you can say, “Well I know how God helped Joshua during an uncertain time. It’s in verses 1 through 9.”
Now, that’s fine. He brought you in this building, on this day, to speak to your heart, so that you would understand how you could be strong, and you could be courageous, so that you’d be like a spiritual salmon, swimming upstream in the wave of other Christians – particularly, an entire world – that are biting their fingernails, and mostly worried – not about what’s going to happen to the world, but what’s going to happen to them. Because at the end of the day that’s really what’s going on out there.
Let me give you three principles, where, now, we’re going to see, out of Joshua, the very things that Jesus told His disciples. And what I want to do is give you a to-go package, all right? I want to give you something that, all during the week, you can say, “This is how to be strong and courageous.”
And, by the way, as you listen, I want you to think of the whiteboard, of the one or two top fears, and I want you to go back to that whiteboard, in your mind, while I’m talking, and ask God the Holy Spirit to show you what it looks like to be strong and courageous with your fears. Okay?
With that, let me give you the three principles, three ways God gives us, from this passage, to live confident lives. That’s where we got the title. This is how you face the future with confidence.
Number one, it’s believing God’s promise for our future is the key to overcoming our fear of the unknown. It’s believing – and by that, I don’t mean “intellectually.” Believing, to the point of action, that God’s promise for our future – it will give you the power to overcome the unknown.
We get that here, in verses 3 and 4, and Jesus spoke very familiar words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” He said to the fellas, the last night He was on the earth, right? “Trust in God; trust also in Me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it weren’t so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and I will take you to be with Me that you may be where I am.”
You know, those early apostles – what was their fear? What was their fear? Wasn’t it the unknown? “How’s this going to pan out? The Romans, they’re chasing us as it is. The Jews – they’ll probably kill us.” That’s why they went and hid.
What did Jesus say, the last night? “Your future is secure. It’s a done deal.” Jesus said it over here. God said to Joshua, “Look, Joshua, yes, the Jordan is at flood stage. It’s wider than ever before. It’s deeper than ever before. It’s impossible to get across. I want you to know, on the other side, it’s a done deal.”
Here’s what God helped me see. Chip, do you believe in heaven? Oh yeah, I teach it all the time. Oh. You do? Yeah. So, if I would choose, since I’m God and I’m good and I’m sovereign and I’m in control and I love you and I always have your best, even if I would choose to take your wife home and take her to heaven, do I have the prerogative to do that? Well, yeah.
So, worst-case scenario, let’s play out the worst-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is I take your wife to be in heaven, you live out your life, I give you strength with your children, I do an amazing thing in your life, and then later on, you die and you’re with Me and you’re both with Me in heaven. Let me get this right, Chip. That’s the worst that could happen. That’s right, Lord.
Then what are you afraid about? Unless, Chip, you’re really not concerned about Me and you don’t have an eternal perspective and it’s not about Me and it’s not about heaven and you just say you believe that and it’s just a little intellectual game you play. If that’s real, it’s a done deal, right? Can you trust Me?
And when you start doing that, it produces a strength, and a courage. Until you die to this world, until you really die to this world, you’re really not worth much to God.
I remember being in China – Pastor Lam – twenty-five years in concentration camps, and then, another twenty years in prison. Seventy-eight years old. We went through backstreets – and he has an underground church of about a thousand people – and we spent some time praying and talking with him. He said, “Yeah, two nights ago, they came, and they roughed me up again. And they got in my face, and they tried to threaten me.”
And he said, “I just laughed at them. I said, ‘You put me in prison – the church grows. You put me in concentration camp – the church grows bigger and bigger. Go ahead and kill me. Watch what God does.’”
You know what Pastor Lam knows? Worst-case scenario: He’s going to heaven. You know what? I meet some Christians who think going to heaven might be just the worst thing that could ever happen. The way they prioritize their time, their money, and their focus – you would think the worst thing that could happen is they could die and spend eternity in the presence of God with Jesus. That old little hymn, “This World Is Not Our Home” – we could use it to get introduced to that, at the heart level.
And until you draw the line on that, and believe it, you will be paralyzed by fear, and you will spend all your life trying to hold on to that which, Jim Elliot said, you cannot keep, and failing to give that which you cannot lose.
The key word here is hope, and it is a biblical hope. We hope it will be sunny tomorrow. At least, I do. We hope the economy will bounce back. That’s the way Americans use the word hope. That’s a fine word. We mean, “wishful thinking.”
When the Bible uses the word hope, it is about a future event that is unchangeable, and that will happen because God said it, based on His Word, and His character. The fact that Christ is returning – biblical hope, anchor of your soul. The fact that, if you are in Christ, you can know, one hundred percent of the time, any moment, that when you die you will be with Him – that’s hope! That’s hope! That changes your perspective, and how you live.
