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A Little more time

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A Little More Time

"But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they worked craftily, and went and pretended to be ambassadors. And they took old sacks on their donkeys, old wineskins torn and mended, old and patched sandals on their feet, and old garments on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and moldy. And they went to Joshua, to the camp at Gilgal, and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us.”" (Joshua 9:3-6, NKJV)

If you are looking for a nice little message from Scripture that shows how God works in the lives of people who trust Him – you must know that it’s a little more complicated than that – and a little messier.  What we have in this passage is a failure to seek God, deception and lies, circumstances that totally embarrass the people of God, unified opposition to the people of God, and then God making the sun stand still to help His people.

Oh – if things could have been just a little different.  Many times it is not the catastrophic force of hurricane winds that devastate lives, it is the continual exposure to the wrong atmosphere that finally causes people to give up and think that their actions have created an environment where God cannot or will not work.  If only I would have done this, or if only I hadn’t – if there would have been just a little more time – we would have known and we could have seen.   But now you have painted yourself in a corner, and your actions have isolated you from the promises of God.

How could things have backfired so quickly?  They had the demonstration of God’s power in their midst, and yet here they are making peace with the enemy.  Verse 14 shows how swiftly they fell.  “They took of their food, - they received what the enemy offered them because it made sense – and  the people of God DIDN’T ask counsel from the counsel of God - THEY DIDN’T SEEK GOD’S DIRECTION!

We must never get to the place where try things on our own.  God had specifically instructed Israel to make no treaties with the inhabitants of Canaan in Exodus 23:32; 34:12; Numbers 33:55; and Deuteronomy 7:2; 20:17,18.  God will give you strength to endure the direct pressures and wisdom to see through the indirect trickery – but only if you ask!

We have got to stay in touch with God on a regular basis – or you will be tricked and you will believe a lie!  It’s not that God changes His mind, it’s that we have a really short memory!

It is impossible to listen to the world all week, and then expect to be able to discern the voice of God.  Baby mountain lions are so cute – so are are baby bears.  They would never hurt anyone – stay around long enough and that nature that is part of its dna is going to come out.  Too often

This could describe you today, and it also explains what was going on with the people of God.  Just a few chapters back they had finally crossed over into the Promised Land.  The awesome power of God in the victories at Jericho and Ai were fresh in their mind when the met this group of people that had come from a far country.  They also had heard of God’s power against His enemies – and so they were doing the only thing they could think of.  They knew nothing about God –except that if they could make a truce with His people they might be spared from the wrath that was to come.

All of the ‘good sinners’ are gone.  You know the kind – the ones that come to church and say, “What must I do to be saved?”  They remove themselves from every  vile habit and relationship they have ever known, and they do everything just right.  No – when people come through these doors they are looking for relief.  They are more than a little wary, and even though they may feel the presence of God they are not quite sure who that translates into real life.  It takes time, and it takes people accepting them even when it turns out they are not who you thought they were.

There is a difference between those that sneaked their way into the camp in the Bible and those that come around the people of God today.

                The promise now is to “whosoever will”.  The good news of the gospel is for everyone.  They need to see God in you – is there anything to see?

How can we know the will of God?  In this instance – it was easy.  In fact, they shouldn’t have even had to ask.  But life gets in the way – if you get a job offer tomorrow to move somewhere where there is no church, do you really need to weigh out whether the spiritual well-being is more important than the size of your paycheck.

There is a difference between asking for God’s direction and asking for God’s blessing on our direction!

Have you ever made a decision and then said, “If I only knew then what I know now.”  God is interested in your big decisions and your little ones. 

Does it line up with the Word of God?    What will happen if I do this – what happens if I don’t? Is it worth it?

Life Principle: Every “open door” doesn’t have God’s hand on the handle.

- If you hear enough stories, it would lead you to believe that every coincidence is an open door that God puts there.

- The problem with that is that it’s simply not true. Sometimes things come together because Satan is trying to tempt us. Sometimes things happen that do not have a deeper spiritual significance. Sometimes things happen because we are walking outside of God’s will.

