Good morning, welcome to Christ’s Community Church. It’s great to have you with us this morning as we celebrate what Christ has done. The Lord has done great things in our lives, his accomplishments from our perspective insurmountable, his achievements etched into eternity, sealed in the heavens, and yet this morning I wonder as you and I move toward the finish line, as we near the goal, how many of you would admit that life is hard? You know, undoubtedly many trials and obstacles will attempt to trip us up, and maybe for you the vision is not quite as clear as it was, sometimes it’s hard to see what you’re in pursuit of, it seems like you’re not making any progress, and nothing you try seems to be working. Well this morning I want to encourage you to keep going, because if you’ll keep your eyes on the prize, good things will happen when you persevere.
The title of today’s message is, “Keep Going” and as we get started I don’t know the specifics of your situation or what you’re facing this morning, but I want to encourage you to keep going and not to stop short of something that God has called you to. Keep going and don’t stop short of what God has promised and what God wants you to receive. Listen to what the Bible tells us in the book of Hebrews. Hebrews 10:36, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” You need to persevere, because God can make you a promise that you’ll never make your own if you never learn how to persevere. You’ve got to keep going and we find that to be true spiritually in our relationships, our church, our families, and our businesses. And so this message is for those of you who’ve ever considered giving up before you received what God had promised; for those who’ve quit before you saw that dream realized, that dream God put inside of you, maybe something that he spoke to you, and that promise may have faded but’s still resonating in your heart.
Today, we’re going to look in the Old Testament book of Joshua at a passage of Scripture that illustrates the verse we just read in Hebrews. In chapter 6 of Joshua, we find the people of God fighting for a land that God had given them, it was theirs, but they weren’t quite there yet. Can any of you relate to this this morning? They were fighting for what God had given them, it was theirs, but they weren’t quite there yet. And it’s the same way in our lives, the Scripture tells us that God has “blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3); every spiritual blessing in Christ has been given, it’s been poured out, and it’s been lavished into our believing lives. God has released things like the peace of Christ, the joy of the Lord, and the strength of God, and all of these things are supposed to be working in our lives. But what we see here in Joshua chapter 6, is a reminder that just because God promised something in the spiritual realm, doesn’t mean that we possess it in the physical realm. Just because God promised something doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re walking in it, and have taken ownership of it. Reading in verse one, we get to see what happens as God’s people are about to take possession of the promise and we’re going to learn some things that are very practical for our lives today.
Joshua 6:1-5… “Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the Lord said to Joshua, "See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in."
So the Lord tells Joshua, “Take your soldiers, your armed men, and before you make a sound, before you engage in battle, march around the city once a day for six days. On the seventh day march around it again, but this time have all the people give a loud shout, and I’m going to give you what I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You’re finally going to take possession of the Promised Land, but first you’ve got to march for six days.” This morning I want to show you three reasons why so many people never receive what God has promised.
Now this city of Jericho was the first challenge, the first obstacle that God’s people had to conquer before they could receive what God promised them. It was the first and often the first battle is the hardest. Isn’t getting started often the hardest part?
As we read about Joshua fighting this battle we don’t truly understand the struggles of faith and the challenges that he faced. We overlook the fact that Joshua spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness because the people of God didn’t have enough faith to go with him into the Promised Land. We minimize and oversimplify the challenges they faced just to get to this first city. And here’s what I want you to know about this city, it wasn’t the size of Jericho that made it a challenge, because they probably could’ve marched around it in about an hour. It was the height of the walls that made it seemingly impossible to conquer. It was the great walls surrounding and protecting Jericho that made it so intimidating.
Now this is an important point, because so much of the stuff that’s happening in our lives, some of the things that God has promised that you haven’t received yet, some of the challenges or maybe the calling that you’ve been intimidated by is not because it’s bigger than you or bigger than your God, but it’s just that your vision has been blocked by the height of the walls. And that’s why it’s so important that we come together as a church, that we gather together, praying, worshiping, and celebrating together, because then we’re encouraged and given vision to see beyond the walls of our problems. You see, it’s our faith that gives us perspective to see beyond the obstacles that many of us have spent the last six days looking at with fear. You know, we’ve been looking at the delays, the shortages, maybe our children or spouse, we’ve been looking at our past, looking at our problems, looking at these towering walls; but when we come to church, when we’re back among friends and family, our greatest supporters, those who are an encouragement to us, and we start worshiping together, there’s excitement as you start praising God with his people. It reminds you that you’re not alone in this, that you’ve got other people that are pursuing God alongside of you, and there’s something about praising God, something about making an effort to get into God’s presence, that will lift your eyes, that will raise your vision to see beyond your problems, and when you see past your problems, you can see that the enemy that you were intimidated by, was actually intimidated by you all along.
That’s what it says in verse one, Joshua 6:1, “Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.” So God tells Joshua, “You’ve got this one.” Yet all Joshua could see was walls and all he needed was vision to see over the wall. Of course, God could and he was confident, he wasn’t stressed out, he had it all worked out, and so he said to Joshua in verse 2, "See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.” And that’s how big, strong, and confident our God is, he can speak in past tense about the battle that you haven’t even fought yet.
Maybe today, you’re in that place where God is speaking to you about your victory, but you still feel defeated. Maybe you’re in that place where your life doesn’t match up with what God’s said in your heart? You know, where you felt like God was speaking to you about your healing, but inside you still hurt? I wonder if you’ve ever felt like what God said doesn’t match up with what you see? Where the revelation you’ve received doesn’t match the reality you perceived? Well, that’s exactly the situation that Joshua and the people of God found themselves in because they couldn’t see over the walls. And that’s why Ephesians 4:11-12 tells us that God, “gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people..” We’re casting vision for you, so that you can see past the walls, so that you can focus, and so that you can keep a proper perspective on God’s promise.
So God speaks to Joshua, he gives him directions, and Joshua calls the people together in verse six, Joshua 6:6-8, and Joshua said to them, "Take up the ark of the covenant of the Lord and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it." And he ordered the people, "Advance! March around the city, with the armed guard going ahead of the ark of the Lord." When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord's covenant followed them.”
So they’re making progress. Doesn’t it feel good to make progress? We like to make progress, we want to see things going in the right direction. This is so like me. I need to see progress. I get frustrated if I don’t see any progress. So God’s people are making progress. Continuing in verse nine, Joshua 6:9-14,
“The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. But Joshua had commanded the people, "Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!" So he had the ark of the Lord carried around the city, circling it once. Then the people returned to camp and spent the night there.
Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the Lord and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets kept sounding. So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days.”
Now you’ve got to imagine what these men must’ve felt like as they were prepared to wage war against this city and all they’ve done for six days is take a walk with the marching band. I mean, I’d be discouraged, because I need to see something to let me know that I’m making progress, I need something to motivate me. Anybody here like that? You see I don’t mind working hard, I don’t mind sacrificing, and putting up with a bunch of stuff, but I need to know that my efforts are serving a purpose and that there’s a point to all this. But the Bible says they walked around the first day and nothing, they walked around the second day and nothing.
So you go back to camp after day two and your wife’s like, “How was your day my mighty warrior?” And so now it’s time to vent. “Well, somebody needs to talk to Joshua, but he won’t let us talk. He told us we all had to keep our mouths shut and we can’t say anything.” Could you imagine what that must’ve been like? How frustrating? But here’s the bottom line, sometimes when it comes to receiving God’s promise your mouth can be your own worst enemy. You see Joshua knew that, because he had spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness with these grumbling and complaining people.
Joshua calls the troops again and three, four, five, six days and nothing. Six days without talking, no progress, no motivation at all, and you know what’s amazing? Do you remember how God told Joshua after six days on the seventh day the walls were going to fall down? Well, did you notice that Joshua didn’t tell the people, he didn’t say a single word about how long they were going to be marching around the city? You can read it again, but Joshua gathers the people, he says advance, march around the city, and keep your mouth shut. He doesn’t tell them how long, he doesn’t tell them how many times, and so they have no idea how long this is going to continue. So they don’t know if Joshua has lost his mind and thinks there a marching band or what. They just don’t know.
You know, there was a promise way back when, but now we just don’t know. One of the things that I like about exercising is that when I’m working out, jogging, or whatever, I know how much time I have. And if there’s three minutes left I know I can do three more minutes and so I’m able to keep myself motivated and keep pushing. But if somebody else is holding the clock and I don’t know how long I have to march or how many laps I have to run that makes it a lot more challenging doesn’t it? It’s hard to pace yourself, but wouldn’t it be cool if God put a timer on your dreams and prayers. Wouldn’t it be nice when you’re getting tired, when everybody else your age is getting married and you’re not yet, but God says, “Just stay pure for two more years” Wouldn’t that be better? “Okay God, I can do two years. I can do it if I know that’s what I’ve got to do.”
But Joshua’s men have all these things working against them. They’ve got walls, they can’t see what they’re pursuing, what they’re fighting for, and so they’ve got these problems. They’re not making any progress, they’re marching and nothing’s happening. Which really describes the way God wants us to walk by faith doesn’t it? He doesn’t want us to trust in our own efforts, our progress, but he wants us to have faith in his promise. And sometimes I think God will let you walk around in a situation where things aren’t working, where nothing seems to be happening, because he wants you to know that he’s working even when what you’re doing doesn’t seem to be working.
And so God’s like, “Will you still pray when the answer hasn’t come for six days? Will you still serve in the church when nobody gives you any recognition? Will you still show up when you don’t feel like it’s making a difference? Will you still give a tithe even when you’re not seeing the provision flow back to you? That’s the question he wanted to know. Will you keep going? Will you march just because I told you to? Not because you saw the benefit of it, not because you saw the progress, but because God wants you to know that he’s working, when what you’re doing doesn’t seem to be. And so he’s like, “Will you trust me?”
Hebrews 11:1 says it this way, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
This is the essence of faith, because it was walking around the walls of Jericho that would prepare them to fight the battles once they got into the Promised Land. You know, we’re often convinced that what God wants to do for us is the most important thing, but I think that what he wants to do in us must come before what he wants to do for us. And today some of you are on lap number six and you don’t even know it, because God hasn’t told you how many laps you have left.
I wonder how many people have been at that point where they gave up on their marriage, gave up on their calling, gave up on their kids, gave up on God, and they only had one lap to go, the promise was right there and they didn’t even know it. Keep going. Keep going. You’re closer than you think you are. Don’t stop, you might be tired, it might not make sense, you might look stupid, you might be tired of blowing that horn, but keep going.
Joshua 6:15-16, 20
“On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, "Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!
When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.”
As we close, here’s what you need to know. If you’ll walk every lap like it's your last, believing that what God has promised he will do, one day you’ll be right. Keep Going! You need to persevere so that after you have done the will of God you will receive what he has promised (Hebrews 10:36).
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
May 22, 2016