Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Current Study: People Who Made a Difference
Today’s Topic: Faith Makes a Difference
Today’s Scripture: Joshua 3:5-8 Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.” Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them. And the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’”
At the conclusion of the first session of The Truth Project, Dr. Del Tackett asks a question. It is a deeply penetrating question. It is a question that exposes the truth of what we believe. Think about this for a moment – “Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?” You may have to repeat it a few times to let it sink in. For me, there are two significant questions that arise from that one. First, “In whom or in what have I placed my faith?”, and second, “Is what I call faith really faith?” In other words, is what I believe in real, and if it is, is my belief in it real enough to make a difference?
Now I know I have started out in the deep end of the pool, and you may only feel like wading today, but let’s go swimming anyway. If you must, just tread water with me for a while. For the second time in his life Joshua stands before the Jordan River which served as a boundary to the Promised Land. He had crossed it once before in traditional fashion when he was sent by Moses as a member of a twelve man spy ring to search out and design a strategy for conquering the territory God had given them. Ten of those spies returned in fear and saw no way of conquering the land. They were not present this time, having died in the wilderness over the past forty years with all of the other people who believed their faithless report. Only Joshua and the other faithful spy, Caleb, were present. Joshua was now the leader of the nation, and he faced another faith challenge.
The fear of the enemy that lived across the river had been conquered. The people were ready to take possession of the land. But now the river itself became the test of their faith. Joshua 3:15 tells us that the river was at flood stage. Historical records tell us that when it flooded, the river went from wading depth and an average width of 100 feet, to a rushing river of 12 foot depth that would overflow the banks of the ravine and flood out into the plains. It was considered an historic feat to cross the river during flood stage, and would be impossible for an entire nation with women, children, animals, and baggage to accomplish. It would seem logical that the people would question God’s timing to have brought them to this point during flood stage, and to question his location, knowing that just a few miles downstream there was a flatter and shallower area of the river that rarely flooded. Why would God ask them to cross at this time and at this place where they would have to struggle so hard? God was asking them the question, “Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?”
We don’t have any record of the names of the men who first demonstrated that their faith was real, but we know that their faith made a difference for everyone else. All the people were asked to be ready to move when the Ark of the Covenant moved. They were told what would happen. As soon as the priests carrying the ark stepped into the rushing water, the water would be stopped, and the people would all be able to cross over on dry ground. I wonder how many times during the three days prior to this event, as they camped by the river, they had retold the story of Moses and their ancestors escaping the Egyptian army by crossing over the Red Sea on dry ground? Some of them may have even been there and were old enough to remember when it happened. They could testify to the power of God. All of them had seen the power of God during the last forty years as He provided for them and brought them to this place of conquest. They all knew who God was, and what He was capable of, but did they really believe that what they believed was really real? Would their faith make a difference in their actions?
So here come the priests, carrying the Ark. The people are ready to move. How much doubt would we have had as we watched? How much doubt would we have had if we were on of the priests? Would we have to admit that what we call faith isn’t really faith because it didn’t produce actions that proved we really believed God was real? Not these priests. They walked right up to the edge of the rushing river that had overflowed its banks. The exact edge of the drop off was indiscernible through the muddy water. How many steps would they be able to take before they would drop into the twelve foot ravine and be washed away? Most of us would have to admit that our eyes would have been on the water and we would have been thinking about the second step. But that would have demonstrated a lack of faith, because God had said that the first step would stop the river. The thought of being washed away was itself washed away by true faith. They took God at His word, and obeyed. Their faith made a difference.
You see, true faith in the one True God will be proved by obedience to God. Unquestioning obedience. Activity always proves the placement of faith. Choices always prove what we really believe to be real. So as you look at your life today, and as you consider your choices and your current condition, can you say that you really believe that what you believe is real about God is really real? It will be worth the time and effort to think through that. Otherwise you may never know true faith.