Last week, we talked about building great attitudes for the New year.
We said that attitude is everything.
Attitude is more important than facts, than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances.
We cannot change the past but we can change the way we react to difficult situations.
And so, if we want to accomplish great things this New year, we had to start building great attitudes that will last a lifetime.
And we have learned three important things from the life of Caleb last week regarding how he reaffirmed his past, how he redeemed the present and how he refocused on the future.
Because of his great attitude, he remained vigorous even through he was already 85 years old but he said he was still capable of fighting the giants of the land.
Imagine, because of his great attitude, he remained energetic and healthy after many years.
My prayer is that we will all start with a great attitude this year wherever we are and we will carry it on for the rest of our lives.
As we continue our study in the book of Joshua, we find chapters 15 - 21 to be the time when Joshua was allocating the Promised Land to the twelve tribes of Israel.
Many of them have been exhausted already fighting the long battle to drive out the giants that had previously occupied the land.
But God had promised that the land of Canaan was to be the inheritance for Israel.
But taking possession of the land would not be that easy.
Israel had to learn to fight the battles and endure to the very end.
There will also be casualties and lessons learned.
They will be tested severely and learn to trust God completely.
So far, in this chapter, they have conquered a good portion of the territory.
And although there are still a lot of land still to be conquered, yet Joshua decided it is time to allocate and divide the land that they have possessed to the various tribes of Israel.
Joshua had to make sure that the land is properly occupied and developed.
Everyone who had been in the battle must be given their fair share of the spoils of the land.
And so, this is how Joshua divided the Promised Land to all the twelve tribes of Israel.
In Genesis 35:23-26, we find the names of Jacob's sons (next slide) - Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan, Napthali, Gad and Asher - twelve in all.
However, as we go through the Book of Joshua, we find the distribution of the land to these twelve tribes - Reuben, Gad, Judah, Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin, Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan - again, twelve in all.
Have you noticed that there is no mention of the tribes of Levi and Joseph?
What happened to both of them?
Why were they not in the list of those tribes given an inheritance?
Here is how the Bible answered.
The Levites were not given an inheritance of the land because they were priests and they were to serve the Lord in the temple regularly.
They interceded in behalf of the people and they delivered God's message to the people.
The Lord therefore is their inheritance and so, the Lord is the one who will provide for all their needs.
Joshua 13:14 (NIV) 14 But to the tribe of Levi he gave no inheritance, since the food offerings presented to the Lord, the God of Israel, are their inheritance, as he promised them."
As the people remained faithful in giving their tithes and offerings to the altar, the work of the Lord and these Levites would be properly provided for.
In fact, they will not be in need.
In return for their faithfulness, the Lord has promised to bless the other tribes in their designated lands because of their obedience to the Lord's command.
As for Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob who delivered his family from the great famine in Egypt,
We remember that he had been sold by his brothers as a slave to a merchant in Egypt.
But he remained faithful to the Lord even in the foreign land.
He overcame his bitterness and God promoted him and promised to bless his descendants.
Joseph had two sons - Manasseh and Ephraim.
Consequently, they were given the best of the land and eventually became not one but two tribes.
Joshua 14:4 4 for Joseph’s descendants had become two tribes—Manasseh and Ephraim. The Levites received no share of the land but only towns to live in, with pasture lands for their flocks and herds."
With these facts in mind, the number of the tribes of Israel goes back to the original twelve again.
And so, after each tribe had received their particular share of blessings, the Lord was very particular in checking to see how they used their corresponding blessings.
Are they faithful?
He wanted to know whether they have been faithful to God who gave them these blessings.
When their dreams have come true and they were finally able to occupy the land, will they give glory to God and remain faithful unto the end?
Will they remain true to their calling?
Or now that they are richly blessed and comfortable in their homes, must they forget the Lord?
That is a great temptation that every one is going through even today.
May God forbid that we will forget the Lord when God has blessed us tremendously in the past.
Because sometimes, material blessings can blind us to the very purposes that God has called us in this world.
Blessings can either inspire us to love Him more or blessings can separate us from our true calling.
For instance, many of us want to have more money this year.
But here is the truth you need to remember.
If you are not ready how to handle the finances that God has given you right now, you will find yourself in great difficulty handling when God will give you more.
If you are not willing to give the tithes from the $1,000 income that you receive in the present, how will God give you $10,000 or $100,000 in the future?
If you are faithful in small things, you will be faithful in much.
Luke 16:11 (NIV) " 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?"
If you are not faithful in small things, you will not be faithful in much.
It's that simple.
It is all about the attitude of faithfulness.
And God sees everything and He is reckoning us with our money.
And so, as we continue our study on the Book of Joshua, we will learn three important lessons from chapter 22 regarding what he said to the three tribes of Israel.
We will look at the nature of faithfulness.
The Extent of faithfulness and the Reward for faithfulness.
