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In the new series, Profiles in Courage, Pastor Philip explores the lives of biblical figures who exemplify God-given courage. From Genesis to Revelation, these profiles of courage will inspire us to take a stand for righteousness and unwavering faith.
Courage is not limited to a select few; it is a quality all believers must cultivate. It involves putting ourselves at risk, sacrificing comfort, and persevering in the face of opposition. It demands a firm commitment to truth and an unwavering determination to do what others cannot or will not do.
More From This Series
Well, let’s take our Bibles. Turn to Joshua 1. If you’re with us for the first time, as many of you are, we just started a series. You’re on the front end of it, so make sure you come back. We’re in a series called Profiles in Courage. I think just given where our culture’s at, given the weakness at times in the Evangelical church, given the fact that Bible prophecy tells us that things aren’t going to get easier— they’re going to get harder—we need to be men of courage, men of conviction, men of clear commitment to the gospel and biblical discipleship. And so, we have started a series last month. We wrapped up a two-part sermon on Elijah. That was a profile in courage regarding the courage to take sides. You can’t be doing the spiritual splits. You’ve got to stand up for Christ, take His side, stand for the Word of God.
This morning we’re going to come and look at Joshua and the courage to stand out and stand up and step up to whatever challenges God has set before you. I’m just going to read the opening 9 verses of Joshua 1, although we’re going to work our way through the whole chapter, God willing, here this morning. I’ve entitled the message “Time to Step Up.” Here’s what we read:
“After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: ‘Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’”
Just this week I was reading a story of a test that was being done by several British police officers hoping to make sergeant. And so, this scenario was posed to these constables seeking to be promoted to sergeant. It went something like this. Imagine you’re proceeding down the high street on your normal course of duties when out of your peripheral vision you notice a car swerve across the road and into an oncoming van. As you rush to the scene of the accident, you notice a number of things. Number one, the dazed van driver is a well-known rascal who skipped bail. The second, the driver of the said car is the wife of your station inspector; she smells of alcohol, and you notice that her tax disk is out of date.
While you’re deciding what to do, to your horror, a tanker, in seeking to avoid the accident, veers into the bank of shops. Before you know it, the tanker driver has emerged. He thinks that he has injured several people, and if that isn’t enough, he’s carrying a load of highly flammable liquid that could explode at any moment. “Will you please call for help?” The driver asks. As you’re deciding again what your priorities should be, a woman comes running down the street screaming that her little boy has fallen into the canal, and he can’t swim. So, given all of that, enumerate in order your priorities. A guy put his hand up, and he said, “Number one, remove my uniform. Number two, mingle with the crowd.” I get it, and so do you. And I use that story as an illustration of the fact that we live in a world that sooner or later will challenge our resolve and our resources.
We live in a world of various daunting demands that scream for our personal involvement. And the question before you and me this morning, as men, is will we step back, will we step aside, or will we step up and meet the moment? Like the police officer in our story, will we be tempted to mingle in the crowd, to seek anonymity, to avoid the problem? I hope not. I hope we don’t give into that temptation. I hope we don’t run, and I hope we don’t hide. I hope, with God’s help, we’ll face and conquer the challenges that life sets before us in the home, outside the home, in the church, outside the church. Face those problems bravely, wisely, and in order. In fact, I’m sure of this; I’ve thought about this all week long—that by the time I got to this service this Saturday morning, I could be sure that God has placed you in situations at home, at work, in your community, among your friends, where right now someone in your life is saying to you, “Hey, buddy, it’s time to step up.”
It’s time to step up. Up your game. You need to deliver. You need to lean in. You need to learn fast. You need to lead better. You need to love more. You need to labor harder. You see, guys, having put our hand to the plow of marriage, family, friendship, church ministry, we cannot step back. We cannot step aside. We must step up. So, that said, I want to come to Joshua 1, because here’s a classic example of the call to step up. That’s why I’ve called the message “Time to Step Up,” because that was what Joshua was facing here. He had to step up, and he had to lead the nation across the swollen, swelling river Jordan and possess the land that God had promised his forefathers. So, here’s another profile in courage. We looked at Elijah—courage to take sides. Now we’re going to look at Joshua—courage to step up and step out.
