Advance Fearlessly

The following is adapted from a talk I gave to a men’s Bible Study at a church called His Place. The topic they asked me to speak on was called Advance Fearlessly. Otherwise, it was pretty open ended. I choose Joshua 1:1-13.

It’s also a partial sequel to my previous blog Change of Command.

What does it mean to “Advance Fearlessly?” What things come to mind when you hear these words? Do you picture Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mount Everest in 1953? Or an army on the march? If I ask you all what images you have, I believe everyone has at least twenty, if not a hundred examples to share.

Sure, we could all have a great time sharing our favorite action scenes as examples of “advancing fearlessly,” but we might miss the point. In fact, there are two big questions we have to consider: “Why do we advance fearlessly?” and of course, “How do we do so?”

These two questions are linked together so tightly that you cannot talk about one without eventually talking about the other. However, the “why” naturally comes first and then the “how” because without first considering the goals, the methods become meaningless.

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: 2 “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

10 Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, 11 “Pass through the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess.’”

Recall who Joshua was. Joshua was one of the twelve spies sent into scout out Canaan after the Exodus. All twelve returned and brought back reports saying that the land was very plentiful but there were giants in the land. Ten panicked and caused the entire congregation to panic and complain about the difficulties. Joshua was one of the two who did not panic. Instead, he trusted God’s promises. For their unbelief, God condemned the old generation to wander in the desert until they all died. Eventually, even Moses dies without seeing the Promised land because of his unbelief.

The story in Joshua 1 picks up here; God is renewing his charge to Joshua and the next generation. Go and take possession of the land.

I said in the beginning that the reason for “why” we advance is just as important as how. The reason why we advance fearlessly is because we have a mission. For Joshua, God told them to go take possession of the land across the Jordan river. We too have a mission: to go into the world to preach the gospel and make disciples.

The other reason ‘why’ we can and must advance fearlessly because God IS WITH us. In Joshua 1:5 it says:  “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.”

Do you see the two parts? God’s promises are tied together: the mission and the empowerment through His presence. Think of all the things you did with your father growing up, especially the times when knowing your dad was present gave you a confidence boost. I remember vividly when I was twelve when my father made me climb up a ladder to change the light bulb on the small balcony. The balcony was not completely enclosed and you could hear the streets below. We were living in Hong Kong on the fifth floor apartment and the sixth floor balcony bottom was the fifth floor balcony roof. I remember not wanting to do it because I was afraid of falling. Nevertheless, I went and set up the ladder. He passed me the bulb and then gently shook the ladder. Not a good idea but there was a lesson; well, three lessons: 1) a properly set up folding ladder will never tip, 2) cured my fear of heights, and 3) dad is with me the whole time. I could do it and in the future, I had no more problems with heights. I could do ziplines, climb rock walls, and go to the top of the Empire State Building and look down with no fear.

How much more with God be with us when the task He has set before us is more than changing a light bulb? Therefore, we can go forward boldly because He is with us always.

But before we talk about the “how to” advance fearlessly, let’s talk about the opposite. The opposite of advancing is not retreating. Instead, it is wandering. Let me give you two examples: linguistically and from the military. To advance implies direction. Direction implies a goal. Goals imply strong desires. To wander means no direction. No direction means no goals. No goals means no strong desires. Secondly, in war, generals are always setting objectives: capture this hill so we command the roads. Once we command the roads, we can move forward to the next objective. Even retreating has purpose and direction; a unit has gone too far and can’t be supported or the enemy is too strong in this sector. The generals will pull back, gather more strength, and attack another place.

Angles of Attack, US 5th Army, Italy, 1944

Otherwise, you will end up wandering and then wOndering. Change the A with the O. The consequences of wandering is that we will end up wondering why we seem stuck or, in a dumb places like in a bar or on drugs, or worse, in jail. The Israelites did not believe in God’s promise the first time and ended up in the wilderness for forty years. They must have wondered what would have happened if they obeyed God the first time. If you are wandering away from God’s purpose in your life, do not be surprised when you start wondering how you go to where you are now. After a while, you will regret all the lost time and energy. And we’ve all regretted lost opportunities.

How can we avoid this pointless wandering? And what if we are guilty of wasting our years and missed opportunities? The times God wanted to use us for His Kingdom but we said we were too busy?

I am not here to put a guilt trip on you I am certainly guilty; there are times when I come home from work and turn on the TV or play video games instead of engaging my next door neighbors or praying or reading God’s word. However, God does not condemn us either. His Holy Spirit is not here to put a guilt trip too. In fact, as long as you are still alive, God can still use you as long as you are willing. Moses was eighty, Abram was 86 years old, and Lazarus was dead; yet God used them for His glory and purposes.

The first thing we have to do is to confess to God. Through prayer, we make ourselves available to God once more. We tell God that we are done wandering through the desert and ready to advance.

The second thing is truly embrace our calling. To do that, we have to change our priorities from the inside. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus commands us to “Seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to us.” God and his kingdom comes first and we are a distant third.

The Bible changes our inward attitudes to focus on God and his kingdom. However, we also have an outward mission to fulfill. I mentioned earlier that God has given us a mission: to preach the gospel and make disciples. Everyone is to participate in this mission if you are a believer in Christ; no exceptions. Furthermore, everyone has a personal calling that no one else can do. It comes from everyone’s sphere of influence. I naturally gravitate towards academics and am comfortable talking about history, law, and organizing data.

As you leave here tonight, know that God has placed in your hearts a special calling that no one else can do. God has also given you spiritual gifts so you can build God’s kingdom. Not only that, God expects to be with you to guide you in the use of His gifts. We have confidence in His presence and therefore we can be fearless. There is one problem; no one knows it from the outset. I mean, has anyone ever been given a handbook that tells you everything about your life from birth to death? You have to discover that calling which starts with a lifelong conversation between you and Jesus.

That does not mean that you are clueless. There is always one small tangible step. From that step becomes step two then step three and then four and so forth. If you look at verse 10-11:  “Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, “Pass through the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess.’” In this story, before they could take the land, they had to take the first step: they had to gather provisions, pack up their tents, sharpen their weapons, and do everything else it takes to move two to three million people. That was their first step. The Israelites could have been content on the east side of the river because two and a half of the twelve tribes already settled there. They could have fallen into fear again. But not this time. These Israelites under Joshua took that first step to advance fearlessly into the promised land.

For you, God has probably told you your Step One. It could be something tangible like start giving money to the church or volunteering. It could be cutting your ties to people holding you back; I don’t know your situation but you do. It could be going out to take a test on what your spiritual gifts and talents. But until you take it, you will never be able to truly advance.

Let us therefore advance fearlessly in our mission because God is always with us.

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