“On The Banks Of The Promised Land” (Joshua 1:1-9 sermon)

I am so excited to share God’s word with our new church family this morning. As I thought and prayed about what to preach, SO many things came to mind. I found myself wishing I could share dozens of different messages with you today. How much time do we have?

But as I thought and prayed, one passage of scripture kept coming to the forefront: Joshua 1:1-9, where God speaks to Joshua and the people of Israel as they sit ready to go into the Land God has promised to them. I feel like that is just where we are as a church, both physically, and spiritually. So let’s see what God’s word is to a people like us: “On The Banks Of The Promised Land.”
I. God’s Transition

This great book begins in :1-2, “Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, ‘Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel.”

We see in the opening lines of this Book of Joshua, a transition has occurred: Moses had brought the people of Israel out of Egypt, brought them to the brink of the Promised Land — but they turned back, so they had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, and now they were finally ready to go in — but if you look back at the last chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses went up to Mount Nebo, and saw all the land, but he died there. He did not get to go into the Promised Land. So here God tells Joshua, Moses is dead. Now YOU (Joshua) take this people to the Promised Land. God had brought about a transition that had taken place in their leadership.

And we are in a time very similar to that today, aren’t? Pastor Rodney led this people for 24 years and cast a great vision for taking this church to a “promised land” of sorts — a new property of over 30 acres out on the highway. But Pastor Rodney has retired, and like Moses he will not finish leading this church there. The school is over there already, but the church is not there yet. So now, God has transitioned this church, to a new full time pastor to lead this church, who would be ME!

And I have to say: you all have been SO affirming of God’s leadership in bringing us here, and in trusting that I am the one God has called. In fact, Cheryl & I have talked about this numerous times over the past several weeks, since we have been called to First Baptist Angleton, and have been making preparations to come. We have served some VERY good churches and many very sweet folks in over 30 years of pastoral ministry. But we have never been anticipated or welcomed initially like we have been here at Angleton. We have never had so many people call, or text, or post Facebook messages, or offer us a place to stay, or give us food, or offer help, or encouragement, like we have before we ever arrived here. It has just been amazing. There has been such a sense of expectation; people are saying: “We can’t wait for you to get here; we know God’s going to do something great!” But I’ve got to tell you, it’s also very humbling. The other night when we were still in North Carolina, and we’d had yet another expression of love or anticipation from some of you, Cheryl & I just looked at each other, and I said to her: “They do know it’s just US coming, right?”

The thing is, it’s not about who the man is, is it? I mean, it says here that Joshua was Moses’ servant. This was not about who Joshua was; it wasn’t about who Moses was. It was about who GOD was. And in the same way, this isn’t about how great I am. I am just a servant of God. Our hope that God is going to do something great here at Angleton is not based on me, it is not based on Bro. Rodney; it’s not based on the people; it is based on GOD!

Let’s be clear: I’m not somehow bringing God to Angleton in my back pocket. God doesn’t fit in anybody’s back pocket! God has already been here; God has already been at work. God has already done some amazing things — and I believe God is going to CONTINUE the good things He has already started. For whatever His reason, He has chosen me to be the pastor in this transition. I am thankful for it; and I am humbled by it; and I know only God can do the things that need to be done here. But I believe that God can and that God will. Because He is the God who works in these transition times.

AND it is not only in “church” transition times that God works. God is a God of all kinds of transitions, and we need to trust Him to work in all the different transition times in our personal lives as well.

Some of you find yourself right ow in a time of transition in your life; in your job; in your family; in any number of areas. Look to God in your transitions.

We are having to trust God with some family issues in our transition. People are asking, “What is your son Michael going to do?” Michael is in his second year at North Greenville (Baptist) University about an hour and a half from where we lived in North Carolina. And a lot of people have assumed that Michael was going to move with us. But he isn’t. He is very connected at NGU; he has some great scholarships; and he has several professors who have really taken him under their wing and are mentoring him, and he doesn’t want to leave there, and I understand that and I don’t expect him to. But Cheryl & I are going to be over 1000 miles away from our “baby,” and that is a little bit difficult. It is one thing to be 90 minutes away; that’s a good manageable distance. But 1000 miles away; that is another thing. But you know what? This is a transition time in Michael’s life, and in our relationship with him, and we need to trust the “God of transitions,” that He has plans for Michael, and that He is working in his life, and He is going to grow and mature him through this. We have to trust God in this transition time.

