Summary: God is not an overbearing master. He is our loving Father. Have faith to put him first in your life.
A new NHL season has started. What does that mean for you? That depends. Are you a die-hard fan or a fair-weather fan? I’m a fair-weather fan. I watched more games the year the Oilers made their Stanley Cup run than the other nine years I’ve been here put together. As a fair-weather fan I know I must drive the die-hards nuts but who cares? Why should I waste time watching a hockey team when it’s losing more games than it wins?
According to our text this morning there is such a thing as a fair-weather fan when it comes to religion. For the most part the Israelites were fair-weather fans while their leader, Joshua, was a die-hard supporter of the Lord. In our final Faith Factor sermon today we’ll learn why we want to emulate the faith of Joshua, faith to put God first.
Joshua, who was now nearly 110 years old, spoke the words of our text as his last will and testament. He summoned the Israelites to Shechem to hear his words. This was a fitting place to encourage the Israelites to make God number one in their lives because it had been here that their forefather Jacob had buried the idols that his family had brought with them from Uncle Laban’s. This was Jacob’s way of helping his family make a clean break with their idolatrous past. Now Joshua and the leaders of Israel stood at that same spot to renew their vows to serve God alone.
Just getting to Shechem would have taken an effort by the Israelites. They couldn’t hop into minivans and zip to this location like we can when heading to church here or an area Reformation Rally service. And consider how busy they must have been. No, they didn’t have hockey practice for the kids or the RV that needed to be winterized but they had just moved to Canaan. There were houses to build, crops to plant, battles that still needed fighting since not all the Canaanites had been driven out yet. The temptation to skip Joshua’s farewell address must have been great. Yet the people came.
Joshua must have been pleased to see all the Israelites assemble before him the way a preacher is pleased to see a full church. But Joshua knew that their presence alone didn’t mean that they were devoted to the Lord. Just as our presence here this morning doesn’t necessarily mean that we are fully devoted to the faith. The Israelites were notoriously fickle when it came to worship matters. Remember how quickly they turned their back on the promise of obedience they made to God at the foot of Mt. Sinai? Just 40 days after their vows of obedience, they made and worshipped an idol in the form of a golden calf! Likewise how long does it take for our mind to wander during the worship service? 40 minutes? More like 40 seconds. Therefore we will do well to pay close attention to what Joshua said to the Israelites: “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:14, 15).
Did some Israelites actually bring idols with them out of Egypt? And were they still holding on to those idols after they saw what God did to the Egyptians? It seems so. What idols are you tempted to hold on to? Is it your intellect? Do you rely more on your retirement plans and business acumen to get you through life than on God’s promises to provide daily for you? Or is your idol the drive to have good health? I have to watch myself in this regard. I could easily spend two hours at the gym every day. But am I as eager to spend that much time in prayer and in Bible study? The Apostle Paul once said: “Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). Being able to run a fast mile won’t do me much good if I’m not running well the race to heaven with Christ. What is it that threatens to take over your life? Is it getting good grades? Keeping up with the latest movies? Texting and FaceBooking friends? Fellow believers, there are a lot of things that God will put up with but second place is not one of them. The Lord demands to be first in our lives.