- Examples of “open doors” that we’re not sure of:

1. A couple is dating and one of them isn’t certain that this is the person that God wants them to spend their life with. But they met in church, so isn’t that an open door from God?
2. A married couple is in financial trouble. One day, the husband is mentioning it to a friend of his and the friend says, “Oh, I know this guy who can get you a great deal on a loan to consolidate your debt.” That evening, the couple talk about and wonder, “Is this God opening a door for us?”
3. A student is trying to figure out where they want to go to college. They look at several schools, but there’s one of them that, when they call, the counselor mentions her faith and they get in a big conversation about Jesus. After hanging up, the student wonders, “Was that a sign from God that that’s an open door?”
4. A student is having trouble making friends, when one afternoon he happens to notice a button on the backpack of the student up and over one seat. When class ends, he mentions it to the guy and it leads into a big conversation. As he leaves, he wonders, “Maybe that was the open door I’ve been praying for.”
5. A fifty-year-old is trying to figure out what to do with his aging mother, whose health is reaching a crisis point. She’s torn between a nursing home and trying to care for her at home. That same week, her arthritis flares up worse that ever and her husband’s back goes out again. She asks God, “Is this a sign that I’m not supposed to bring Mom here?”

Specifics On How To Avoid That In Our Lives:

1. Keep asking the difficult questions until you get an adequate answer.- v. 7.

- It would be a little easier to feel sorry for Joshua here if these guys had come up with a plan that he simply couldn’t conceive of. “Man, I never saw that coming.” But he actually starts out exactly where he should. He asks them: “How am I supposed to know you guys aren’t from around here?” He asks the hard question - he just doesn’t stick with it until he gets an answer.

- We’ll talk in a minute about how exactly he gets sidetracked, but the point is that he doesn’t press for an answer to the hard question.

- We do similar things. At first, we have doubts about something, but in the course of the conversation, we allow our attention to get diverted. We end up without having ever actually gotten the answer to our question.

- Or, we know the hard questions when we start out, but we want to say Yes so badly that we slowly convince ourselves that that question isn’t important.

- Perhaps it’s someone who’s dating and the relationship is starting to get serious. They’ve always said that the number one thing about whoever they marry is that they be a person of strong faith. But then they get into the relationship and start getting comfortable with this person and start thinking about how time is passing by and they’re not getting any younger and before too long the fact that this person is just a pew-sitter a couple times a month gets put off to the side.

2. Realize that compliments don’t make you more competent.- v. 8.

- The answer that they give Joshua is an attempt to butter him up a little bit. “You are in authority - we are merely your humble servants.”

- Now, sometimes the compliments are sincere. Other times they are shared with a hidden agenda.

- It’s easy to get off task when someone starts throwing compliments your way. Most of us are praised seldom enough that when someone does it we eat it up.

- But the fact that the other person is talking to us like we’re the greatest thing since sliced bread doesn’t mean that we’ve actually got things together. The fact that they say we’re wise doesn’t actually mean that we’re about to make a decision.

- You’re the student calling that university and getting in a big conversation with the counselor about God. In the course of talking, the counselor says, “You really seem to be mature for your age in your faith. I tell you what, we need more people like you on this campus to impact it for Jesus.” Now, she may be sincere in what she’s saying, but the compliment shouldn’t lead you to shut down your critical thinking and say, “I should go there because they need me!”

- Don’t get sidetracked just because someone is saying nice things to you.

3. Know that God’s name being invoked is no guarantee.- vv. 9-13 (also vv. 4-5).

- This is a weakness for a lot of Christians. We presume if the name of God comes up then it’s definitely a green light.

- I wish I could say that is true, but the sad reality is that there are a lot of people who invoke the name of God while having other agendas. There are lot of people who will talk about God while lying to you.

- I have (and this is a sad commentary) come to the point where if I am, for instance, shopping for a car and the salesman finds out I’m a Christian and starts talking about how he’s a believer and he’ll work extra hard to get us a great deal, I become cynical rather than expectant. I’ve been in too many situations where someone dropping the name of Christ did not translate into ethical behavior that I’ve grow callous on that one.

4. Always talk to God about it.- v. 14.

- This is, without a doubt, their biggest mistake. Here is no question that God would have given them insight if only they’d asked.

- Sometimes our prayer lives get so focused on people’s sicknesses that we forget to pray about the life issues that we’re facing. I am ashamed to admit that there have been too many occasions when I’ve realized that I’ve been thinking on a problem for the better part of a week but I haven’t thought to actually pray about it.

