I sensed the call to pastoral ministry before 2007, but after April of that year the call became even louder in my ears. I gave God several objections, but when it came down to it, I feared that I wouldn’t be as good a preacher & pastor as some of the giants of the faith that I grew up admiring like Henry Wright, Jose Rojas, Mark Finley, CD Brooks and Barry Black. I’m just CJ. Yet, in spite of my apprehensions, the relentless call of God kept coming. And maybe, like me, you’ve sensed the call of God on your life to do something greater than yourself; something that stirs your heart with a mixture of passion, excitement and nervousness. Something that gives you a sense of purpose and mission. As we enter the story in Joshua chapter 1, this is what Joshua felt as he, along with Israel, mourned the recent death of Moses on the boarders of Canaan.
Moses represented the glories of the previous generation. And it’s good for us to look at the past glories and giants of the faith and honor them. As we too are on the boarders of Canaan, we stand on the shoulders of giants. Yet God interrupts this mourning of the past and says it’s time to rise up Joshua, for Moses is dead. And as wonderful as they were, the methods of the past are dead. Many of that generation are literally dead and often as we nostalgically reach back to past experiences our present worship is dead! And I’m so glad that Moses had some sense to disciple Joshua as his assistant and prepare him for leadership, for now God says to this Joshua generation, it’s time to rise up and take possession of this territory He’s giving us for the Kingdom!
Now most of us think of Joshua, even when Moses was alive, as this brave warrior-like figure. However, with Moses dead and the promised land before him, Ellen White, in Patriarchs and Prophets says,
Just imagine for a second, that you see Joshua confidently walking out of his tent among the camp of Israel. He walks by and waves at smiling people who look at him with awe and respect. But inside Joshua’s head he’s saying, “What was I thinking agreeing to this! I don’t know how I’m going to do this. I’m seriously freaking out. These people are looking to me to get them into the promised land, but I’m not Moses.” I mean, can you blame him? He must have thought about their rebellious history since leaving Egypt, their wondering for 40 years because of their unbelief and the fact that Moses, his mentor, couldn’t lead them in! I mean what makes us think we can reach the city of Vienna, the surrounding area and build a high school? And what about those obstacles, those giants in the land! What makes us think we can accomplish this giant mission? The task seems too big. The territory seems to big. Facing this giant mission is intimidating. Yet God says to Joshua, rise up and take this people into the land! One of the biggest hinderances to spiritual growth and accomplishing mission is fear. So how do we conquer fear, while facing a giant mission? Listen to what God says in verse 3…
Wow! Did you catch what God just said? He said there is not a place in this territory where your foot will touch that has not already been given to you. He didn’t say it in the future tense of “it will be given to you.” God said it in the past tense. It’s already done! It’s already yours! You can be strong and courageous when facing a giant mission because…
God Has Already Given You the Territory.
I spent 3 years running from the call of God on my life to be a pastor. I never left God and I continued serving, as the doors of opportunity in ministry kept opening and every door to reenter my previous profession kept closing. By Spring 2010, I found myself hired as a temporary full-time Bible worker, paid to develop Bible study interests in a community near a local church, near the city of Atlanta, for an upcoming Mark Finley evangelistic series. I had spoken to the pastor of this local church before, 2 years earlier, about my wrestling with the call to pastoral ministry. He trained me and sent me out to find Bible study interests. As I went, I noticed there was a low income apartment complex right next door to the church building, so I figured I might as well get started with those closet to us. As I entered the apartment complex, heard some of the music and saw some of the interactions of the people living there, I thought to myself, “No ones going to be interested in wanting to study the Bible in here. They probably have other needs and the Bible isn’t one of them.” I couldn’t have been more wrong! Nine people filled out the survey that I was giving door to door, indicating that they wanted Bible study! I remember walking into the pastor’s office like, “I was only able to get 9 Bible study interests.” He looked at me with this baffled look on his face like, “9 on your first day!” Let’s just say that after this experience and by the end of my time working with him, he rebuked my doubting God’s call and wrote me a letter of recommendation to go to the seminary at Andrews University. Let me tell you, those 9 people had nothing to do with me. Jesus was already working on hearts in the territory He had already given me. He was just inviting me to join Him.
God said, “I have given you” the territory. It already belonged to Israel, they just needed to take possession of it. You see in God’s mind, from His perspective, the land was already theirs. They had assurance of victory wherever they placed their feet, before they even started!
Notice also in verse 4 that God is specific with the territory that He has already given them. God has brought us to the specific place where we are, to take possession of it for the establishment of His kingdom. If He brought you to it and it’s the spaces where your feet regularly touch, then it has already been given to you for the sake of the Kingdom!
Jesus gave a specific method for how to reach the specific territory He has placed us in. In Acts 1:8, Jesus said,
This applies to us corporately in the local church as well as individually. You start in Jerusalem, or your immediate area of influence. I'll use my local church in the city of Vienna as an example. Corporately our church’s Jerusalem is the neighborhood/community surrounding our church campus and the city of Vienna. This is the primary target area for all of our ministries. Then you move out to Judea and Samaria, which for us is the larger county or cities surrounding Vienna where many of us live and do life. This is where our Grow Groups come in. Like the early church, the movement spreads through networks of disciple making small groups gathering in homes or in the spaces where you do life. Then you move out to the ends of the earth, which we have the ability to do through our online ministry. For you individually, Jerusalem means you start in your home. Then you spread out to your neighborhood, school or job. The places where you regularly do life. Don’t be afraid! Though occupied by enemy forces, the territory is yours for the Kingdom! It’s actually a very organic process. Jesus is already in the territory working on hearts, before you ever arrive. Then He invites you to join Him in the mission. Each of you have at least 3 people in their life, right now, whose hearts Jesus is already working on and just needs you to open your eyes spiritually and develop a discipleship relationship with them.
However, like Joshua, you may have some apprehensions about obstacles that try to get in the way of you accomplishing mission. Maybe your concerned about the giants in the land or opposition from the Enemy. So God continues in verse 5…