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    Jul 25, 2010

    Fear Factors in Faith Pursuits

    Passage: Deuteronomy 31:1-34:12

    Preacher: John Repsold

    Series: Taking the Land

    Category: Old Testament

    Keywords: faith, fear, courage, strength, disappointment, battles, future


    How did Moses handle the disappointment of not being allowed to go into the Promised Land? How did he literally come out singing God's praises and affirming God's goodness? This message looks at that issue as well as the calls to courage and strength that God gave to Joshua and the Israelites and HOW we can build that for the challenges that face us.


    Fear Factors in Faith Pursuits

    July 25, 2010

    Deuteronomy 31-34 & Joshua 1


    Intro:  Before you sit down, I’d like to invite you to meet a couple of people around you and share one thing that is on your “bucket list.”  What is one thing you would like to experience before you die?  What is something you would be disappointed about if you died before you got to experience it?  (Mix-it-up time.)


    In our study of the Books of Moses (Pentateuch) this year, we’ve come to the end of the last book of Moses, namely Deuteronomy.  Last week we heard Moses’ challenge to a whole new generation just about to cross over into Canaan.  He challenged them to set aside the false gods of the day and embrace wholeheartedly, with total devotion, worship and obedience of the Living God.  God wasn’t asking for perfection; he was calling for commitment.  So we took some time to identify false gods and idols we tend to put up on the “idol-shelf” of our life.  We gave you opportunity to “throw them away.”  And I invited you to embrace afresh THE most amazing offer of relationship you will ever have with THE most amazing Being there will ever be—the Living God in Jesus Christ our Lord.


    This week we’ve come to the end of the trail with Moses.  He’s 120 years old.  What he dreamed of accomplishing in the first 40 years of his life—deliverance of his people from slavery and their settlement in Canaan—has only half come to be.  And that ½ has taken far longer…a good 80 years longer…than he initially anticipated. 

    At 40 years old he thought he was ready to deliver his people…and he ended up murdering an Egyptian and fleeing to the desert.  

    After 40 years in the desert he didn’t want to be a deliverer.  But God tapped him for one of human history’s most remarkable exodus.  And as he confronted the powers of Egypt and saw God deliver his people, I’m sure he had a time-schedule in mind.  I’m sure he was thinking, “This should take just a few weeks, at most a few months.  Then I can go back to working for my father-in-law, enjoying the outdoors, tending sheep and raising my family.” 

          It’s now 40 years later.  Instead of being 80 or 81, Moses is now 120…and he’s not in the Promised Land yet.  In fact, he knows he will never get to the Promised Land…at least in this life.  He’ll never get to experience something he’s dreamed about for much of his life, something he’s worked tirelessly for—to live in the Promised Land. 


    Listen to Deut 31--1 Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel: 2 "I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The LORD has said to me, 'You shall not cross the Jordan.' 3 The LORD your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the LORD said. 4 And the LORD will do to them what he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, whom he destroyed along with their land. 5 The LORD will deliver them to you, and you must do to them all that I have commanded you. 6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."   


    How would you feel in his sandals having worked, labored, dreamt and prayed most of your life for something God had said was going to happen…and then, just about when it’s within sight, God says, “Nope.  You’re not going in.  You’ve disqualified yourself”?  Frustrated?  Depressed?  Disappointed with God?  Would you be writing songs of praise and singing them out in public?


    Listen to how Moses begins his last recorded praise song in Deut. 32— 

    1 Listen, O heavens, and I will speak;
           hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.

     2 Let my teaching fall like rain
           and my words descend like dew,
           like showers on new grass,
           like abundant rain on tender plants.

     3 I will proclaim the name of the LORD.
           Oh, praise the greatness of our God!

     4 He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
           and all his ways are just.
           A faithful God who does no wrong,
           upright and just is he


    Those are not the words of a bitter man.  Those are the words of a man who is totally convinced about the goodness, justice, greatness and faithfulness of God…even when life doesn’t play out just like he wanted it to.” 


    Listen to Moses in Deut. 32.

    44 Moses came with Joshua son of Nun and spoke all the words of this song in the hearing of the people. 45 When Moses finished reciting all these words to all Israel, 46 he said to them, "Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. 47 They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess."

    Moses to Die on Mount Nebo

     48 On that same day the LORD told Moses, 49 "Go up into the Abarim Range to Mount Nebo in Moab, across from Jericho, and view Canaan, the land I am giving the Israelites as their own possession. 50 There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people. 51 This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites. 52 Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel."


    How do you get to that place in life where you still love God with all you have yet learn to live with less than everything you had hoped out of life? 

    How do you become that kind of person—holding onto and working hard for God-given dreams and even promises…but submitted to God so much so that IF life doesn’t play out like you thought it would, you still love God with all your being and you still know God as He really is?


    Something had happened to Moses during those 40 years.  I think that “something” was his constant encounters and interactions with God.  Whether it was before a burning bush, at the Tent of Meeting or on the top of Mt. Sinai, Moses had come to experience that it is GOD who is our life, not our hopes or dreams, not other people’s obedience to God, not some great personal success or even promised real estate.  Moses would have loved the song we sang last week: “Give me Jesus; give me Jesus.  You can have all this world, but give me Jesus.”   


    Moses was convinced that knowing God was even better than knowing all his blessings.  He could live with disappointments, with discouragements and with interruptions to his plans as long as God was with him.  What he could not live without was God himself. 


    That is the truest form of worship—loving God as he is, worshipping Him despite our doubts, in our doubts and in the midst of life’s trials.  So let’s join Moses today in proclaiming the God we know who is “the Rock, perfect in his works, just in all his ways, faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just.”




    When was the last time you were afraid to go forward into the future? 

    • Last week I visited an old family friend who is in rehab after taking a fall and breaking his pelvis.  His wife of some 50+ years has Alzheimer’s and for the first time in their life together, she didn’t know who he was recently.  This man, in his upper 80’s, is headed into some strange and difficult territory where he’s never been before.
    • I recently got a note from a dad who is struggling with God about his very talented and gifted teenage son’s slide into depression.  That’s tough territory when you love your kid.
    • Ever lost your job or been unemployed?  That’s a future that can be fearful to head into.
    • Ever sensed God asking you to go somewhere or do something you would never in your right mind attempt to do if wasn’t God who was asking?  That can be a fear-provoking future.

    If you read the end of Deuteronomy and the beginning of Joshua (something I hope everyone is doing), you’ve probably noticed a phrase that keeps appearing, especially whenever Joshua comes into the story.  It first occurs in Deut 31—

    • Vs. 6—when Moses is addressing the whole nation of Israel just before his death:  Be strong and courageousDo not be afraid or terrified because of them [the nations confronting them on the other side of the Jordan], for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
    • Vs. 7“Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance.  The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.””
    • Vs. 23—“The Lord gave this command to Joshua son of Nun:  “Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you.” 


    Then Moses dies (ch. 34) and Joshua is on his own as leader of this new nation of several million people.  Four times in Joshua 1 that same phrase appears.

    • Joshua 1:6“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.”
    • 1:7“Be strong and very courageous.  Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.”
    • 1:9“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” 
    • 1:18—This, interestingly enough, is what the people of the 2 ½ tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh spoke back to Joshua when he reminded them that, although they had their land already (on the east side of the Jordan), they needed to join the rest of Israel in fighting on the west side against the 7 nations of the Canaanites.  THEIR final words to Joshua after promising their allegiance to him and the rest of Israel were, “Only be strong and courageous!” 


    So, you’ve got GOD telling both the people and Joshua to be strong and courageous. You’ve got Moses telling them to be strong and courageous.  And you’ve got the people telling their leaders, “Be strong and courageous!”  And it is recorded for us 7 times in 2 chapters. 

          Do you think there just might have been a little fear going around the camp??? J  And it seems that the guy who might be having the biggest problem with fear was none other than the fellow who was the most faith-filled and courageous just 40 years earlier when the rest of the nation couldn’t find the faith and courage to believe that God would give them whatever they needed to actually take the land (Nu. 13-14). 

    • Just because we were great at trusting God sometime in the past doesn’t mean new challenges (or even some familiar “old” challenges) won’t strike fear in our natural hearts.
    • Just because we’ve been faithful for 80 years to persevere in the deserts of life doesn’t mean it won’t be a challenge to enter into new territories of abundance, confronting new enemies that want to see us stay in some ‘desert.”
    • And just because we’ve grown accustomed to seeing God supply and work and protect a certain way for decades doesn’t mean that God isn’t going to shake it up a bit and call on us to learn to relate to him and live in life differently.

    Just about the time we get used to relating to God in a certain way… or trusting one set of His promises…or taking for granted certain provisions he is making for our needs…God seems to change it all up.  He calls us into a new phase of life, a new stage, a new challenge or experience, and then he reminds us of his promises and calls us to step out in fresh faith…OR He allows us to step back into old fears. 


    TEXT:  Put yourself in Joshua’s place for a moment.  What about this “repeat scenario”/faith-challenge was new and potentially fear-provoking for Joshua?


    What makes YOU anxious or afraid?  What fears make you anxious or afraid about the future?  (Write it down on the “sermon notes” page.) [Encourage people to bring their Bibles and pens/pencils every week.]  Before we can stomp out our fears, we’ve got to identify them. 


