Moving Forward in the Faith

October 11, 2020

Steps to take in order to receive the blessings God has promised.

FROM A SERMON BY Bob Bishop

A

s the Israelites were preparing to cross the Jordan River into the land of Canaan, they received an encouraging message from God through their leader Joshua: “To morrow the Lord will do wonders among you” (Joshua 3:5). This was the day they had long been waiting for. God had first promised this land to their patriarch Abraham over four hundred years earlier, and He had renewed that promise through their forefathers many times since. The Israelites had heard about and anticipated this blessing, and now they were about to receive it.

However, to get from where they were in the wilderness to inside the land that was promised to them, there were a few things the people needed to do in preparation. First, they would need to receive and obey instruction; second, focus on God and follow His leading; third, consecrate themselves; and finally, move forward in faith.

We too must make spiritual preparation to be able to progress in the Gospel and experience God’s best for our lives—the blessings He has in store for us, and victory. We can do this by taking these same four actions.  

Receive and obey instruction

Like Moses before him, Joshua received direct communication from God with explicit instructions, and he conveyed these to the Israelites. As the people gathered at the Jordan and prepared to cross over to that blessing God had set before them, the command went throughout the camp, “When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it” (Joshua 3:3). This first instruction was specific—the people were to wait until the priests took up the ark before starting out.  

The instructions that followed were also specific, and included an explanation of why it was so necessary that the Israelites obey: “For ye have not passed this way heretofore” (Joshua 3:4). God knew the way into the Promised Land, but for the Israelites, this was new territory—they had not passed this way before. They were about to receive a new experience from God, and needed direction; they needed to know how to proceed.

When seeking His promises, we can look to His Word for specific instruction on how to proceed.

We also need direction when entering new spiritual territory, and God is still the best authority on how to receive His promises. Like Joshua, we have access to direct communication from Him—in the form of the Bible. When seeking His promises, we can look to His Word for specific instruction on how to proceed.

Joshua was confident that if the people would obey the words of the Lord, He would work on their behalf. God had previously given him a promise regarding this, saying, “Observe to do according to all that is written therein [in God’s Law]: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8). This verse contains a spiritual principle which holds true today: obedience to God’s Word always brings His blessing.

If, like the Israelites, we will look to God’s Word for instruction and be careful to obey the direction given, we will also have success in receiving His blessing on our lives and the spiritual experiences He has for us.

Focus on God and follow His leading

The second instruction the Israelites received was to follow the ark at a distance, keeping “a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure.” This distance amounted to a little over half a mile. The reason given for this command was “that ye may know the way by which ye must go” (Joshua 3:4). The ark was a symbol of God’s presence, and as it went ahead of the people, God’s presence went ahead, leading the way.

Without the instruction to stay two thousand cubits back, there might have been a tendency for the Israelites to get out ahead of the ark in their excitement. If that were to happen, they would be without God’s direction, and possibly with too many ideas of how to proceed. This was no time for each person to have his own idea about how to enter the Promised Land. When they arrived at the Jordan River and saw it was swollen by flood waters, perhaps some thought it would be better to look for another place to cross. Maybe others thought they should stop and build a bridge. However, God knew the way and He had a plan. If the Israelites would stay focused on the ark in the lead and follow where it went, God would get them safely across the Jordan and into the Promised Land.

We do not want to get out ahead of God either; we want to be following rather than trying to lead. We do this by relying on God’s Spirit to help us understand His Word and know how to apply it to our lives.  

Satan wants us to be self-reliant and will raise questions such as, “Does the Bible really mean that?” and “Is this Biblical principle relevant today?” There is no room in the Gospel for our own ideas, our own ways, or our own interpretation of God’s Word.

It is instinctive to want to do things our own way—to make decisions based on our reasoning rather than on God’s Word and His leading. However, it is the work of Satan when we stop looking to God for guidance and start thinking we can handle things ourselves. Satan wants us to be self-reliant and will raise questions such as, “Does the Bible really mean that?” and “Is this Biblical principle relevant today?” There is no room in the Gospel for our own ideas, our own ways, or our own interpretation of God’s Word. We cannot choose which part is important to follow and which part is not—it is all important.

