How God Prepares Us for the Future He Has For Us
Lessons from the Stories of Joshua
Many years ago, Dr. R. A. Torrey wrote a little pamphlet on the subject, “Why God Used D. L. Moody.” During the last half of the 1800s, Dwight Moody was the most famous evangelist in the world, and thousands upon thousands of people came to Christ under his ministry. After he died, Torrey pondered why God had so used this relatively plain and uneducated shoe salesman, and he suggested seven reasons.
Here’s the way Torrey began his booklet:
Eighty-six years ago, there was born of poor parents in a humble farmhouse in Northfield, Massachusetts, a little baby who was to become the greatest man, as I believe, of his generation or of his century—Dwight L. Moody. After our great generals, great statesmen, great scientists and great men of letters have passed away and been forgotten, and their work and its helpful influence has come to an end, the work of D. L. Moody will go on and its saving influence continue and increase, bringing blessing not only to every state in the Union but to every nation on earth. Yes, it will continue throughout the ages of eternity.
My subject is “Why God Used D. L. Moody,” and I can think of no subject upon which I would rather speak. For I shall not seek to glorify Mr. Moody, but the God who by His grace, His entirely unmerited favor, used him so mightily, and the Christ who saved him by His atoning death and resurrection life, and the Holy Spirit who lived in him and wrought through him and who alone made him the mighty power that he was to this world. Furthermore: I hope to make it clear that the God who used D. L. Moody in his day is just as ready to use you and me, in this day, if we, on our part, do what D. L. Moody did, which was what made it possible for God to so abundantly use him.
The whole secret of why D. L. Moody was such a mightily used man you will find in Psalm 62:11: “God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that POWER BELONGETH UNTO GOD.” I am glad it does. I am glad that power did not belong to D. L. Moody; I am glad that it did not belong to Charles G. Finney; I am glad that it did not belong to Martin Luther; I am glad that it did not belong to any other Christian man whom God has greatly used in this world’s history. Power belongs to God. If D. L. Moody had any power, and he had great power, he got it from God.
But God does not give His power arbitrarily. It is true that He gives it to whomsoever He will, but He wills to give it on certain conditions, which are clearly revealed in His Word; and D. L. Moody met those conditions and God made him the most wonderful preacher of his generation; yes, I think the most wonderful man of his generation.
But how was it that D. L. Moody had that power of God so wonderfully manifested in his life? Pondering this question it seemed to me that there were seven things in the life of D. L. Moody that accounted for God’s using him so largely as He did.
Well, I’m tempted to read the whole booklet to you and give you all seven reasons. Instead, I hope you’ll look up this message online and read it for yourself. It may change your life.
My subject today is similar. Why did God use Joshua? The biblical hero, Joshua?
As part of the rollout of my new book, The Jordan River Rules, I wanted to provide some background about the man who led the Israelites across the Jordan River. General Joshua was clearly one of the great heroes of the Old Testament—of the entire Bible—a man who had a long military career yet who was also a dynamic spiritual leader for his people.
What was it about this man, born into slavery, that made him so useable in the work of the Kingdom? Why did God use him so greatly? He was the man who linked together the generations, and who led the fledgling nation of Israel to possess the land God had promised to Abraham. Even to this day, Israel is there in the land prepared for her. Joshua wasn’t a perfect man. We can see two or three mis-steps or mistakes he made. But he was one of the best men and most gifted leaders in all the Bible. Why did God use Him so greatly? If we could figure that out, it might show us how we, too, can be greatly used by God.
The book of Joshua is the sixth book of the Bible, and it begins after the death of Moses, when Joshua suddenly became the leader of Israel. But this man, Joshua, didn’t just show up out of nowhere. We have his history given to us in bits and pieces in the books of Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. He is mentioned several times, and that allows us to follow his progress as he moves from a downtrodden slave to a world-class leader.
In this podcast and the next, I want to show you those passages and try to make a connection to you and me. I don’t know about you, but nothing matters to me more than being used by the Lord to do whatever He has called me to do in this world. But how do we become useable? How do we fulfill our purpose?
We have seven glimpses of Joshua in the books of Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, and by reading a little between the lines I think we can find some real answers to those questions.
1. Everything in our Lives Has Prepared Us for Divine Service
First, we must view everything that has happened to us in life with humility, realizing God has intended it for our schooling and preparation. In last week’s message, we looked at Exodus 17, when Joshua suddenly showed up in the story of Scripture. The Israelites were making their way from the Red Sea to Mount Sinai, and along the way they were attacked by the Amalekites. Moses said to Joshua, “We’ve been attacked. Recruit an army overnight and defend us. I’ll go up onto the mountain and hold the staff of God into the air while you fight.”
Exodus 17:8ff says:
8 Now Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim. 9 And Moses said to Joshua, “Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek.
We have to make some assumptions. I believe God caused a boy to be born into an Israelite family, enslaved in Egypt, and this boy was athletic and gifted with natural leadership ability. The Egyptians recruited him into their army and trained him to be a warrior. He learned to organize and strategize and charge at the enemy. I can’t imagine that any of us would want to be born into slavery or conscripted to the Egyptian army of long ago. Yet in this way God prepared Joshua for his role.
Only in recent years have I come to believe that every stage in the life of the follower of Christ is better than the previous one, and that everything that has happened in our lives is simply God’s preparation for future service.
