Tag Archives: fear

Joshua 11-12: Battle fear with faith

chariot-1151742_960_720As we walk through the book of Joshua, Chapter 11 validates God’s decision to appoint Joshua to be the leader of the people of Israel and secure the Promised Land.  After Israelite victories over the Canaanite factions in central and southern Canaan, war again appears on the horizon.  Jabin, king of Hazor, is furious and filled with hatred.  He gathers the northern Canaanite kings together to form a massive coalition army intending to rid the land of the Israelites once and for all.

Hazor was a massive city of some 200 acres compared to Jericho which was less than 10 acres.  Hazor was located on a main trade route, which runs from Syria to Egypt.  The Canaanite army had a massive numerical and technological edge, yet the power of God shines brightly (Deuteronomy 20:1). Josephus, a Jewish historian, records the size of the force facing Joshua is 300,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry and 20,000 chariots.

“The LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them, slain, over to Israel.”” Joshua 11:6

To engage the enemy, Joshua has to march his army for five days over difficult terrain.  When he arrives he finds the enemy forces bogged down in a now flooded plain. Joshua attacks.  Any tactical advantage Jabin planned to use was washed away by a flood. Joshua routes the Canaanite army, pursuing remnants of the fleeing enemy to the east and west.  The war was not over however.  Joshua reassembles his army and attacks the northern cities, decimating them.  

We need to remember the Bible gives us a condensed account of this war. In reality the war with the Canaanites lasted a long time (Exodus 23:29-30; Deuteronomy 7:22).  The war included a battle against the Anakites to the south, the “incredible hulks of the land of Canaan.” (D.R. Davis). These were the same giants that discouraged ten of the twelve Israelite spies some forty years earlier.  “Who can stand against them”, they asked, shaking with fear.

Though the descendants of Anakin were defeated by Joshua, a few of them remained in the Philistine cities of Gaza, Gath and Ashdod. David would later fight Goliath from hailed from Gath.

The listing of conquered kings in chapter 12 appears to be a boring account, but it demonstrates in detail the complete fulfillment of the covenant God made with Abraham (Genesis 15:18-21).

What can be learned from this scripture passage?  When you face giant problems, don’t focus on how big they are, instead focus on your faith. Rob fear of its victory.  And when you pray remember to give God detailed praise for all the blessings He has bestowed on you.

 

Tis the Season of Hope

Here’s the transcript of my thoughts I shared at “The Service of Hope” held on December 16th, 2018.

img_0851I’m here this afternoon because like many of you I have experienced the loss of someone significant in my life. My father passed away in 2005 and my mother in 2016. The pain of loss is real and no one is immune to its effects—even those who profess faith in Jesus Christ. Followers of Jesus don’t need to apologize to anyone for their pain and sorrow in that regard. One of my favorite passages of scripture is the 11th chapter of John, which gives the account of the resurrection of Lazarus by Jesus. In that story Jesus is moved by the sorrow of Mary and Martha as they mourned the loss of their brother. The words, “Jesus wept,” serve to remind me Jesus knows and understands the pain and sadness we feel when we lose someone we love.

Dad was 69 when he died of prostate cancer. Growing up I idolized my father. By the time I graduated from college he didn’t seem that important to me. I had a life of my own. Yes, we gathered together at family functions but I wasn’t that connected to him anymore. When I reached my 40s, having established my family and a career, an unexplained desire emerged to get to know dad better. Looking back I see it was God who gave me that desire and I’m glad I acted on it. I recall praying God would show me something we could do together to connect with him.

Family genealogy turned out to be the vehicle that joined us together. Dad and I quickly became hooked on it. My wife Patty and I made a number of trips together with my parents to Pennsylvania as we researched our family tree. Not long after we connected dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It turned out to be the aggressive sort and 9 months later he died. I believe God wanted dad and me to be together as he struggled to find hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. When he could no longer pray, I prayed for him.

God prompted me to do something else when I learned dad wouldn’t be with us much longer. He inspired me to write down my thoughts as dad and I walked through this ordeal together. Perhaps some of you have read these thoughts in the book, Junior’s Hope. It was a book that almost wasn’t published. I figured it was my therapy, you know, something to help me cope with losing a father, my namesake and friend. I wanted to chronicle my life with him and create something to remember him by. But as time passed after his death I believed my writing had served its purpose and it didn’t need to be printed. Then one night, which happened to be exactly one year to the day after his death, I saw my father in a dream. In that dream I saw dad as a healthy man in the prime of life. We exchanged a few words and then he was gone. The dream was so real it filled me with hope and inspired me to get the book published. I remember thinking, okay Lord you made your point.

