In the New Testament the Acts of the Apostles should best be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament the story of Joshua and the Israelites conquering the promised land could equally be called
The Acts of The Mighty Hand of God
Crossing the Jordan to enter the promised land
Joshua 3:14 ¶ So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is in flood all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho.
So we learn that in the uncrossable Jordan’s in our own lives, the insurmountable barriers to blessing we all encounter – God WILL give us the victory.
The “battle” of Jericho.
Joshua 6:16 The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city! … 20 When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.
In breaking down the barriers to blessing, in sharing the gospel in a God-rejecting world – we learn that the battle belongs to the Lord!
This week we see again it is GOD who gives the victory! Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!
10:8 The LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.” . 10 The LORD threw them into confusion before Israel, who defeated them in a great victory at Gibeon. 11 … the LORD hurled large hailstones down on them from the sky, and more of them died from the hailstones than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.
12 On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: “O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
13 So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. 14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!
The sun stood still! Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!
The Acts of the Mighty Hand of God BUT one point we must never forget
We still have to fight the battle
Some people believe that because Christ has won the victory on the cross, because Christ has defeated sin and death and the devil, then they think that Christians don’t have to do anything except sit back and enjoy the blessings Christ has won for us. They think that because victory is assured, which it true, then victory will be effortless on our part, and that is false!
In his book on the story of Joshua, Alan Redpath wrote this.
“Strange paradox as it may seem to some, nevertheless it is eternally true that the land of full blessing is a land of intensive warfare. We have to learn to conquer and then we have to learn to possess all that is ours in our Risen Lord.”
There are TWO keys to blessing and victory we have seen time and again in the books of Joshua. Not only faith but ALSO obedience. Trust AND obey! The Jordan only stopped flowing and the waters piled up in a heap when the priests actually dipped their toes in the river. The walls of Jericho did not come tumbling down until the Israelites had marched around them 13 times. Even in tonight’s story God did not begin to fight for Israel until, at God’s command, Joshua led his people out to battle.
In living a victorious Christian life, we will always have our part to play! Phil 2:12
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed- not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence- continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
Not just “Let go let God!” But human effort and the Holy Spirit as CO-WORKERS
In prayer, worship, witnessing, serving others, we must play our part!
In the battle we each face against temptation, we have our part to play!
1 Cor 10:11-13 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
In 1346, during the Hundred Years’ War, the English army of King Edward III met a French battalion at Crecy, France. The King’s Son, Prince Edward, led one vital division of the British force while Edward III stood nearby with a strong band of soldiers, ready to send relief if he saw the need. Soon after the battle started the prince thought he was in danger, so he sent for help. But the king didn’t come. So young Edward sent another message, pleading for immediate assistance. His father responded by telling the courier, “Go tell my son that I am not so inexperienced a commander as not to know when help is needed, nor so careless a father as not to send it.”
God promises the help, but we have to accept that help! God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. God promises the victory – but we have an obligation to claim the promise by faith and act on it!
Then in the spiritual battles we all face as Christians, we have our part to play!
Ephesians 6 – there’s a war on!
10 ¶ Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
We have to put on the armour of God. We have to take our stand against evil – and stand firm. In all these things we do not just sit back and enjoy life and do nothing. The blessings God promises are ours to claim – but they do not come to us without effort on our part. In the battles to fight against the world the flesh and the devil, we must play our part!
God could have destroyed Israel’s enemies immediately without them doing anything? Why didn’t He? Why the sun standing still in the sky?
Partly to mark THIS victory over King of JERUSALEM – because of place Jerusalem would have in God’s purposes.
More important, to teach us the
Need for Perseverance
God’s grace gave all the time and energy needed to vanquish and bring judgement on God’s enemies. ALL night march then TWO DAY battle in one day!!
God even stretched time so victory could be won!!
Sometimes in our own experience – so many things to do, or deadlines to meet – seemingly impossible but by God’s grace we end up achieving everything he wants us to accomplish.
BUT these victories will not come without any effort on our part. We need to step out in faith, to WORK in our service and our witnessing, until the task is completed.
A wise man once said “We are judged by what we finish, not by what we start.”
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Perseverance! “I never stopped trying. And I never tried stopping.” (Dolly Parton)
Put another way – “Triumph only comes when we put a lot of umph into what we try.”
1 Timothy 4:16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
We shouldn’t expect miracles immediately in everything we do. We need to learn to persevere! It is said that Beethoven rewrote each bar of his music at least a dozen times. No wonder it’s so good! Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment,” is one of the greatest paintings ever. That’s because not just because he was talented, but because he produced more than 2,000 sketches during the eight years it took him to complete that masterpiece.
Let’s not forget that God calls Christians to stand firm especially under trials and persecutions.
James 1:12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
We know very little of this compared to other churches around the world. On one visit to Bulgaria I had the privilege of preaching in the largest Baptist Church in Bulgaria in the capital city of Sofia. I met its pastor,Teddy Opranov, General Secretary of Baptist Union of Bulgaria. Members of his family spent years in prison for their faith! Like many Christians in many parts of the world, these brothers and sisters have learned to stand firm!
And if there’s one more part of the Christian life where we all need to learn perseverance, then that is in prayer! Jesus’s parable of the persistent widow encourages us to persevere in prayer and never give up asking God for the things we care about.
This story of Joshua is actually a story about the power of prayer!
Joshua 10:13… The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. 14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man.
Last year in Colossians we learned that that prayer is both the means to Christian maturity and the measure of Christian maturity. So Paul commands, Devote yourselves to prayer, continue steadfastly in prayer! We thought about wrestling in prayer, and the examples of Epaphras and of Paul.
Col 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.
Prayer does not enable us to do a greater work for God. Prayer IS a greater work for God! Col 1:28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 To this end I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
Paul’s example is of hard work in evangelism and preaching AND in praying for others! Wrestling in prayer – persevering until God answers and gives the blessings!
We work and we pray in the strength that God supplies. We rely on God and not our own human efforts to complete the tasks he gives us to do. But still we need to play our part – to persevere!
For many athletes the Olympic Games were the peak of their careers – the competition they trained for and made great sacrifices for over many years. God calls us to give just as much time and effort to our Christian faith! In witnessing, in service, in victory over temptation, in spiritual warfare, the Battle belongs to the Lord. We WILL be victorious by the Mighty Hand of God. But the blessings do not come automatically. We need to claim them, to play our part at working for them, and to persevere!
2Pe 1:5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is short-sighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall,
Prayer of Sir Francis Drake
0 Lord God, when thou givest to thy servants to endeavour any great matter,
grant us also to know that it is not the beginning,
but the continuing of the same unto the end,
until it be thoroughly fininshed, which yieldeth the true glory:
through him who for the finishing of thy work laid down his life,
our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen.