We live in a worldly environment full of materialistic possessions. This sermon starts off by reminding us that nothing is more important than the heavenly rewards that God gives. To be able to give up worldly rewards for God’s sake is an important way for us to earn our rewards in heaven. This important message is discussed with great reference to the Book of Joshua 11:1-16.
Joshua 11:1-5 And it came to pass, when Jabin king of Hazor had heard those things, that he sent to Jobab king of Madon, and to the king of Shimron, and to the king of Achshaph, And to the kings that were on the north of the mountains, and of the plains south of Chinneroth, and in the valley, and in the borders of Dor on the west, And to the Canaanite on the east and on the west, and to the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Jebusite in the mountains, and to the Hivite under Hermon in the land of Mizpeh. And they went out, they and all their hosts with them, much people, even as the sand that is upon the sea shore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many. And when all these kings were met together, they came and pitched together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel.
The pagan kings plotted a conspiracy against Joshua and the children of Israel and tried to conquer them, knowing that these wicked nations owned a huge amount of possessions. This is comparable to what’s happening in the wicked world today, given what we own in the form of money, property, relationships, vanity, comforts etc.
Often when we serve our Heavenly Father, we may be required to give up some of that in order for us to truly witness to others, or to show our great testimonies. Giving up all these ‘horses’ in large numbers may be very difficult for a lot of people.
Matthew 11:29-30 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Nonetheless, God will never want us to give up on something just so that it jeopardizes our being. In contrast, He actually wants us to let go of the possessions because these can become our burden instead; letting go of them gives us more rest. Give up on the ‘horses’ so that we can get our ‘spoils’.
2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
We may perceive the possessions that we have to let go to be massive, and that they cost us a lot. However, to Paul, they are petty. Why would he think so? Because Paul reminded us to focus on what’s up in heaven, not what’s here on earth.
Joshua 11:6-9 And the Lord said unto Joshua, Be not afraid because of them: for to morrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel: thou shalt hough their horses, and burn their chariots with fire. So Joshua came, and all the people of war with him, against them by the waters of Merom suddenly; and they fell upon them. And the Lord delivered them into the hand of Israel, who smote them, and chased them unto great Zidon, and unto Misrephoth-maim, and unto the valley of Mizpeh eastward; and they smote them, until they left them none remaining. And Joshua did unto them as the Lord bade him: he houghed their horses, and burnt their chariots with fire.
God’s hand is within every step of the way as we make the decision to serve him and let go of worldly possessions. Instead of focusing on what we have given up, we should focus on the mightiness and providence of our Heavenly Father.
Nevertheless, in regards to His hands of providence, sometimes God will also test us through the physical or worldly things that He gives us, to see if we will indulge in them or willingly forego them instead and obey his instructions.
Matthew 19: 20-22 cf Luke 15: 11-17 are great parables from Jesus that trusting and surrendering ourselves to the Lord is so much better than clinging onto our own foolish decisions.
Matthew 19: 20-22 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
Luke 15:11-17 And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
Joshua 11:10-12 reminds all of us again about God’s attribute of holiness and righteousness, He had to judge them who were wicked and wipe them out before they utterly persecute the children of Israel and destroy God’s chosen people. The first few verses of this chapter clearly mentions that it was the kings who first planned on destroying Israel, and Israel was just seeking to defend themselves in this situation. God did give these wicked nations the opportunity to repent, but they rejected the chance. God had to wipe them out so that they do not continue to defile the behaviour of Israel.
Similar to the spiritual application for us Christians, God has to remove the uncleanness in us in order to change us for the better. The removal of some of our material possessions can sometimes do us more good than harm as it will allow us to be sanctified.
Joshua 11:13-16 But as for the cities that stood still in their strength, Israel burned none of them, save Hazor only; that did Joshua burn. And all the spoil of these cities, and the cattle, the children of Israel took for a prey unto themselves; but every man they smote with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them, neither left they any to breathe. As the Lord commanded Moses his servant, so did Moses command Joshua, and so did Joshua; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses. So Joshua took all that land, the hills, and all the south country, and all the land of Goshen, and the valley, and the plain, and the mountain of Israel, and the valley of the same;
We will obtain our rewards and prizes from God when we acquire a complete deadness of the flesh. So, at times when we realize that our prayers are not being answered by God, it could be because there is something about our flesh that we have not completely let go of.
Psalm 37:4-5 Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
As bible believers, we can often see friends and family around us who do not experience true joy from the Lord, because they are so accustomed to the temporary joys of what this world offers.
If we can witness to them, we really have to prove it with our actions, to fully surrender to God, and commit to it. Show them what peace, contentment, and true happiness is; have faith in the Lord that He will reward us with a hoard of prizes with the sacrifice we make for Him.
Jesus told us that there were five classifications of people and their reaction towards the city of light.
The first person that did not even bother and rejected it.
The second person wanted it but could not withstand test and adversities.
The third person was aware of the cost and challenges, but could not persevere long enough to get the reward.
The fourth person knew about the trials and suffering, persevered long enough to have a foretaste of the result or reward, but thought it was not as beautiful as he expected it to be, and chose to walk back in darkness.
The fifth person believed wholeheartedly in God’s will and was willing to persevere through all the adversities and challenges. He got the reward, was further encouraged by it, and allowed God to work more in him.
Be the fifth person!