Every time when I listened to the story of how God commissioned Joshua to lead the people of Israel to cross the Jordan River into Canaan, I can’t help but think of the group of about 40 people from Katong Presbyterian Church (KPC) who responded to a call to do School Christian Ministry in the Kuo Chuan Schools and to start a Sunday Service in Bishan. KPC, then in 1989, was a modest congregation of about 300 regular worshippers. Despite feeling short-handed, her members voted at the ACM to take up the challenge on the premises that every opportunity to share the gospel was precious and that we have been approached to help out. So by faith, they took it as God’s call and obeyed it.
Indeed, God is faithful in providing and equipping those whom He calls. Those initial years were tough. We were learning, and at the same trying to get things started. Our pastors and leaders had to care for the congregations at both locations, plus the schools. The team in Bishan, led by Elders Kok Siew Hoong, Patrick Chen and late-Chew Wai Jin, worshipped in the small AVA room, ran a mini Sunday School with a few teachers and held bible study classes for the Kuo Chuan students. In 1992, the Lord, in His goodness and purpose, brought the English Congregation of Abundant Grace Presbyterian Church over and together we saw the birth of a new congregation, Living Praise Presbyterian Church. Come next year, we will be celebrating our Silver Jubilee, our 25th Anniversary. We will hear more on how we can celebrate and proclaim the Lord’s His Goodness to us for the last 25 years in due course.
What are we learning from Joshua that may be applicable to our lives, families and church? Is God speaking to you about your specific situation? Our study of Joshua must have impressed upon and encouraged us with these truths:
a. Our God is a promise-keeping God.
In Joshua generation, we see the fulfillment of the promise of the gift of the land God made to Abraham long ago. Abraham, Jacob and Moses may die but God’s promise lives on. We can be sure that whatever the Lord promises, He will do them. God has promised us many things. He has promised that those who believe in Jesus would be saved and have eternal life. He has given us the promised Holy Spirit to be our Guide and Counsellor. He has promised to help us overcome temptations and trials. With these promises and more, we can therefore face life situations confidently and victoriously.
b. Our God is an ever-present God.
He is always with His people. This was a great encouragement to Joshua and the Israelites. And it should be for us, too. Hebrew 13:5-6 exhorts us to “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have; because God has said, “Never, will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hence, we can confidently say “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?” Our Lord Jesus in commissioning us to go and make disciples of all nations also assured us with the promise that “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”. (Matt 28:18-20) You are not alone!
c. God’s Word must remain central.
Like Joshua and the Israelites, we are never to let God’s Word depart from our mouths but to meditate on it day and night, so that we may be careful to do everything written in it. Obedience to God’s Word is the secret to victories in battles. Have we ever asked ourselves “Why am I not an obedient Christian? Or why am I a defeated Christian?” The answer can be found in Psalm 119:9-11
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart, do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
It’s so plain and clear. The constant, careful absorbing of God’s Word leads to obedience to it. The lack of study results in lack of obedience. How much time are we prepared to reading God’s Word each day? We have learnt from our study of Psalm 1 earlier this year that “the Blessed Man” is one who does not walk in evil ways and his delight is in the law of the Lord which he meditates day and night.
d. God’s people must be united.
We see in Joshua how the Israelites pledged and were united in following God’s Word and their leaders. We see how two and half tribes of Reuben, Gad and Mannaseh were willing to join the other tribes in battles. Their actions must have encouraged the other tribes. We also see how the serious consequences of the self-seeking interest and disobedience of one man, Achan, can have on the whole community. And we learn last week that the Israelites despite their unhappiness in being deceived by the Gibeonites, did not attack them because they obeyed their leaders, who, in not consulting the Lord, had mistakenly sworn an oath to the Gibeonites.
Let us, as God’s people, be united to the work the Lord has given to us. Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Yes, Jesus has already won the battle over sin and death. We can be strong and courageous in facing life’s situations. Our Lord has commissioned us to tell this good news to those who have not heard it so that they too can believe in Him. As challenged by Senior Pastor, Yuk Yee, let us, by God’s grace, do this with our maximum effort, a clear strategy and careful execution. Will the Lord find you and I faithful when he returns?