Tuesday, January 1, 2013

I Will Not Leave Thee

This was originally published on the Blogstream Community Church blog in December 2007. While the Blogstream site is gone, the
message is appropriate. I left the date unchanged. Substitute 2012 and you'll see that nothing has really changed.

I Will Not Leave Thee

Scriptural Background: Joshua 1- 3:1-13
Text: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 NKJV)

“that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before.” (Joshua 3:4b NKJV)

Our scripture tells of a critical time in Israel’s history.  Moses, their great leader, lawgiver, judge and intercessor was dead. They knew God had been with them as they wandered for 40 years in the wilderness wandering, but with Moses gone would God continue to be with them as they faced the challenge of entering and claiming the Promise Land.  On the eve of their great undertaking, God assured them that He would continue to be with them; that He would not leave them nor forsake them.

2007 is rapidly drawing to a close.  It has been a year that has seen a lot of bad news: The war in Iraq, rising gas prices, wildfires, senseless shootings on campuses and malls, floods and natural disasters. We all watched these stories unfold with various emotions: anger, apathy, anxiety and fear.

As God gave the promise to Israel, it comes down to believers today. He will be with us wherever we go. His grace is sufficient for all our needs. He will give us the strength we need to face tomorrow.

As the year ends, it is: A TIME OF REFLECTION.

Israel paused and reflected over the forty years in the wilderness. They could look to their leaders Joshua and Caleb and remember they were the two people who had been over twenty that were going to enter the Promise Land.
They remembered their failings, grumblings, and rebellion. They were humbled and probably asked themselves how or why God put up with them.

As the year draws to a close, we (believers) need to reflect on this year. Have we made mistakes or experienced errors in judgments?  Have we failed God?  If we have profited from our mistakes, then they weren’t in vain. 
However, there is a danger in reflecting too long on the past. We can become trapped in a despair and depression.  God has forgiven us. Sometimes we need to accept that we’ve been forgiven and realize that we experienced a life lesson that will help us be strong Christians. We need to learn and grow from the past.

Not only do we need to reflect on mistakes, we need to reflect on the blessings of God.  Israel remembered the Red Sea, manna, quail, water from the rock. They remembered God’s blessings.  We need to remember God’s grace in difficult times…the answered prayers…the angels unaware that lend helping hand or kind word when we need it.  God has been good to us. We need to reflect with an attitude of gratitude.

Not only is it a time of reflection: It is a TIME OF RENEWAL.

Israel was told to “Sanctify themselves” or consecrate themselves before their undertaking. Sanctify means to set aside in dedication and consecration to God.  A new faith or a renewed faith is built upon reflection on the past. They recalled Abraham and Moses.  They renewed their faith in a living God.  Joshua was promised as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.

Believers need to take time for spiritual renewal too.  We need to reconsecrate our lives to God.  The Bible describes us as being in spiritual warfare. Sometimes in battle our faith gets dulled a bit. Like a knife that has lost its edge, our faith needs to be rehoned by recommitting ourselves to God.  Like Israel, we can rest assured that the unknown future will be ours because of our renewed faith.

After the time of renewal, Israel has a Time of Rejoicing.

Israel reflected on their past, renewed their faith in God, and then had an old time praise service.  They praised God for His presence in the bad times as well as the good times.  They praised Him for His help and His deliverance in times of trouble. 

Likewise, we need to stop and thank God for being with us through this past year.  Paul gave us the admonitions to “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice” and “in everything give thanks”.  Too often we’re quick to ask God for help, but slow to praise and thank Him when that help comes.

Believers need to rejoice that Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary delivered us from sin’s bondage.  We need to rejoice that the empty tomb gives us the hope of eternal life.  We need to rejoice that in the midst of the storms of life that “the everlasting God is our Refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms”.  Those arms are there to uphold us and support us in life’s battles.

No one knows what the New Year will bring.  We haven’t passed this way before.  There will probably be some joyous times and some sad times…some victories and maybe some defeats.  The one thing I do know is God’s promise comes down through the ages.  “I will not leave you nor forsake you.” We can rest assured that if our trust is in the Lord that we will be triumphant whatever the New Year brings.

Shall we pray:  Heavenly Father, We pause for a moment to reflect on the things You have done for us this past year. You’ve answered prayers…You’ve helped us through trials…You’ve comforted us and dried our tears. For all these things, we lift our hearts to You and say thank You.

We stand at the brink of a new year with new challenges and concerns. Each year looks a little bleaker if we focus on the world around us. Help us renew our faith and rededicate ourselves to serving You.  Help us make a change in our homes, our community, and our world by being beacons of light in a darkened world.

Once again, we stop and praise You.  Thank You for Your love for each one of us.  Draw us close to You we pray, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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