When you get hold of that truth, it really changes the way you look at the past. So many people have been abused at some point in their lives. So many people have been enslaved by various forces. So many have suffered loss and trauma. Just today I read about a Navy SEAL named Mike Day, who grew up in an abusive home. He entered the military and became an operator with the SEALs. On April 6, 2007, he was the lead man in a raid against an al Queda cell that was attacking U.S. troops in Iraq. He breached the door and was met with a hail of gunfire. He later wrote, “As I pivoted off my right foot to move down the left wall, I had the sensation that my body was being slammed with a dozen sledgehammers. My entire body was now in the room, and the men behind me… were attempting to follow me in. The room was small, twelve feet by twelve feet; my night-vision goggles illuminated the darkness, and I saw in clear view four of our targets aiming at me. All of them armed with automatic weapons, and all of them firing at me. … In this strange slow-motion scene, I had a mental conversation with myself: Hey, am I actually getting shot right now? It occurred to me that those sledgehammers smashing all over my body were bullets hitting me, one after another after another.”
Mike Day was struck 27 times. Some of those rounds hit his Kevlar vest. Others hit him directly. One of the enemy soldiers tossed a grenade at him, which went off and sprayed him with shrapnel, knocking him unconscious. I’m amazed to tell you he survived the 27 gunshot wounds, the grenade, and all his other injuries.
The medical authorities said he was “perfectly wounded.” In other words, none of the bullets hit a vital organ or severed a major artery. He was wounded but in almost a miraculous way that allowed him to survive and, eventually, to thrive. His story and his continued work with men and women in special forces have made him a modern-day hero, and his book has inspired thousands of people, including me.
When Admiral William McRaven visited him in the hospital, he said, ‘Michael! Are you lying down on the job again?” And the SEAL answered, “No sir! Just getting ready for the next fight.”
None of us wants to get shot, but none of us gets very far in life without some attacks from the enemy. And his attacks can be brutal. But this is what I truly believe. The Lord may allow us to be wounded, but He will see to it that we are “perfectly wounded.” That is, whatever happens to us will be used by Him to prepare us for our next stage of service. Our recovery will simply be God’s way of getting us ready for the next fight.
Now, I’m reading a lot between the lines of Scripture. But we do know Joshua was born into brutal slavery and that he somehow had military training by those who were enslaving him. And we know that was God’s way of equipping him to help Moses and, eventually, to succeed him.
Whatever we’ve gone through has only equipped us for the next fight as soldiers in the Lord’s army. Think of your life in this way. There’s no need to look back with regrets or shame or guilt. There’s no need to look back with frustration. Whatever has happened in the past is under the blood of Jesus, and somehow the Lord uses all of it to train and prepare us for the next step.
2. Our Victory Comes From Above
The second reason God used Joshua was because he learned on his very first outing that victory comes from above. The passage in Exodus goes on to say:
11 And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” 15 And Moses built an altar and called its name, The-Lord-Is-My-Banner; 16 for he said, “Because the Lord has sworn: the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”
Joshua was down in the valley fighting the Amalekites, but it was the power of God that gave him the victory. Left to himself, he and his men would have been slaughtered. But he was partnering with God, and that made the difference.
Joshua had never experienced a battle like this. Something was at play in his battle with the Amalekites, a dynamic he had never been taught in the Egyptian military. He was fighting with all his heart, but the victory belonged to the Lord.
In the same way, I believe you and I would simply be slaughtered in this satanic and fallen world. Our lives and families and futures would be devastated by an evil culture and a diabolical foe. But we can keep on fighting with confidence because we are more than conquers through Christ Jesus our Lord.
First Corinthians 15:57 says, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
And 1 John 4:4 says, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
So it’s not a matter of us using ourselves for God. It’s a matter of His doing His work through us, and He does more than we realize.
I recently read about a missionary team that went into a very remote corner of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They flew into a landing strip, then hiked into the interior, then took dugout canoes through a very dense jungle. They were trying to determine the spiritual condition of the villages in their area.
To their amazement, they found a healthy Christian community—a network of reproducing churches throughout the jungle. Every village had a church, and every church had a choir. And in every village they found a stone building that could seat as many as a thousand people.
None of these churches had a Bible in their own language, but they used a French Bible and some of the leader knew French, so they interpreted the Scriptures. This missionary team wondered how in the world these remote villages knew about the Lord Jesus.
Some of the older ones explained that over a hundred years ago, a man had shown up. They only knew he was a Baptist and that he had served in a city in Congo during certain years, and that he would occasionally come into their leopard-infested area and try to teach the children and preach the Gospel. But he was rejected and asked not to come back.
Further research revealed the name of this man. He was William Leslie. In 1912, he went to live in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but after seventeen years he returned home thinking he was a failure, and he died nine years after his return.
That man had the power and influence to change the lives of people in hidden and remote villages for over 100 years, though he didn’t realize it. The power wasn’t in him—it was in the cross.
[“Missionary Died Thinking He Was A Failure” ‘by Mark Ellis, May 19, 2014, at https://www.godreports.com/2014/05/missionary-died-thinking-he-was-a-failure-84-years-later-thriving-churches-found-hidden-in-the-jungle/].
Last week I said that just as Moses stood on the mountain above the battle lifting high his staff, so the Lord Jesus Christ stands above our battles lifting up His cross. We must always remember our victory comes from above.
So God can use us as we realize that everything in our lives has prepared us for our present and future service, and that our victory and success only comes from the power of the cross and the power of Jesus Christ.
Well, we’ll continue next time. If you have a chance check out my newest book, The Jordan River Rules, and share this podcast with others.
This recording was produced by Joshua Rowe and Clearly Media. Music by Elijah Rowe. Thanks for listening, and may the Lord bless you until we meet again.