The life of a Christian is a life of faith. We are saved by faith, we walk by faith, we live by faith, and we are sustained by faith. Unfortunately, we sometimes lose focus, lack faith, or live by the flesh. These all have negative consequences. Thankfully the call to live by faith is accompanied by a rock solid re-assurance that if we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, we will become fully functioning Kingdom agents and missionaries to a lost world.
Howdy Mars Hill. Pastor Mark here on vacation with Grace and the kids.
One of the things we like to do is the Best Sermon Ever Series during the summer where we bring in some world class, Jesus-loving, Bible-teaching pastors to bring God’s word to you.
Today, I’m really excited to introduce you to a friend of mine. His name’s Tope. He was born, raised, married in Nigeria. He then moved to London and he was working as an unpaid volunteer elder at a church for a number of years, just loving and serving the people. He went from being an unpaid pastor and volunteer to being the lead preaching and teaching pastor, and the church has exploded. It’s really grown. He’s a very gifted leader, a very godly man. I’ve stayed in his home in London with he and his family. He’s got a beautiful family, sweet wife, delightful son. This is a beautiful, great, wonderful family. You’re absolutely going to love him.
And Pastor Tope, thank you for coming to serve the people at Mars Hill Church. Thank you for being my friend. We love you. We appreciate you. We’re very, very, very glad to have you. And as is always the case, we have a quirky little gift that we like to share with our friends at Best Sermon Ever. And since you’re far away from home and it can be difficult when you’re in a different country, we wanted you to feel at home, so we got you a Spice Girls album and a David Beckham poster to enjoy in your hotel room to remind you of home in your absence. We love you buddy. There you go.
Good morning! Well, it’s a real joy to be here and I am thrilled and grateful. I’m really, really grateful for the Spice Girls CD. No, I’m really grateful to be here.
Your pastor is a dear, dear, and good friend. On a number of occasions really, Mark has been such a help to me, and so for me to come back here and serve him and serve you with whatever eyedrop worth of help I may be able to bring, it’s a joy for me to be here.
I’m going to read from Joshua chapter 5 into 6 in a few moments, but before I do that, because it’s so rare that my wife is with me— she doesn’t like to travel a whole lot to the places I go, but she is here today and I am so thrilled. So if you would just, you know, humor me as she stands up so you can just see her, this is Kemi. Would you applaud her as she— [congregation applauding] Yeah, good, good, good. She is a—if you didn’t see her way back, she’s like really beautiful and sexy, so, yeah.
I’m going to read from Joshua 5:13, and then I’m going to hop, skip, and jump my way through a number of the other verses.
“When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, ‘Are you for us, or for our adversaries?’ And he said, ‘No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, ‘What does my lord say to his servant?’ And the commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, ‘Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so. Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets.’” Verse 15, “And on the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was on this day that they marched around the city seven times.”
Let me just stop to say I know you know this story, but as I said earlier on, if ever you’re asked to preach, you don’t have a lot to say, read a lot of verses. A lot of verses. So we’re still in Joshua. We’ll be in Revelations soon.
Verse 16, “And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, ‘Shout, for the Lord has given you the city.’” Then verse 20, “So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city.”
Father, we come this morning to your word and we are hungry to hear from you. We need a word from the Lord. There were times when your word was scarce to people. Let it not be scarce to us this day. Give us our daily bread. We pray that we’d be filled by it, that at the end of it, we all be edified and built up. And may Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, may he be glorified in this place in Jesus’ name. And everybody said— Amen.
Yeah. I know he warned you about the whole amen stuff before I came, and he’s right. But you know, I guess—I think the reason why I love for people to say amen from time to time on my prompt is, I guess, on the first—the first reason is probably because I think people sometimes do want to say amen, particularly when it’s a Bible verse, or Scripture, or something. I think there’s something on the inside of us that wants to say yes to the truth we just heard. And sometimes people just almost need something of a permission, so I just give the permission and then the people say amen. But there’s a deeper reason, that there are times that God speaks, and by his Spirit he, if you like, injects something of truth deep inside you that you’re responding to fill your lungs and speak forth in agreement. Now amen is not just something Pentecostal preacher guy says because he doesn’t have a word, he doesn’t know what next to say. But he says it to help the people rise up to that truth, to fill your lung and speak it forth so that this building and the walls feel it, that there are a few people here who know God, and love God, and the whole thing shakes to the glory of God. It does far more good than you realize when you say, “I heard that truth and I agree with it.” You put that truth on your lips, it makes a whole lot of difference.
My prayer is that this morning that the Lord will speak to you, by his grace through me, but speak directly to you, that you’ll be blessed, and changed, and vantaged, and ready for another day with God in Jesus’ name. And everybody shouted— Amen! You bet they did.
For without faith, it is impossible to please God. "Without faith, it is impossible to please God, “for he who comes to God must believe that he is and he is a rewarder of those who earnestly, diligently seek him.” Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Who here does not want to please God? Even if you do not know God, you’re here today. There’s got to be something on the inside of you at some level that just wants to do right with God. He who comes to God must come wanting to please God, but the way to do it is this. He has to have faith, for without faith, it is impossible to please God.
