How to Be Fruitful in Your Calling
Topic: Default Scripture: Joshua 11:15–11:23
In our passage, we arrive at a sort of midpoint in the book of Joshua. The whole book up to this point has been Joshua taking the promised land and in our text that feat is accomplished. Chapter eleven chronicles the last big battle and then chapter twelve backs up and summarizes all the battles the Israelites have won under the leadership of both Moses and Joshua.
And in chapter 11 there is this very important verse. 5 uJust as the LORD had commanded Moses his servant, vso Moses commanded Joshua, wand so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the LORD had commanded Moses. - Joshua 11:15
These chapters are stepping back a bit and assessing Joshua’s leadership and Joshua fairs quite well. I said in the beginning of this series that Joshua is one of the greatest leaders militarily, organizationally, and spiritually that the world has ever known. So, if the book of Joshua is taking a moment to look back and access Joshua, I think it would be prudent for us to do the same thing. What makes Joshua such an effective leader?
But, here is what I don’t want to do. Five steps to becoming a better leader. You can go buy a book at Walmart for that and it will probably be better than anything I’d say. But, there is something that I can do that will benefit you more than any of those books at Walmart. I can tell you how any of us can be fruitful wherever God calls us.
At the core of who Joshua was, there was one thing that made him fruitful at his calling. Joshua was a great leader because of the way he foreshadowed someone else by the same name. The better Yeshua, Jesus.
Incidentally, Paul says something very similar about his own leadership. Paul says, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” The more we follow Christ, the more we are conformed into His image and the better we will be at whatever it is we are called to. Maybe it’s leading a business, home, or classroom. Maybe it’s following which we will see Joshua also did well.
Our entire Christian walk is one of following Jesus and, by His grace and through the power of the Holy Spirit, becoming more and more like Him. The more we follow and imitate Christ, the more useful and influential we are to the Kingdom of God. So, this morning I want to divert a bit from what I gave you in the bulletin. I changed my mind on some things late in the week. I want to look at five very specific ways Joshua modeled Christ-likeness which contributed significantly to his influence and fruitful life. I also want to add that I’m taking a couple of these directly from James Boice, so he should get credit for that.
- He trusted in God’s sovereignty
This is where chapter eleven starts off. Remember that Joshua is cutting across Canaan from the east side going west at its midpoint. Something like Canaan’s Mason-Dixon line. Joshua has divided the northern armies from the southern armies and he has defeated the southern armies. Now, all the armies to the north team up and Israel has the largest battle to date. Not only do they face a lot of soldiers, the text says that these armies were technologically advanced. They had horses and chariots.
It wouldn’t have been crazy given all the success Israel has had up to this point to call it quits here. They could have probably negotiated a pretty sweet peace treaty and taken the southern half of Canaan as well as the land to the east of the Jordan. But, Joshua doesn’t think simply in terms of what man can do. He thinks in terms of what God can do. God tells Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, for tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them, slain, to Israel. - Joshua 11:6.
Who is it that is doing the real fighting here? God! No need to be afraid, the God who parted the Red Sea, who dried up the Jordan, and who caused the walls of Jericho to fall down is going to give them victory tomorrow. In the words of King David, 7 Some trust in vchariots and some in whorses, xbut we trust in the name of the LORD our God. - Psalm 20:7
And I love what that does to Joshua. It stirs him and all of Israel to action. The bigger your God, the more you will act . There are people out there who say things like, “Well, it’s all in God’s hands anyway, so why pray? Why share my faith? Why really strive toward a Christ-like life?” Those are the words of someone with a small God. The bigger our God is, the more we will be stirred to action.
It also means that we are a real part of the plan. Our efforts, our ingenuity really play a part. I think it's really interesting how Joshua wins the battle. Joshua surprised them at Merom. This is important because Merom is about 4,000 feet high and fairly rocky which makes chariots almost useless. Joshua’s planning and ingenuity are a real part of his victory.