Three things: number one, the crisis; number two, the challenge; number three, the courage. Let’s try and move through these as quickly as we can.
The crisis. Chapter 1, verse 1: “After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant.” And He said, verse 2, “Arise, go over this Jordan.” It’s time, Joshua, to step up. Now, the crisis was Moses’ death, and that was a magnitude nine earthquake. It was the end of an era, an era of big and bold things. If you go back to Deuteronomy 34, look at verse 10: “But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” There was no one quite like Moses. Joshua wasn’t following a leader; he was following a legend. These were big, big shoes, size 13, he had to step into. I mean, Moses had been Israel’s security blanket for 40 years.
Moses was a great emancipator. He was the lawgiver. He was the miracle worker. He was a man of great faith and courage. He had spoken for God, and he had spoken to God face to face. Don’t forget, Joshua was his assistant. He had a ringside seat. He saw it. And, no doubt, as he looked up to Moses, he looked down on himself. And that’s the crisis. As God calls Joshua to step into the breach, he was going to face the curse of comparison. Whatever he did would be compared to what Moses did. He was going to face the negativity of nostalgia because men tend to get larger than life after their lives. And he’s going to face the fear of failure. And that’s the crisis. God expected him to step up into this moment, challenging as it was, and serve his generation by the will of God.
He wasn’t Moses, but then God didn’t expect him to be Moses. He was to move forward with this. God was God. Moses was dead, but the purposes of God were not dead. And he was to step up and into the moment in the middle of this crisis knowing that God was still God. “As I was with Moses, so shall I be with you.” God had saved him, shaped him, and now He was sending him to do, by the way, what Moses had failed to do. That’s amazing. God was going to use Joshua, Moses’ assistant, to succeed where Moses had failed. I like what Donald Campbell in his little commentary on Joshua says. In fact, he quotes William LaSor, who I think taught at Fuller many, many years ago: “God expects each generation to get up on its own feet and face its own problems. God does not want us to stand around saying, ‘Well now, look at Moses. There was a great man! We will never have another man like Moses.’ Moses is dead. Get up and face the problems of your day and your age! Arise, go over this Jordan. Do not long for the past. Do the work of the present, and God says, ‘I will be with you.’” I like that. That’s the crisis.
Here’s the challenge. And I’ve kind of given it away. The challenge was that he was to succeed where Moses had failed. Joshua was now being called by God to lead the people of God into the land and into the possession of what God had promised. Verses 2–6 tell us that. Verses 10–11 tell us that. They were to cross over; they were to possess their possessions. Joshua was to step up and turn his face toward the future. There was a bright and new day that was dawning, and it involved him leading the people of God across a swollen Jordan River, up against the city of Jericho, to possess a land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
That wasn’t going to be easy. One, because it was a time of transition. Moses’ assistant would have to become the new Moses. But it wasn’t only a time of transition; it was a context of complacency. That’s the challenge. The crisis is Moses’ death. The challenge is that the work of God had stalled. The nation had been marking time and going around in circles. You know something of the story. They’re back now on the verge of entering into the land. They’d been there 40 years earlier, but they took cold feet. They chickened out. They stepped back. They stepped aside. They didn’t step up. And remember that Joshua and Caleb had called and rallied the nation to trust God and move forward, but unbelief took root in the life of the people of God, and they stepped back. And they went around in circles for some 40 years.
Paul Powell, a Southern Baptist pastor, many years ago said this. Israel made two mistakes. The first was to send out the spies. God doesn’t appoint a committee to check out His work. Number two, their mistake was to follow the committee’s recommendation. Promised lands are never taken by committees, nor are they achieved by majority votes. It usually is a few daring people who trust God and seek His will. In fact, as I thought about that, my friend Mark Hitchcock reminded me of a story that Harold Willmington, who taught at Liberty University for many years, told him. The story was that Jerry Falwell talking to Harold Willmington one day said, “You know what, Harold? I have traveled the world. I’ve been to famous places. I’ve stood at historic sights. And I have never seen a statue to a committee.” That’s true. And that was Israel’s mistake. They went by majority vote. They followed the recommendations of a committee.
