Life At Its Best

Bible Book: Joshua  17 : 14-18
Subject: Commitment; Christian Growth; Progress; Life at its Best
Introduction

Joshua 17:14-18, see also 12:7-13:1

Life at its best is life with a test!

A life that is untested is a life to be detested!

You are never more alive than when you are climbing a mountain, fording a river, defeating a spiritual enemy or doing something that requires your very best. Sometimes we yearn for the easy road, but that is not God’s way, for we were saved to learn to walk the heavenly way. The Lord is always calling us forward and onward, and doing what He has called us to do means using all of the resources He places at our disposal.

It is interesting to hear a ballplayer, golfer or any athlete speak after winning an important game. The player always says something like this: "I really wanted to be there in the tight spot. I wanted to be called upon when everything was on the line. That is what we all wish for."

Yes, the best love the test! They want to be when their decisions and actions really matter. How many of us look at our Christian life in this way? The reason many live the Christian life so defeated is they are always looking for the easy way to serve the Lord. God uses those who desire to be in the middle of the action when the going gets tough.

Look at Joshua as an example of life at its best. When we look at him in our scripture today, he is old and advanced in years, yet he is told that there is much land yet to be taken. In other words, there is work for him to do and God did not give him an easy chair and a nice view across the mountains as a place of retirement. The Lord called upon Joshua to go take the mountain designed just for him, even though it was a tall and difficult task!

By the time we get to chapter 17, we find some of the people asking for an easier way, but they will not get it. They have their allotment and they are to go forth in the name of the Lord and carry out His work in that place. In God’s work, there is no easy place. Yes, there is peace in His will but there is also a call for commitment and fidelity no matter how difficult the test or how high the mountain.

I am reminded of the story of a man who needed a washing machine and had no money for a new one. He went to the home of a person who had advertised one for sale in the newspaper and found himself a bit jealous when he saw all that the advertiser and his wife owned. The washing machine for sale looked almost new and the price was right, so he bought it. Then he told the sellers what a hard time he was having, how his children wore out all their shoes and it kept him broke all the time. Suddenly the lady in the house started to cry and ran from the room. When the buyer asked what he had said that created such emotion in the seller’s wife, he was told that they had one daughter and she had never taken a single step. The seller said, “We would give anything if our daughter could wear out a pair of shoes. What a joy it would be to see her run, walk and play games like other children.”

Life, you see, is not easy for anyone. You may look at someone and think they are living the easy life, but you can’t see the sorrow, trials and troubles they are dealing with each day. We need to accept our lot in life and learn to live life at its best in the midst of God's will and way. Let me share two great principles with you.

I. Examination of our Past

In our text we note that God was pointing out the many victories that had already been accomplished through his people and because of His blessings. Verse 8 shows this to be true. This morning we are looking at chapter 24 and here we see how Joshua reviewed the past experiences of God's people during the former days.

A. Celebration of Victories

As Joshua spoke to the people he was counting the blessings that God had given the people through the years. Sometimes we gain a measure of success and begin to think we did it all in our own strength. If God were to pull back the curtain, we would see that He was making a way for us all the time. Yes, He called for the best from us, but the success required His hand and His power. Looking at the circumstances tends to freeze us into a standstill, but trusting God and giving Him our best leads to incredible victories.

Each of us must celebrate the victories God has granted us rather than crying the blues over what we are facing at the moment. Anytime I get downhearted, I go back to a time when I pastored in Atlanta, Georgia. A member of the church had a family with a very small child in a major children’s hospital in Atlanta and I went there to visit them and to pray over that baby while she was there. I can remember walking down the hall and seeing little six year old children sitting on their beds without any hair on their tiny heads. Those little children had cancer and were in the hospital for chemo treatments. Many of them never lived beyond six to nine years of age. Simply remembering that and recognizing that my children grew to adulthood, and the fact that my wife and I have four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, causes me to stop my whining and helps me rejoice in the victories I have been allowed to experience through God's grace and goodness. One way to view life is by thanking God for what you have not been through. Sure, none us know what God has kept us from experiencing, but you can be sure that many horrible circumstances were kept from us by His merciful hand. Surely, when we get to heaven one thing that will increase our praise will be the awareness of the things that His power never allowed to touch us.

Everyone here has a measure of sorrow and life can seem very difficult for you, but I’m sure you’ve had victories from the Lord as well. If you are a Christian, you have experienced the greatest victory of all – the new birth in Jesus Christ. We cannot whine our way to heaven! We must rejoice and make ourselves available to God so that He can continue to use us for His cause. This little life will be over soon but eternity does not end. Celebrate your victories, thank God for His protection, and tell Him you are ready for whatever He has in mind for you in this life. That is what it means to celebrate your victories in the Lord.

Joshua was speaking to the people in our text today and he was reminding them of all that God had done for them. Looking back on victories does not focus on the hardships but on the triumphs. We must remember God's blessings from the past when we are going through todays valleys and difficulties. One day, when we rejoice in the presence of our Lord we will forget all the sorrows and pains, but we will never forget all the joys and victories that God has given us, so let's just begin celebrating right here, right now, no matter what we are facing in the moment.

B. Expectation of Victories

As we celebrate, we must remember that there is much yet to do. We must see all the victories that are waiting to be won and all the land that is waiting to be possessed. That is what Joshua was trying to tell God’s people in our scripture passage today. He was rehearsing the past but he was also renewing their divine viewpoint of the future.

Surely in our personal lives we see the need for change and progress. Looking at ourselves we see the need for the fulfillment of that which Paul expressed when he said, “Forgetting what is behind I press on." Paul had his mind set on God's leadership and blessing in the future. He knew that it was his responsibility to "press on," if he expected that future to fully unfold in his life. We must press on to grow in Christ. If we are not growing or desiring to grow, we are dying. In the Christian life there is no neutral gear - it is either Forward or Reverse!