It’s with all that I said that I want to use as a title this morning, “Living By Faith.” “Living By Faith.” And I want to bring to you what I believe is important for all of us, certainly for me in my own life, as we walk with God.
The Bible—the Bible really is the book—it’s really got one story. It’s one meta narrative of the story of deliverance, that God, not out of any weakness or need in him, he gladly, joyfully made man. And he breathed into him and he became a living soul. And he made it for man to worship him, and love him, and serve him, and be really all about him. But you know the story. The rebellion of man came. Sin entered into the world. But God, in his mercy and his benevolence, he comes to redeem man from his rebellion, revive him by putting his Spirit back in him, restore him so that now the purpose for which he was made in the first place can be realized again. Which that purpose, by the way, is to worship God—is to worship God, for God wants a place where—God has always wanted—he wants to dwell somewhere, and he wants to dwell amongst people, in the midst of people.
This story is best—it comes to us pretty strongly in the story of the Israelites who, there they are in Egypt because of their own sin. Now they are being captured. They’re living in Egypt, and then God sends Moses to bring deliverance to them, and God delivers them. And in delivering them, what God did is this. He’s trying to take them out of darkness and into light. He’s trying to take people who were just a motley crew of people, people who had a slavish mindset—a slavish mindset. On one occasion, Moses was going to set one of them free. He had killed a man and saved the life of a Hebrew guy, and you know what the Hebrew people said? “Stay away from us. We want nothing to do with you.” Somewhere in there is the mind of a slave who is like, “I’m just bound and I’m forever bound. What do you mean freedom?” Well God comes to them now and he’s wanting to take them out of slavery and make them sons, out of being just a motley crew of people and make them an army of God’s own people. And so he did it in three ways. Number one, he delivered them by miracles. He delivered them by miracles when he sent Moses in.
And the man that he sent, frankly, in sending Moses— if you were God, you would not have sent Moses. Yeah, thankfully you’re not God, so that’s that. But if you were, you would not have sent Moses because this— I think—I think he’s a fairly short guy. I don’t know where I got that from, but I think so. I think he’s a very short guy. But the thing about Moses is when God called Moses, he was like, “You got the wrong guy.” He just did not want to do this job. And God called him and God said, “I’ll be with you,” and he said, “No, I just can’t do it.” And he needed reassurance from God, and God says, “What is that in your hand?” He says, “It’s a staff.” God says, “Put it on the ground.” He puts it down, and it turns into a snake, and he runs from it. You would have done the same. He runs from it. And as if that’s not enough, God says, “Pick it up.” Now listen, throwing it down and it turns into a snake is pretty cool and impressive, right? Until he says, “Pick it up.” Then you’re like, “No, no, we don’t do that where I come from.” “Pick it up,” he says. It’s amazing when God calls a man how he tries to educate him and help him know the kind of God he’s dealing with. This thing is rolling around, and he goes and picks it up, and it becomes a staff again. Moses’ response, “You know, I still don’t want to go.” He says, “Put your hand in your cloak.” He puts his hand in his jacket, brings it out, the whole thing has gone leprous. By now you’re scared. You’re dealing with some—“Put it back in.” It comes forth, it’s healed. God is trying to send him a message. Moses says, “Not sure.” Doesn’t want to go. Eventually, he says to God, “I cannot speak. I cannot speak.”
You know, my mind—there’s a thousand things going through my mind I want to say to you. These days, we want to look—stop letting your own limitations dictate what God can do with you.
He says, “I cannot speak.” God says, “I’ll be with you.” He says, “I cannot speak.” God says, “Okay, in case you didn’t get it, I’ll be with your mouth.” Still he says, “I don’t want to do this.” So in the end, God has to get another guy to come beside him and Aaron. But by now, he realizes that God is dealing with and he goes, and miracles begin to happen. Ten plagues in Egypt, water that turned into blood, and lice, and the cackle that died, and everything, darkness. The Bible says, “The darkness was so dark that the people could feel the darkness.” Think about that. So much so, nobody moved for 3 days in Egypt, all because Moses said this is going to happen, and it did. He’s virtually playing God.
And at the same time, there is life in the camp of the Israelites. He delivered them by miracles. By now, the Israelites are beginning to think—because if you were an Israelite and you met Moses initially, you would not want that guy to be the one leading you. Because a short guy who can’t speak, the whole—imagine Moses comes and I say, “Who are you, Moses?” “Well, God—God—God sent—G-G-G-G-God sent—God—God—God—God sent me.” Okay, that does not conjure up confidence. That doesn’t conjure up confidence, but by the time they saw the miracles, they know there’s something about this guy, there’s something about this God. By the time they’re leaving, they’re singing a song, "Who is like unto thee, O God? “Who is like unto thee among the gods? There is none like you. Glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, and always doing wonders.” Always doing wonders.