In fact, they wandered for 40 years in the wilderness. Somebody calculated that if they had gone straight from Egypt to the promised land, that was a 200-mile march. But, in unbelief, they stepped back, and for 40 years they wandered several hundred miles of desert. That calculates out at an average of 20 miles per year, a hundred yards per day. Talk about going round in circles. And that’s where we’re at here. There’s a complacency. Thirty-eight years later, the new generation comes along, and they’re now on the borders of blessing. They’re now on the edge of expansion, and Joshua must lead them bravely with audacity. He must step up and conquer the challenges. He must march forward. It’s time for the nation to step out in faith. It’s time for Joshua to step up in leadership and do what has not been done before.
Before we move on to the courage he will require to achieve that, I just want to remind you of this. When it comes to stepping up, which Joshua is being called to do in the middle of a crisis with a challenge before him . . . You know this, but it’s worth thinking out for a moment. When you’re going to step up, the first step’s always the hardest. And as God lays a challenge before you as a man to step up in terms of your sanctification—to become deeper in your walk with God, to step up in your leadership within the home, to step up in service in the local church, to step up and be a warrior in the culture—the first step’s the hardest. You’ve got to get past taking counsel from your fears. You’ve got to look beyond the challenge to the greatness of God. You get the point. The most difficult words in a term paper are the opening sentences. The most difficult hit in a football game is the first one. In confronting an errant brother, the hardest words are the first you’ll speak.
And that’s something worth remembering and worth taking on board. Like Joshua and the children of Israel crossing the swollen river Jordan, you and I have to be willing to get our feet wet. You have to take a bold step. I don’t know what that is in your life. I don’t know what you’re being asked to step up and face and conquer and do, but you need to take the first step. It’ll be bold. It’ll be frightening, maybe costly, but you’ve got to be willing to get your feet wet. When you go to Joshua 3:13, they are crossing over, right? In chapter 1, he is told to arise and cross over. But I want you to notice something: “And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap” (Josh. 3:13).
So, here they are. Imagine they’re at the river Jordan, and it’s three days later. They take three days to prepare. They rally the nation. Joshua leads them; the ark of the covenant and the priests are ahead. We’ll get back to that in a moment. But the river is swollen. It’s in full tide, and, you know what, they have to step into the river. They’ve got to get their feet wet before it starts to part. And, guys, it’s just a principle and a pattern that when you and I face our rivers, when you and I face our challenges, solutions don’t come, answers won’t be found, and rivers won’t part until we get our feet wet—until we’re willing to do something bold to step up and meet the moment.
You and I have got to take the next step. What is stopping you from taking the next step? What is it that’s making you hold back from a bold move forward? Is it the size of the task? Is it the doubting of friends and family? Is it the fear of failure? Is it the ghosts of the past? Is it the security of the familiar? There you are standing on the doorstep of some great opportunity brilliantly disguised as an impossible situation, and you’ve got to step forward as they did in Joshua 3:13–15. Heaven moves to help when we step out in faith to obey. Sanctifying yourself, which the nation did, is good, but it’s not enough. You must be willing to get your feet wet in bold action.
Some of you know our story. I grew up in Northern Ireland. June grew up in Scotland, came to Northern Ireland, and God brought us together. We were pastoring a little church in Northern Ireland. We’re going back there in a few weeks to celebrate their 50th anniversary. But when we decided to come out to The Master’s Seminary in 1994, it was a bold move, big move. June had never been to California before she arrived in California. I had at least come out like the spies and kind of scouted the place out, and I told her it was a land full of fruits and nuts.
