“Moving on with God” – message brought at PCF on Sunday 3 January 2010
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Is this the ultimate bad word for Christians?
At the start of a new year we are conscious that life has moved forward by a year. The trouble is that it is also symbolic of change happening in our lives, imperceptibly day by day. The fact is that change is here to stay in our lives whether we want it or not. How do we cope with the bewildering changes that go on all around us? Can God help us in it?
If we are honest, we would accept that most of us have an inbuilt resistance to change. The familiar, the comfortable, the unsurprising, makes us feel at home, safe and secure. The trouble is though, that God often implements change in us and around us. Somehow we have to find a balance between the two extremes of “change for change’s sake” and “ keep everything the same at all costs”.
As a church we are (as usual) in a time of change. Two elders are retiring after years of service, leaving a different leadership in place. Housegourps are being changed. And there is a new minister in place.
Does God have anyting to say to us and to help us in times of change? The answer is: “yes – he does”
We turn today to the part of the Bible in which God’s people are faced with a time of extreme change. It occurs at the death of Moses, as the Israelites find themselves on the edge of the promised land under a new leadership. The passage we will be looking at is Deuteronomy 34 and Joshua 1.
Three lessons on handling change and moving on with God come out:
1. Honour the past
The writer of the last chapter of Deuteronomy is fullsome in his praise of Moses:
Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. 12 For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
Moses was one of the great men of the Bible. Every educated person in the world .knows about the great lawgiver. It was right and fitting that the nation honoured the man who had bought them thus far.
In the same way, we honour what has passed. It is the past that has brought us to where we are now. So we thank God for those who have ministerered to us, the circumstances that God has used to shape our past.The tendancy to dismiss the past as irrelevant has to be resisted. We thank God for everyhting that he has done in our lives up to today, and we honour him by honoured those through who it has come.
2. Recognise that it’s over
God came to Joshua with a word after the death of Moses. Here it is:
“Moses my servant is dead”
Hardly a great surprise to Joshua, but a message which he and the nation had to take on board in order to move on.Whilst we honour the past we recognise that it is just that – the past! Joshua and the nation were about to experience their greatest days – but they could not do it unless they recognised that the days of Moses were over.
God understands that this is not an instant process.
The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over.
There is a dignified period of closure during which the nation came to terms with the new era. But when that time was over, it was time to move on. Similarly, we can not move on into the new day that God has for us without recognising that the past – glorious as it is – is the past.
3. Embrace the future
“Every new era has to be embraced” (Andrew Parfitt).
So now we come to it – change, the future, new circumstances. How do we react to it? The opening chapter of Joshua has some really helpful hints on how to embrace the future:
- 1. Honour the past (Deut 34)
As we have just said we thank God for and honour the past. Do we thank and honour God fo the way he has brought us.
- 2. Accept that it’s over (Josh 1 v 1-2)
The words “Moses my servant is dead” are the link between the old and the new era. Have we accepted that the past is in the past?
- 3. Look towards the future (Josh 1 v 2)
The challenge now comes for us to fix our gaze, not on what is past, but on what is ahead of us. Are we doing that?
- 4. Believe the promises of God (Josh 1 v 3-5)
The promises of God are all about what God will do in the future/ Do we take hold of the promises of God, meditate on them and look to God to fulfill them?
- 5. Be strong and courageous (Josh 1 v 6-7)
This is here for a reason. The fact is that it takes courage to look to the future. The 40 years of wandering the desert, unpleasant as they were, were at least a known quantity. The future, – well, that is unknown and scary. Moving forward with God always needs courage.
- 6. Commit your self to obedience (Josh 1 v7)
We can only expect to move forward with God if we are prepared to obey him. Are we prepared to commit ourselves to unconditional obedience to whatever God shows us?
- 7. Live in the word of God (Josh 1 v 8)
It is the word of God and our commitment to it that will keep us safe as we move forward. Are taking responsibility day by day to feed ourselves on the word of God?
- 8. Recognise that God is with you (Josh 1 v 9
Ultimately the only way we can hope to face the future is if we know that God is with us. And he has said that he will be with us exactly as He was with Moses. Are we open to the possibilities?
- 9. Support your friends (Josh 1 v.12-15)
Two tribes of the nation left their inheritance in order to help their brothers take theirs. We have to remember that the kingdom of God is not a spectator sport, nor an individual event – but a team event. Are we paart of a team or playing the game for ourselves?
- 10. Get behind your leaders (Joshua 1 v 16-18)
Joshua was only effective as a leader becaue he had the nation behind him. Are we prepared to commit ourselves to those who lead us, to love support and pray for them?
- 11. Go for it! (Josh 1 v 10-11)
Finally there is a need for God’s people, together, to say “yes – will we do this”. Are we that people?
The greatest day of the nation of Israel was about to begin. Let’s honour the past, recognise it’s over and embrace the future together.