Remembering the Faithfulness of God
Text: Joshua 4
Series: Encouraged: Taking God at His Word
Title: Remembering the Faithfulness of God
There is nothing like the smell of breakfast cooking. Walk into a house. Smell bacon. Smell sausage. Maybe the sweet aroma of pancake syrup.
Oh my goodness. There is nothing like it.
The smell of breakfast for me is great—not only because bacon is good—but because it arouses memories in my mind.
Memories of my grandmother’s house in East Tennessee at the foot of the Smoky Mountains.
Memories of camping with my mom and dad when I was a child.
Memories of Sandy and I cooking breakfast for our two girls when they were small.
And now we continue to create those memories with our grandgirls.
Memories are a powerful force in the life of an individual. There is no sorrow so great as the loss of one’s memory.
Some of you know that very well. You are living it.
Memories are really strange, though. You never know what’s going to trigger them. They sneak up on you unexpectedly.
The smell of turkey and dressing on Thanksgiving.
It may be driving back to the town where you grew up.
It may be the feel of a loved one’s hand or looking at pictures from a past vacation.
It may be a song or a book or a pen or a comb.
Memories are powerful.
We know they are powerful. We fear losing them. When we have lost someone—we wrestle to hand on to those memories.
What if I forget their face? Will I be able to remember the sound of their voice? Can I have the smell of their soap always linger in the back of my mind?
Memories are not only powerful. They are precious. They put us at ease. They remind us of better days. [Though those days did not always seem necessarily better when we were living them].
We are willing to struggle to hang on to memories because memories keep the past alive in our hearts.
And yet, how much do we really spend trying to remember the work of God?
I don’t mean remembering the way church used to be. I mean the things that God has done for us in the past.
The Bible actually teaches a lot about the place of remembering.
Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; proclaim his deeds among the peoples. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell about all his wondrous works! Boast in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wondrous works he has done, his wonders, and the judgments he has pronounced, [Psalm 105:1-5]. I will remember the Lord’s works; yes, I will remember your ancient wonders. I will reflect on all you have done and meditate on your actions [Psalm 77:11-12].
Jesus even connected the celebration of the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper to our memory: Do this in remembrance of me.
In John 14:26, Jesus said that one of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to “bring to mind all that Jesus has said.”
Big Idea: My goal today is simple: I want to encourage you to spend time reflecting upon how good the Lord has been to you and be encouraged
Read Joshua 4
Review the Narrative
Review the Narrative
Just as I mentioned last week, the book of Joshua seeks to connect the events of Joshua’s life with the events of Moses’s life.
The Bible does this because it wants us to understand that the same God who led the Hebrews out of slavery is the same God who will lead them into the Promised Land.
Isn’t that great about God? He not only leads us out of the slavery of our sin. But He leads us into the freedom of His righteousness.
He not only delivers us from death. But He gives us life.
He not only keeps us from Hell. But He gives us Heaven.
Just as God led the people through the Red Sea under the leadership of Moses, He is going to lead the people through the Jordan River under the leadership of Joshua.
And God does things this way in order that we can remember that He is the one who parts the waters.
When God was with the people in the wilderness, His presence was known through a pillar of fire.
Now—as they are going into the promised land—God makes His presence known through the Ark of the Covenant.
As the priests carried the Ark into the Jordan River, the waters parted and the people walked across on dry land.
This was such a significant event that it was important for them set up some memorials to the event.
Joshua told them to take 12 stones—one for each tribe—and to set them up so that they would see them and would remember that the Lord had been with them as they crossed the river.
What a tragedy it would have been to see the Lord work in such a mighty way—and yet for the memory of the people to fail to remember God’s faithfulness.
And yet, how often do we forget the Lord’s faithfulness to us?
Joshua led the Hebrews to set up “memory stones.” Things that would serve as reminders of the Lord’s faithfulness, not only for him and for the Israelites, but also for the generations to come.
Apply the Text
Apply the Text
After returning from 16 months of a physical pandemic, we can safely say that we are currently experiencing a spiritual pandemic.
As shelter-in-place shook our way of thinking—separating us, dividing us, keeping us isolated until we get comfortable—we are now experiencing a similar phenomenon in regard to our spiritual lives.
Hearts have grown hard. Minds have grown dull. Spirits have grown stale. Souls have become weak.
There are people abandoning the faith at what seems to be an unprecedented rate.
Just as Joshua led the Hebrews to set Memory Stones to remind them of God’s faithfulness and and to compel them to be faithful to God.
We need to set-up Memory Stones to remind us of God’s faithfulness to us and to compel us to be faithful to God.
According to a poll performed by Faith, Politics, and Economics, church attendance currently 40% of what it was before COVID.
That means that a church that was running 100 people is now running 40 people.
Initially, the it was believed that—after the pandemic—there would be a 30% loss of church attenders. Currently, things are worse than that.
However, not all of the news glum. Though there are currently 60% of regular church attenders who have not attended, there is an uptick in people who were not regular church attenders who are beginning to ask questions about God who previously had not thought much about faith.
Though we rejoice in those who are asking questions about God due to the pandemic, we must ask the question about those who are drifting from the faith.
If part of the reason that we have faith in Jesus Christ is to keep us grounded when things seem to be spiraling out of control, why would it be so easy to drift from that anchor?
Is it possible that one reason for this departure is that people have come to believe that faith in Christ has become more about “comfort for the present” than “salvation from hell?”