May the Lord develop in us the attitude of faithfulness as we start this New year of 2016.
1. THE NATURE OF FAITHFULNESS.
WHERE DOES FAITHFULNESS COME FROM?
FAITHFULNESS COMES FROM GOD'S WORD.
THE MORE WE STUDY GOD'S WORD, THE MORE WE CAN ACCOMPLISH ALL THAT THE LORD HAS COMMANDED US.
Joshua 22:1-2 (NIV) "Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh 2 and said to them, “You have done all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded, and you have obeyed me in everything I commanded.
The first thing we can learn from this chapter is that Joshua called representatives from the three tribes of Israel: The Reubenites, the Gadites and the half tribe of Manasseh.
Imagine, out of the twelve tribes of Israel, only three were given special recognition for their faithfulness.
They were recognized and especially identified for doing all that the Lord has commanded them.
They had been obedient to the Lord while others fall short of it.
Think of it again, all the twelve tribes of Israel were given a fair share of the Promised Land.
No one has been left out. Everyone has been blessed accordingly.
But after some time, only three were recognized for their faithfulness.
Not even one half of the entire tribe of Israel were faithful.
Why is it that it is always the minority who do God's will?
Now, let me ask you a question.
Please be honest and answer the question by raising your hands.
How many of you have been blessed tremendously by the Lord in the past year of 2015?
Blessed in terms of your finances, in terms of your health, in terms of your work, in terms of your relationships and the many other opportunities that has come your way?
Raise your hands if you have been tremendously blessed by the Lord last year of 2015?
Now, those who have raised your hands, please stand up so that we can see you real good.
You have worked hard and made a lot of sacrifices and now, you are reaping the fruit of your labor.
May the Lord bless you with more.
Let us give a hand to the Lord who have blessed us with much.
Indeed, there are a lot of us who have been blessed by the Lord this past year.
Many of you are blessed beyond words can express.
And I believe that God will bless us more in this New year of 2016.
Because the same God who had been with us last year, will also guide us in this New year, no doubt about it.
But the key to more blessings is actually our attitude of faithfulness in obeying God consistently.
What if God would evaluate our faithfulness to Him right now, do you think he would give us some good commendations just like what Joshua said specifically to the three tribes?
"You have done all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded, and you have obeyed me in everything I commanded."
My guess is that only a few will be given special recognition while the majority might not have at all.
It is always the case, only a few are obedient to the Lord.
Let me give you another example.
I have just finished signing the 2015 Church contribution.
This is my thank you letter to all those who have given their tithes and offerings to our church with the corresponding amount from January to December of 2015 for tax purposes.
First of all, I thank the Lord for the very few who have been faithful in giving their tithes to the Lord.
May you remain faithful.
However, I can't help but notice the big majority in our church who barely able to give their tithes last year of 2015.
There are two reasons why you were not able to give.
1. You were not able to give your tithes because you were in great financial difficulty.
You could barely able to pay your bills.
You were in and out of work.
My prayer is that the Lord will bless you this new year of 2016 so that you can begin to give your tithes to Him.
2. The second reason why you were not able to give is you do not believe in tithing.
My prayer is that this is the start of the year that you will search the Scriptures and begin to give to God what is due to Him.
The Bible says to test Him now if he will not lay open the windows of heaven for you and pour forth upon you an overflowing blessing.
Malachi 3:10 (NIV) " 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. 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 there will not be room enough to store it."
This is the only place in the Scriptures where Christians are encouraged to test the Lord.
Many times, it is the Lord who test our faith.
But this text says to test Him now and see how much He will bless you if you give your tithes regularly.
You cannot out give God.
The more you give to Him, the more He will give you in return.
Test Him now.
Start giving your tithes this month and see how much the Lord has blessed you at the end of the year.
I want you to listen to this very carefully.
This is the nature of man.
We are all sinners and inherently selfish from the heart.
We are easily overcome by greed, by envy, by jealousy and by the pull of materialism.
We buy things that we don't need from the money that we don't have in order to give this to the people we don't know.
And so, we crave again for more.
That is the cycle of wealth if we do not use it for God's glory.
We are unfaithful to God in spite of the many blessings He has given us.
That is why we are in great debt and in great financial difficulties.
Only God is faithful.
And God wants us to be faithful and we can learn this attitude of faithfulness by obeying God's Word.
The more we learn from God's Word, the more we discover our shortcomings and the more we desire to improve and grow.
And so, ask God to develop in you the good habit of faithfulness this year.
Ask God to make you faithful in your ministry this year.
That you will not withdraw when difficulties come your way.
Ask God to make you faithful in your relationship especially between your spouse and your family.
Ask God to make you faithful in the way you use your time, your talent and your treasure.
Ask God to help you to be more faithful in giving your tithes and offerings this year especially if you are in great financial difficulty.
