Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Going forward into a new year

Do you ever look ahead to your repsonsibilities and plans, feeling somewhat overwhelmed? That whole idea of trying to improve upon the previous year - doing things in a better way, accomplishing more, being a better wife and mother, being more organised?

Maybe you got some new books for Christmas, guiding you in your role as wife and mother - you want to improve, but feel it's such a big task?

When we look to our own frailty and inadequacies, a new year can be daunting, rather than to be delighted in.

Rather aptly, my new Bible reading programme had me reading the first 4 chapters of Joshua yesterday morning.   It was an amazingly comforting portion to read at the start of a new year.  I was struck by the sense of anticipation and excitement felt by the children of Israel, as they entered into the Promised Land.  They had been wandering in the wilderness for FORTY years.  It was no simple task to leave Egypt and be instantly where they longed to be.  Indeed, their lack of faith had caused them to take longer than they had ever imagined, and many, many were not even entering the Promised Land at all.  But, for those who were now gazing over the River Jordan, the new land was there, waiting for them to conquer.  What an incredibly  thrilling moment.  Standing there.  Ready to go forward.

At the same time, however, it was a daunting prospect.  No conquest is without it's challenges.  Indeed, something worth getting is often more of a challenge than the easy things in life.  So, before they could have peaceful repose in the land, they had battles to win, and enemies to conquer.  It was so daunting that 10 of the 12 spies had brought back a bad report of the land, in those preceding years.  With man, it seemed impossible.

But, the "Aha" moment.

With God, ALL things are possible.  That's the eye of faith through which Joshua and Caleb had viewed the land, and by which Joshua was now leading this nation forward.

The Lord had promised them that He would lead them to a new land, that would be theirs.  God always keeps His promises.

However, as so often, the success they would have upon entering this new land was dependent upon certain conditions.

"Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest."
Joshua 1:7

The first instruction is to observe the law.  The were to follow God's law.  Today, that would be obedience to God's Word.  Not turning in another direction, other than forward with obedience.  There was a promised associated with this first instruction.  They would prosper wherever they went!

Obedience to God brings prosperity.  I'm not talking about financial prosperity.  You will have success in whatever you do, if you do it all in adherence to God's Word.  Why?  Because being obedient equates to success.  By God's grace and strength, and by following His will, revealed for us in the scriptures, you will have success in what you aim to do.  Success is being obedient to God's Word, and living a life that reflects the same. What a confidence we can have in this truth!  Whatever you set out to do this year, if you are seeking to do what God wants  you to do, you will prosper!

The next instruction was this...

"This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success."
Joshua 1:8

Here, they were instructed to talk about God's law.  They were to think about it, day and night, and obey it.   Again, being prosperous and successful were the promised results.

Are we reading God's Word every day?  There is no other way to know of God's way for your life, unless you read His Word and meditate upon it.  Not once a week in Church - day and night.  Talk about the scriptures with your husband.  Think about things, and talk them over.  Find out what God says about the things that are relevant to your circumstances.  Talk to your children.  Teach them God's ways, and train them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  Talk to your Christian friends.  Let the things of the Lord be first-most on your minds, lips and hearts - rejoice in the things of the Lord, and don't be absorbed with worldly things.

Set your heart to obey God's Word for YOUR life.  And, you will have success.

The final instruction 

"Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."
Joshua 1:9

What a precious promise.  They were commanded to be strong and courageous - not to be afraid or dismayed.  If they were to look at their situation based on their weak humanity, none of this would be possible.  Humanly speaking, the task was enormous and daunting.  Conquer a land, filled with enemies?!? Never?

With God's presence? - no problem!

We equally are assured of God's presence with us.  It is by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the strength we have in Christ alone, that we are able to confidently go forward into the responsibilities that a new year holds for us. No matter how daunting the tasks may seem - no matter the challenges we may face - no matter the trials - no matter the testing circumstances - God has promised His presence and strength, and that is all we need.  We don't need to fear! We have the Lord right there beside us, no matter what we face.

As the "icing on the cake", the Lord reminds them that God had given them the land, and that after all their wanderings, they WOULD have rest.

"The LORD your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land."
Joshua 1:13

In all that they had to face, they were assured that rest would be their's. Peace from conflict, wanderings ceased, enemies defeated.  It WOULD happen, because God had promised it would.

We are promised the same rest and peace.  We are promised peace of mind, if our minds are stayed upon the Lord.  If we depend upon His care and provision, we can rest in Him.  No matter what our circumstances this year, we can be assured that the Lord has us in His hands, and resting in His love and care.

He WILL give us all we need, for every circumstance we may face.

As this nation faced challenges upon entering the Promised Land, so we, too, face challenges as the Lord leads us into new phases of life. There may be expected events, that we know will bring challenges.  There may be things that happen, which we were NOT expecting, but we equally know for sure, that God still has us in His loving care.  

Straight after these assurances, the Israelites were faced with the swollen, flooded waters of the Jordan River.  An immediate obstacle seemed to stand in their way.  And yet, as they stepped forward in faith, following the instructions from the Lord, the waters went and the river was crossed.  It was only when their toes got wet that the way was made for them.

Like them, we need to take that step forward, in faith, into the challenges that 2013 will bring.  Going forward, knowing that our loving Heavenly Father has our way planned out, and will provide for our every need. Our "feet may get wet" as we step forward into our challenges, but we know a way will be made for us, and we WILL possess the "land". 

Before they took a step that day, they had been told to sanctify themselves, because God was going to do great things for them.  What an exciting prospect!  Their hearts were to be ready, expecting and anticipating God's goodness in their lives.  

May we all rest upon the promises of God's Word, as we go boldly forward into 2013, knowing that we can rest upon His promises, and be assured of success by God's grace.  We need, like the Israelites, to sanctify our hearts - to prepare our hearts, ready to see what God will do in our lives.  To be prepared, and expectant, that we, too, will be able to set "stones" as a reminder of God's goodness, as 2013 closes. 

My prayer is that we all would be blessed greatly in 2013, and raise our Ebenezer - "hitherto hath the Lord helped us". 

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