Joshua pursues and plans because He believes in a sovereign God and in that He is Christ-like. He is like Christ who trusted God all throughout the gospels all the way to the cross. He was voluntarily handing Himself over to be slaughtered where He knew He would not only meet an excruciating physical death, but would also receive the full wrath of God in our place. But, He did it because He believed that God was sovereign and all things would work out for His glory and our good.
All of us in this room are created differently, nurtured differently, and wounded differently which makes some of us more timid to trust God and some of us more likely to shoot first and aim later without really ever even asking God for guidance.
- Joshua was patient
Remember in chapter ten when he found out the five kings were hiding in a cave? He could have just killed them, but what did he do? He trapped them in there until the battle was over. He did this so he could use them strategically at a later point.
Do you realize that Joshua’s campaign as it is recorded in chapter 12 likely took about seven years? How tempting would it have been to take a few shortcuts? It would have been easy for him to let certain groups of people go. I can’t imagine that he wanted more fighting and more death. Incidentally, these shortcuts are exactly what Israel does after Joshua’s death. In the beginning of the book of Judges. Joshua’s patience is a part of his Christ-likeness.
How easy would have been for Christ to just get rid of all humans? Punish us for our sin and be over with. But that isn’t what Christ does. He’s patient with us. Have you ever wondered why Jesus waited so long to come? Why send Abraham and not just go ahead and come? Why send Moses, David, and Joshua? Thousands of years pass when He could have just popped in. Why? Because we need categories to understad who Jesus is. Categories like high priest, prophet, judge, king, atonement, temple, and promised land. All of these categories help us to more fully understand our Savior Jesus Christ.
And why has He not yet returned? Because He’s still patient. He’s waiting for the fullness of His children to come into His kingdom. Peter says it like this, The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. - 2 Peter 3:9
To be patient, we have to have the end in mind. Do we manage our money with the end in mind? Do you singles manage your dating life with the end in mind? It’s easy to not be patient, lower your standards and make a short-minded decision in dating and marriage. Or maybe singleness is exactly where God has you for some very specific kingdom purposes. Be patient. See what God does.
Or, those of you with children in your home are we parenting with the end in mind? We are in a season of transition with our older kids that requires more heart level parenting that simply punishing bad behavior. It’s so easy to be impatient and deal with the behavior instead of doing the time consuming work of getting to the heart. It’s easier to put the TV on that sit down and play board games. We have to constantly remind ourselves of the end.
There are no short-cuts in Christ-like patience. There are no shortcuts in our spiritual development. Even Jesus during his 30+ years on earth modeled a patient minded approach to His spiritual development. Look at what Luke says, 52 And Jesus iincreased in wisdom and in stature9 and in ifavor with God and man. - Luke 2:52. Jesus didn’t just pop into physical existence as a fully developed man. He took the time to endure evert temptation and every trial we experience so He could empathize in every way.
The path to spiritual maturity requires a lot of steps in the same direction. I will say that this is something I so appreciate about my wife. After moving to Orlando, there is this little sun-room in our house that my kids started calling “Mama’s Bible study.” We never called it that, but see Angela in there every morning, in the same chair reading her Bible. That is living with the end in mind.
Are we living out Christ-like patience?
III. He knew how to encourage
This is such an easily missed quality of influence and fruitful living and there is no shortage of verses to back this up. Encouragement is coming alongside someone to give them the courage they need to go the right direction. Joshua knew the promises of God, he knew what God wanted for Israel and he continuously came alongside them repeating these encouragements. Do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous.
Now, there are two important aspects to this kind of encouragement. Joshua is able to encourage, first, because he is in tune enough with God to know how to encourage the people. Second, he is in tune enough with the people to know what kind of encouragement they need. And in so doing, he is giving us a great picture of Christ.
Christ was perfectly in tune both with God and man. Jesus who was every bit God Himself, wept with us, suffered with us, dined with us, and rejoiced with us. There is no one here today that Jesus can’t encourage.