    So…TRUTH #1 in handling fear when God is calling for faith is simply:  IDENTIFY the fears that keep you from stepping forward confidently into the future by faith

    ILL:  I had a counselor once who helped me deal with some of my depression by helping me identify some of my fears.  I tend to get depressed when I feel like I’m trapped in something I don’t like.  At that time, I was involved in a ministry overseas that I was really struggling with.  My fear was primarily driven by my wrong standard of success and my over-active sense of what failure might look like.  So he helped me recognize that, in fact, I wasn’t “trapped” in that ministry.  I had options. I could quit and become a businessman.  I could change my definition of success in that setting and adopt one that was more in line with God’s definition (faithfulness).  I could return to the States and minister here. I had a ton of options…not all of them great or even better…but I had options. 

          What I was so “afraid” of really didn’t matter all that much.  So what if I didn’t see dozens or hundreds of people become followers of Jesus and join that new church?  Then what?  So what if others were disappointed with my lack of speedy results.  What then?  I quickly realized that much of what I was fearing only held power over me if I let it and if I made it into something God never asked of me. 


    What fear keeps you from stepping forward into the future w/ boldness?

    Everyone has challenges.  Every stage and station of life brings them.  Facing the future with a spouse who doesn’t even recognize you because of Alzheimer’s isn’t any easier than facing the future of a new school or new career, a new health challenge or a new stage of life.   


    Let me ask that question more specifically.  What has God asked you to do that tends to make you nervous, anxious or fearful?  What has or is He asking you to a.)let go of and do without, or b.) step into and learn to walk with Him in? 

    1. Some relationship?

    2. Some task?

    3. Some new adventure?

    4. Some old challenge?


    TRUTH #2 in handling fear when God is calling for faith:  Soak in God’s Word. 

    Virtually every time God told the Israelites and Joshua to “be strong and courageous,” he also reminded them where that strength and courage came from.  The first source was knowledge of and obedience to God’s word. 

    Joshua 1:7 & 8--7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.


    This is one of those central themes of God’s work with people through all ages.  This one doesn’t change.  Whether it’s Adam and Eve or the churches of Revelation, the Word of God was critical to their success.  Whether men or women, children or old people, the Word is critical to success.  Whether Israel, prophets, judges, kings, the Jerusalem church or the people of God in Spokane, the Word of God is THE singular most important tangible, physical and available gift God has given us.  It alone can guarantee success.  It alone has spiritual power.  It alone can lead to salvation and lead us on in sanctification. 


    I love what Alan Redpath, pastor of Moody Church in Chicago years ago, wrote about the importance of the importance of God’s word.  “I have no magic formula for your holiness; I have no hocus-pocus treatment to offer you; I have no short cut to spiritual power for any of you.  All I can do is to say to you: Get back to your Bible; “meditate therein day and night,” and go down before God on your face in prayer.  For the greatest transactions of a [person’s]….experience are made, not in a church, but behind closed doors.” 

          “To be saturated with the Word of God is to be assured of the presence of God.”  There is a price to be paid….Cancel every responsibility in your life other than what you believe to be God’s will for you.  Deliberately refuse any engagement which will keep you from meditation on His Word.  We are living in an age which has lost the art of being silent with an open Bible and waiting for God to speak.”  [Alan Redpath in Victorious Christian Living—Studies in the Book of Joshua, Revell Press, 1960, pp. 32-33.]

    That was 50 years ago.  Life hasn’t gotten quieter for any of us!


    If we would have hope of a spiritually prosperous times…if we would have hope of success in our faith-endeavors…then we must have time for meditation in the Word of God. 

          Ephesians is the N.T. epistle that most parallels the battle-field mentality of the book of Joshua.  In Eph. 6:10ff there is a similar call to every one of us regarding strength and courage.

          “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”  Then Paul tells us that the Word of God plays a critical role in numerous areas of spiritual armor.

    • Vs. 14—“Stand firm, then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist….”
    • Vs. 15—“…with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”
    • Vs. 17—“Take the helmet of salvation”—there is no salvation without hearing of the Word of God (Rm. 10:17).  There is no faith without the Word of God. 
    • Vs. 17—“…and [take] the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” 
    • Vs. 18 ends with a call to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions.”  It’s impossible to pray according to the will of the Spirit if you don’t know the heart and mind of the Lord revealed in God’s word. 

    It’s really not astrophysics!  Growing in strength and courage while defeating fears cannot come apart from immersion in the Word of God. 

    • Preachers sound like broken records…just like dentists always tell you to brush and floss daily.
    • …and doctors tell us to exercise daily.
    • …and teachers tell us to study.

    It’s not a lack of knowing what to do.  It’s a lack of conviction that it really IS the right thing to do and that it is ESSENTIAL to spiritual success.  If you do one thing from this message today, go home and spend 30 minutes quietly before God, seeking Him in his Word.  That will do more for you than 100 sermons from me.