The second key to developing strength and courage is appropriating God’s power for victory to overcome your fear of failure. We see it in verse 5, verse 7, verse 8. God said “I’ll give you power. You go into battle – no one’s going to be able stand against you.”
Did you notice how God told Joshua to learn to appropriate it? “This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth.” Do you know what He was telling him? He was giving him the means, the “how-to,” of gaining spiritual power.
See, I believe, with all my heart – because I’ve been there – that the average Christian really wants to break that habit with their tongue. The average Christian who has an addiction with alcohol, or drugs – they don’t want to do it, but they just keep going back. The average Christian who has been sucked over to porn on the Internet, and finds himself, when no one’s looking, really checking out the magazine stands as they walk out of the grocery store, or logging on late at night – they don’t want to be there.
The average Christian, who’s having all kinds of conflict in their marriage, and outbursts of anger, and just, Oh, I’m tired of living this way. They don’t want to live that way. But the average Christian does not know how God gives them the power to live the life they already possess.
Now, I found it out by an accident. Now, it’s all through Scripture – I just didn’t know about it. I was a Christian about two, two and a half years, and I came to a conclusion. Somehow, miraculously, God cleaned up my language.
I didn’t open a Bible until I was eighteen, played basketball, and baseball in high school and college. And so, I ran with a group of guys, and we talked in a certain way, and we lived in a certain way. And, wow, I just started reading the Scriptures in the morning, and at night, and God cleaned up my mouth! And I saw multiple changes, but there was one, about two and a half, three years into my faith, that I realized – I just came to the conclusion, I guess: you can’t lick this. You have it forever. And then, I got around some older Christians, and some older, Christian men, and I would poke around, to try and find out, and I realized, Huh, they’re faking it, too.
And most men, whether they’re fourteen, or twenty-four, or eighty-four, will tell you that the battle of your life, in your spiritual life, is to overcome lust. We are bombarded by the media – and it doesn’t mean we don’t love our wives, and on, and on, and on.
But I’m telling you, and I’m a Christian, and I’m in the Scriptures on a regular basis, and I don’t like what I’m thinking, and I don’t like how I’m looking at women, and I don’t like the guilt, and I don’t like the condemnation. I promise, God, I’ll never do it again, and I do it again, and on, and on, and on. And I can’t lick it.
And so, I just realized, I’ll be like all the other Christian men I’ve met, and I’ll fake it. You just be nice. You feel guilt when you pray, and there’s no sense of power, and you just live this double life.
I had my roommate going to a parachurch camp, and he was going to live on a college campus. And he had to memorize sixty verses. The Navigators’ Topical Memory System. He had to have them memorized, know them flat, cold, completely, before he could get in. And at that time, being the loving, committed, pure-motive roommate that he had, I decided, for absolutely no reason, other than if he could memorize sixty in four months, I bet I could do it in two. My motives were one hundred percent carnal: I’m going to show him up. In fact, he spent five dollars back then, and got these little cards.
And when he left the room, I took all of his cards, and I wrote down all the verses. And I thought, Two or three verses a week. Hey, I’m going to memorize one every day. And by day number four, I’d already forgotten verse number one. So, I thought, Okay, I’m going to memorize all these, and I’ll review them every single day, so I get them down cold.
Well, I had a psychology professor, who God placed in my life to really help the sanctification process bloom. He was so boring. I had almost an hour, every other day, to review my verses behind my psychology book. And so, at day twenty-eight, I had twenty-eight verses down cold – and I’ve never memorized a verse in my life.
I don’t know anything about your mind being renewed. I don’t know how God takes the Spirit, and the Word of God, plants it in your heart, and transforms your life. I don’t know any of that stuff. All I know is, I was on my way to where all the basketball players ate lunch: below the girls’ dorm. It had five or six-hundred girls in it. And we would sit, as a basketball team, and they would file by, and we’d rank them, from one to ten. And I’m ashamed of it. I mean it was just…okay?
And so, I’m on my way over to the dorm, and this verse comes to my mind. “Make no provision for the flesh.” “Make no…make…make no…make no provision…” And then, I’m sitting here, and, “Love not the world, the things that are in the world: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the boastful pride of life…”
And I decide, I’m not going to go to that dorm. And I start walking to the other cafeteria. And then, I meet this co-ed. who’s a very, very lovely, godly, committed, and beautiful girl.
And the long and the short of it is, I had about a fifteen-minute conversation. And I looked her in the eye, and I wasn’t thinking about anything else, and as we parted, God did one of those “aha.” I didn’t lust.
And I found there’s a correlation. You know how God makes you strong? It’s not by trying harder. God takes the written Word of God, by the Spirit of God, as you meditate on it, and He makes it the living Word of God, and He gives you power to think, and to act, and to love, and to respond in ways that only Jesus could if He lived inside you. And He does that by way of the Holy Spirit.
