Joshua is one of the heroes of the Old Testament. He played second fiddle to Moses, and the Bible says the Lord gave Joshua the same anointing to lead that was on Moses. Joshua is a hero in the history of Israel because of his character. Joshua and Caleb were two chief spies. Moses sent 12 men into Canaan to spy out the land. Joshua and Caleb brought back the famous minority report, and a report of blessing.
When Joshua succeeded Moses, one of the first things he did was to lead the children of Israel, two million people, across the Jordan river. It was in the time of the harvest. The Jordan river at that time was probably a mile wide. Imagine, bringing all of your people, your infirm, your old, as well as your young, et cetera, all over safely into the land of Canaan. Then, of course, once they got to Canaan, Joshua’s first job was to fight the battle of Jericho. As they marched around the walls of Jericho, and the walls fell flat, God blessed him in an incredible way.
Even with Joshua bowing before the angel at the beginning of his leadership, and at this juncture in the story, I’m coming to the chapter of Joshua, Chapter 24:15, where Joshua is talking to the children of Israel. He’s got the whole tribe gathered together. These are his final remarks. He’s about to die. He’s a hundred and ten years old, and he wants to leave the heritage of blessing to his people. He demands that they make a decision, and he says these words: “Choose you, this day, whom ye will serve.” “Choose you, this day, whom ye will serve.” It’s so important that we decide to choose to serve the Lord, and to choose that today. Now is the time to choose.
I want to talk to you about the business of choosing. Joshua was a man and leader who understood his power to choose. There’s a great book written by Steven Covey, one of my favorite motivational authors over the years. In it he says some things about choosing that I think are fundamental. I want to use them to undergird the words that I’m going to say to you today.
Here’s what Covey says: “If you were to ask me what one subject, one theme, one point seemed to have the greatest impact upon people, what one great idea resonated deeper in the soul than any other. If you were to ask, what one ideal was most practical, most relevant, most timely, regardless of circumstances, I would answer quickly, without reservation, and with the deepest conviction of my heart and soul. I would say the greatest thought that we have is that we are free to choose.”
We are free to choose. Next to life itself, the power to choose is our greatest gift. Think about that today. A very important decision I’ve been encouraging my friends to make, especially during the COVID pandemic, is the decision to choose hope. Next to life itself, the power to choose is your greatest gift. This freedom and power to choose stands in stark contrast to the mindset of victimism and cultural blame so prevalent in society today. Fundamentally, we are a product of choice. Not nature or nurture. Certainly genes and culture often influence very powerfully, but they do not determine your power to chose the direction of your own life, allows you to reinvent yourself, to change your future, and to powerfully influence the rest of creation.
One of the first things I’d like to say about choosing hope, is number one, we must choose for ourselves.
In man’s greatest moments, in the greatest moments of our souls, man is alone. There’s a place of quietness inside each of us where we make choices and decisions, and no one can do it for us. When Jesus faced Satan in the desert, he faced him alone. And, in another place in scripture, Jesus said, “I have trodden the wine press alone.” When we come to the end of our lives on earth, we face death alone. No one else can do it for us. We make the momentous decisions of life alone. Others can persuade us, they can inspire us, but they cannot decide or control us. Others may pray for us, but in the end, we must decide for ourselves.
Choosing hope is much more important than we realize. The ability that we have to choose is our greatest gift from God. First, we choose for ourselves, we choose alone. And, second, choice involves sacrifice. How often when we have to choose one thing, we have sacrifice something else. When we choose hope, we have to turn away from hopelessness. If we choose hope, we choose against resignation. If we choose hope, we choose against cynicism.
One sad thing about Christians, and I’m speaking for all of us corporately, is the fact that so many of us don’t demonstrate hope. The world needs hope, especially from the church. When we delay or withhold hope, the right decision becomes harder. Indecision is itself a choice. If I were planning to take a plane today at 12 noon, and I couldn’t make up my mind whether I would take the flight or not, I may go to the airport, stand there and watch the airplane taxi away from the airport. Once the plane leaves, time has decided for me. In life when I’m indecisive, time often choosing for me. Time catches up with us, and to delay choosing makes our right decisions harder.
Have you ever wondered what Satan’s favorite word is? I think Satan’s favorite word is tomorrow. Tomorrow. Listen to this scripture, Proverbs 27:1. “Boast not thyself tomorrow.” Wow. James 4. “Go to, ye that say tomorrow, for you know not what shall be on the morrow.” We don’t know what’s coming tomorrow. God’s word is always today. Tomorrow means to put things off. Tomorrow means to make the decision later.
One of the great stories in Paul’s ministry comes out of the book of Acts when Paul was asked to appear before Felix and Drucilla. Felix was a governor of Israel who had an adulterous relationship with Drucilla. She was a Jewess and the daughter of Herod Agrippa, the King. Felix and Drucilla were living in sin. They invited Paul to preach to them, and he wasn’t afraid to preach the truth. The Bible says he reasoned with Felix and Drucilla about three things. First of all, he talked to them about righteousness. What is right before God. He talked to them about self-control, or temperance is another word. Both people were living in adultery and lacked self-control.
The final point that Paul made was about the judgment to come. That is an overwhelming idea. The Bible says that Felix trembled in Paul’s presence. He said to Paul, “Go thy way at this time, and when I have a convenient season, I will call for you again.” The epitaph written across the grave of Felix and Drucilla is the epitaph “tomorrow, another time, when I have had more time to think about it.” It’s never safe to say tomorrow when God says today. God is saying to us that today we are to choose hope.
Let me read to you some verses on hope that are my favorites. In Romans Chapter 15:13, the Bible says, “Now, may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace, in believing that you may abound in hope.” God wants us to abound in hope. What does it mean to abound? It means to have more than enough. If we take a glass and fill it with water, when it flows over the top, we have an abundance. When we have hope, an abundant hope, and we abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit, we have more hope than we can handle. Hope that blesses others. People love to be around someone who is hopeful. We have an opportunity today to bring hope into our friends, loved ones, family. Hope will bless so many people.
Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the scripture, might have hope.” One of my favorites, Jeremiah 29:11 says, ” ‘I know the plans that I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘Plans for good, and not for evil, to give you a future a hope.’” Aren’t those wonderful words? It’s important that we choose them.
My final point in choosing hope is that our time to decide is limited. Today decides tomorrow. Now is the time to decide. There are things that we need to decide for ourselves. We need to decide to forgive others who have hurt us, break habits that are hurting ourselves and/or others, etc. Today is the day to make our decision and to decide to hope.
I love the story of Bartimaeus the blind man at the gates of Jericho as Jesus comes walking in with a huge crowd, and he starts to scream out loud, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” The Bible said Jesus heard him, went over and healed him in that moment when asked.
Today, the message is simple. Like Joshua, choose this day whom you will serve. I am choosing to serve the Lord. I am choosing to hope. I make that decision because God has given me this beautiful opportunity and gift to choose. We can choose to hope today in the middle of coronavirus, sickness, disease of many different kinds, financial chaos, things in an uproar, etc. It’s time to choose hope. Choose you this day whom you will serve. I’m going to serve the Lord, the God of hope. May you do the same.