When God came to show those people who he really is, he did not come with a set of propositional truths. He didn’t even come with clean, beautiful, alliterated doctrines. He didn’t! That was not where he started. He began by just showing them his power, showing them his authority, showing them his majesty. Later he will go on to teach them his words, but first of all for them to just know who he really is. He delivered them by miracles. Not just that, he destined them by promises.
In Exodus 6, God says to Moses, “Moses, tell the people this.” And God speaks to the people by saying, “Listen, I am the Lord your God, the God of your fathers.” He says, “I will bring you out from under this burden.” He says, “I will deliver you from under this—from this slavery. I will redeem you with my outstretched hand. I will make you my people. I will be your God. I will give you land. It will be for your possession.” Seven times, God says, “I will, I will, I will, I will,” assuring them, reassuring them, educating them, teaching them, “This is the God you’re dealing with, and it just so happens I’m on your side.”
Delivered them by miracles, destined them by promises, thirdly, he sustained them by the supernatural. Oh, now this one I love. He sustained them by the supernatural. Because they came out, and the first problem they hit is the Red Sea. The Red Sea. And Moses says to God, “What do we do?” God says, “What is in your hand?” He says, “It’s a staff.” He points it and the whole thing opens.
You and I, we have heard these things a billion times. We’ve almost become, you know, just overfamiliar with them. Not me because I’m easily impressed. I’m very easily impressed. I’m still impressed by remote control. I don’t know how that thing works. Still today I’m still impressed. I don’t watch a whole lot of television because I don’t have time, but my gosh I can flick channels again, and again, and again, and again, and again. It’s still—it’s like a miracle to me. I’m about the only pastor in the world who, when no one is looking, has gone outside the door and try to see, “Will it work from here? Will it work from—oh, oh, oh!” Easily impressed. And sometimes there are things to be impressed by. The speed with which they put up buildings these days, the amazing engineer, and everything just goes up in no time. You give it 6 weeks, something is erected. Easily impressed.
But listen, listen, if you really want to be impressed, come to the God of the Bible who spoke the earth into existence with a whisper. Just said, “Let it be,” and it was. That’s power. That’s majesty. That’s God. So that when they are coming out of Israel—of Egypt, and Moses puts the rod and the Red Sea parts, think about it. The Red Sea— the sea…just separates. And the children of Israel are now going to walk on dry land in the middle of the sea. Whoever heard of such a—you’re walking through, and your children are singing the whole time, and the walls, vertical walls of water that you can see the fish and everything. God would have had to tar that thing in a hurry so they don’t sink. And you’re walking, you could have a drink—gulp— as you walk through. I think it’s pretty cool.
He fed them in the wilderness for—listen now—40 years. Manna just came from heaven. For 40 years, he fed them every single day. And in fact, he insisted that nobody keep any of this food until tomorrow because he wanted to provide for them every single morning. “Morning by morning, new mercies I see. All I have needed thy hands have provided. Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.” Morning by morning, it was there, every time.
See, I’m Nigerian, right? If I was there at that time, I’m thinking there’s a business opportunity here. There’s a business opportunity. Get some of this stuff, keep it, hide it, pile it, you know, sell it. Yeah. God knew somebody would think of that. He said, “Nobody keep it until tomorrow. You eat it today. Whatever you don’t eat, just leave it. It will be new following day.”
Water that came out of a rock. Water that came out of a rock. If it came out of a well we would not be impressed today, even though it would still would have been impressive to water 2 million people. But it came out of the rock. I mean, how much squeezing do you have to do to get water out of a rock? But I think God just winked and that thing gave water right up. The book of Psalms says, “And the water gushed out.” It didn’t just drip forth.
He led them by pillar of fire at night. They could see at night. They knew where they were going at night. Day time, they had cloud there. There was always a perpetual cloud in the sky, leading them. We get impressed by our GPSes in our cars. God has been doing this for years. He’s been doing it for years. They were following it. “At the end of the mountain, turn right.” Everybody knows where they’re going.
Says their slippers never wore out. Their shoes never wore out. So, he was—listen, there’s something powerful in that. To the minutest of details, he was trying to show them that he cares. They’re probably sitting there after 30 years of walking in the wilderness saying, “You know, I bought these shoes in Egypt. They’re still going, you know.” They probably think those Egyptians, they sure can make shoes. It’s not the Egyptians, you fool. It’s God sustaining you the whole time.
Now, lots of Christians will talk like that. You know, “Yeah, things are going well for me. I mean, I work hard.” Shut up. You sit here breathing without even thinking about it, unconscious without electricity or batteries. You think it’s all down to your organic food? No it’s not, don’t be silly. It’s down to God! It’s down to God.
They saw all these things, and sad to say, the Bible says this. “And yet God was not pleased with that generation.” Sad to say, he wasn’t pleased with them, 1 Corinthians 10:5. He wasn’t pleased with them, and there are a number of reasons why he wasn’t. Psalm 106 will summarize it for you. When you read it, you will see one of the reasons he wasn’t pleased was this. They were an ungrateful people. After awhile, they just took things for granted. Even the manna, after awhile, they’re all, “Oh, what, this manna again? No, we’re done with manna. We’re fed up with miracles. We want real food.”
