A good word for a new year

Published 3:54 pm Friday, January 1, 2021

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Moses is dead; Joshua carried on! So read the editorial caption in the evening paper “Chronicles” dated 1200 B.C. Though the headline is ancient, what better subject for a new year’s message in 2021? Moses is dead; Joshua carries on! Here’s the situation. The promised land has been spied out and all systems are go. The Israelites have followed Joshua to the Jordan River. The promised land is just ahead. A new and exciting day is dawning. But then it happens — an obstacle. These obstacles may be economic, political, social or personal, but they always come.

The year 2020 has been full of obstacles — COVID-19, job losses, struggling businesses, racial tension, political turmoil, the election, etc. As I said, obstacles always come. Almost as soon as the Israelites set out upon their new adventure, they came to a barrier. It must have been a discouraging moment to say the least. They were so near the goal and yet so far. It was springtime, and the Jordan River was flooding. There were no boats or bridges; just gallons of water. They could see the objective right there before them, but they couldn’t get to it. So what did Joshua do in this despairing situation? We are told that at the end of those three miserable days Joshua sent his officers throughout the camp telling the people that they were to move out when they saw the priests carrying the ark of the Lord. They were to follow the ark(the symbol of God’s presence) so that they would know the way. So they did and so they arrived safely in the promised land.

Now, what is Joshua’s special word to us as we begin the new year 2021?

First, acknowledge God and live purposefully! Notice that the children of Israel are to be led into the land of promise not by the military or by political leaders but by the priests. The favorable presence of God must go before them. Why? Plainly and simply, because they do not know the way. And without God’s leadership and guidance they will not know where to go. A young man in a certain church was soon leaving for military service. He came by to see his minister. After they had talked a while about when he was leaving and where he was going, the minister gave him a picture of the church to carry with him and then said, “What about your religious faith? Is it in good shape as you get ready to shove off; just in case you need it before you get back?” The minister said that he thought often of the of the young man’s answer. “Yes,” the young man said, “I believe in God, and I believe God knows what He is doing.” Among the marvelous affirmations of the Christian faith, none is quite so bold and decisive as this-“God is in control of His world.” Theology books call this the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty. The subject, however, is not confined to theologians. It is of immediate and practical concern to each of us today as we contemplate the new year 2021. One God over all, the Father of Jesus Christ, is the ground of all our hope.

Second, face the obstacles with courage and move on! “Then you shall set out from your place,” Joshua said (Joshua 3:3). Joshua didn’t say that you should sneak out from your place or squirm out from your place or timidly leave your place, but “set out” from your place. In other words, move out with courage. The question becomes, how will we take these and other lessons learned during this pandemic year and make for a better future?”

Third, live on the edge of possibility! When Dr. John E, Godfrey, a beloved preacher and teacher, came to his 83rd birthday, someone asked him, “Doctor, if you had the privilege of making such a choice, which ten years of your life would you prefer to live over again?” Without a moment’s hesitation, the answer came back, “The next ten.” That sounds like Joshua’s words, “For tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you” (Joshua 3:5).

So how do we dwell in possibility?

1) We remember what God has done in the past. 2) We remember it is God’s power, not our own. 3) We remember to give God the glory. “The battle is always the Lord’s ( ll Samuel 17:47). 4) And we remember to move forward in trust and without delay.

Happy New Year!