Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 29834 June 9, 2019
“Be Strong and Courageous”
Welcome, winners and all, to Scholarship Sunday 2019 at Cornerstone EPC. To our winners—and, by extension, to their families, I say that we rejoice in your awards, and in your achievements, and in your persons. We are delighted, of course, in you who each are, and what each of you has accomplished, and in what you receive from our scholarship fund. Today, God has a message for you—and for us all—from His Word. In God’s charge unto Joshua, we hear an important message for our souls as well. Let us give our attention to the reading and the preaching of His Word.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
God exhorts Joshua three times in today’s text to be strong and courageous. One of those exhortations includes the charge to be very courageous. We too may be strong and courageous—yea, we are commanded thus—no matter whether our station be entering college freshman or some other station. First, God calls us to strength and courage because He has something for us each to do. He had something for Joshua to do—a big job indeed. Joshua would lead the people from Canaan’s edge into the land promised initially to Abraham over four hundred years earlier. God gives Joshua the borders of the land, and He assures him that none will arise to thwart the mission. Again, here indeed is a big work.
Now let’s ask the question, “What hath He for you to do?” Apply that individually to your souls. For our winners here assembled today, it appears the answer to our question includes study leading at least to a first baccalaureate degree. It likely involves calling to a specific career. Other callings, such as where to live and who will constitute future friends and family, will be subsumed in this question. The rest of us may answer the question consistent with our God-given spiritual gifts and our station in life, among other considerations. Yet, for us each and all, our ultimate calling is to follow God’s incarnate, the Lord Jesus Christ—via both personal devotion and obedience to Him and active participation in His Body, the Church. Let us be strong and courageous, for God has things for us to do.
Second, God calls us to strength and courage because He always will be with you. Here, in today’s text, God says unto Joshua, “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” Remember that God spoke with Moses face to face, as a man with his friend (Exodus 33:11). Now that is close relationship. Notice now other Scripture passages that corroborate this. The author of Hebrews, writing to Jewish-background Christians ca. A. D. 65-70, quotes our passages, stating, “…He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5). The last words that we read in Matthew’s Gospel are from Jesus’ lips at the end of His Great Commission, namely, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Even one of Jesus’ Names, Immanuel, means God with us (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23). Remember that our triune God will never leave you nor forsake you. Remember this when lonely. You may be lonely, but you never are alone. Remember this also when struggling under various loads—whether coursework, or job, or other difficulty. The Lord not only is with you, but He is helping you with the load. At times He even carries you—and the load to boot. Let us be strong and very courageous, for God is with us always—and is for us as well (Romans 8:31).
Third, God calls us to strength and courage because He speaks to us from His Word, the Bible. God commands Joshua, and us, to meditate upon it—and this day and night. We don’t meditate much in our culture, and when we do, we often have wrong ideas about it. What God would have us do, concerning His Word, is reflect upon it at length. We cannot read Scripture in the same manner that we might scan the newspaper headline or the telephone directory. We must read slowly, with great attention, and we must think long and deeply about it. This requires the intentional setting aside of a period of time for this purpose; we simply will not get to the task if we do not set aside this time. We also do well to be in a place where we can from time to time recite aloud the Scripture text upon which we meditate. Hearing God’s Word, even from our own lips, in addition to reading it, helps us to remember it. Let us, as we meditate upon God’s Word, seek to memorize it—in small doses at first, but in larger sections over time as our familiarity and confidence grows. In these ways we comply with God’s command—we meditate on His Word.
Moreover, be careful to do God’s Word—all of it. This is daunting indeed. Know that perfection doing what God commands in His Word is now impossible on earth since the Fall. Let us aim to observe God’s Word faithfully—and let us be faithful increasingly as the days pass. In these, meditation upon God’s Word and conformity of life unto it, we will have good success—as God defines success, not as the world attempts to define it for us. Let us be strong and courageous, for God will speak to our souls from His Word as quickened by the Holy Spirit.
Today is a happy day. Today we celebrate our winners and their families. Today we celebrate our beloved major donor to our scholarship fund—now Home with the Lord some three weeks. Today we celebrate God’s goodness in this whole scholarship process: both to our winners and their families and to our Session and congregation.
Yet not every day coming will be as rosy as this one. When I was late in my undergraduate career at The University of Georgia, I heard the claim that the most-stressed section of the American population is the one named college students. I believed it then, and I believe it now—for a number of reasons. Difficulties arise, and disappointments come. They come adult-sized, when collegians are perhaps not yet fully prepared every time to bear them. Still, be strong and courageous. Remember again that God, in Christ, is for you. He has great things for you to do: important things that are both delightful to you and of blessing unto many. God will be with you, and that without fail. He has said so explicitly in His Word. Furthermore, He will speak to your soul as you read, hear, and study His Word. Let us go, then, one and all, under the mercy and blessing of Almighty God, in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, in the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit, into what Oswald Chambers called His irresistible future.