- This is simple, but we forget too often. Talk to God about the situation.

- Many times in situation where it’s not a simple black-and-white, right-and-wrong issue, my prayer is along the lines of, “Father, I want to make the right decision, but I need Your help. I’m going to try to be as open as I can to Your voice. Help me to find Your answer.”

- In answering, God has done a variety of things, but one of the things that is worth mentioning is that often in these tough issues, I’ll get what I can only call a peace one way or the other. One of the options will have attending it a peace in my heart. When I was younger, I was offered a chance to be a Youth Director at a church in Huntington. I prayed about it and finally decided to turn it down. So I called the person in charge and told them that. After doing so, though, I had no peace about the decision. I just knew it was the wrong answer. So a couple days later I called her back and she was glad to receive my reconsidered response.

5. Understand that a “good offer” is not the same as a “God offer.”- v. 15.

- The offer of peace seems to be a good one. Why not take it if it’s a good offer?

- Well, the fact that it was a good offer doesn’t mean it was what God wanted them to do. In fact, it was not God’s will at all.        - Just because we get a “good offer” doesn’t mean that it’s what God wants us to do.

- At times this is because we are not in the Word and don’t know well enough what God’s will is going to look like.- At times this is because we have such low expectations of anything God might do for us that we’re quick to accept what the enemy offers if it looks promising at all.

- We mentioned the couple drowning in debt whose friend mentions someone who could get them a loan. Their situation may be bad enough that the offer seems like a good deal. But perhaps the larger issue there was their overspending and lack of financial responsibility and God wants them to get out of debt, not find a way to string their debt along a little longer. Just because it’s a good deal doesn’t mean that it’s God’s deal.

6. Know that many bad decisions have consequences that God cannot magically erase.- vv. 18-19.

- Once they’ve made the peace treaty, even though it’s not God’s will, they cannot go back on their word. The die has been cast.

- There are many decisions that we make and we have this naive idea that if we choose poorly that God can somehow come in and magically fix everything. Many times, though, there are consequences bound up in that decision that cannot be undone.

- Let’s say that person dating decides to go ahead and get married even though their future mate doesn’t really have much interest in spiritual things. Five years into the marriage, when that gap in passion for Jesus begins to be a source of disagreement and disappointment, God will not come in and overwhelm that spouse’s free will and force them to go to church. It may be another ten years before they get serious about God. It may be that they never do. God will not force them to.

Those who have blown it –maybe you reasoned with the world and now you can see what happened.  There’s still hope!

“Aren’t You Afraid We’ll Make Mistakes?”

Several years ago, at a political briefing for religious leaders in Washington, a group of ministers chatted with Jennings Randolph, the senior senator from West Virginia, who had first been elected to Congress in 1933. He was the only remaining member of the Senate or House of Representatives who had been elected in the great landslide that swept Franklin D. Roosevelt into office during the Great Depression.

During the course of the briefing, Senator Randolph recalled that just after the election of 1933, he was called to the White House. There, in the president’s private quarters, sat FDR. The lights were low, and a fire was roaring in the fireplace. About a dozen or so leaders of the Congress had come at FDR’s request. Jennings Randolph couldn’t believe he had been included, as young and unknown and inexperienced as he was. But Roosevelt had his eye on Jennings Randolph.

The young congressman didn’t say much that night. He just sat there in awe as Franklin Roosevelt began to speak. Roosevelt told the congressional leaders what he had in mind, and how quickly he wanted to move during the first one hundred days of his administration.

He said he intended to declare a bank holiday, which was a positive-sounding phrase that really meant closing all the nation’s banks indefinitely until bankers and the government could regain control of the situation. He wanted to send Congress a record number of bills quickly and furiously, including the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration.

He went on and on, speaking confidently, but in such low tones that Randolph had to strain to hear him. But when FDR was finished the group was stunned and speechless until one of the senators said, “Mr. President, if we move that quickly aren’t you afraid we’ll make mistakes?”

Roosevelt, paused, looked at the man, considered his reply, and said, “Senator, if we don’t move that quickly, we’ll soon find that we no longer have the opportunity even of making mistakes.”

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