Christians talk like that still today. “Oh, give me something else.” Unbelievable. Ingratitude, not just the idolatry.
It says, “They joined themselves to Baal Peor and they sacrificed unto other gods,” it quotes in Psalm 160 there. They sacrificed to other gods. Never mind the God who called them, who destined them, who showed them his power. They just fancied something else.
But perhaps the worse one is unbelief. Unbelief. It says in Psalm 106:24, “They had no faith in his promises.” Unbelief was a problem, was the root problem. In the book of Hebrew 3:19, it says the same thing. It says, “They did not really enter into all that God had for them because of their unbelief.”
There’s a big message for you and I here, that you can know Jesus, you could have given your life to him. And you probably remember when you first came to him. There’s a joy on the inside that burbled up, and you were just happy and grateful, even with situations around that are not all fixed. But somehow, there’s an inner confidence. You know that your Redeemer lives. But over time, what happens? I think we call it growing up. It’s not. Over time, we learn to do things ourselves. Over time, our joy goes because our faith reduces. And at some point, some Christian wanting to help you will probably say something like this. “Oh, you got to add some common sense to that thing.” And I know what they’re trying to say, but I’m trying to say this to you though.
Very often, faith gets rinsed out of us and we get to do life completely pragmatically. God never intended—never intended—that his people would just do life at a completely pragmatic level. That’s how the world lives. That’s how the world lives. He wanted people that they would be a people who are supernatural, a people who know that God is not a man that he should lie, nor is he the Son of Man that he should change his mind or repent, that if he promised, he’ll do it. Numbers 23 says that. “God who cannot lie.” Titus 1:2 says that. “By two immutable things by which it is impossible for God to lie.” Hebrews 6 says that. Impossible. That God is not a liar, but somehow over time, believing his promises is something that becomes distance from us and we just learn to do life in a routine way because faith is gone. This does happen to people. Faith gets drained out. And you know that that is happening to you because the joy is gone, and life with God becomes completely routine, where you go to work, and you come back, and on Sunday you do the church thing. You may even serve, but you continue on that cycle. And it’s really not going anywhere really, and the joy is not there anymore, but you’ve learned to do it, and to praise, and you have dropped the right posture, and so on. It’s possible to love God, but over time, it wanes and faith isn’t there anymore. This is possible.
And when that happens, it’s a sad day. When that happens, it’s sad because, number one, it affects your hope. It affects the way you walk with God where you walk with him, but you don’t know if he will do what he said he would do. An expectation for another day is no longer there. You feel you have to work everything out yourself, and anything to do with the supernatural dimension is completely evacuated from your thinking. So that hope becomes nothing but wishful thinking.
It affects how we pray. If there is no faith, it totally affects that. It makes faith impotent. It renders it impotent. It makes prayer impotent, where in the end, you pray, but it’s nothing short of therapy. You just learn to say it because it just—it does something for—but whether there’s a real belief deep down at the deepest psyche on the inside, it’s not—you don’t really believe it, but you’ve learned to say it. And the sentences over time in the prayer, they just become the same old sentences and you say it again, and again, and then you move right now. This thing comes to all of us slowly, insidiously, and it takes a grip on life. And yes, they’re Christians, they’re destined for God. They’re not going to ever lose their salvation. That deal is done, but they live like people of the world. They no longer trust his promises.
It affects our approach to the word of God, where if there is no faith, the reading of the word of God just becomes a very good, dutiful exercise that you tick off and you’re like, “Yeah, I read daily. I read daily,” and that’s it. “In fact, I memorized portions of it.” But whether that thing is flowing into your life and making a difference is a different story.
I’ve got to tell you, I’m like you. I have heard the faith preachers—if I put “faith preachers” in virtual commas there. You know, the faith preacher guy who just tells people, you know, nonsense stuff? You know, tells them, “Oh yeah, you know, just believe God. You know, just name it and claim it.” I beg your pardon? “Oh yeah, just name it and claim it.” Sounds like covetousness to me. Name it and claim it. I grew up back in Africa, and some of this teaching was just there. Which, by the way, let me pause and say it came from your jolly country, but never mind. It’s there. And the prosperity preacher are trying to, you know, jazz everybody up. That thing is so offensive to the Almighty. It really is because it turns God into some kind of irresponsible bank manager who just dishes out money to anyone. That is not what Jesus intended at all. Name it, claim it, short of saying steal it. All of that stuff is foreign. That’s another gospel.
But nonetheless, I want to say this. I pray God that we do not throw out the baby with the bathwater. And the danger that we run through going to the other side is reading the Bible so that it becomes just a book full of, you know, stories. It is not just a book full of stories. It’s a book waiting for discoveries, that if you will let the Holy Spirit help you in interpreting and making this thing real, you will hear God speak to you. Because in case you don’t realize, God still speaks.
