In Hebrews 11:1 we are told that “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen”. Why is that for some of us as believers, faith is an area in our lives where we excel, whereas for others faith is an area of our spiritual lives that we struggle within. Whether we are talking about the faith to receive healing in our lives, to experience spiritual conviction within our lives or to see the fruit of God in lives; faith is a critical element to which each of these truths can and should be revealed. Throughout our Lord’s ministry there were many times to which he commented about the lack of faith within a person’s life and this truth is cemented in the scriptures within Hebrews 11:6 where our Lord tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God and that whoever desires to draw near to our Lord must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek him.” For most of us here today, we would probably say to this verse in Hebrews 11:6, that of course we believe that God exists and that we seek him otherwise we wouldn’t be here today in church. However, let’s consider this verse closer. Yes, we believe that God exists but do we believe God exists in our moment of hardship, do we believe God exists in our illness, do we believe God exists in the calling upon our lives? Whether it is a calling upon our lives as Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers, Worship leaders, Teachers, Pastors, Chemists; the list goes on and on. Our Lord desires to exist within each of our lives, whether we are here at church, in our homes, in our bedrooms, in our workplaces. The question for today is, where does our Lord exist within our lives, and where does he desire to exist within our lives. It amazes me how we are sometimes oblivious to where the Lord exists within our lives and where he desires to exist within our lives. Even within my own life, I have discovered even over the past few months areas within my own life where my Lord needs to infiltrate an area within my own life that I have not embraced in the past. So today as we once again walk through Joshua, I would encourage you to consider these questions
- Where does God exist within our life?
- Where do we need God in our life?
- What is preventing us from experiencing God within that area of our life?
Turn with me to Joshua 2 as we walk through the first 14 verses.
Scripture – Joshua 2:1-14
And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there. 2 And it was told to the king of Jericho, “Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” 3 Then the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.” 4 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. And she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. 5 And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” 6 But she had brought them up to the roof and hid them with the stalks of flax that she had laid in order on the roof. 7 So the men pursued after them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. And the gate was shut as soon as the pursuers had gone out.
8 Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof 9 and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. 12 Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign 13 that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” 14 And the men said to her, “Our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the Lord gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.” (Joshua 2:1-14, ESV)
Engaging the Word
The Faith of a Prostitute vs. The Obstacles of our Faith
In this passage of scripture, we see as Joshua tells two men to secretly infiltrate the land, specifically Jericho. Joshua wanted to know what he and the people of Israel were about to face and what better way to understand his enemy than by having two men get behind enemy lines to determine their strengths and their weaknesses. The reason that Joshua and these men focused upon the city of Jericho in particular, was because it was the fortress for that area. The city of Jericho had been around for quite some time before the Israelites had come to this point. In fact, Jericho was a bustling town that was very popular for that area. It had a river that carried the drinking water to the town that sat directly adjacent to the city, and just south of it was the dead sea. At this time in history, salt was a major commodity and so that use of salt from the dead was of great strategic placement for this city. Realizing its strategic placement, the people of the city built a wall that surrounded the town for the purpose of protection that was somewhere between 15-20 meters tall. Joshua knew that if Jericho fell to the Israelites it would be easier to conquer the remainder of the land that lay before them. So, Joshua sends in these two men and they find their way into this house of disrepute. Now, these men did not go into Rahab’s home because of what it sold, rather they went into this home because they knew that they would not be asked a lot of questions. They could hide amongst the crowd of disrepute and not be asked questions and because of its use they could probably get a lot of information by just listening to the conversations were discussed by the men as they came and went.
So, these men, find lodging in the home of Rahab and although this is a secret mission, it is not before long that these men are found out by the king of the land. So, the king knowing of these men’s intent call upon Rahab to release the men to him so that he can take care of them. However, knowing of the king’s intent and having heard of the truth behind the God that the Israelites followed, Rahab in her sin lies to the king for personal reasons. Rahab knowing that the king was coming for these men had hidden these men on the roof of her home amongst the flax. Rahab knew that the true God walked with the people of Israel and she knew that if she was to survive what lay before the city of Jericho, that the only way was by helping these two men that were hidden on her roof.
Here is an interesting thought for a moment. Who would have known if she gave up these two men to the king? If this king had come into her home and she had just allowed them to do what they were going to do, who would have known. Joshua would probably not have known! Probably even these two men would not have known if she had just allowed the nature of the king and men to take their course. Only God would have known and so Rahab steps in at this moment because she desires to seek favor before the true God. Experiencing the promises of God is not about being seen by others but living the promises of God revealed in our lives. Rahab had discovered that, even in her depravity and lying here in this moment, the true God had come to bring truth and purpose to the city of Jericho and she desired to be a part of that plan. Rahab had faith that the God that had protected the people of Israel for all this time. That had saved them from Egyptians and Amorites would protect her if she protected the people of God at this time. A woman caught in sin and depravity, held to the truth that God revealed before her in this moment. Rahab could have been killed by the king and his men. Rahab could have been betrayed by these men when they went back to Joshua. Rahab could have been crushed in the destruction of Jericho. Yet, Rahab chose to believe.
