Summary: To fully follow God requires commitment that is rooted in God’s Grace and Power.
The story is told of visitor from another part of what once was the Soviet Union to the Moscow Circus. As part of the circus performance a beautiful lion tamer would have a lion come to her and then put his paws around her and muzzle her with affection.
The visitor exclaimed, “What so great about that? Anybody can do that! “The ringmaster challenged him, “Would you like to try it?” “Yes,” was the visitor’s reply, “but first get that lion out of there.”
Then there was the man who watched with amazement as his neighbor strung wire higher and higher between two towers in his large back yard and practiced carrying a wheelbarrow loaded with on the wire between the towers. When his neighbor asked what he was doing, the high wire artist said, “Getting ready to cross Niagara Falls! Do you think that I can do it?” “Yes,” was the neighbor’s reply.
Each day as the high wire artist practiced his act as he went higher and higher asked his neighbor, “Do you think that I can do this?” “Yes!” was the always emphatic reply.
Well the big day came and the neighbor gathered with thousands of others to watch the stunt. Spotting his neighbor close by, again the high wire walker asked, “Do you think that I can do this?” “Yes! Yes! Yes!” was the final emphatic reply. “Well then, get in the wheelbarrow!” said the wirewalker
Now, I have a question, “What did these two people lack?”
Some would say, courage. I don’t know about you but it would take a lot of courage for me to get in the cage with those lions as much as I love big cats. It would also take a great deal of courage for me to get in that wheelbarrow.
But, there is a common element to both stories - both men were outsiders, they were not involved except as by-standers. They had not made a commitment to step into the cage or get into the wheelbarrow – they had yet to make a choice to get fully involved.
Commitment is essential for walking with God. Because if we are going to fully follow the Lord, we need the commitment to follow Him by becoming decisive followers like Joshua, courageous followers like Esther, wise followers like Solomon, willing followers like Peter, and committed followers like Paul. (Overhead 1)
We begin 2003 with a word of vision from God. As I shared two weeks ago, I believe that God has a vision for this church that was in place when Carter Cummings was called as our first pastor, when Daniel Frost led us in the building of this sanctuary, and when Bob and Dale Neace led us for nearly 10 years, the longest tenure of any pastor. It is a vision that will be a part of this church long after we are gone and our children, and their children, and those whose names we do not yet know, will be here, God willing.
I believe that God’s vision for us is to be, like the Israelites of Jeremiah 29 that we visited two weeks ago, a fully following and faithfully functioning church. (Overhead 2) This month, we will examine the first part of this vision - a faithfully following church.
And for us to fully understand what it means to be a faithfully following church we need to see it in the lives of Biblical characters that demonstrated faithfulness in a variety of ways. Bill Hybels, in his book Courageous Leadership, reviewed the lives of 10 persons who demonstrated to him Biblical leadership. I believe they are also illustrations of Biblical follower ship as well. And this morning we briefly look at 5 of them who demonstrated their commitment to God in several ways.
The first person we look at is Joshua. Now Joshua had a big job ahead of him. First of all, Moses, the first Israelite leader, was dead and, as we read in the opening chapters of Joshua 1, Joshua was selected by God to become Moses’ successor.
So Joshua is given the command by God, “ you must lead my people across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them.”
Now Joshua was no rookie by any stretch of the imagination. He was known by the Israelites. 40 years earlier he had been one of two spies, sent by Moses with 10 other spies to find out more about the land that God had given to them, who had said, “We can take this place!” But, the others did not share his faith and optimism and so he and his countrymen were to wander for 40 more years before they crossed the Jordan.
So now, here he is, 40 years older and in charge of a nation who is not yet in possession of the land that their God has given to them. In fact, Joshua’s assignment is two fold: 1. Get them across the Jordan. 2. Possess the land.