But anyway, so we were back in Northern Ireland making a big decision, and God give us a verse to sink our spiritual teeth into. It was Proverbs 4:12. It was a paraphrase of Proverbs 4:12 that was in a book by L. B. Cowman. It’s an old, old devotional book called Streams in the Desert that my wife continues to read to this day. Proverbs 4:12 says this: “As you go, the way shall open up to you.” Now that’s a teaser, right? As you go, the doors will open, and the windows of heaven will pour out a blessing. But, until you go, until you sail up, put it all in a suitcase, jump on a plane, and go halfway around the world, you’re not going to see anything. It required action. It required commitment. It required decision. And, sure enough, as we have come, the way has opened up. Scholarship; Placerita Baptist opened up for us to pastor when we were going through The Master’s Seminary; so on and so forth. It’s a big story; it’s for another day. But I just want to encourage you to get your feet wet, guys.
That’s the crisis. That’s the challenge for what remains. Let’s get into the courage that God gives him, asks of him, as he faces the crisis of Moses’ death and the challenge of doing what Moses had never pulled off. In fact, chapter 1 is what we call a “call narrative.” There are several of them in the Bible. Ones that stand out would be Moses at the burning bush. That’s a call narrative. You’ve got Gideon in the threshing floor. That’s a call narrative. You’ve got Jeremiah. You’ve got Isaiah in the year that King Uzziah died.
And, if you look at these call narratives, there’s usually three component parts. There’s usually an encounter with God, and often it’s right in the middle of life. Moses is tending sheep. Gideon is threshing the floor. I’m telling you, guys, God calls men that are busy. God calls men that are doing life. So, there’s usually an encounter, and the encounter’s usually followed by an excuse. Moses: I can’t speak. Gideon: do you not realize I belong to the tribe that’s least among the tribes? You sure you got the right address? So on and so forth. Jeremiah is frightened by the face of man. So, there’s usually an encounter followed by an excuse that comes with an encouragement. In all of those call narratives, the encouragement was always, “But I’ll be with you.”
And that’s exactly what goes on here. God promises Joshua that He’ll be with him, and he can be of good courage. He’s told to be strong and be of good courage, verse 6, after he was told in verse 5 that “as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” He’s told to be courageous again in verse 7. He’s told to be courageous in verse 9, with the promise that God would be with him wherever he went.
So, let’s just pick out a few things that kind of feed into Joshua’s courage to step up that I hope will be an encouragement to you with whatever challenge God’s asking you to step up and face and conquer. Number one, the promise of God. Joshua’s commitment to his task was built on the bedrock of God’s commitment to the task. There could be no fear of failure because God had promised success. You’ll notice throughout this text this idea of covenant or promise or what God stated or swore to Joshua’s forefathers. You get it in verse 2: I want you to cross over to the land that I’m giving to the children of Israel. Verse 3: Every place your foot stands and will tread I will give you, as I said to Moses. Verse 6: Be strong in good courage; for this people you will divide an inheritance, which I swore to their fathers.
The theme goes on in verses 11, 13, and 15. God had made a covenant with Abraham, and there were elements to that covenant that God would bless his descendants, He would make a great nation of Abraham’s descendants who would be a blessing to other nations, and He would give them land. And that’s where we’re at here. Joshua’s faith and Joshua’s forwardness was built on the idea that God would keep covenant. Different time, different leader, different generation, but the promise still holds true. Joshua was to do what God said, knowing that God would do what He said and what He swore to the fathers. That’s a wonderful encouragement, that God will keep His promise. Wherever God’s finger points, God’s hand provides.
Let me go to Joshua 21. Write it down, verses 43–45. Dale Ralph Davis—who to me is a masterful Old Testament preacher and professor—calls this part of Joshua the jugular vein of the book. And here’s what you read, verses 43 and 44. Looking back, this is a summary of what goes on throughout the whole book: “So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand.” And here’s the verse; it’s beautiful. Verse 45: “Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken.” Not a word failed. God’s promises didn’t fall to the ground. God delivered. This is the jugular vein of the book, that God delivers on His promises. And you can step out onto the terra firma of God’s promises and step up to the moment because God promises to be with you. God promises to supply all your need. God promises that He’ll deal with your enemies.