    Truth #3 to becoming courageous, strong and overcoming fear is another thing that God repeated to both Joshua and the people:  never, never, never forget that GOD GOES BEFORE YOU & WITH YOU IN FAITH-BATTLES.

    Deut. 31:6“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified….for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

    Deut 31:8—to Joshua specifically Moses said, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

    Deut. 31:23—To Joshua, God himself said, “Be strong and courageous for… I myself will be with you.”

    Joshua 1:5—The Lord said to Joshua, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 

    Joshua 1:9“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” 


    How many times does God have to say it before we get it?  Just in case you are wondering if this is a promise for today, mark Hebrews 13:5 in your Bibles.  To people worried about money matters and contentment, the writer of Hebrews tells them that the secret to contentment is to live on the truth that “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  

          God has always promised his abiding presence to those who walk by faith.  Doing what God is asking of us by faith is THE SAFEST PLACE in the world…no matter how uncertain it may look to us. 


    So Jesus, in the last recorded words we have before he left this earth and assumed his rightful authority on heaven’s throne, commanded each of us, his followers, this in Mt. 28:19-20,

          “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” 


    Does the thought of obeying this command to “make disciples” by going, baptizing and teaching cause a little fear in you?  Well, it does in me!  J  It’s probably the biggest, most humanly impossible command I think God has called me to walk into by faith.  Because it involves every relationship I have, every conversation I have, every person I can possibly touch in this world.  It involves the call of God on our lives and the place of blessing in our walk.  If I say “no” to God on this, it’s like staying put in the desert and saying, “I think the opposition is too big on this one.  I’m not qualified.  I don’t have the knowledge.  I’m too scared.” 

    But if I say, “Yes,” then there are going to be some real battles to fight and some real fear to overcome.  I’m going to need to strengthen myself daily in the Lord and the power of HIS might. 


    God has called everyone who claims to be a disciple of Jesus (literally “a follower”), to “make disciple.” He didn’t command us to “go to church every Sunday.”  Nor did he command us to “pray the Lord’s Prayer every day.”  But he did command us to “make disciples of all nations.” 


    APP:  Over the past few months as we’ve been praying about how we can help each other do that better, more often, more fully, God has handed us an opportunity that is tested, tried, proven and successful. 

    • Over 13 million people in the world have experienced it (2+ million in the U.S.). 
    • It’s one of the best means for helping spiritually sensitive but questioning people in our generation connect with God’s answers to their questions in an open, non-judgmental context.
    • It’s been one of God’s tools to help tens of thousands of churches disciple people in the foundational truths of the Gospel.
    • It’s probably the most non-threatening, relationship-building, God-honoring and people-respecting, downright fun and enjoyable thing millions of people will every experience in the church. 
    • It was begun in one of the most unlikely places—in the Anglican Church in England. 

    It’s called Alpha, and it’s one of the primary means by which we sense God calling us to “experience the heart of God in the heart of the city.” 


    God is in the business of “capturing” rich and poor, homeless and mansion-dwellers, young, old, short, tall, moral and immoral people with his love.  And he’s inviting us to join him.  In fact, he’s commanding us to join him.

          When we do, he promises he will never leave us on this one.  He promises all the power of the universe that is His.  He promises our labor will never be in vain on this.  And I know, if you are a child of God today, God is speaking every day to you about walking by faith in this. 


    God has put around us people whose hearts he longs to captivate and conquer.  If you’ve experienced in your own life how God does that then you know that is the BEST thing that can happen to a person in life.  If not, you may think it’s the worst thing—be “conquered” by God?  Yup! 

          The enemy of our souls will try and use FEAR from start to finish to keep us from God’s great plan for us.  If you’re afraid of God, you’re fearing the wrong thing.  God only wants the very best for you.  Satan is the one who uses lies and evil to twist our thinking into being afraid of what God will do instead of afraid of what this world/sin/Satan IS doing to us. 

    • Call to let the love of God “conquer” your heart today.
    • Call to say “Yes” to God’s call to “make disciples.”
    • Call to surrender your fears and embrace God’s Word and forever presence in life…especially in becoming a disciple-maker of others. 
    • Invite people to begin to pray for God to give them a bigger, more God-sized vision of the lives of people around them and how those people can become all God created them to be through becoming growing disciples of Jesus. 


    VIDEO clip from movie “Return of the King”—Aragorn rallying the troops. 

    We ARE the people…and ours IS the generation…that God wants to walk with to reach this city and world with the hope of Christ as never before. 


    COMMUNION:  Part of the disciple-making process. 

    • We are agreeing with God that our greatest need in life is the presence of Jesus Christ. 
    • We are agreeing with God that making disciples is the greatest calling in life.
    • We are agreeing with God he will never leave us or forsake us in this greatest of all adventures in life.