Obstacles of Faith
So why don’t we have faith when faith is needed. As I looked at Rahab’s moment in the scripture, I had to ask myself why do we who are God’s children struggle with faith when the enemy is at our door. That day as the enemy stood at Rahab’s door, Rahab stood upon the faith of a God that she did not know and for that Rahab’s faith was rewarded. So why do we struggle with faith in our own lives? Today I thought it may be worthwhile to look at why men and women of God struggle with faith in their lives. So here are three obstacles of faith in our lives.
Fear and Doubt
The first obstacle to experiencing faith within our life is fear and doubt. Last week we talked about these elements but we need to understand that fear and doubt should not define our lives. In Matthew 8:26, our Lord is with his disciples on a boat on the sea of Galilee and storm comes up and begins to toss them about. So, what do the disciples do? They cry out in fear to be saved rather than believing that the son of God would protect them in this storm. So, our Lord turns to them in verse 26 and says, “why are you afraid, you of little faith”. In Matthew 14:30, the disciples are once again on the boat again and this time our Lord is walking on the water to them and Peter seeing our Lord steps out on the water in a step of faith and begins to walk to his savior. Peter looking down at what the Lord was doing through him in this moment allows fear to take over his heart and begins to lose the blessing that God had given him.
These illustrations in the new testament are evidence that too often we allow fear and doubt to carry our lives. For some of us we don’t even get out of the spiritual boat of our lives and so out of fear and doubt we lose all that God has promised for us on the waters of his purpose. For some of we get out on the water, but we allow the doubt and fear of this world to creep into our lives and take away the promises of God. Experiencing the promise of God is realized both in the initial step of faith and continued step of faith through the fear and doubt that desires to hold our lives.
A Lack of Knowledge
A second obstacle that prevents us from experiencing the faith our Lord desires in our lives is a lack of knowledge. Romans 10:17 puts it this way, “Faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ”. It is interesting that too often we struggle with our faith in this life and too often it is because we are just not listening. God’s purpose and promise lies before each of us and for most of us in the church today we can probably in some format cite the promises (scriptures) of God. Even last week when we talked about the verse “if God is for us, who can be against us”, most of us could easily recite that. However how many of us can say we have experienced that? How many can say that we experience that on a daily basis? There is a difference between hearing and actually hearing the word of God in our lives. Using myself as an example, I have a habit at times to focus on what lies before me too intently. Even when watching a movie or a TV show, I sometimes tune out those around me. So, if you ever catch me in one of these moments, you should probably ask me for a million dollars because I will probably agree to it without realizing what I am agreeing to. Unfortunately, most of us are like that with the scriptures. We read and hear the scriptures but fail to fully grasp all that God promises and all that He asks of us. God asks more of us than we could ever imagine and he desires to give more to us than we could ever imagine if we would just turn off the TVs of our lives and actually listen. Steven Covey, the writer of 7 habits of highly effective people, puts it this way, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”(Stephen Covey) Are we listening spiritually for the religious answers or are we listening to understand the kingdom of Heaven in our own hearts? The Promise of God is fully grasped when we stop listening for the religious answers and start listening to the answers to life in Christ.
The last obstacle that prevents the believer from fully experiencing the faith our Lord calls us to is that of disbelief. In Mark 9:24, a father desiring to see the healing of his son, joins with a disbelieving crowd to argue the significance of the son of God within their midst. So, this father brings his son, who is possessed by an unclean spirit, to Jesus and in his unbelief cries out to our Lord and says in verse 24, “help my unbelief”. This man illustrates for us today a biblical understanding that we need to grasp as believers. We at times in our lives will struggle with unbelief in our own lives. Whether it is believing that God has saved us, that he has freed us, that he has healed us, that he has blessed us….. These are just some areas in which we struggle with unbelief in our own lives and it is in those moments that we are called to cry out to our Lord, “Lord, help my unbelief”. How many times have we earnestly prayed this? How many times have we allowed the cynicism of this world to infiltrate our faith and in disbelief removed all that God has given us. The cynicism of this world that rails against the faith that holds us, requires holy reliance upon the presence of our Savior. Today is the day that disbelief stops in our lives! Today is the day that our faith encourages us to step out onto that water of life that lies before us.
Today I would like to close off with a passage out of Hebrews 11:29-34.
29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. 32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. (Hebrews 11:29-34, ESV)
Today is the day, that armies be put to flight. That day, at the end of the Joshua 2, these two men told Joshua that “truly, the Lord had given them all the land”. This blessing upon the lives of these men were the result of the faith of prostitute that believed God will put all foreign armies to flight. If you have been encircled by the armies of this world and have struggled to face the demons of your life or have struggled to experience of God’s purpose in your life, today is your day. Whether it is the walls of Jericho, the Red Sea, the Egyptians, or the mouths of lions, God’s promises are waiting. Do not let fear and doubt carry the joy of the Lord away. Don’t just hear the word of our Lord, but hear it within your heart and He will fulfill all that He has started. And in those moments when disbelief tries to creep within your life, cry out to our Lord and He will uphold your hand in that moment just as He has done in all others.