God still speaks. I know there’s a whole theological construction that, you know, God doesn’t speak anymore, and blahdy, blahdy, blah. Yeah, yeah, that’s cheap to say when you live in a society where you have virtually everything. You’re ill, you go to the doctors here. You need that, you go to welfare. You need this, you go to— that’s easy to say and foreign to the Scriptures. Now, I didn’t want to go there. Now look what you’ve done.
When you have faith, like Moses who the rod became a staff— he never knew that that thing could be alive. When you have faith, there’s a way you approach the word. “Well with a prayer, Lord, speak to me today through this.” You will be amazed how much the Lord will speak to you, how much he will prompt you by his Spirit, how much he will lead you and guide you. You can be spoken to by God, and frankly God is speaking every time through the Bible, his eternal word, through prophecy, prophetic words. This can be. And when that thing is deleted out, the Christian is short-changed. The word of God with faith comes totally alive, because the word of God was never supposed to be a resource for education. It was supposed to be truth for an encounter with God. May that be true for you in Jesus’ name. Would you shout amen to that? Because that makes all the difference, hearing a God who lived.
How does one go from having a faith that may have been vibrant at one point, but over time and over the hits of life has become stayed and stagnant? How does one revive that thing? Number one, acknowledge God afresh. You need to acknowledge God all over again.
By the time we get to what I read to you there, Joshua 5, this is a different generation. The generation that came out with Moses, they have died in the wilderness except for Joshua and Caleb. And now this new generation, God comes to Joshua, and he says to Joshua, “Moses, my servant, is dead. Therefore get up. I will use you to take these people to inherit this land. I will use you.” And he says to him, “Therefore be bold and be courageous.” And so as Moses took them through the Red Sea, Joshua took them through the Jordan by the power of God. Moses sent spies and Joshua sent spies, though I’ve got to say, Joshua was kind of cleverer. Moses sent 12 spies, 10 of ‘em were negative, 2 were positive. When Joshua sent, he sent only two. Very bright leader. Like, "Let’s find the two positive ones and let’s send them."
And so it is that by—you get to chapter 5 and the Bible says—and then in chapter 6 it says, “And then there was Jericho.” Then there was Jericho.
Now, let me pause to say something to you here. I know that I run the risk of somebody doubtless thinking, “Oh, this is just Old Testament stories, you know, to be told to our children. You know, give us something meaty. Give us something meaty from the New Testament, something tough.”
Okay, well first thing I will say to you is this. All Scripture is inspired by God, all Scripture. 1 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and it’s profitable for correction, and for reproof, and for everything that the man of God may—” we need the whole thing.
Secondly, when Jesus Christ, in Luke 4, appears to the disciples walking on the Emmaus road, and they’re talking about everything that has happened, and Jesus walked beside ever so silently. If you would choose to walk with him, trust me, he’s walking with you. And you may not realize it, but he’s there. And he says to them, “What are you talking about?” And they say to him, “What are you—are you the only one in Israel that doesn’t know what’s going on?” Which is very humorous, because they’re talking to the only one in Israel who does know what’s going on. And the Bible says this, “And he began to explain everything to them.” Starting with Moses and the prophet, he explained everything concerning himself.
This is why it’s right to say it’s all about Jesus. Everything from the Old Testament right through, which means every page of the Bible, Jesus is in there somewhere. And when you get that down, you learn to look for him. He will speak to you through the Scriptures— through the Scriptures. He’s in there somewhere.
But maybe one third bit of evidence, 1 Corinthians 10 says that these things were written for our example. “Let he that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” These things were written for us that we may learn. So we approach this story, not wanting to be a preacher who just picks up an Old Testament story, makes a parabolic jump, an illustration, and land, and just give it to you, but that this is truth if you will listen carefully.
How does one resurrect faith? Number one, you need to acknowledge God. Joshua wakes up. And the Bible says in waking up, he sees a soldier standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua is a military man. He’s a general. If this guy was just some short guy with a plastic sword, I don’t think this would make the Bible. Joshua has seen something fairly formidable. And Joshua looks to him, and this man must have been so impressive, an incredible warrior from God, and Joshua looks at him and says, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” I don’t blame Josh. That’s exactly what I would have asked because it would be good to know. Are you for us or for our enemies?
It reminds me a long time ago, driving with my sons in the car. They were about 4, 3 years old, 4 years old. I was driving on the highway and on the other side of the highway, we see a row of military tanks. Lots of them. And I spoke to the boys behind and I jazzed them up. “Look at these tanks! Augh! We’re going to blow something up!” And you know what boys are like, “Ahhhh!” They’re all that, and I’m stoking them even more. They’re shouting and we’re having all this fun. And then in dawns on me, “Hang on, are they our tanks?” Are they—they are ours. Because it would be so ridiculous to be being invaded and applauding as you’re being invaded. Are they our tanks?