Jesus doesn’t crack the whip on His people, he encourages us. He calls us. In the beginning of my marriage we weren’t doing that well. We were overseas, Angela was battling depression, and I didn’t have the categories to understand what she was going through or how to help her in it. I would make unloving comments like, “Just stop thinking that way” or “Maybe you just need to read your Bible more.” Then an older wiser man pulled me aside and said, “Jim, there are two types of leaders in this world. The first type arrives at the destination first, but without the army. The second arrives a bit later, but with the army. You’re the first type and we need to make you the second type. He was pushing me toward more Christ-like encouragement.
This is one of the reasons coming and worshipping is so important. There is this great verse in Hebrews that says, And zlet us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 anot neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and ball the more as you see cthe Day drawing near. - Hebrews 10:25. For years, I would cite this verse as simply a law that you need to be in church. But when I did that I missed the main thing in the verse. It’s not just a command that we should follow, it’s about encouragement. Those who make corporate worship a priority are encouraged.
Biblical encouragement requires a knowledge of God’s law and a love for God’s people. There is always a why behind the what. And sometimes encouragement is hard. The hardest thing, I think, that elders ever have to do is remove someone from the church membership. But in those very rare cases, it’s done with a lump in our throats, because we love a brother or a sister enough to say, you lack repentance to such a high degree in your life, that we can’t affirm your profession of faith. This very drastic and, thankfully, rare step is done as a last resort to encourage someone to turn back to Jesus.
Encouragement is crucial if we are going to have a kingdom impact.
- He modeled obedience
He’s not perfect, but his missteps like forgetting to seek the Lord when the Gibeonites wanted to make a covenant of peace, they weren’t malicious. And he learned from those mistakes. He kept that promise to the Gibeonites even when it meant going to war for them. He obeyed God when he was told to do seemingly crazy things like stand at the foot of the Jordan and wait for it to dry up. Or, walk around Jericho seven times for seven days and wait for the city to be delivered to you. He obeyed God and stayed faithful to God until the end. And this kind of obedience, once again, points us to Christ who obeyed perfectly.
I wish the Bible said more of what sinless Jesus looked like as a child. Maybe I’ll get to see that in heaven. You know one of the big affirmations to me that Jesus really was who He claimed to be? His own family believed in Him. If anyone was able to refute His claims of sinlessness, it would be his family. Now, they may have thought He was crazy for a season, but no one challenged His obedience God. In fact, two of his brothers were known church leaders and likely authored two books of the New Testament.
And we also have to remember what we are saying when we say that Jesus was perfect. We are saying that He obeyed every moral command given to man, but we aren’t only saying that. He also obeyed all the ceremonial laws given to the Jews and, on top of that, He obeyed everything that God the Father required of Him alone including laying down His life for us.
And it’s worth asking at this point, why is it so important that Jesus be sinless? Our whole redemption rests on it. The way Jesus brings us into the Kingdom of God is by removing the main thing that keeps us out. If He isn’t sinless, He can’t deal with our sin. His going to the cross means nothing because He would have deserved it. But, because He was sinless, He can take that wrath in our place.
That is the kind of obedience God is calling us into. He is calling us to obedience, not to earn His favor, Jesus already did that, but experience His presence. I have heard Tim Keller talk about people in his orbit in New York City who have experienced the pinnacle of success in their field. The absolute top people in the world of sports, theater, and business and he talks about how many of them say their success really doesn’t satisfy them on a spiritual or psychological level and how mind blowing that is to all of us normal folk. They still have their anxieties, depressions, guilt, shame, and fears.
He talks about our spiritual bucket. Imagine if I have a bucket and I tell you that I could pour the whole Atlantic Ocean into it and it wouldn’t even cover the bottom. That almost doesn’t even compute for us. That’s how it is with success. You can have all the success in the world, but it won’t even cover the bottom of our emotional, psychological, and spiritual bucket. But, do you know what will? Obedience.