And maybe you are going through some transitions in your life, or your family’s life. And God is saying to you today that you need to trust Him in this time. Maybe there’s something going on in your family that isn’t the direction you expected or wanted, but God is working, and you need to trust Him in this transition.

OR maybe it’s not your family; maybe it’s your job, or your health, or your personal ministry for God or some other area of your life that is in a transition. Listen: things will not always stay the same. Things change. BUT OUR GOD IS ALWAYS THE SAME. He is always on His throne, He is always there to help us; He always has a plan for these transition times. He is the God of the transition. So trust that He has a plan, not only for this church, but also for the transitions in your own life and family as well.
II. God’s Promise

Not only did God select a new leader during this transition, He gave this leader and His people some of the most amazing promises:
— Look at :3, “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses.”
— Then He said in :5, “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you nor forsake you.”
— And then :6 “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.”

These are amazing and powerful promises that God gave Joshua and Israel. And yes, they were specifically for the taking of the Promised Land by Israel. But these are examples of the kinds of promises that God makes to His people, of what He can do through them if they will follow His lead.
I am not Joshua. And you all are not “Israel” per se. But I really do believe God has put us in a similar position to Joshua and Israel, and that there is a boldness we can have in Christ for His kingdom work, because of the promises that He has given us in His word:

— The first and most important promise He has given us is that “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” We ALL need that promise. See, God designed us to know Him and to have fellowship with Him in heaven forever. But we ruined that with our sin. Had God not done something for us, none of us would have ever seen heaven. But God DID do something for us: He Himself came down to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ. He died on the cross and paid for our sins, so that if we would repent of our sins, we could be forgiven, and reconciled with God, and live with Him in heaven forever. And who is that for? “WHOEVER.” “WHOEVER will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” If you are here this morning, but you have never called on the Lord to save you, ask Him to do that right now. Admit your sin. Be willing to turn away from it as He helps you. And ask Jesus to forgive you and come into your life, and help you follow Him from this day forward. And be bold enough to claim this promise: “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” If you are bold enough to claim this promise, He will fulfill that promise, and He will save you!

That’s the first promise we all need to claim. But there are other promises He has given us as His people:

— One of them is the promise Jesus gave us in the Great Commission, when He said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” That is an amazing promise: that He will be with us “always.” We should quote that often; and rely on it. He will be with us. What a difference it makes that God is with us! But notice the context of the promise: He just told us there in Matthew 28 to go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to observe everything that He commanded us. So He says, I will be with you always — that’s a great promise. But He says, YOUR part is to be bold enough to go into the world and share the gospel.

See, God has great promises, but we have to be bold enough to take Him up on them:
— He says, Go, and I’ll be with you wherever you go.
— He says, “Ask, and it will be given to you.”
— He says things like “wherever you are bold enough to put the sole of your foot, I will give it to you”!
God will do great things for us if we are bold enough to take Him up on His promises.

NOW: in case you may think I’m beginning to sounding like a preacher from up the road in Houston, who preaches the “health, wealth, and prosperity gospel,” I think there is an important clarification here. This is not a “name it and claim it” promise for anything in this world that you want. These promises aren’t for a new car, or house, or riches, but for the Kingdom of God. That is what God is concerned about.

