Well..... How is everyone doing in 2021 so far...? Anyone frustrated, overwhelmed, annoyed, or disappointed yet? We're only 8 days into the new year, and nothing and everything has changed all in one week. And, there seems to be no answers to anything anyone is really wondering. Like.... will Covid restrictions continue? And, for how long? Does the vaccine really work? Will I have to get it? And.... how will our country handle a new president? Was there really fraud? And, who is going to prove it? And how? Will anyone listen? Or is our country doomed to always have fraudulent elections? How will this new line of government officials care for our freedoms? Will they listen to us? Or their agenda? Does anyone know what is going on with the media? Why do things have to be so divided? What about my kids, my family, our lives, our jobs?
So many questions... no real answers... changing times, changing seasons, changing lives, everything changing.
But, this entire week, I have been reading in Joshua (specifically chapters 14-23). In chapter 14, I read about Caleb, who, though he was 85 years old, declared himself to be fit and determined enough to conquer the land God had promised him. How could Caleb say this as an old man? Caleb declares that the Lord will be with him and that he will drive them (the Anakim) out, just as the Lord had said (vs.12).
Then, I read through these long chapters of the land specifically designated to which tribes, who possessed which lands, and their inherited allotments. At the end of chapter 21, I read this: "Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass" (21:43-45).
Finally, I read in chapters 22-23 of Joshua's charge to the eastern tribes, as well as to the leaders of Israel. He reminds them that the Lord fought for them (23:3)- that one Israelite man can put 1,000 men to flight because it is the Lord who fights for them, just as he promised (23:10).
In all that I read, I found two prevalent truths which I have found to be a great comfort and challenge to me in this rather unsteady, tumultuous start to a new year.
God fulfills every promise he makes. This makes him worthy of all my trust.
How I respond to truth #1 will determine how I will then live my life- today, tomorrow, this year, and the rest of my life.
If you noticed, Caleb could make that bold declaration about conquering land as an 85-year-old man because his faith allowed him to do so. His faith allowed him to speak without fear. Why? Because he understood his God was trustworthy. "...I shall drive them out just as the Lord said." Then, there's the beautiful verse at the end of chapter 21 which declares, "Not one word (!) of ALL THE GOOD PROMISES that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; ALL CAME TO PASS" (vs. 45, emphasis mine!). What a joyful, hope-filled verse!
Joshua's charge to the leaders of Israel came with a stipulation. In 23:6, he says, "Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left... but you shall cling to the Lord your God just as you had done to this day." He continues with the warning that if the Israelites turn back from the Lord and cling to the remnants of other nations, other gods, and so on, then those things will become a trap and a snare to them (23:12-13). He then declares to them: "...you know in your hearts and souls that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed (23:14-15).
The charge Joshua made to Israel is the same for us today. Joshua admonished the Israelites to be diligent to follow God's law and love the Lord, to cling to him, to serve him (22:5). Jesus said we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind. This means we are not clinging to other things. We are not clinging to government, to health, to jobs, to family, to money, to possessions, to behaviors, to addictions, to whatever else crowds our thinking. We cling to Christ. We hold fast to his word. How can we do this?
We can do this because we know God is trustworthy. He has fulfilled far more promises than Joshua and the Israelites saw. He has provided his word for us so we can document those promises and have a "more sure word of prophecy" (II Peter 1:19).
What have you committed to in this new year? There's so many "profitable" things one could consider when making resolutions or commitments. The frustrating thing (as we have already seen this year) is that commitments and resolutions often fail or disappoint. Whether due to lack of ability, resolve, or commitment, we nevertheless find ourselves disappointed, at the very least, with the way things "ended up".
But, what if your commitment this year promised success? What is the one who made the promise to you was completely, totally, undeniable trustworthy? Jackpot! Am I right?!?
This is what following Christ is like. His promises are always fulfilled. He promised a Savior. The Savior came. He promised his Spirit. The Spirit has come, and indwells all who call Jesus, "Lord". He promised to always be with us. He promised to supply all we need to become like Christ. He promises justice for the righteous. He promises hope for the hopeless. He gives grace to all who come to him. He promises a glorious entrance into heaven for all who diligently follow Christ. He has promised the conquering King will come- as KING! He has promised to create a new heaven and a new earth. He has promised that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus as LORD.
But, there's a stipulation. Remember Joshua's warning? "...if you turn back.... if you transgress... if you go and serve other gods...."
What have you committed to this year?
Have you committed to cling to Christ? To change to be like HIM?
Or has your mind and heart become clouded, distracted, turned back to the allure of the world?
This commitment is hard. So many things grapple for our attention. The crises facing our nation, our world. Fears for our children, our homes, our jobs. Anger at friends or family members who have hurt us. Bitterness over past circumstances. Pride about what we think we can do. Determination to "fix it all myself".
And, yet, as Joshua reminded the Israelites, we know "in our hearts and souls" that "not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you."
Our God is trustworthy.
Are you trusting him with whatever happens in 2021?
Are you trusting him with your kids? Your husband? Your parents?
Are you trusting him with our country?
Are you trusting him with your job, your home, your possessions?
Are you trusting him with your past? And your future?
Are you trusting him with relationships?
Are you trusting him to change you?
Are you trusting him with that change? And, what that change might cost?
Have you committed to Christ?
In Joshua's last address to the people, he commands them, "Now therefore, fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness" (24:14).
The first truth I shared was that God is trustworthy and worthy of all my trust. And, then, the second truth is that how I respond to truth #1 will determine how I live....
Will I respond with sincere devotion and faithfulness to God?
Or will I serve other "gods"?
The choice is mine. And, the choice is yours.
Let's make 2021 a year of commitment to Christ. To serving faithfully. To resting on every promise of his word. To trusting him with the outcome. To obeying him. To loving him. To becoming less like me and more like him.
And, may this year bring great change in our lives- and in the lives of others- because of our commitment to trust the One who never breaks his promises.
"I will stand on ev'ry promise of your word!
You are faithful to forgive that in freedom I might live-
So I'll stand on ev'ry promise of your Word!"