I know that can strike some of you weird. Let me be clear. We will never obey God enough to merit salvation, that’s what Jesus did. But, Jesus opened the door to us to enjoy obedience because it brings us more and more into the will and presence of God and that is a very sweet place to be. And the more we experience the presence and joy of God through obedience the more fruitful and influential we will be because we will have more wisdom, grace, and love, because we are bathing in the wisdom, grace, and love of God.
- He humbled himself
Joshua was an extremely humble leader. We can forget that he served as the number two under Moses for forty years. Joshua served faithfully and worked to defend Moses’ authority. The first half of chapter twelve chronicles these battles. Joshua was humbly serving Moses until it was his turn to take over.
Humility is a very rare and precious attribute. Let me walk down a path for a second to show you why. We have what one pastor calls this radical cosmic insecurity. We feel like we don’t matter, we feel like we don’t count, we feel like we don’t have purpose or love and the only way to know how to deal with it is to elevate ourselves over other people and we call this pride.
C.S. Lewis says in his book, Mere Christianity, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest.”
I have been watching over the past few weeks some bizarre behavior online by a pastor who had a significant moral failing some years ago. He has half a million followers on social media, but gets very few likes, shares, or retweets. So, the behavior gets even more bizarre. Why is that? Because he doesn’t feel like he matters. Ministry was the way he as trying to fill his bucket. The ocean of irrelevance that he is tantamount to hell itself for him.
We were made to live forever and never be forgotten, but because of our turning away from God, we now die . We know we should have relevance and purpose, but we don’t naturally know how to find it. So, we turn to anything we can grab, anything that will tell us what we want to hear. You matter. You are loved. You do have a purpose.
It makes total sense to me that our culture would struggle with humility. We have so many other things we can look to to hear those words than any culture has before. Whether it’s number of likes on a post, the kind of car we drive, where we vacation, or how nice our backyard is. Our natural bent is to walk into a room and find a way to elevate ourselves in some way above everyone around us. To fill that radical cosmic insecurity.
But that is what makes humility so appealing when you see it in someone else. A pastor who had a lot of influence in my life told me that whenever he walked into a dinner, or a party, or a meeting, he would immediately scan the room for the person who offered him the least, the person who maybe was lowest on that totem pole, and he would sit next to that person. That’s the kind of person you want to follow. You can trust that person. You know you’ll be taken care of by that person. As C.S. Lewis famously said, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
And no one humbled himself more than Jesus . Jesus who lived and reigned in heaven, left glory, honor, and comfort, for pain, strife, and shame. Paul says of Jesus, And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. - Philippians 2:8 Jesus comes in and turns all of our cultural and deep seeded values on their heads. He goes so far as to say this:
But sit shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,4 44 and whoever would be first among you must be tslave5 of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but uto serve, and vto give his life as a ransom for wmany.” - Mark 10:43-45
This is the leader we follow into an even better promised land. This is the only One who can truly tell us, “You are loved, you matter, and you have purpose.” Only as we follow Him will we be able to influence others and be fruitful in what God has called each of us to do.
I look at Joshua’s Christ-like life and it makes me want to be more Christ-like. My hope is that it makes you want to be more Christ-like. And in God’s providence, we are about to do something that tells us will help us to that end.
In just a moment we will celebrate the Lord’s supper. Jesus has given us this sacrament as one of many ways He encourages us and conforms us into His image. So, the question I want us to ask in light of this passage is this. Are we becoming more like Him? For some of you, the answer will be a very encouraging yes. And celebration will come naturally to you. For some of you, it may feel like the process has plateaued. And this is an opportunity to see the peak beyond the plateau. And for some of you, you may feel like you’re losing ground. You may even wonder whether you should take the Lord’s supper. If that’s you...you know you’re losing ground and you know Jesus is your only hope, this is for you. This is a reminder that God has done the heavy lifting, we just need to take the next step.