Joshua was old, but there was still much to do. Young or old today, you are in the family of God and you must never sit down on the job. Expect something wonderful for the Lord in your life and ministry for Him. Never dwell in past defeats or gloat over former triumphs. Look up and look forward – that is God’s way to live life at its best.

II. Exhilaration in Your Purpose

Joshua was called by God to renew his purpose before the Lord and to keep on keeping on in the Lord's work. Life for God is not a choice between the good or the bad, it is rather a choice between the good things or the better things. In fact, we can say that it is a choice between better things and best things!

Joshua was already a great man when he heard this call from the Lord. Isaiah was a great man when he saw God high and lifted up and heard the “holy, holy, holy” from the throne room. Never believe that you are too old to matter or that your best days are behind you. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to appreciate the ministry of prayer as never before. If you can’t do what some younger people can do, then make sure you pray for those who are doing it. Above all, at any age, we must choose to do our best for our Lord because He has given His best for us. Besides all this, the older we are the closer we are to home. The proper attitude for us as we age is to finish strong.

For many years I was a runner. I ran six miles most weekdays and then I ran between ten and fifteen miles on Saturdays. Because I loved to run, I entered a lot of races - 5K, 10K and half-marathon races. I ran my first 5K race at Cowpens, South Carolina, site of a famous Revolutionary War battle. I had not been running that long when I entered that race, so I was not as wise as runners must be to compete properly. When the race began, I bolted forth like a gazelle. I was running up front with the leaders during the first mile, then something happened I had not counted on. My legs became very heavy during the second mile and the runners at the front left me behind ,and some others began to pass me as well. By the third mile I was huffing and puffing, and even more people passed me. Finally, before I reached the finish line, a nine year old boy passed me - the ultimate humiliation! I learned from that experience and began to work on being more intelligent about how to finish a race. I worked on the process of increasing my oxygen exchange rate so I could endure and finish strong. Later I was able to win a race in my age group and ran in the top 1/3 of the entire field in Atlanta half-marathon. You see, I had to learn how to prevail near the end of a race. I needed to know how to finish with a spurt of energy that I had created through training. In the Christian life, we need to be able to finish at full speed rather than sitting in a rocking chair!

Look at Paul in the New Testament. He wanted to apprehend that for which he was apprehended. May I suggest that there are three areas in which we can grow the most?

A. In our Relationship to the Lord

"That I may know Him…"

God is always unveiling Himself to His people. No matter how long you serve Him or how much you think you know about Him, there is more to experience. Those who never become satisfied with where they are in their walk with God always have more power, beauty and grace revealed to them. O, that we may know Him better – in life and work!

B. In our Responsibilities for the Lord

This means to complete the full service which He has for us. How many of us can say that we are doing our best for Christ? I’ve had people tell me, “Well, I’m doing the best I can?” Really? Very few people on this earth do the best they can at anything. Athletes have a saying regarding doing their best. They say, “Leave all on the field.” Boxers will have their trainers say to them, “Leave it all in the ring.” What do these statements mean? It means to give all you have and leave no energy or skill unused when you cross the finish line. I've witnessed many runners who collapse as soon as they cross the finish line. They held nothing back! I want to finish my life for Jesus just like that. Use up all we are and all we have for Christ! That is what God is calling on us to do.

C. In our Resources from the Lord

All we need He has provided! Thanks be unto God - but are we appropriating that which He has given us for His cause and glory? You see, you and I have a power that is not our own. When we step out in faith to serve Him, He steps in to provide what we need. Some Christians say, "I wish I could do what that person is doing." Well, if you gave as much of yourself to God as that person is giving, perhaps you would be able to do just that. Use all He gives you for His sake and you will never regret having done so.

Conclusion

I was called to preach in March of 1957 – it was just before my thirteenth birthday, but I ran from that calling till I was twenty-three years of age. In May of 1968 I sat at my kitchen table trying to decide how I could leave my job to attend college. I knew God had called me and I was ready to do His will, but how could I possibly do it? I was married with a four year old daughter. I used a piece of paper and pen in an attempt to figure out how I might meet my financial obligations and still do God’s will. Suddenly, I picked up the paper, wadded it up in my hand and threw it down on the table. I turned to my wife and said, “Honey, this is ridiculous. It is not my responsibility to figure how to do this; that is God’s problem. He called me and He will help me if I will simply obey Him." She and I knelt down in our living room and committed our way to God. That was almost fifty years ago and God has made a way every day and every year through these decades for me to do all He called me to do. He has blessed us beyond our wildest expectations.

God will often hestitate to bless until you have no hesitation in doing His will. Those who wait to have what they need before they surrender, never receive for God's hand what they are missing and end up realizing it when it is too late. God is calling us to get up, look up and move out in His name. It is His will and responsibility to meet the needs we have in order to do accomplish all His is asking us to do. Listen to me! God has all the resources you need to do anything and everything in His will. Act not on your ability but on God’s resources. If you do, you will live life at its best.

Extra Illustrations:

Contented Cows

A milk company came up with a neat little slogan which they painted in large letters on the side of their delivery trucks. It read:  "OUR COWS ARE NOT CONTENTED!  THEY'RE ANXIOUS TO DO BETTER!"  If we are to avoid becoming self-satisfied, we need to adopt a similar attitude.  Industrial studies show that employees are more likely to quit when they have it too easy than when their work is tough and calls forth the best that is in them. 

Improved Golfer

One golfer asked another for advice:  "Can you tell me how I can cut down on my strokes?"

The expert golfer said, "Sure, take up painting."