My Life Group lesson for Dec. 11, 2016, using Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway and bits from John MacArthur and Adrian Rogers.
When you watched “Forrest Gump,” did you think more like Lieutenant Dan, who was hanging on the sail during a hurricane yelling at God. He thinks all of life is predetermined?
Or were you more like Forrest, whose mom always told him that “life is like a box of chocolates” and “you never know what you might get.”
The Bible affirms both.
Jeremiah 29:11 makes it clear that God has a plan for our lives: “‘For I know the plans I have for you’—this is the LORD’s declaration—‘plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’”
The Bible also says that we have a choice that influences how well our lives go.
As the book of Deuteronomy ends, the Israelites have wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. God says they have a choice.
While God alone directs the ways of history and our individual lives, there remain some wise decisions to help us move forward down His path.
UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT
*** For the next few months we’re going to study the books of Joshua, Judges and Ruth.
*** Joshua was a trusted military leader under Moses from Exodus 17 and through the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy, and was commissioned as Israel’s next leader (Deut. 27:18-23).
*** Joshua 1 is shortly after Moses as God spoke to Joshua and encouraged him to set his sights on the task of settling the lands that God had promised for His people.
A NEW LEADER (JOSH. 1:1-5)
1 After the death of Moses the LORD’s servant, the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun, who had served Moses: 2 “Moses My servant is dead. Now you and all the people prepare to cross over the Jordan to the land I am giving the Israelites. 3 I have given you every place where the sole of your foot treads, just as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will be from the wilderness and Lebanon to the great Euphrates River—all the land of the Hittites—and west to the Mediterranean Sea. 5 No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or forsake you.
--- God’s people faced two big transitions as the book of Joshua begins:
--- 1) New leadership, as Moses dies and Joshua takes command;
--- 2) Israel was moving from the wilderness into the promised land.
--- As the people prepared to cross the Jordan River into Canaan, God speaks to His new head honcho.
--- Moses had been willing to surrender his life to whatever God wanted.
--- Would Joshua do the same?
--- It’s hard to imagine the emotion Joshua felt, moving from a serving role into a leadership position.
--- It certainly helps that God assured Joshua of a lot of promises:
--- 1) They would inhabit all of the land that God had promised to Abraham centuries earlier (Gen. 12:6-7).
--- 2) They would defeat their enemies.
--- 3) God would not forsake them.
--- 40 years earlier Joshua was one of the spies sent to check out Canaan. Except for Caleb, the other spies made the people too afraid to trust God’s promises. Now they would have to take that leap of faith across the Jordan River.
--- Today we as believers often face challenges that seem beyond our ability to handle, but we need to trust in God’s grace. He can accomplish more than we ask or think. (Eph. 3:20 – “Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us.”)
*** Been there, done that.
--- Notice in verse 3 that it’s in past tense: “I have given you.”
--- It’s such a certainty that the writer writes as if it has already been accomplished.
--- In His mind and purpose, the task is as good as done.
--- Paul said that God has raised us up with Christ and seated us in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). We are not yet in heaven, but God’s salvation is so certain that Paul speaks of it as a past event.
*** Question - How can knowing that “God will never leave you or forsake you” help you remain strong when faced with new challenges?
A NEW TRUST (JOSH. 1:7-9)
7 Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. 8 This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. 9 Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
What are your kids’ greatest fears that leave them stuttering like the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz?”
*** Never fear, God is here!
--- 14 times the Bible uses the phrase “be strong and courageous,” including a handful of times in Joshua.
--- Fear is a strong motivator, and the devil knows how to cripple us with it.
--- To take a stand for God you have to defeat fear.
--- We do not need courage for what we know we can handle. We need courage for something we know we cannot do alone and must have faith in God to complete.
*** Do as He says.
--- While God commanded Joshua to be strong and courageous, success would be based on his obedience.
--- God had sovereignly worked to bring the people to this place of entering the promised land, yet He was allowing them to choose whether or not to obey Him.
--- Joshua and the Israelites were on the banks of the Jordan, looking over into the Promised Land. Now they had to choose.
--- 40 years before they chose fear and ended up wandering the wilderness.
--- Joshua was the only other person on the mountain when God gave Moses the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments.
--- To be witness to that awesome experience gave Joshua the courage and determination to inspire his people to take the leap of faith.
--- The same word God gave Moses would now empower Joshua.
*** Think of someone who has inspired you. (A boss, a coach, a family member, etc.) Do you look to their actions? What they say? Or both?
REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS
Two weeks ago the Gatlinburg area was ravaged by fire.
Homes, vacation retreats, stores, were all lost.
There’s a lot of people who don’t know what’s the next step in their lives.
As Joshua begins, the Israelites had lost their beloved leader in Moses.
God’s encouragement to “be strong and courageous” meant Joshua and the people had a decision to make – to obey or disobey, give up or move forward, to trust or turn away from God.
*** (1) The Bible again and again affirms that what God calls us to do, He equips us to do.
*** (2) Here are two keys to stepping out in faith: 1. Remember that God is with you; 2. Remember that God keeps His promises.
*** (3) Are you seeking to be strong and courageous? What hinders you from this? What do you need to do to grow in strength and courage? How can you be reminded of God's presence today?