My life changed after dad passed away. I now had one more person to care for, mom. While I deferred to Patty to take care of mom’s physical needs, I focused on helping mom with whatever else she needed. As it turns out the book I almost never published became a source of hope for her. She was so proud of me that she had to tell everyone she knew about it. We can never fully understand the purposes of God. He accomplishes them on so many different levels.

Mom lived 11 more years without dad. Family, friends and Christmas were the joys of her life.  During her life, mom dabbled in writing poetry. I usually don’t dabble in poetry but the time I spent with her inspired me to write a handful of poems on her behalf. When I showed them to her she’d say, “Bill that’s exactly how I feel.” One of the shorter ones is printed on the back page of your bulletin.

Storms

During the closing months of her life we liked to exchange a couple of phrases. I wanted to reassure her she was truly loved so I would say to her, “I love you, I love you, I love you!” To this she’d reply, “I love you, I love you, I love you more!” The second exchange came about out of her concern as to how tired I looked attending to her various personal effects and financial affairs. She’d say, “Bill you don’t have to come see me tomorrow if you’re tired. Stay home and rest.” To this I would say, “I’ll rest when you rest.” We both knew what I meant by her resting. Mom passed away in the summer of 2016.

The pain I felt when dad and mom passed away was so overwhelming it’s hard to put into words. I miss them very much, especially at Christmastime. I have so many Christmas memories.

The reason we gather for a service such as this one is to hear how others have found hope in dark places. I’d like to spend the rest of my time with you talking about how I found hope in a dark place.

I have learned a few things as I struggled to cope with the loss of dad and mom. The first thing that became apparent to me is there is a strong relationship between hope and faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” I hope you don’t mind me repeating that verse. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” I wear a pendant I found in mom’s jewelry chest to remind me true hope can only be found in Jesus. Inscribed on it are the words, “In Christ alone my hope is found…he is my light, my strength, my song.”

Following the death of my father, I vowed not to be mad at God; I did not want to blame him for my loss. If there was one person who could help me, it was God. I found a scripture verse to remind me that God is always working on my behalf. Romans 8:28 declares, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” Instead of being mad at God I chose to embrace him.

I think it was my widowed neighbor that first shared with me the significance of frog. Do you know what F. R. O. G. stands for? I didn’t. It means Fully Rely On God. Someone who fully relies on God is better able to stand on the promises of God with both feet firmly planted. So when a wave of despair wakes me up in the middle of the night, my soul can sing with all its might, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so!”

The last thing I’ll share with you is something I found in the book of Joshua as I was preparing to lead a study on the book Sunday mornings this past fall. Joshua was in the same boat I was in. The beloved leader of the Israelites, Moses, had just died. It was up to Joshua to pick up the pieces and journey on without him. God tells Joshua in chapter 1:8, “Be strong and very courageous!”

Brushing aside my first thoughts that this had something to do with physical strength and metal toughness, I believe God was telling Joshua that hope could be found in strong and courageous faith. God goes on to tell Joshua, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” and later, “Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” With my whole being I believe these words to be true. God will not leave me and he will not forsake me in my hour of need. He will be with me wherever I go. He will do the same for you. Faith in God is a true source of hope.

In closing, I would add these words penned by the Apostle Peter:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  1 Peter 1:3-6

“Tis the season of hope!

A flower’s notion

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Cold and dark surroundings have preserved me in the earth.
A predetermined message urges, “rise up from the dirt.”

Should I exercise caution as I push my way into the unknown?
No, I must not doubt my purpose for my beauty must be shown.

There are those who say, “You’re just an insignificant flower.”
They offer a convincing argument, “beauty yields no power.”

What do they know I reasoned, I’m part of a designers plan.
Then, strolling towards me I spot two lovers holding hands.

2018  Bill Roushey

Your Biggest Fear?

What is your biggest fear?  Have you ever pondered the question?  How about fearing someone you love will eventually leave you?