Joshua wakes up and sees this guy, and he doesn’t try to fight him because no one can fight this person I’m seeing. And he says, “Are you on our side or against us?” And then answer is this, “No.” “Okay, that wasn’t helpful, let’s try again. Are you on our side or are you against us?” He says, “I’m the head of the command of the Lord’s army. I have come.” He’s come to take over. And commentators say—commentators say this, that this is a picture of—preincarnate picture of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Because Joshua takes—he bows down and he worships. He said, “What should I do?” He says, “Take your shoes off. Go where you were, it’s holy ground.” And Joshua responds.
How does a person revive faith? Listen, you start by this. You look to Jesus. You have to look to him afresh. You have to acknowledge him all over again because the tendency to confuse intimacy with familiarity, that happens, that we get so familiar, so familiar, after awhile, you see Jesus, you just want to high five him. “How you doing here Christ? Hey…” When you get to that place, you are forgetting a lot, and when you’re forgetting a lot, you’re going to miss out on a lot. He is the Son of God. He is mighty. He is majestic. For there is none like him. The Son of Righteousness with healing in his wings. This is God, Almighty God.
You know, you walk with Jesus all your life. You walk like this and Jesus is here. Jesus is here, you’re here, and he just walks silently. You do all your chirping and all your asking. He’ll walk with you silently. One day, he stops, and he looks to you, and says, “I am God,” and then he continues. You think that doesn’t matter in your life? You think that encounter doesn’t count? It counts for everything. Yes, you knew him, and yes you know him, but you need that regular encounter of whom that we have to deal with. This is God.
When Jesus said to Peter, “Who do men say that I am and who do you say that I am?” Peter says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Those three things are important. “You are the Christ,” that is Savior, “you are the Son,” second member of the Trinity, “and you are the Living God.” That’s who Jesus is.
So in case you have forgotten who Jesus is, in case he has become a character in a book that you just read through and flick through. No, no, no, you need to rediscover him afresh, and that has a way of making faith come alive. And he—by the way, there is nothing that he cannot solve, he cannot deal with, he cannot handle. Can you shout amen to that?
There’s no one that says this better, I think, than Spurgeon when he says this. Listen to this, great quote. “Is it not written, ‘Cast thy burdens upon the Lord’? Is it not written, ‘Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication make known your wants unto God’? If you cannot trust God for temporals, how dare you trust him for spirituals. If you cannot trust him for your—if you can trust him with your soul’s redemption, how come you cannot rely on him for lesser mercies? Is not God enough for thy needs or is his all-sufficiency too narrow for thy wants? Is his heart too faint? Is his arm too weary? If so, seek another god.” I wish I wrote that. I wish I wrote that. Is this God too narrow for you? Is this God too small for you? If so, go find another god. Go find another god. But if he is infinite, if he is omnipotent, if he is faithful, and true, and all-wise, why seek abroad for another confidence? Why rake the earth looking for another foundation? He is sufficient for thee. Can you shout amen to that? He is sufficient for thee. And so you don’t need to look elsewhere, he is already there. You just need to see him again for who he is.
How does one begin? You acknowledge God. Joshua acknowledged him, took off his shoes, worshiped.
Number two, you need to walk by faith again, and again, and again, and again, because faith, by its very definition, has to do also with not giving up. Faith is believing that God is telling the truth and not lying, and because you know God is telling the truth, you keep going, and trusting, and walking, and you realize one day he begins to really come true for you. This is so important. Doctrine alone will not do it, but mixing the word of God with faith makes all the difference.
See, everybody—and the reason I say you have to go again and again is because of this. Listen, anyone can have faith for 5 minutes. It’s those who endure the whole way, that’s where the difference is. So when Joshua comes to the people and says to the people, “Okay, this is how we’re going to bring down the Wall of Jericho.” Why do you want to bring down the Wall of Jericho? I’ll tell you why. Because that wall is formidable, that wall is strong, that wall is unrelenting. Commentaries say you could have driven an 18-wheeler truck atop that wall.
And I had really believed, just like it says of Jesus, “For the rock in the desert.” It says, “For that rock was Christ.” Does it mean that rock was actually Jesus Christ sitting down in the desert all this time, hiding away in the dark? No, it means that that rock was a picture of Jesus, was a shadow of what would really be. And I want to suggest to you that in the same way, we all face Jerichos in our lives. We really do, that you walk with the Lord, you’re out of Egypt you say, but at some point you hit something and you don’t know how to cross this thing.
Jericho comes in different forms. For some people, it’s probably at the physical dimension of life. Some kind of healing that you’re trusting God for, but it just hasn’t happened. And when it hasn’t happened over time, faith begins to be dissipated from you. For some people, it’s at the emotional dimension of life. Fears that have a way of crippling people and handicapping them. Fear of man, fear of the future, fear of the unknown. For some people, it has to do with just thoughts that fill the mind until it’s like a cesspool of sewage, thoughts that are negative thoughts that harm. All these things have a way of becoming Jerichos to us.
