Summary: 1. Our faith in the future is built on God’s faithfulness in the past. 2. Our faith determines our Future. 3. We need to build an altar of faith for future generations.
An old Chinese proverb says, “May you live in interesting times.” That has certainly been the case for the world this past year. Mark Bowden, editor of The Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, offered this observation about the year we have just come through: “The world was wracked with pain in 2005, enduring a parade of natural disasters, and, of course some of the pain was self-inflicted — war, terrorism, rebellion, violence, crime, drug abuse, business fraud. . . . There is never a slow day in the news business.” He was thinking of things like the Terri Schiavo case last year which bitterly divided the nation. He was remembering the terrorist attacks all over the world. Among the most memorable were the attacks in London on three rush-hour subway trains and a bus which killed 56 people on July 7. The war in Iraq dragged on with daily reports of terrorist bombings and the deaths of more American soldiers, as well as Iraqi civilians.
Then there were the hurricanes that ripped through the South. Katrina, Rita and Wilma were just three of many storms that left communities devastated and lives disrupted. Katrina, a category 5 storm, killed more than 1,300 people in five states, ravaged the Mississippi Gulf Coast and set off flooding that submerged 80 percent of New Orleans, forcing the largest urban dislocation in U.S. history.
Toward the end of 2004 an earthquake hit off the island of Sumatra in the Indian Ocean and was the most cataclysmic natural disaster of the modern era. For much of 2005 world relief efforts focused on the area where more than 300,000 human lives were lost. Then this past October an earthquake shook portions of Pakistan, Afghanistan and northern India. It leveled entire towns, killing some 87,000 people, and leaving more than 3 million homeless. The catastrophic quake, which measured 7.6 on the Richter scale, was followed by more than 1,200 aftershocks.
Now we are looking at floods in some parts of the West and dry winds and forest fires in other western states. One thing is hardly over before we are hearing of another, and a lot of people are wondering what is going on. What is going on? If you ask those in the media they will paint the most frightening scenario possible. Bad news sells, so we hear a lot of it. Michael Crichton recently wrote about how the press has overplayed predictions of disaster. He writes, “Paul Ehrlich predicted mass starvation in the 1960’s [due to over-population]. Sixty million Americans starving to death. Didn’t happen. Other scientists warned of mass species extinctions by the year 2000. Ehrlich himself predicted that half of all species would become extinct by 2000. Didn’t happen. The Club of Rome told us we would run out of raw materials ranging from oil to copper by the 1990s. That didn’t happen, either.” He also wrote about the stories that warned us about magnetic fields and how things like fluorescent lights were putting our health at risk. But it wasn’t long until magnetic fields turned out to be good for you and people were wearing magnets in their clothing and putting them in their shoes. And we all remember the predictions of gloom and disaster in the year 2000 about the “Y2K problem” that was supposed to plunge the world into darkness and destroy the economies of the world. But when we awakened on January 1, the lights came on, banks opened and planes stayed in the air.
How do we as Christians respond when the media plays up their “end of the world” script? Earlier in the year they were saying that gas to heat our homes was going up by 70%, and gasoline and other shortages were going to cripple the economy. The bird flu was supposed to wipe out millions all over the world. If we listened to the world it would be sitting in a dark corner with a blanket over our heads. The message of the Bible is a message of faith. It is positive and faces the future confidently.
I love the story of Joshua that we read together today. It is the story of a group of people who refused to be paralyzed by the dangers of the times in which they lived. The simple story we have read together today points out many lessons for us, but we will look at only a few. The first lesson is: Our faith in the future is built on God’s faithfulness in the past. Many people are familiar with the crossing of the Red Sea, but not as many are familiar with this crossing of the Jordan river when the people of Israel came into the promised land. But it was the dramatic story in their history of God’s deliverance from Egypt and parting the Red Sea that gave them the faith to be able to cross the Jordan. It was God’s powerful hand of deliverance in the past that gave them the faith to face the challenges in their future. They knew they were going to face dangers in the future, but they knew they were going to face them with God — a God who makes a way even when there is no way. There was no way through the Red Sea. There was no way through the Jordan. But God made a way. There is no way through the things you may face this year, but God will make a way. He has helped you in the past and he will be there in your future.