Have you ever had a book change your life? As a kid, I discovered JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series. I read them many times. I was captivated by the struggle of good versus evil and the little guy playing a major part in the final outcome.
There is another book which captivated my mind and heart at a young age which still impacts my life. As a young child, Momma would read us Bible stories. The heroes of my childhood were Samson, David, Moses, and Joshua. Later, I learned about the teachings of Paul, John, and Jesus. I still learn something new and see how the word of God shapes my life. It is no wonder the prophet Isaiah sad “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8 NIV
God’s word is alive and works within us to conform us to the image. They key is to put it into practice. Jesus said, Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Matthew 7:24 NIV Jesus instructs us that life built on the rock of His word stands the test of time. He also contrasted that life with a foolish one. “ 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:26-27 NIV.
God’s word is a solid foundation upon which we can build our lives.
It had to seem overwhelming. Moses, the man who had led Israel from slavery to freedom was gone! This same Moses had been the instrument God used to win a showdown with Pharaoh and all of the Egyptian “gods”. Remember, Moses was so close to God that his face shone from having been in God’s presence as he received the Law. Now, the mantle of leadership had fallen to Joshua. I would not want to be in Joshua’s sandals. Talk about a tough act to follow!
In verses 7-8 of the first chapter of Joshua, we find that Joshua did not have to act alone. He had the same help as Moses. It says, “Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:7-9 HCSB)
Look at the keys to success God gave Joshua. He promised to be with him wherever he went. In order to keep his steps on the right path, God advised Joshua to courageously observe His whole instruction. In other words, Joshua had to be bold in obeying God’s Law. He would be able to fulfill that by not deviating from the instructions of the Lord. Furthermore, Joshua was to keep the word in his daily life by reciting it day and night. In doing these things, he would fulfill the first instruction of carefully observing.God’s instructions handed down through Moses.
We need to courageously follow God today. What does courage have to do with it? It takes courage to live by God’s instructions when others are not. The world’s culture does not seem to enjoy absolutes. Yet God’s word is filled with several clear instructions. We must be bold like Joshua to stand for God even if nobody stands with us. Remember, even if nobody else is with us, God is! His promise is still in effect today. He is with us wherever we go, so why shouldn’t we have courage?
Warning! I am about to use an eight letter word which may offend some. In fact, you may insist I wash out my mouth with soap. This word used to be important to many and widely used, but our feelings about it have changed. Once, it was cherished and used proudly, but now it is used with apologies if at all. What is this dreadful word you ask? The offensive word is, “doctrine”. Come back and finish reading after you recover from passing out….I will wait for you.
Why is this word considered so bad? Just the other day I heard a Christian from another church bragging, “We don’t have doctrine!” It floored me. What they were saying is that they do not believe and teach anything! In their defense, he did hold up a Bible and said, “This is all we need.” I think the problem is a misunderstanding of what doctrine is. I even agree that man made statements of belief with no basis in Scripture is wrong. But the word, doctrine, is a Biblical word, Paul tells Timothy “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV). In other words. The Bible is good for doctrine. The word doctrine means teachings, and in newer verses it is translated as such. God’s word is the basis of all we believe and do. Doctrine is what the word teaches us.
There is no reason to be scared of doctrine! God wants us to teach us how to think and act so that we will “equipped for every good work”. We need doctrine as well as reproof, correction, and instruction to reach maturity in the faith.
Why is it so hard to follow directions? As a teacher I once gave my 8th grade science students a test and verbally told them to read the whole test before doing anything else. The first line on the test also said in bold font “READ THE ENTIRE TEST BEFORE DOING ANYTHING ELSE!“. I would love to tell you that all 141 students followed my directions. Knowing that the same type of test had been given to them in 6th grade surely guaranteed their success. All day, maybe 5 students followed my directions. How do I know? Because the “questions’ had them doing silly things like walking in a circle, writing their name backwards, singing Happy Birthday, etc. The next to last question instructed them to ignore all other questions, put their name on their paper and sit quietly. I was amazed that they fell for it a second time! I’m glad as adults we have grown out of that! We would never ignore instructions to restart a computer whenever programs aren’t working right. We would never fuss, complain, and get angry before we checked that all cords are connected and restarting the machine which we know is intentionally out to get us. RIGHT!
Why? Why is it we don’t want to follow directions?
In life, instead of just looking foolish, it leads to suffering. Look around at the broken lives, homes, and relationships. Notice the pain and suffering which surround us daily. It all comes from our choices to ignore the directions. Our creator gave us a set of directions for life in His word. When we choose to ignore it and live the way we think is best, we will end up like those students by wasting time and accomplishing little of significance. Living by the Word, brings life in the fullest. Yet we continue to fall for the tricks of the enemy and ignore the directions.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” We have probably read those words many times, yet we keep ignoring it. Maybe we think it is too comp,I ate, or maybe it is to simple to us. We are born with a desire to do things our way. We inherited this tenacity for rebellion from Adam and Eve. They had a perfect home and only one rule. Yet they ignored God’s rule and ate the forbidden fruit. We must break the cycle and get back to living by the directions. Quit second guessing and trying to outsmart the instructor. Follow the instructions set forth in the word of life.
Let’s start following the directions given to us by our loving Father.
We’ve all heard it. It is one of those legendary lines Moms use on wayward kids. When the unsuspecting child discovers that amazing entertainment of crossing their eyes, their ever diligent Mom says, “if you keep doing that your eyes will get stuck that way!” Little did I know they were right. Last week, my wife and I took our kids to see a movie. Since we are behind on our movie going, we went to the bargain movie theater to catch the film we wanted. Normally, that works fine, but this movie was in 3D. I’m not sure if it was in the equipment or the operator, but the movie never totally worked. I wore my stylish 3D glasses but things stayed out of focus. After squinting and straining I was able to get the center clear enough to watch. After 2 hours of this the movie ended with the hero winning, when we got in the truck to drive home, I was puzzled by the blurred road. My eyes were stuck! It has taken a couple of days to get over that forced wrong focus.
Maybe that is why God inspired Paul to write “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8 HCSB). The things upon which we focus stick with us. They make an impression and set a pattern for us. For example, by focusing on a lie long enough and performing mental acrobatics to twist our brain, we begin to think the lie is true and the truth is a lie.
Let’s stop pushing and straining to make ourselves fit this world. Instead, we need to have our minds fixed on the things above. High and noble thoughts which conform to the word of The Lord.