How does one deal with a Jericho then? Well, many people think, "I’ll just work harder. “I’ll throw myself into my job. I’ll overcome this thing.” And a kind of perfectionism begins to show up in their lives, and that thing will run its course, and they’ll run out of energy, and then they have a crisis of faith. Some try to climb over Jericho. You can’t climb over it. But they know too much than to go back into Egypt, so most Christians will camp base—will camp at the base of Jericho and just live there. Not advancing, not retreating, stuck in a rut.
Well that would have been okay except for this. Christianity was never meant to be—your salvation was never meant to be just a destination, “I’m saved.” It was supposed to be a destination, and more so even a destiny, the open of a door to a destiny, who God intended for you to be, the way he wired you, the purpose for which he made you, his intention for your life, Ephesians 2:10, good works that he has prepared for you that if you don’t get that thing right, you just camp there. And sad to say, sometimes theologies get built around it to say, “Yeah, just stay there. That’s your lot in life.” That’s closer to Islam and fatalism.
I do believe that there is suffering in the Christian world. I mean, the one who saved us died on a blood-stained cross. That’s like a big hint that there’s suffering in this thing, but you can suffer well. But you can suffer knowing that you’re going through this because you will not yield to something else apart from his way and his word. And then he brings you through.
How does one overcome that thing, camping at the base of Jericho? Joshua comes to the people and says to them, “The way we’re going to bring Jericho down is, yeah, we’re going to walk around the wall, yeah, once a day.” What do you think the people thought when they heard that? "Really? “We’re going to bring the wall down—sorry, did you say—sorry, for a second there I thought you said we’re going to walk.” “Yeah, we’re going to walk once a day. So early in the morning, every morning, everybody wake up. We’re going to walk.”
Now, let me tell you, this is a picture of what church life can be like because I’ve been a pastor for a little while, so I can tell you what the relationship between pastor, you know, shepherd and sheep can be like sometimes. Especially if you have, like, a new pastor on, yeah, this is interesting. On day one, they’re all on your side. Yeah. So you’ll go, “We’re going to go around the mountain. We’re going to go around Jericho.” And everybody’s thinking, “Yeah, Joshua. Impressive guy, Joshua. Fantastic leader. I like him, oh yes! Oh yes! He’s the guy.” And they walk around. Yeah, that’s day one. Everyone can have faith for half an hour. Day two, he wakes them up. “We’re going around again.” “Yeah, yeah, go on Joshua. He has a plan, you know? He has a plan. Joshua has a plan. I think us marching at the same time might weaken the foundations of the wall. He has a plan.” And they do all that. That’s day two. By day three, there’s a little silence. Then he says, “You know, I was just thinking. Now you know me, I’m not one to complain.” Yeah, any time you hear that, run for your life. “I’m not one to complain, but I was just wondering, you know, it just looks like we’re going around in circles. We’re not—we’re just going around in circles.” By day four, it’s like, “What are we doing here, huh? What are we doing? I mean, how do we know this guy Joshua really has it? I mean, who is his dad anyway? Who knows his family?” Yeah, by day five they’re like, “We’re fed up of this. We want blood! Give us a hammer or a chisel. Let’s go at this wall or something. Who ever heard of just marching around every morning disturbing our sleep?” That’s how it tends to go. And then on the 7th day, he comes to them and says, “Right, now today—” They’re like, “Yeah, we know, we’re going around the wall.” It’s like, “No, no, actually, today we’re going to go around the wall seven times.”
You know what happens when God wants to do something mighty and he gives people a simple directive, but halfway through, they begin to give up? They begin to give up. They begin to wreck it with things they think, and things they say, and how they feel about the whole thing. There are some faith killers that you need to watch out for. The first one is negativism, the disposition to always project to the worst case scenario. You must know somebody like that. Every church has—oh, you’re sitting there all looking pretty like it doesn’t. It happens in every church. You must have somebody here who’s like that. Every church has one. Maybe it’s you.
Negativism. There’s some people, no matter how positive anything is, they will find a negative thing in it. And you don’t realize that thing has a way of extinguishing your faith. It does you more harm than you realize. They always cover up their negativism with, “No, it’s just common sense,” but it’s usually unbelief masquerading as common sense.
Second thing is criticism, the disposition that’s preoccupied with the incomplete or with the imperfect. Oh, I know people like that. Criticism is like a gift to them. It’s like a spiritual gift, but it didn’t come from the Holy Spirit. It came from somewhere else. And they can criticize effortlessly. It’s recreational for them.
Or skepticism, the disposition that is determined to always question, but never commit. Yeah, you know those kinds of people. They question, “Really? Why? Where are we going now? What are we doing now as a church?” But when it comes to, “Okay, this is what we’re doing. Let’s commit,” no commitment, but they always question. Skeptic.
These things harm your faith more than you realize.
Or cynicism, the disposition to reject any human enterprise as unselfishly motivated. Anything that’s happening, “Ooh, what are they doing now? There’s got to be something behind it? What’s behind that?” There’s nothing behind it, but you have grown to become so suspicious of everything.
