1 John 5:1-5
Thus far in our Fall Group Ministry campaign we’ve moved from the creation to Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, and from 40 years of wandering in the desert to Israel’s readiness now to enter the promised land. Tonight in your Bible study groups you will be discussing the first taste of victory at Jericho as Israel finally begins to enter the Promised Land.
God’s plan for His people is unfolding and at this point there is the bright experience of victory. Last week we saw that Moses had died, leaving Joshua in charge. God tells Joshua to be strong and of good courage and to keep the faith by walking in the will and way of God revealed through Moses to God’s people. The Israelites echo that encouragement to Joshua saying, be strong and of good courage! How blessed are the people who are lead by faithful, strong and courageous leaders who walk in God’s will and ways and lead us to follow in that same path.
Last week we saw how fearful, cowardly leadership that depends on selfish pride and worldly wisdom can only bring a curse on those who follow. But Jesus shows us that sacrificial service and obedient faith are the true ingredients of leadership. That the most enduring strength in leadership and the most courageous heart for true and lasting victory starts with humble dependence on God and devotion to His will and ways. Leadership that will give up anything God demands and take on anything God commands. Knowing that it is God’s power, not our own that give us victory. We must obey Him if we would enjoy His gifts of victory in our lives.
In your groups this afternoon watch how Israel enters the promised land. Your group text is Joshua 5:13-6:27. God takes down the walls of Jericho and Israel takes the city. This is their first victory on the western side of the Jordan. They’ve already taken over the land of Heshbon and Bashan whose kings Og and Sihon they defeated in battle. Now they enter Canaan, west of the Jordan river and face the walled city of Jericho.
So what lesson can we focus on that springs from this first taste of victory?
Two things: First: If God is for you, who can be against you?
Second: Keep your eyes on the eternal prize, and rejoice most in what matters most.
Go with me to Luke 10 where Jesus commissions 72 disciples to go take the gospel to the towns and villages of Canaan where He is about to come and preach. This becomes a first taste of victory in their lives as they return to share what has been accomplished.
Notice what they are most excited about. “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” They have seen the power of God working through them in amazing ways. No walls can withstand God’s power. No enemy can defend itself against His presence. Jesus has empowered them and they taste the victory as they carry out His commissioned work. Jesus doesn’t send us into defeat. Jesus doesn’t waste the blood of His people. If Jesus sends you, He will go before you and with you and behind you. Israel has seen this, have they not? When God rescued them from Egypt who protected them? Who went before them and who stood behind them? Who carried them as on eagles wings? Who fed them when they were hungry and gave them water when they were thirsty? Who instructed them in the way to live and in how to worship?
All the way down through history God has unfolded His plan for His people and shown us His power and grace. He never overwhelms our freedom to choose Him and in fact, He sometimes tests our faith with trials and struggles. But God turns even those into blessings for all who endure and maintain their trust in Him.
The first taste of victory is encouraging. It is exhilarating, in fact. How many of us have enjoyed an amazing victory from God’s hand and celebrated it in praise and thanksgiving? I know I have over and over! Those are wonderful times of joy and assurance are they not? Jesus’ disciples have had a great mission trip here in Luke 10! The impact of it has shaken the spiritual forces of evil so that Jesus even declares, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven!”
Look at it again with me. Luke 10:17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Don’t you know they were having a great time with this? The first taste of victory is sweet!
Notice that Jesus doesn’t immediately let the air out. He celebrates with them. But He knows that their feelings will pass. He knows that they have not arrived yet. This first taste of victory is a good thing. It is a moment of rejoicing that deserves recognition and builds faith. Yet Jesus knows what is ahead too. He knows that they need a bigger anchor than this. So Jesus takes it to a deeper more secure level in the next two verses. Read them with me again. Luke 10: 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Wow! Do you get that? Here’s the real anchor for your soul. Here’s the real thing that counts above and beyond the first taste of victory. It’s that God has written your name in the book of life. That’s what will one day be the ultimate matter of concern.
Jesus said in the sermon on the mount: Not everyone that says to me, Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he that does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name and in your name cast out demons and in your name do many mighty works?” And I will tell them, “I never knew you, depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” When you truly walk with God you will have days of victory and days of trial. Don’t confuse the days of trial for days of defeat. That’s not what’s happening. When God is with you, who can be against you? Romans 8 states those words in the context of great trial. Notice:
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The heart of this passage is that no trial can defeat us and separate us from God’s love.
In fact, the greatest victory is not so much when you prophecy or cast out a demon or do mighty works, but when you stand the test of trial and remain faithful through it.
If God is for us, who can be against us? Just as Israel finally entered the promised land and began to taste victory, God will bring us into promised blessings and give us the joy of celebration and praise.
So as we enjoy the victories of God’s powerful works among us, let us keep our focus on the ultimate gift of eternal life in Christ.
One day you will stand before the King of glory and there will be only one thing that matters. At that singular event of your life the greatest joy and the highest celebration will be that your name is written there and Jesus Himself welcomes you, by name, into the kingdom prepare for you from before the foundation of the earth.
Have you put your faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of the living God, your Lord and Savior? That’s a victory.
Have you turned from sin in repentance and committed your life to following Him? That is a victory.
Do you confess Jesus Christ your Lord and call on His name for salvation? That is a victory.
Have you been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit? That is a victory.
Are you walking in faith and growing in love and obedience to Him? That is a victory.
These are not just victories, they are requirements and commands of God for us. None are optional. As we obey God He leads us through trials and victories to the ultimate eternal celebration of everlasting life. Are you walking in His will today? If so, be strong and faithful and may He keep you to the end. If not, why not? What do you hope to accomplish by refusing to follow the only Hope of heaven? He chose you as He died on the cross for you. Chose Him and follow Jesus Christ today. Begin to taste the victory that leads to everlasting celebration of life.