I like what Robert Morgan in his little book The Jordan River Rules says: “The only way forward is putting your foot down and making sure it lands on a promise.” You can never claim Joshua 1:3 by standing still. What does Joshua 1:3 say? “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you.” You’ve got to get your feet wet. You have to go forward along the pathway of God’s promises.
Adoniram Judson, missionary to Burma, faced a lot of stuff—lost loved ones, health—but one of the things that kept him going, fueled his ambitions, and gave resolve to his resolve was this: “The future is as bright as the promises of God.”
So, you’ve got the promise of God, number one. Number two, you’ve got the person of God. Look at verse 5: “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so will I be . . .” Notice those words. We’ve got a little window into the character and person and nature of God: “As I was . . . I will be.”
Now, you can’t say that. You can’t say, “As I was, I will be.” You’re going to lose strength. You’re going to lose mobility. You’re going to lose eyesight. You’re going to lose hair, whatever. You’re not the same man. You can’t stay the same. We are mutable. We are human. We are frail, fractured. But what we have here is a reminder of the immutability of God. God does not go from better to worse. As I was with Moses . . . He’s gone, but I remain. And I remain in the fullness of what I’ve always been. My glory does not fade. My strength does not wilt. My will abides. What a wonderful encouragement.
Here is the promise of God’s unchanging nature made fully available to Joshua as he makes himself fully available to God. There is a fixedness about God here that is so refreshing. Remember what we said? It’s a time of transition. Moses is dead. But there’s no transition going on in heaven’s administration. God’s character abides. There’s a fixedness about God that allows us to step up during times of transition because God is not going through any transition. There’s a fixedness about God that allows us to step up to face the obstacles, the inertia of a previous generation perhaps, because we can count on God when the battle is on.
I went back over the life of G. Campbell Morgan this week. It’s a book I’d read a few years ago, and I came across a little insight that I just want to tie to this verse and move on. He was speaking about Psalm 112:7: “He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: His heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord” (KJV). We want to be men that are fixed, right? We want to be like John the Baptist. Remember what Jesus said about John? What’d you go out to see, a reed blowing in the wind? No, that’s not John. John’s fixed. John’s a man of resolve and courage and character. And G. Campbell Morgan . . . I think he’s writing here round about the time of the First World War, so we’re back aways, around 1917. Here’s what he says: “The fixed heart is the secret of courage. Courage is an affair of the heart; courage is the consciousness of the heart that is fixed. . . . What, then, shall we do in the day of frightfulness? We will do our duty, the thing that lies nearest, the thing we have to do tomorrow morning. We will do that, and do it well, and do it cheerfully. We will leave the rest to God, the sorrow, the suffering, and the issues. What this nation needs just now as much as, and perhaps more than, anything else is the multiplication of strong, quiet souls who are not afraid of evil tidings . . . even though the Zeppelins”—that’s why I think it’s the First World War. “. . . even though the Zeppelins may be coming, and [they] will not add to the panic that demoralizes, but will do their work.”
The fixed heart is the secret of courage.
Because, you see, at any point in the struggle of life, in the challenges of marriage, in the hard work of parenting, in the cost of service within the kingdom, we can keep going to a fixed place: the person of God. Malachi 3:6: “For I am the Lord, I do not change,” which means that His mercy abides, His love remains, His patience persists, His sovereignty continues, His power continues to surge. John Calvin said God is always like Himself, and you can go to Him and draw the grace necessary to step up and meet the moment.
Fixed courage is a result of a fixed heart. What about the presence of God? Well, that’s again another theme. We don’t have time to develop this. But, you can read the whole book of Joshua, and the idea that God was with Joshua goes through this book like lead through a pencil. It’s just everywhere.