The point is, those things, they gnaw at your faith until they extinguish your faith and you don’t even realize it. By the way, be married to somebody who has all these four and you’re done. It’s game over. You’re going to have to work super hard at that marriage. Nothing worse than a husband who comes and says, “Well that wasn’t very good. What are we having today? Burnt offerings or—” nastiness the whole time. That’s hard. So my counsel, by the way, before you marry them, double check. Don’t give yourself a life imprisonment now.
I felt this morning just praying and preparing for this, the Lord really dropped something on my heart, a fifth one, which is not on your PowerPoint here, but it’s unforgiveness. And it’s probably bigger than all the other ones put together, unforgiveness, because unforgiveness becomes like an albatross, like a big rock, and it causes a blockage on the inside of you. And you will not hear from God the way you ought to, you will not receive from God, you will not have a walk with God that has real traction or life in it if unforgiveness is dominating your life. And there are too many Christians that this thing ties them up and gags them down, but they hold onto their unforgiveness and they carry their unforgiveness everywhere they go. That thing is a marriage wrecker. It’s a life wrecker. No wonder Jesus spoke about it so many times and said, “Let it go.” Let it go! Let it go.
On one occasion, Jesus told the story of the man who’s coming to give an offering in church, and Jesus says, “Leave your offering there. Go put it right with your brother.” You know what he probably could think God is saying? “You’ve got unforgiveness in your heart. Please don’t bother coming. Don’t even bother coming.” It stifles faith.
No, the way to resurrect faith, acknowledge God for who he is and then walk by faith again, and again. And right through that journey, you refuse to let faith killers come gnaw at it and kill it.
And finally, the third one, obey God’s word boldly. Whoever it is that said, “Faith is spelled R-I-S-K” is right. He’s got a good point. Faith involves risk.
I’ll close by telling you this. A friend of mine—actually it’s one of our pastors now. He was an occupational therapist in the hospital and he would— on this particular occasion, he went to a patient who had a surgery. It wasn’t that major a surgery, but he was kind of an older guy who was kind of a complaining kind of man a lot, you know? And he came to this guy and said to him, “Okay, sir, we see you’ve had your surgery and you’ve recuperated well. We just need to mobilize you, get your legs walking again and everything.” The guy’s like, “What? You want me to walk? No! I just had a big surgery. I feared for my life. You can’t just come tell me to—no thanks, I want a second opinion.” Okay, so they get the second opinion and the person they sent now, young girl, new to the job, just qualifies. She comes with, “Sir, would you like to walk?” He says, “No!” She says, “Okay.” She leaves him. Next week she comes. “Sir, would you like to walk?” “No!” She says, “Okay.” Third time she comes, “Would you like to walk?” Now he’s realizing, “I think she’s just going to keep saying okay.” And he’s thinking, “But I do want to walk one day,” so he says, “I want the other occupational therapist back.” So they bring my friend back. He comes and he says, “Sir, I see we meet again. Would you like to walk?” “Well, I’m scared if I walk, you know, if I take this step, you know, I might—” “Sir, would you like to walk?” “Yeah, I know, I want to walk but I’m just saying that, you know, it’s early, my surgery—” “Sir, would you like—” “Yes, yes, yes, I want to walk.” So he finally gets him, lifts him, helps him, mobilizes him, and eventually he’s walking.
The point is this. You cannot say, “I’m trying to have faith with God,” but you won’t do anything. You’re just going to sit down in one spot and in one place forever. It doesn’t work that way. At some point, you’re going to have to get up. At some point, you’re going to have to make a difference. You learn to hear from God and take the first step. The way that faith works, really, you take the first step and God supports you in it and he’s there with you. And you think it through, pray it through, and be counseled well by God-fearing people, but in the end, you have to take still that first step.
Because the Bible says this. When after they walked around seven times—walked around the wall, Joshua said to them, “Now shout.” Think about it. They walked around seven times each day. Now on the 7th day they walk around 7 times on the 7th day. Still, not even a crack. I mean, by now you’re expecting at least a crack. No cracks, nothing, no fracture in the whole thing. Then it says, “Now shout.” To praise God before the thing comes is the height of faith. “Now shout.” And the Bible says, “And so they shouted a great shout.” And only when they shouted, the walls of Jericho came down. And Hebrews 11 tells us that by faith, the walls of Jericho came down.
My prayer is that you will be lifted from a life of dormancy, wherever that might be, and a life of routine, and a life that just follows pragmatics and strategies, and get back to a flow of the Spirit, and let your heart be so open so that kingdom authority may flow from his throne onto you, his own. That you may hear God, his little nudge, his little explanation, his little help. So that when you open the word of God, this is not just a routine where I read, and I take, and I’m done, but the whole time, he is whispering something to me. This makes a difference in anybody’s life. May that be the case for you in Jesus’ name. And everybody said amen. God bless you for listening.