And my experience is, the reason we’re not strong and courageous is that the average believer is tipping God, when it comes to Scripture. And it’s like a little bit of this, or a little bit of that.
You must be men and women who live under the Book. And you don’t read two or three chapters, so you don’t feel guilty, and it’s not a chapter a day to keep the devil away. This is about a heart relationship, where you want to spend time with God, and you carve it out. And you get a cup of coffee, and you read, and you think, and you pray, and you pray verses back.
And you struggle in this area, and you find a promise about that area. And then, you memorize it, and then, God brings it to your mind. And He breaks the power of sin, and He changes you. And you go, Wow!
You’re transformed, because everyone who’s in Christ is – what? – a new creature. “The old things pass away. Behold, all things” – present tense, continuing – “are becoming new.” You don’t have to fail. God doesn’t want you to fail. He wants to use your life.
The first key has to do with hope; the second key has to do with faith. Biblical faith isn’t believing a set of ideas. Biblical faith is believing God to the point of acting on the truth. It’s going from believing God to acting on the truth. God’s Word says this. I don’t feel like it. I’m afraid. The implications are this, and you step out, and the moment you step out – whoo! – you get grace.
And He’ll give you courage at work. He’ll give you courage to take risks with your time. He’ll give you courage to let go of finances. He’ll allow anger issues to dissolve. Because God is looking for a people – regular, ordinary, not superstar people – who will believe that there is an unshakeable hope, and so life and death can’t touch them. People who believe that the same power that raised Christ from the dead literally dwells in them, and, by faith, they choose to live on the basis of Scripture, and they experience transforming grace.
And then, finally, if we want strength and courage, we recognize God’s presence with us is the key to overcoming this fear of abandonment. How many times, in those nine verses, did He tell Joshua, “I’m with you. I’ll be with you, like I was with Moses”?
And do you remember, in John 16, what Jesus said, remember the disciples? The very last night, what’s He say to them? “It’s better that I leave you.” Right? “Because when I go, there is another, another of the same kind – a paraclete, a comforter, the Holy Spirit.” And what’s He going to do? “He’s going to come, and He’s going to reveal all truth to you. He’s going to guide you, and He’s going to lead you.”
And back when, it used to be where, if Jesus was over by the fire, and Peter, James, and John wanted to talk with Him – if He was talking to Bartholomew, they had to wait their turn.
Jesus says, It’s going to be better. I’m going to come in and not only be with you, but by the Holy Spirit, I’m going to dwell in you. And He will reveal the truth to you, and I will guide you into all truth, 24/7, three hundred and sixty-five days out of the year.
The Spirit of God – the moment you pray to receive Christ – will come into your life, seal you with the Spirit, adopt you into His family, and He will be with you. You can pray in the car. You can pray at church. You can pray as you’re walking. You can pray during a meeting. You can talk with God every moment of every day and practice the presence of God. You will never be alone, ever again.
And once you begin to experience that, there’s strength. There’s courage. Hudson Taylor was right: God, plus even one, is a majority. And what this is really talking about is love. It’s the final key word.
Isn’t it interesting, dads – remember when you were trying to teach your kids to swim? Remember that? I did it in some not very smart ways. I had my kids get on boards that were way too high, early on. It’s a joke in our family.
But you know what I learned? I learned that if I would get them on the board, and I would jump down into the water, and say, “Come on! Honey, come on, it’s okay. Son, go ahead.” And if they could see me, even though they were fearful of the water, if they knew I was there – I’m four for four. Every one of my kids did this.
And when they did, they went under for just a second, and then, I put my arms around them. Why? I’m their dad. I love them. I will be with them always. I will never, ever leave them, or forsake them. And I’m just a human dad.
There are some of you that God is waiting for you to jump into the water of ministry, to jump into the water of impact, to jump into the water of obedience, to jump into the water of taking a high-risk adventure at work for His kingdom, to jump into the water with your heart, and your life, and your soul, and all that you have.
And here’s what He says, I’ll catch you. I’ll catch you! I love you. I’m for you. I died for you. The same power that raised Him from the dead not only dwells in you, but, “He that spared not His own Son, how will He not with Him freely give you all things?”
You see, when you have a hope that can’t change, and you live by faith that’s acting on God’s Word, and there is a God who’s all powerful, all knowing, sovereign, and you’re the object of His affection, you can be strong, regardless of your circumstances, and you can step out, when you’re scared to death. And as you do, you will meet God.
And my premise, when I think, what the truth of the Scripture is – the Lord is waiting for a generation of Christians – beginning with the person who is sitting in your seat, since you have one hundred percent control of that person’s thinking – to step out, and believe that He wants to fulfill divine purposes, first in you, and then through you.