Summary: Just share Jesus with an unbeliever? That’s how he becomes converted? Yeah, it sounds about as foolish as marching around a fortress and expecting its walls to crumble. But then again it’s God’s plan so...
The International Ice Hockey Federation recently picked it as the #1 hockey story of the century. The “Miracle On Ice,” as it became known, was a 1980 Olympic medal-round match between the top-ranked Soviet Union and a group of amateur and college players from the U.S. No one thought the Americans had a chance. After all, the Soviets had won every hockey gold medal except for one in the previous six Olympic games. And besides, the Soviets had already routed this American team 10-3 in a pre-Olympic exhibition game. But against all odds the Americans beat the Soviets and went on to win the gold medal. Their victory against the Soviets seemed nothing short of a miracle.
Have you ever faced odds like the ones the 1980 U.S. olympic hockey team did? Your life might not seem as dramatic but you do face a great foe. You’re up against a powerful spiritual being whose sole goal is to drag you down to hell with him. This spiritual being, Satan, overcame the sinless Adam and Eve. If they fell to him, what chance do we, born sinners, have? In our Faith Factor sermon today we’re going to learn that we do have the faith to fight and overcome Satan.
In our first sermon in this series we learned how God gave Joshua faith to face the challenges of being the new leader of the Israelites. We see this faith active early in our text when Joshua stepped out to take a peek at Jericho, the first city the Israelites were to attack and conquer in their quest to possess the Promised Land. As Joshua was making his way to Jericho he suddenly came face to face with a man holding a sword. What Joshua did next demontrates his God-given courage. Instead of staggering back and taking cover behind a tree, Joshua stepped forward to meet the man and ask: “Are you for us or for our enemies?” (Joshua 5:13) The answer Joshua received was astonishing. “‘Neither…but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.’ Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, ‘What message does my Lord have for his servant?’” (Joshua 5:14)
Who exactly was this person? He couldn’t have been an angel because he accepted Joshua’s worship and told Joshua to take his sandals off because he was on holy ground. This was the same thing God had said to Moses at the burning bush. And while this person was clearly divine, he distinguishes himself from the Lord, saying that he was the commander of the Lord’s army. Yes, it seems that Joshua had come face to face with God’s Son before he was born Jesus!
It’s probably not that surprising to us that God’s Son makes an appearance before the battle of Jericho. What is harder to understand is what he meant when he said that he was neither on the side of the Israelites or on Jericho’s side. Hadn’t God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and promised to give them the land of Canaan as their very own? What did he mean that he wasn’t on Joshua’s side? Joshua’s response solves the mystery. He fell face down to the ground and said: “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” (Joshua 5:14b) Joshua quickly remembered his place in the grand scheme of things. God may have made him the leader of the Israelites but Joshua was still God’s servant. As such Joshua had no business demanding to know whether or not God was on board with his agenda. Instead, Joshua’s agenda was to be in line with God’s!
Oh how like Joshua we are. We plan where we’re going to go to school, what we’re going to study, where we’re going to live, by when we’re going to retire, with whom we’re going to retire but then when things don’t go as planned we say: “God, what gives? I thought you loved me? If so, get on board with my program!” The New Testament writer James calls such an attitude, arrogant. He wrote, “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16).
Friends, if you want to face life with confidence, hit the ground like Joshua did in humble recognition of who you are. You are the Lord’s servant, not his master. Don’t presume to know what is best for you. Only God knows that. So make sure that your life is in line with his agenda. Ask yourself: “Am I gunning for that promotion so I can be a benefit to more people, or is it so I’ll have more money and power to enjoy for myself? Am I toiling to become a successful musician, artist, or author so I will be famous, or so that God’s name may be hallowed in all I create? Am I working hard on my Sunday School and Mum & Me plans so people will marvel at my creativity, or so that God’s little lambs will be fed the nourishing food of his Word?” Every talent you possess has been given to you by God to be used for his glory. You are standing on holy ground. Take off the shoes of arrogance and pride and get down on your knees to present your “successes” to God as victories of his grace.