Ask God to make you faithful with the way you attend Sunday worship, in your Bible study and in your prayer.
Let me share to you several quotes about faithfulness that can be helpful to all of us.
Mother Theresa said: "Be FAITHFUL in small things because it is in them that our strength lies."
That means, if you want to be strong, you have to start in small things.
Somebody also said: "Having a whole bunch of girls doesn't make you a man, staying faithful to one does."
This is true all for the men in this room, including myself.
Being faithful to one partner makes us real men in the sight of God.
Here are some scriptures on the value of faithfulness.
1. God's faithfulness is great. - Lam. 3:23 (NIV) "They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
2. Faithfulness is a gift from God. - Eph. 2:8 (NIV) " 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
3. Faithfulness grows in us as we trust Him more. - Prov. 3:5 (NIV) " Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
Mark Hatfield tells of touring Calcutta with Mother Teresa and visiting the so-called “House of Dying,” where sick children are cared for in their last days, and the dispensary, where the poor line up by the hundreds to receive medical attention.
Watching Mother Teresa minister to these people, feeding and nursing those left by others to die, Hatfield was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the suffering she and her co-workers face daily.
“How can you bear the load without being crushed by it?” he asked.
Mother Teresa replied, “My dear Senator, I am not called to be successful, I am called to be faithful.”
Let me repeat that:
Brothers and sisters, we are not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful.
Once you have proven yourself faithful in that particular small segment of work, then, you will become successful in your entire life.
Once you are faithful with that small money that you have, he will give you more.
Faithfulness comes from God's Word.
2. THE EXTENT OF FAITHFULNESS.
HOW FAR CAN FAITHFULNESS AFFECT OUR LIVES?
THE RANGE or MAGNITUDE THAT THIS FAITHFULNESS CAN DO IN OUR LIVES.
BECAUSE OF FAITHFULNESS, WE CAN FULFILL THE WORK OVER A LONG PERIOD OF TIME.
Joshua 22: 3 (NIV) "3 For a long time now—to this very day—you have not deserted your fellow Israelites but have carried out the mission the Lord your God gave you.... 5 But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
The next thing we can learn in this chapter is the way Joshua commended these three tribes: Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh.
He said that they had been faithful for a long time now.
Other tribes have already deserted the mission but these three have remained faithful.
Others who have already received their inheritance and are comfortable in their new homes, are not willing anymore to help the other tribes to drive out the enemies who still occupy their land.
Their faithfulness is short-lived.
And so, Joshua commended them for the extent of faithfulness that have been developed in their lives.
It was not short-lived or a spur of a moment thing, but that faithfulness lasts for a long time and is permanent in their lives.
And that is the kind of faithfulness that we need to develop in our lives starting this 2016.
You see, if your faithfulness is short-lived because it is based on convenience, or it is based on emotion, it will not last long and someday, you will get exhausted and you will withdraw.
The enthusiasm will be gone, the eagerness will be dissipated, the interest will be consumed and the excitement will disappear.
But if your faithfulness comes from God, you will obey Him more and you will remain faithful for the rest of your life.
God wants us to have a faithfulness that will continue for a long time.
What is the secret of a faithfulness that is permanent and enduring?
The text tells us: "to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
When we do something for God, we must do it with all our heart and soul.
That means, we put our devotion, our energy and our passion into it.
We do not allow apathy, laziness and weariness to creep in to our life's purposes.
The faithfulness we give to the work of God should affect our entire life for a long time.
Here are some Scriptures regarding the extent of faithfulness.
1. A Christian should prove his faithfulness. 1 Cor. 4:2 (NIV) " 2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful."
2. We must serve the Lord with our whole heart. 1 Samuel 12:24 (NIV) "24 But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart;consider what great things he has done for you."
3. We must serve in the fear of the Lord. 2 Chronicles 19:9 (NIV) " 9 He gave them these orders: “You must serve faithfully and wholeheartedly in the fear of the Lord."
Charles Spurgeon was once called the prince of preacher due to the great influence he had among he Christian organizations of his time.
He preached to thousands in London each Lord's Day, yet he started his ministry by passing out tracts and teaching a Sunday school class as a teenager.
When he began to give short addresses to the Sunday school, God blessed his ministry of the Word.
He was invited to preach in obscure places in the country side, and he used every opportunity to honor the Lord.
He was faithful in the small things, and God trusted him with the greater things.
"I am perfectly sure," he said, "that, if I had not been willing to preach to those small gatherings of people in obscure country places, I should never have had the privilege of preaching to thousands of men and women in large buildings all over the land. Remember our Lord's rule, "whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
W. Wiersbe, Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, p. 221.
First, the nature of faithfulness. It comes from God.
Secondly, the extent of faithfulness. It covers every area of our lives.