I’ll give you a few examples in our text. I’ve touched on them already. Verse 5: “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” Verse 9: “The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” And this is the people speaking in verse 17: “Just as we heeded Moses in all things, so we will heed you. Only the Lord your God be with you, as He was with Moses.” The immutable God whose mercy abides, whose love continues, promises to stay with Joshua wherever he goes, as he steps up and steps out and possesses the land. I like what James Merritt says: “When God says go, He’s not sending you somewhere; He’s taking you somewhere.” He goes with you. It’s not like He pushes you out like a boat from the shore, and off you go, and God stays on the shore. “When God says go, He’s not sending you somewhere; He’s taking you somewhere.” And, as they crossed over, they enjoyed the presence of the go-ahead God.
As we talk about His presence and His companionship, just one thing stands out and strikes me. It’s the fact that God’s presence was ahead of them. Where do I get that thought? Well, go to chapter 3. Again, they’re crossing over, and here’s what we read: “Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and they set out from Acacia Grove and came to the Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they crossed over. So it was, after three days, that the officers went through the camp; and they commanded the people, saying, ‘When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it. Yet there shall be”—notice—“a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before” (Josh. 3:1–4).
That’s a beautiful little statement itself. God’s going to go with you. He’s going to take you to a place you’ve never been before. But, again, He’s not going to send you somewhere. He’s going to go with you somewhere. But I want you to notice that the ark of the covenant—which is a symbol of the presence of God among the people of God in Israel—was 2,000 cubits in front. I think my homework has yielded the idea that that’s about a half a mile. And God’s promised presence is one that is in front of us, clearing the way, lighting up the path. God is a half a mile ahead of you on the road of life at any point. He’s half an hour ahead of you. He’s half a month ahead of you. He’s half a lifetime ahead of you, just metaphorically speaking.
He’s already in the future that He’s calling you to step up into, with all of its challenges. That’s a blessing. That’s just something that’s rich, that you and I have, as I said, a go-ahead God. Life always comes to us having already come through Him. And He has planned the way, and He has provided for things along the way. Psalm 23: I will spread a table before you in the presence of your enemies. Now, often the commentators argue that the first half of that psalm you’re out in the field with the shepherd and the sheep; and then, it changes, you go inside, and you’ve got the host and the guest.
I don’t agree with that. I think it’s the shepherd and the sheep the whole way through the psalm. And so, what you’ve got in that is he prepares a table—that is, the flatlands that the shepherd takes his sheep up to at a certain time of the year. The shepherd goes into the field, and he clears out the rocks that might hobble the sheep. He digs up poisonous weeds, and he pours oil around the mouth of vipers’ nests so that they don’t come out and nip the sheep in the nose. He prepares the table. The field that will feed the sheep, he prepares. He goes into it and clears it. It’s the same with John 10:3; He goes before His sheep. And that’s a wonderful thing.
So, God’s asking me to step up. There’s a moment I’ve got to meet. I’ve never been this way before. I’m not sure I can do it. It’s challenging. It’s frightening. Hold on; I’m already there. I know the end of the story. I wrote the script. You just need to play your part.
Some years ago, I was preaching in Wagrain, Austria, at an Evangelical Baptist Missions retreat. It was a beautiful, beautiful place at the foot of the Alps. There was some of the best mountain biking in the world there. The little town nestling up in the foothills of the mountains was where the carol “Silent Night” had been written. And during one of the sessions, Dr. Paul Jackson—who was a seasoned missionary and actually the head of the Evangelical Baptist Missions—said that one time he was in a foreign country and a missionary said this to him: “Paul, I want to tell you that I have never deplaned and stepped onto foreign soil, but I found that God got there first.” When you step up and you step out and you move on, you’ll find that God got there first and has smoothed out the way and has provided for all your challenges.
The precepts of God. Go back to Joshua 1. The precepts of God. Verse 7: “Only be strong and very courageous . . . observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left.” Verse 8: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night,” and observe it, and prosperity will come, and success will be yours.
Here’s the thought. In stepping up to meet the moment, we must never step beyond the counsel of Scripture. Here, Joshua comes to see that the promise of God is guaranteeing him; the person and presence of God is guarding him; and the precepts, the law, the Word of God, is guiding him. As a leader, he must take his cue from Scripture. God blesses those who are bound to his Word. Success requires us being good students of the good book. The path of success involves keeping in step with the revealed will of God. In fact, if you read those verses again, you’ll see that when it comes to the Word of God, we’re to look it up, we’re to let it in, and we’re to live it out. And I trust that you will do that as you step up. You’re keeping in step with God’s teaching, God’s law, God’s ethics, God’s will.
