» FarewellTHE FAREWELL ADDRESS OF A GREAT LEADER
Adapted by Mark Hardgrove from a Bible study by Bettie Marlow, Cleveland Banner, Aug. 2, 2000.
NOTE: All words in italices are from Ms. Marlow's study.
Text: Joshua 23:6-11
(Reflecting upon Paul Walker’s farewell address.) He said the Church of God must advance the kingdom—this was the theme of the 68th General Assembly. Using Romans 14:17 as his text, Dr. Walker said that we will advance the kingdom by embracing four dimensions of the church’s existence. These dimensions are: 1. A Declaration of Destiny, 2. A Renewal of Righteousness, 3. The Power of Peace, and 4. The Anointing of the Holy Spirit.
As I listened, I remembered the farewell message of Joshua. In Joshua's farewell message in Joshua 23 and 24 (he was close to 110 years old), he told the children of Israel three things: be courageous, be cautious and be constant.
They had settled in. Battles had been fought and won; the land had been divided and they had enjoyed a few years of rest and prosperity. Well, wasn't this what they were promised? They deserved it, didn't they?
Joshua didn't dispute this at all. After all, he was the one who, through God's strength, had brought them this far. And he didn't want them to take it all for granted and forget the One who kept His promise to them.
The Pentecostal churches of the twenty-first century needs to consider Joshua’s words anew. We’ve come a long way in a hundred years. We’ve gone from being the despised outcasts, the rejected remnant, to being one of the most powerful religious movements on the earth today. We are no longer the ragged, backwoods, poverty stricken, saints. Now we boast the largest churches in the world, we are middle class and upper class; we are educated and wise in the ways of the world. But are we any better now than we were then? Are we closer to God? Are we more committed to the harvest? Or are we content to stay where we are and bask in the glories of past victories? Joshua has a threefold warning: be courageous, be cautious, and be constant.
First of all, he said, "Be courageous (23:6)." Why? Weren't the wars over? Were they not inhabiting the land of Canaan? It would be easy to relax and think that there is nothing to disturb their piece (and peace) of the world. Probably, just like we would be today, they felt "We've got it made!"
America has been enjoying the longest time of prosperity in the history of our country. People are feeling good about their position, their possessions and their prosperity. The cold war is over, and we won.
aise from the insane little leaders of Iran and North Korea, there are no threatening global conflicts, there are no global epidemics, even AIDs is now being controlled (not cured, but controlled) with medication. We might think that we as Americans, we as Christians, we as Pentecostals, can simply relax and be at ease in Zion, but if there was ever a time to be alert, it is this time. In a time when ye think not, the Son of Man will return. Men will be crying peace and safety and then will come sudden destruction.
Joshua said, "Watch out." Up to this point, they have been led by men who were under the anointing of God. They had journeyed together, moved together and fought together. Now the tribes would be more on their own, fighting their battles, guarding against any enemies and providing for the people. It meant a lot of responsibility Were they able? Not without the Lord, he said.
We didn’t get to where we are without the Lord, and we won’t be able to maintain without the Lord. We need the Lord's sustaining strength as must to stand on the mountain as we do to climb the mountain. The victory is ours, but we’d better stand our guard because the enemy, like a roaring lion is seeking whom he may destroy.
I’m reminded today, of a friend of mine. I met her and her husband at the Lawrenceville Church of God some several years ago. She was a beautiful young woman of 41, an apparently happy person who appeared to be deeply committed to the Lord. I hadn’t seen her in a couple years--the last time was when a friend and I ran into her at Ryans restaurant and we all sat down for a meal and for fellowship. By every outward appearance she had it all together. But the enemy of her soul was relentless. The devil never sleeps. Just a few days later I heard by phone, and then read in the paper that she had died. For reasons I will probably never know, she took her own life.
The message of Joshua to all of us today is, “Watch out, stand your ground, be courageous!” The old song said it well, “Coward in the service, he will find no place, so keep on the firing line!” As Dr. Vest so eloquently put it, we’ve already been fired upon by the enemy and it’s time to engage the enemy with all the spiritual resources of heaven.