3. THE REWARD FOR FAITHFULNESS. WHAT WILL BE OUR COMPENSATION IF WE REMAIN FAITHFUL TO THE END. OBTAINING ETERNAL REST AFTER WE HAVE DONE OUR WORK. - vs. 5
Joshua 22:4-5 (NIV) 4 Now that theLord your God has given them rest as he promised, return to your homes in the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan. 5 But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
The third thing we need to remember is that Joshua gave these faithful tribes reward for their faithfulness.
He said that it is time for you to rest from your work.
It is time for you to have peace in the land.
It is time for you to enjoy, to appreciate and to relish the fruits of the land.
This rest is part of the great promise of God as an inheritance to His people.
They can now return to their homes and live comfortably with all the blessings that God has given them.
Then, before he sent them away, Joshua blessed and said to them:
"Return to your homes with your great wealth - with large herds of livestock, with silver, gold, bronze and iron, and a great quantity of clothing - and divide the plunder from your enemies with your fellow Israelites." vs. 8
The people received their bountiful reward of material things due to their faithfulness.
But Joshua said further that they can only live in peace once they keep the commandments and the law of the Lord.
They will continue to have peace and rest once they keep loving the Lord, they keep walking in obedience to God, they keep holding fast to God and they keep serving God wholeheartedly.
In the same manner, we must always remember my brothers and sisters that faithfulness will always be rewarded by God.
We will be compensated here in earth if we obey Him diligently.
There will be peace in our hearts, there will be rest in our souls, there will be joy in our spirits if we remain faithful.
Then, when we will take our last breath and ushered into his presence in heaven, we will also be rewarded for all our labors because we have been faithful.
There will be an eternal Sabbath rest for the people of God.
There will be mansions in heaven especially prepared by Jesus waiting for the saints of God.
We will participate in the Great Marriage Supper of the lamb in heaven.
There will be a new heaven and a new earth where the streets are made of gold as pure as transparent glass.
There will be a river of life as clear as crystal that will flow in the midst of the City.
There will be a tree of life in the middle of the garden yielding its fruit every month and everyone can eat.
There will be no more night there, and no need for the sun because the Lord God will give us light.
There will be no more sickness, no more pain, no more death, no more sorrow, no more curse.
And most of all, God will give us crowns on our heads which we will lay at His footstool.
This and more are the rewards waiting for us in heaven if we remain faithful to the end.
I say it again, the only requirement is for us to be FAITHFUL with what we have been given on this earth.
Here are some Scriptures for us to think about:
1. The reward of Blessings. Proverbs 28:20 (NIV) " A faithful person will be richly blessed."
2. The reward of commendations. Matthew 25:21 (NIV) " “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
In closing, let me tell you the story of a Christian rapper from United Kingdom named Jahaziel.
I took this story from an article in Charisma magazine.
He denounced Christianity before the celebration of Christ's birth.
This is what he wrote in his Facebook page last December, 2015.
"A short while ago, I turned away from 20 years as a professing Christian.
"I had a good job with a church organization, a house provided by the church, a large social circle of like minded people, a career in gospel music, a worldwide fan base, a respected reputation and status within the Christian and the non-Christian circles."
In 2013, the U.K. based rapper told CrossRhythms he was shying away from fame for the sake of the gospel.
Now, the tables have turned.
The man Rapzilla called one of the most important U.K. artists in history of Christian hip-hop has not only renounced his faith but also questioning the very foundation Christianity is built on.
In the Facebook post, Jahaziel told followers he cannot believe the Bible as the infallible Word of God.
He said further: "You can believe the Bible and its God all you want but to me he just demands my fear because he cannot earn my respect. I cannot possibly agree that he is love unless I ignore all the men, women and little children he has slaughtered throughout the entire Bible."
What a sad story.
Here are my remarks concerning this.
He has not been faithful to the many blessings and the fame that God has given him.
He does not have a deep knowledge of what the Bible says.
He does not know about the nature of man.
That man is a sinner by nature and and that we have the tendency to steal, to kill and to destroy.
And because man has been given his free will by God, he makes bad choices that have devastating consequences.
And that is why we need to repent and receive the grace of God to transform our lives.
Indeed, in the history of the Bible, there is killing and death, but it is unfair to blame all these on God.
It is because man made that choice that there is misery, sickness and death all over.
And that is why, in order for a person to be faithful, he must know deeper God's Word and follow it.
I also read some of the comments written by the readers of the article.
Here are some of their comments.
From a woman named Susan: "A Christian is a person whose life revolves around God. An apostate is a person who believes that God revolves around their life. God is cleaning the house and it is time for those who love the Lord to step up and speak the truth of who God is."
And a man by the name of John said: He was never a Christian to start with.
"They departed from us because they were not of us." Quoting from 1 John 2:19.
Brothers and sisters, it is not how you start but how you will end the race that will determine whether you have been faithful or not.