I love sports movies. Hoosiers. Rudy, probably the best of all. Remember the Titans. Radio. Have you seen the movie We Are Marshall? In fact, I’ll just end with this. This will be a good place to just wrap it up. If you remember something about that movie and about that story, it’s tragic and triumphant all at the same time.
Marshall’s university football team had just lost a close game to East Carolina University, 17 to 14. The players, the staff, the coaches climbed back on the plane and the flight back to West Virginia, but they don’t make it. Friends and family are waiting. They don’t make it. The plane goes down, and everybody on board is killed: 37 football players, coaches, the team physician, booster club, parents, everybody. And the grief seems insurmountable. A cloud descends over that university and that town.
And you can imagine how hard it was for them to find a head coach. Who wants to be the head coach of a team made up of entirely freshman? But, eventually, they found a guy crazy enough to take the job. He went about the country recruiting high school seniors, and the NCAA kind of bent the rules a little, giving the Thundering Herd special permission to let freshmen play in a varsity squad. So, they’d overcome those hurdles, but here was the problem. They didn’t have a playbook, and they needed a particular playbook. The old playbook wouldn’t work. These were freshmen, and they needed a playbook that was uncomplicated and yet effective—a playbook for a team of freshmen. Where were they going to get that?
Well, someone told them that there was such a playbook, and it was being used at Western Virginia University. And so, if you remember, in the movie the coach of Marshall goes to the coach of Western Virginia and asks him to take a look at his playbook and his film. And the coach graciously does. In fact, he gives him the playbook. In fact, the coach was Bobby Biden. He was a gracious man and a kind man, and it helped Marshall transform a group of raw recruits into real players.
It’s a story with a short point. There is a playbook for life. Guys, I guarantee you right now your wife is saying, “Hey, buddy, you need to step up.” And maybe your children haven’t said it, but if you’ve got eyes to see, they’re saying to you, “Dad, you need to step up.” Your friends are asking you to step up. Your church is asking you to step up. This moment in our nation requires us to step up.
But the beauty is we step up with the playbook, and we know what the calls are and the audibles are. Whatever we face, the Word of God will help us in all things pertaining to life and godliness. And, if we’ll follow it, it’s the path to success. It’s the path to meaningful manhood. It’s the path to marriages that stand the test of time. It allows us to raise up a new generation. It allows us to conquer our challenges and cross our rivers. It’s tempting, isn’t it, to be like the police officer, take your uniform off, and mingle with the crowd. Oh my, let’s not do that. The hour is too late. The issues are too big, and the cost of defeat . . . you don’t even want to begin to imagine.
Father, thank You for this morning together. Thank You for these rousing biblical stories that are about men and women. But, for our particular focus, we see these men, men of courage, and we aspire to that. We aspire to be like Elijah. We want the courage to take sides. We don’t want to do the spiritual splits in the world and in the church. We want to stand up tall for the Lord Jesus Christ. We want to be unbending and unashamed in our commitment to the gospel. And we want to be like Joshua, this young man who had to step up and out from under the shadow of the great Moses. You put the ball at his feet, and You told him to do something that Moses hadn’t even pulled off. But, Lord, we thank You that he could stand on the promises of God—the God who keeps covenant. He could fix himself to the immutability of God and the promise of grace unending, mercy unfading, and goodness unremitting.
Lord, we thank You that You’re ahead of us. It’s not that You’re behind us pushing us. You’re ahead of us, telling us, “Come. Step up. Step up. I’ll clear the path. I’ll make the way.” You can have good success as you follow the playbook. So, Lord, make us Joshuas. The moment requires it, and the call of God within us echoes it. Bless these men. Help us to look out for each other. We thank You for this hour together this morning, sanctifying and satisfying. In Jesus’ name. Amen.