There is a precious promise from the Lord in Psalm 32:8 which says, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” If we will read God’s Word and keep our focus on Him, He will guide us into a closer walk, preparing our hearts to receive His blessing on our lives.

Consecrate

After the Israelites had received the preliminary instructions, the next step given was to “Sanctify yourselves” (Joshua 3:5). To sanctify something is to set it apart for God’s use. The word means to consecrate or dedicate something to God. In Old Testament times, people sanctified themselves by changing their clothes, washing, and separating from anything deemed by God to be unclean.

On this day, Joshua was in essence telling the people, “Prepare yourselves; let go of distractions and set yourselves apart for God’s purpose.” The Israelites needed to make sure there was nothing in their lives that would hinder their success in entering the Promised Land.

It is similar for us. If we want spiritual victory in our lives, we need to let go of anything that would hinder our relationship with God, and set ourselves apart for His service. We do this through prayer by first humbling ourselves—prayer is not simply bending our knees, but also bending our hearts in submission toward God. Then we ask the Holy Spirit to help us search our hearts and lay aside our own desires and plans. Finally, we seek more of God and His will in our lives.

Colossians 3:1-2 says, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” As we set our hearts on the things which are above, God will give us a hunger for more. We will become less satisfied with the attractions of this earth and be able to consecrate further. Then as we continue to actively seek for more of God, He will fulfill His promises in our lives. Jesus said in Luke 6:21, “Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled.”

Consecration will bring us into a closer walk with the Lord, and that is what He requires.

Move forward in faith

The previous generation of Israelites had been brought to this very point forty years earlier, but had not been allowed to possess the land because of unbelief. Now they were again on the brink of claiming God’s blessing, and they received that wonderful promise through Joshua: “To morrow the Lord will do wonders among you” (Joshua 3:5). Just as God had led their forefathers across the Red Sea out of Egypt, He was ready to open up the Jordan River and lead them into the Promised Land. If they would prepare their hearts and believe, this would be just one of many miracles they would experience in the future. God would go before them and defeat their enemies, enabling them to claim their inheritance. 

Despite what fears they may have had, the people were determined to put their trust in God and go forward with Him.

The preparation had been made, and all that was left was to step out in faith and receive the promise. Maybe there were some in this group with lingering questions and feelings of uncertainty. They might have been wondering how God would get them across with the river at flood stage. Or, how they would defeat the giants if they were still in the land. However, despite what fears they may have had, the people were determined to put their trust in God and go forward with Him.  

Joshua gave the signal to the priests saying, “Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass over before the people.” The priests obeyed, “and they took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people” (Joshua 3:6). As the Israelites followed in faith, God parted the waters of the Jordan before them, and they went through on dry ground to victory.

We can have that same victory. Psalm 77:14 says, “Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people.” God still does wonders among His people today, and wants to do this for us.

Receive God’s blessing

The Israelites made the proper preparations, taking the correct actions, and they were able to receive victory. We must do the same to receive God’s promises and His blessing on our lives. 

As we consider this account, we see that God provided the Israelites with everything necessary to obtain His blessing. He made the promise, gave the instruction, and went before them. We also have been provided every opportunity to know God’s promises, receive His instruction, and apply His Word to our lives through consecration and faith. We have been given the Bible, and the opportunity to study it. Throughout the year in our church services and camp meetings, we hear sermons preached on many doctrinal topics from the three spiritual foundational experiences to restitution to diving healing, and are given ample opportunity to apply these messages around the altars of prayer.

God has made the promises available. The question is, Are we hungry enough to obey, to consecrate the things that need consecrating, and move forward in faith? If we can do these things, God will bless our lives.

About the author

Bob Bishop is pastor of the Apostolic Faith Church in Richmond, California.