Cheryl & I each drove a car alone on the way down here, so we had a lot of time to think on the way. One of the thoughts that crossed my mind on that drive was that we had virtually none of our possessions with us on this trip; just what we could fit in two small cars. Most of our things are still in our house in North Carolina, and they will be moved after we close on the house here March 8th (Lord willing). And I thought, what if someone breaks into the house while we are gone and steals everything? What if a fire breaks out, and burns it all up? But you know what? I thought; it doesn’t really matter. Those things we have back there are not what our life is about.
My life is about my relationship with God; about my relationship with my wife and kids and grandkids; and my church family. My life is about what God is doing in my character spiritually; and advancing His Kingdom. And that has nothing to do with all those possessions.

See, that’s what God cares about; that’s what His promises are really all about. God’s promises are not about making us rich financially or helping us accumulate a lot of possessions. God is about shaping our character, and advancing His kingdom in this world. And THAT is what His promises are about: His kingdom in the world; His will in our lives spiritually.

And I really do believe that God will bless us in amazing ways, in our character, and in His kingdom work, wherever we step out in faith on His word. THAT is what He is promising to bless. Not our material wealth, but His kingdom work. There is a big difference. We can be confident that God wants to glorify His name, advance His kingdom, and do His will. And we can and should be bold about we do for His kingdom. “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads …”. I really believe that there is a sense that whatever we are bold enough to go for in ministry, He will bless:
— who are we bold enough to witness to?
— what are we bold enough to pray for?
— what ministry are we bold enough to start?
— what mission are we bold enough to go on?
— and yes, what building are we bold enough and sacrificial enough and committed enough to go and build ….

Now, do people sometimes cross the line between faith & foolishness? Sure. But I think most of us tend to fall short in the other direction. We aren’t bold enough. We stay cowered up in our little corner. And God’s calling us out of our little corner into our world to impact it for Him. I believe He’s saying to us like He said to Joshua & Israel that day: Be bold in what He has called us to do. Step out in His Kingdom work. And every place that we are bold enough to go, He will be faithful to bless. But our responsibility is to be bold enough to take Him up on His promises — and to do one more thing He shows us here …
III. God’s Condition

Something important we need to see here is that these promises God made come with conditions. God was not just going to give all that to them no matter what they did. He said in :7 “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to DO according to all the Law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, SO THAT you may have success wherever you go.”

Then He said in :8, “This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may e careful to DO according to all that is written in it; for THEN you will make your way prosperous, and THEN you will have success.”
See, God gave Joshua and His people some great promises — but He also gave them some important conditions: He said you’ve got to be courageous — and you’ve got to build your life on My word. His word has to be the foundation of your life. That is so important.

We have just LOVED staying down by the beach this week; we are so grateful for the opportunity to be down there. Our first morning there, Thursday, I got up early and had my Bible reading and prayer time, and then I did a few exercises on the porch, facing the Gulf, and then I walked down to the beach. At first I was just going to walk around for a bit, and then I thought: “Hey, I have on shorts, and my running shoes — I am just going to go ahead and run on the beach!” So I did. And it was SO invigorating. Just running, with the sand crunching and giving way underfoot, just watching the waves come in as I ran. It was SO nice. And I didn’t really know where I was going, but I had a good landmark: right in front on the spot on the beach where the house is, a retired couple had parked their RV, so I decided to run down the beach for about a mile, and then run back and I’d know where to stop, at that RV. So I ran down, timed what would be about a mile, then turned around and headed back. I could see the RV in the distance, so I knew that is what I was shooting for. So I continued to run, and watch the ocean, and every so often I would look at the RV, to see how much farther I had to go. Well … unbeknownst to me, while I was running, the couple in the RV decided to leave. But I didn’t see them go; I was watching the ocean. And when I looked back, I could still see an RV way down the beach — it was farther than I remembered, but I thought, well, whatever … so I kept running, and running, and I looked at my watch, and I was like, “Seems like I should be DONE by now!” And when I finally got to that RV, I saw: it wasn’t the one I had seen before! Those folks must have left! So I walked out to the road, and looked down the street, and I could see the beach house where we are staying way down the road, so I shook my head and started walking back all that way.