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I am thankful that I never have to fear God growing tired of me making a mess of my life and leaving me.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,  neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”  Romans 8:38 NLT

Fear

Last week, I sat with my loved one at a nursing home and listened to her express her fears. She feared being left alone most of all. It seemed all too easy for me to tell her not to worry and trust in God. Easy, because I wasn’t the one confined to a bed, whose future appeared uncertain, and who had to rely on others to attend to every need. When my visit concluded, I was the one able to leave and go home.

IMG_0620The following day, the word “fear” rose up from somewhere in my heart and planted itself in my mind like a roadblock. Thoughts of battling my own childhood demons surfaced. One clear memory involved watching my mother drive away, having dropped me off at summer camp I planned to attend. I begged her not to leave me and sobbed as I watched her go. Now, her and I were in a role reversal of sorts. I was the one driving away, leaving her at a nursing home, alone and afraid. I understood her pain because God willed me to endure similar pain decades earlier.

Before going further, I need to acknowledge that some fear can be a good thing. For example, I fear God, and revere Him above everything. I also fear, or respect, things like weapons, electricity, hazardous chemicals, lethal viruses, etc. Respecting them and following proper protocols keep people from harming themselves and others. For the purposes of this argument, I am addressing fear that is undesirable and destructive.

I’ve come to understand that no matter how hard I try to rid myself of it, fear will always accompany me as I walk through life. The struggle is to keep fear behind me. I have had moderate success over the years attempting to walk by faith and seeking to understand or learn more about the things I fear. However, each season of life I enter, as well as each time I have said, “yes,” to something God has asked me to do, a new set of unknowns lie in wait.

If unchecked, fear can grow like a weed, producing doubt and worry, which serve to choke out faith (see the parable of the sower in Luke 8:4-11). Maybe that is why the words, “fear not,” appear so many times in the Bible.

When I looked up some references to “fear” in my Bible, I noticed the disciples of Jesus also struggled with fear. On one occasion, in the midst of a raging storm Jesus said to them, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid” (Matthew 8:26; Mark 4:40). In another incident, Peter, wanting to imitate Jesus as he walked on the surface of angry waves, impulsively attempted to do so. He fell victim to fear and began to sink. After Jesus rescued Peter, he said to him, “You of little faith…why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)

Jesus’ words remind us all of what can happen when shallow faith clashes with fear. If doubt could speak for itself, I believe it would say, “God does not really care about the concerns I face, and He really isn’t in control of the world he created either.” In the face of uncertainty, fear robs people of hope.

Conversely, holding on to faith cultivates hope. It embraces God and trusts him no matter what. It binds us to the belief that God indeed does care about every person’s concerns and is acutely aware of the trials they face.

Bill Gaultiere, on his website www.soulshepherding.org advises us to respond to fear the way that David, the psalmist did. David prayed and trusted in the Lord.

“When I am afraid I will trust in you. In God whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.” (Psalm 56:3-4)

IMG_0627It’s always good advice to read your Bible. It’s the living Word of God. It will speak to your heart.  I offer this advice to myself (and to Mom): hold fast and stand on promises you find in the Bible. Pray that God will strengthen your faith. The God of the Bible is alive and at work in the world today. He can, and will, deliver you in times of trouble or give you the strength to endure.

A singular thought has emerged from my pondering. If I am striving to become a person of unwavering faith, I must choose faith over fear—everyday. So don’t abandon your faith when you need it most, embrace it and squeeze it tighter than you ever have before.

 

What are you afraid of?

IMG_0434Whom do we fear God or man?  The Benham brothers ask, “are we laying down our lives to be the blessing or are we protecting ourselves to get the blessing?”  They go on to say “freedom is not the ability to get what you want, but it’s the ability to give what you have.  When you do that you are truly free.”

It is easy to fear men because they have so much sway over us.  We want to be accepted, to fit in.  Some people may have viewpoints that differ radically from ours and this may make them hostile towards us but we should maintain our viewpoint (fear God) and still love them.

We need to remind ourselves that God offered his son for us while we were still sinners so that we can have eternal life. (Romans 5:8; John 3:16)

A final thought on the Benham brothers book, Whatever the Cost, concerning trusting and obeying.  Be faithful by doing what God has called you to do in the present (the obeying part).  Know that God is working to bring about his plans for your future (the trusting part).

Don’t worry, be faithful!