Second, he told them to be cautious (23:7). Joshua saw dangers they seemingly were not aware of. He saw the people intermingling with those who worshiped idols. It was going to take brave people to keep standing for the true God. It was going to take people who really believed what they professed to believe. It was going to take a people who truly loved God to be strong in the battles for their allegiance. They needed to be aware of what the dangers were.
In a day of Harry Potter mania, of a melting pot of religions and religious movements, and of a time of “I’m okay, you’re okay,” we need to be cautious. In a time of so-called Christian television, and media-made superstar preachers, we need to be cautious. Not everything dressed in the robes of religion is righteous. We must measure our faith, not by the standards of the times, but by the Word of God.
Third, Joshua said, "Be constant (23:11)" He reminded them how God had led them, fought their battles and given them the land. He told them as long as they kept looking to the Lord and obeying Him, He would never forsake them. That was the secret of prosperity and success -- remember the laws of God and observe them. Simple, wasn't it?" Our success as believers and as a church is build upon the basic principle of constancy, of faithfulness.
In 1 Chronicles 28:7 David used this very theme to tell his son Solomon that this is the key to success. Concerning Solomon, God told David, “Moreover I will establish his kingdom for ever, if he be constant to do my commandments and my judgments, as at this day.” David wisely passed this truth on to Solomon as his successor to the kingdom.
Faith is not so much about naming and claim, or professing, confessing, and possessing. Faith is more about faithful obedience than about health and wealth. Faith is about giving in tithes and offerings, even when we can’t buy the bigger car. Faith is about continuing to serve, even when we don’t feel good. Faith is about constancy in worship and praise even when we are in the heat of the battles of life. Faith is not about immunity from the attack of the enemy, but about ultimate triumph over anything the enemy brings to bear in our lives.
No one was going to force the Israelites to obey God. They had a choice. But the choice had results. Faithfulness depends on love -- the relationship between God and His children.
Faithfulness and constancy grow naturally in direct proportion to our love for God. The more we love Him, the easier it is to sacrifice for Him. The more we love Him, the more natural it is for us to remain faithful and true even when the pressures of life would try to push us away from God. The more we love and trust God, the easier it is to leave the mysteries of life in His hands and find our peace in the truth that we’ll understand it all by and by. But the less we love the harder it is to serve, to sacrifice, to sing or to praise Him.
God won’t make us love Him. We have the choice today, and every day, whether or not we will take up our cross and follow Him. We can choose to be faithful to be constant, to be someone God can depend upon.
God should be able to look at us and know where we’re going to be on the Lord’s Day. God should be able to look at us and know what we’re going to do with the Lord’s tithe. God should be able to look at us know that we will raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The Lord should be able to look at us in any circumstance or situation and know that we will stand true and sure with our feet on the rock and our mind made up.
We cannot be double minded and be victorious. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. We must not be tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine; we must be constant and consistent in our walk. As Brother Mackel Seckman used to testify in our little church in Elk Lick, West Virginia, we must “keep on, keeping on.” Obedience and faithfulness cannot be occasional events in our lives. We must be constant; we must put on our armor every day and take our stand in the army of the Lord. As the old song said, “We must fight, be strong, against all evil, never run nor even lag behind. If we would win, for God and the right, you must keep on the firing line.”
We have choices. We can choose to be courageous or we can choose to be weak; we can choose to be cautious, or we can choose irresponsibility; we can choose to be constant, or we can choose to be wishy-washy.
Joshua had been practicing what he preached -- he knew God and he had made his choice a long time ago. He told them in Joshua 24:15 (KJV), "And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
Oh yes, they had a choice. And so does everyone. Have you made your choice? Are courageous enough to walk uprightly before the Lord and forsake the temptations of life? Are you cautious and careful in your associations and decisions? Are you constant in your service and ministry to the Lord? If you haven’t made those choices, make them today.