But while I was walking, I thought: you know, THIS is exactly the way a lot of people live their lives. They are basing their lives on things that are always changing. They’re making decisions based on popular opinions, which change every day. They’re basing their lives on the latest “talk show” advice, or whatever. And just like me with that RV, that advice is always changing. And that’s no way to live a life. It’s building your life on shifting sand. There is no sure, unchanging foundation.

And that is what the word of God gives us. God’s word is an “anchor” for our soul that we can build our lives on that will not change. Isaiah says the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of God abides forever. It does not change. And if we will build our lives on His word, we will have a sure foundation for our lives that will always be there, and will always be solid, unchanging, dependable, and sure.

That’s why God says here in :8, “This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to DO according to all that is written in it; for THEN you will make your way prosperous, and THEN you will have success.”

God says, I have great promises for what I will do for you: for you personally, for your family, and I believe also for this church. But He says, here is an important condition: YOU’VE GOT TO BASE YOUR LIFE ON THIS WORD! Do not let it depart from your mouth. In other words, let it impact everything you do. Notice He says: meditate on it, “SO THAT you may be careful to DO according to all that is written in it, for THEN you will make your way prosperous, and THEN you will have success.” What is the condition for you to be prosperous and have success? Build your life around the unchanging landmark of the word of God, and DO IT!

See, this is the problem with a lot of so-called “Christians,” who attend church in America these days. They go to church, and they may even read or study their Bibles, but they aren’t really putting it into practice in their every day life.
— Remember James said don’t just be a “hearer” of the word, but a “doer” of it. He says it is only the DOER of God’s word who will be blessed.
See I “knew” that going for that run last Thursday would be good for me, but it wasn’t really going to benefit me unless I actually DID it. And it’s the same with God’s word. SO many Christians go to church, and hear the word, and study it in Bible study, and maybe even memorize it or talk about it — but they aren’t really DOING it. And it is only DOING God’s word that will impact our lives, and our families, and our community.

Are you really DOING God’s word? One good way to tell is to ask yourself: When is the last time you did something differently than what you were going to do, because of something you read in God’s word? You were going to decide one thing; you were going to say one thing; you were going to do one thing; you had a certain attitude or whatever — but you changed because of what you read in the scripture. See, that is the impact that God’s word is supposed to have in our lives: when we read His word, or hear His word, with God’s help we are supposed do DO it, and it will change our lives.

But listen:
— our lives and our families are not going to be changed just because we “go to church.”
— our Communty is not going to be impacted just because we put a new building up on the highway.
— but our lives and our families and our community WILL be changed; they will see what the promises and power of God Almighty can do, if we will boldly take God up His promises, and DO this word that He gave us!

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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4 Responses to “On The Banks Of The Promised Land” (Joshua 1:1-9 sermon)

  1. Alan Brown says:

    Great message, Shawn. I did get tickled about the RV you used as a landmark moving on you. Continue to pray for you and Cheryl and that things would just go great at FBC-Angleton.

  2. Shawn Thomas says:

    Thank you so much Alan. And I’ll be praying for you every week also! (And speaking of getting tickled, there is one particularly humbling story about you I may just have to share in a message one of these days … 🙂

  3. Shade Ajayi says:

    I’m reading this at 1.56am in Nigeria and I thank God for this. I periodically read your writing and have come to love them. This one is as though written just for me. I’m in a transition. The Lord has been calling me for service and looks like my life will be upturned by this especially with my work. But I’m tired of disobeying as this causes me so much grief. I’m just going to trust God in this new season of my life as I walk closer with him. God bless you pastor.

    • Shawn Thomas says:

      Wow, how amazing, and what a blessing, that the Lord can speak to you halfway around the world through a message I preached here Sunday! I am so grateful for the attitudes of faith and surrender I am hearing from you. If God is calling you, it will be worth whatever will be upturned. My wife Cheryl & I have compared our recent move from a state and a church in which we were very happy, to follow this recent call, to be like “stepping off a cliff, believing that God was going to catch us”! And of course we have seen Him catch us, and we know He will continue to do so. God bless you as you follow His leadership in your life! Keep in touch!

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