HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Excerpts from a sermon preached to Bay Area Presbyterian Church
New Year’s Eve, 1999
“After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant: 2 "Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country— to the Great Sea on the west. 5 No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 "Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.”
Moses was dead. That seems like as final an ending as you could have, right? Well, actually, no. It was a beginning. It was the beginning of Joshua’s leadership of Israel and the beginning of their finally taking possession of the land of promise. I mention it now because we stand here at the end of something which is also a beginning. You see, the end of the year is a point of transition; the past is past but the new year is already beginning to unfold before us.
So as we stand here on the threshold I suggest we attempt three things:
1. Replace our regret with optimism Regret is sorrow about what didn’t happen in the past; optimism is joy about what is possible in the future.
2. Replace any disappointment with hope Disappointment focuses on your failings; hope focuses on God’s ability.
3. Replace our anxiety with action Anxiety is a paralyzing fear; action is a bold step.
Joshua was given some words of assurance from God that provided a solid basis for his optimism, hope, and action. God promised Joshua: “No one will be able to prevail against you.” That sounds a little like what Paul wrote in Rom. 8:31, “If God is for you who can be against you?” And God also promised Joshua: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” In the year ahead, I encourage you to remember these words because they are as true for you and for me as they were for Joshua! And how can anyone lack optimism and hope when God Almighty is on the scene?
Joshua was also given some words of instruction from God that would assure his success. God said: “be strong.” God wasn’t talking about Joshua’s strength, of course. He provides whatever strength His people need. In Eph. 6:10 Paul reminds us to: “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” God also told Joshua to: “Be courageous.” That doesn’t mean be fearless or be foolish. It means go when God says “go” in spite of whatever apprehensions you might have. And God instructed Joshua to: “Be careful.” There are lots of things that will divert us from the path God has chosen for us if we are not careful. Take care that you walk with God in the year ahead. If you do these things, you too will find success in the year ahead.
Pastor Keith Andrews