Illustration -- Diet & Donuts (New Year’s Resolutions)
Illustration – Jens Olson World Clock
I. Time is the stuff of which life is made
Every person is allotted the same amount every year:
24 hours/day – 168 hours/week -- 8784 hours/year – (leap year)
Some seem to accomplish so much -- like the athlete in training, working toward a goal. Others are lethargic, jogging in place -- going nowhere – they have the same amount of time, but so little to show.
366 days deposited -- how will you use them? -- as Dec. 31 of this year rolls around, what will you have to show? A few more paycheck stubs, gray hairs, hours logged on the TV or video game?
What about things of real substance -- investments of time and energy and dreams?
• Where will your spiritual life be in one year? -- deeper in the Word, stronger in prayer, closer to your Lord?
• Family? -- know your children better, marriage stronger, drawn your family closer to God?
• Service? -- Compare the hours spent - TV/Worship -- Do you have ministry, a vital role in the church – not only a place where you fit, but a place where you make a difference -- or a year from now will you still be a spectator?
As we stand on this side of the threshold of 2012, let me invite you to spend some time with me this morning examining our lives, and catching a vision of where we should be /can be/ where God wants us to be.
II. “Tomorrow” -- Joshua 3:1-5
Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. After three days the officers went throughout the camp, giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between you and the ark; do not go near it.” Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.”
What an exciting day -- but also filled with fear and uncertainty. There were some incredible phrases in this passage. I want to think through three of those as we think about what God was wanting them to do and what kind of people he needed them to be.
Vs. 3 - “When you see the ark… follow it” – Joshua told them to follow the ark, but what he was really telling them was to stay close to the Lord. That’s what they really needed – to keep their eyes firmly fixed on God. And just as important – to let the Lord go before them.
They had tried it their own way too many times – too many times they had relied on their own experience, wisdom, resources, power – and every time they found themselves in trouble. This time, Joshua said, follow the Lord.
Vs.4 - “Then you will know which way to go… For you have never been this way before” – He’s right you know, though I’m sure that on everyone’s mind was what happened 40 years earlier, when God had brought them a first time to the threshold of the promised land, but the faithlessness and rebellion of their parents had sent them wandering in the desert for 40 years. But this was a new day, a lesson learned, a fresh resolve to follow the Lord.
Vs. 5 - “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”
“Consecrate yourselves” Part of their problem was that they had wanted the 2nd without doing the 1st – they wanted the promise without the imperative. “Consecrate” means to commit yourself 100% to the Lord – to set yourself apart for him completely. The Potter has to have clay that is malleable in his hands in order to create a work of art. But if we will consecrate ourselves and yield ourselves…
“The Lord will do amazing things” – Life in the Lord is an incredible adventure as we see God do amazing things in us and with us and through us that we could never imagine possible. We have the advantage of being able to turn the pages and see the amazing things he would do with them – bringing down the walls of Jericho, the strategic defeat of Ai, the victory at Gibeon when the Lord hurled hailstones and made the sun stand still. God does amazing things with people who are consecrated to him.
As we stand on the threshold of a new year, a little anxious, a little excited about the year ahead, we are also stepping out into territory where we have never been before. We will experience things in the coming 12 months that will take us completely by surprise.
• Some will change jobs, some lose jobs, some will retire.
• Some will bring new babies into the world, some will have loved ones who pass away, some will experience illness themselves and undergo surgery.
• Some will move – some to bigger houses, some to other cities, some will marry and begin new homes of their own.
• Some will start school, others will finish school, some will move the last one out and have an empty nest for the first time.
This year will bring some great blessings and some terrible tragedies. And the key to it all is to “follow him” – keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, let him go before you and direct your steps. Let’s try and get a little clearer picture of what it means to follow him:
1) Root yourself firmly in God’s will
• Eph 5:10 -- “Find out what pleases the Lord”
• Eph 5:17 -- “Understand what the will of the Lord is”
• Whatever else you do/decide, place yourself humbly, totally in God’s hands. When you step out of the boat, don’t take your eyes off of him. When you set your foot in the water, don’t look down/back.
2) Establish God centered priorities
• When God gave commandments – they were not arbitrary prohibitions, but specifically focused on creating a people who would honor him –this is how to be God’s people – this is what my people look like.
• The same thing is true of the priorities we set in our lives.
• When you decide what is most important, what you really want most in life -- you have a perspective from which to judge demands on your time, energy, finances, resources – you cannot say yes to one thing without saying no to something else. When you have no priorities – you will be tyrannized by the urgent, while the important lies neglected.
o Can’t stay up late Sat pm and expect to wake up early, ready and refreshed to go to church.
o Can’t wait until Sun am to decide whether you'll go to church that morning
o Can’t open your wallet during communion to see what’s left over to give to God.
o Can’t spend every weekend out of town traveling and vacationing and camping and expect to be vitally involved in the work here.
• Life is a series of choices where we display our priorities and values. A person who doesn’t have time to come to Bible study and worship, who always seems to have conflicts that interfere with church – it’s not a problem of time or scheduling – won’t be solved by an appt. calendar or an extra day in the week – it is a problem of the heart. When God told his people “love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength” – they were sitting on the eastern shore of the Jordan looking across the river into the promised land. God knew what they needed most. This is it.
3) Set goals for your spiritual growth -- a road map for getting to where you want to end up.
• It’s funny - we set financial/ diet/career/ academic/ athletic goals – but not spiritual? If you aim at nothing, you are sure to hit it.
• Not enough to say “I want to grow spiritually, be a better Christian,” you have to be specific -- set goals for:
o Bible reading – Life Journal
o Giving – In Malachi 3, God challenges his people to be faithful in their tithes and offerings, and then makes a promise to them – “Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” Mal. 3:10
• Set goals that are demanding, realistic, attainable
4) Look ahead – not a month or year, but a lifetime
• The Jordan river blocked their path – Jericho was insurmountable
• Some start out with enthusiasm and energy, but meet obstacles, find it hard to follow through, get discouraged, and finally abandon their goals. (We are basically impatient – we want it now!)
• Can’t be a short burn/quick sprint – we need to find the motivation to follow through for a lifetime – run hard, finish strong.
Status Quo (Marshall Keeble – Latin for the mess we’s in)-- 40 years in wilderness -- a rut we’ve been traveling so long, it’s begun to feel comfortable, normal -- filled with apathy and discontent, with complacency and critical spirit.
• I am excited about what the Lord is doing among us! There are so many of you who are dedicated servants, hungry for the word, prayer warriors, gifted in so many ways. I see God working in you. I think of what God can do through each of you and all of us in this coming year.
• The evening before, Joshua stood on shore of Jordan -- thought back 40 years earlier -- 12 spies /frightening report /lost faith in what God was able to do. Tonight, he looked across the Jordan to a land where God was going to lead them and bless them – “Tomorrow, the Lord will do amazing things among you.”
• That was God’s message to Israelites -- to the Glenwood church it is the same -- “The Lord will do amazing things among you.”
Posted on Sun, January 1, 2012
by John Roberts