Have we minimized His holiness? Have we disregarded our sin?
Have we desired to have Him as Savior without having Him for Lord?
Do we want the benefits of Christ without the responsibilities that it brings?
Perhaps we need to remind ourselves of the basic Christian message. Jesus did not come to make you happy. He came to make you holy.
And His holiness will not be denied. It cannot be ignored.
The challenge for each of us is that we not become church-dropouts. One way to accomplish that is for each one of us to set up memory stones that remind us of God’s faithfulness and compel each of us to respond to God with faithfulness.
How can you and I set up Memory Stones?
There are people that serve as Memorial Stones. I remember the lessons that I have taught my daughters. When I see them, I remember those lessons.
There are experiences. My baptism reminds me of God’s faithfulness to save me.
There are locations. Every time I drive to my hometown, I am reminded of God’s calling upon my life.
One of the most powerful things that you can do set-up memory stones is to often and widely share how God is working in your life.
There is something powerful about telling someone else about how God has blessed you.
Early in my Seminary days, I worked in the maintenance crew. We would ride around campus in the back of a pick-up and haul off trash, clean out buildings, and fix various things that needed to be fixed.
There was one guy who had a habit of—every morning—asking each person on the crew to share some way that the Lord was working in their lives.
It was a powerful time of testimony. Just saying it out loud engrains it into your memory and it blesses someone else.
For me, the most prominent memorial stones are when I record my thoughts and my prayer in Bibles and in journals.
There are times when I will go back and read what I have written. I will pull an old Bible off of the shelf and read through the notes in the margin or see the verses I highlighted and it reminds me of God’s faithfulness through the struggle of the past.
Remembering the things that God has done in the past encourages that you God is at work for your future.
So feeding your memory about God’s faithfulness does at least three things:
Reminds us of God’s Faithfulness
Reminds us of God’s Faithfulness
As the Hebrews were preparing for battles that were before them, it would be encouraging for them to be able to look back at God’s faithfulness in the past so that they can trust His faithfulness for the future.
You don’t know what lies ahead of you. None of us know what the future holds.
One phone call. One decision. One report. And everything could change.
Life can be fragile.
But if you are mindful of God’s faithfulness to you in the past, it can provide you with the courage to face the future.
Memorial Stones remind you about God’s faithfulness when you are in a battle. The courage to fight the battles of today can often come from the reminder of God’s faithfulness yesterday. They would need these reminders of the Lord’s faithfulness. They had not even begun to battle. But when the battles would rage, they would be able to remember what God had done.
Those memorial stones would serve as reminders to the armies of the Hebrews—when the battles got hard—that God was faithful to them in the past and He will be faithful to them in the future.
Prevents us from Fleeing
Prevents us from Fleeing
Memorial Stones remind you about God’s faithfulness when you are tempted to flee. Not only that, but if they attempted to flee and return to the wilderness, they could not do so without seeing those stones.
Those stones would remain there at the banks of the Jordan until at some point—apparently after the battles had been fought—they would be moved to Gilgal.
But those stones would be set at the Jordan.
If the armies became weary and began to flee, they could not return to the other side of the Jordan without running past those memorial stones of God’s faithfulness.
Christianity is hard. We are sometimes tempted to flee. But if you begin to flee, God is going to make sure that your path of retreat brings you past many stones of His faithfulness to you in the past.
You will have to see them. He will make you aware of what you are leaving behind.
You know what surprises me when someone leaves a church?
It’s not that they are leaving “great preaching.” It’s not they are leaving the building.
It’s not that they are leaving the responsibility that they have made to be a part of a covenanted community of believers.
It’s that they are leaving the memories that they have with their church family.
They are leaving those people who wept when they prayed for them when they were hurt or scared.
They are leaving the ones who have prayed for their children’s salvation. They are leaving the ones for whom they have committed to pray.
They have served together in the kitchen. On the grounds team. They have eaten together and wept together and talked about the Lord together.
The times that we have filled this baptistery and applauded that God had done it again. New life given. Old life left.
And all of those memories are left behind. Passed by with a wave and a nod.
The final thing that memory stones do (Reminds us of God’s Faithfulness, Prevents us from Fleeing) is that they preserve a legacy for the generations that follows.
Preserves a legacy/testimony
Preserves a legacy/testimony
Memorial Stones teach future generations about God’s faithfulness.
It is important for us to continue to remember the faithfulness of God throughout our lives. CS Lewis wrote:
We have to continually be reminded of what we believe… [Our minds] must be fed….or we will drift away.
If you are not feeding your thoughts on the Lord’s faithfulness to you in the past, then—like a ship with no anchor—you will drift from the where the Lord has led you.
Memorial Stones will keep you anchored during the ebb and flow of life.
There are two Great Memorial stones that we see today. One is not a not made of stone. It is made of wood. It is made It is the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Cross is a reminder to us that God has been faithful in the past.
The Cross is a reminder to us that we Dare not Flee.
The Cross is a Reminder to us that we legacy that has been given to us to preserve for the future generations—salvation by Grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone—is worth our fighting for.
The stone about which we remember in connection is not a stone that has been set beside the Jordan.
It is a stone that has been over the mouth of a tomb.
But when we see that stone, we are surprised that that stone is not set exactly where it was. It has been rolled aside. It is empty.
You may be tempted to give up. Don’t. Set-up some memorial stones now.