Destiny is a Choice

Summary: Destiny is a choice is a sermon based on Joshua 24. Joshua exhorts the Israelites to choose between God and Baal. This sermon also gives us practical ways we can make the right choices that will in turn lead us to the right destiny.

Destiny is a Choice – Joshua 24.

Illustration:

During World War II, Winston Churchill was forced to make a painful choice. The British secret service had broken the Nazi code and informed Churchill that the Germans were going to bomb Coventry in Central England. He had two alternatives: a. Evacuate the citizens and save hundreds of lives at the expense of indicating to the Germans that the code was broken. b. Take no action, which would kill hundreds but keep the information flowing and possibly save many more lives.

Churchill had to choose and followed the second course. Churchill said, “Sometimes, the consequences of our choice can be devastating but if it will be for the future good, we had to make a decision.”

Klyne Snodgrass, Between Two Truths – Living with Biblical Tensions, 1990, Zondervan Publishing House, p. 179.

Introduction:

Life is a series of choices. We make choices every day. Some choices have far reaching consequences and other choices are not so far reaching. Our choices determine the character, direction, destiny and eternity of our life. Thus learning what to choose and how to choose is very important in our lives.

Over the months in our message series on Joshua, we have marched with Joshua from the eastern side of the Jordan River over to Jericho and Ai. This followed by seven years of war with different nations, distribution of the Promised Land, and settling into the land. Walls have fallen, altars have been build, the sun stood still, and promise fulfilled. Joshua spent 40 years in Egypt as a slave, the next 40 years he was in the wilderness. Finally, his last 30 years had been spent in the glorious land of promised abundance. They are enjoying peace, prosperity, and rest from their foes now. Joshua had come to the sunset years of his life and at the age of 110, Joshua gathers all their leaders at Shechem for a final farewell.

Joshua 24:1 Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God.

Key of Joshua’s speech:

Joshua 24:14-15 14“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua 24:20  If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”

On the surface, it appears that the people made the right choice. Three times they had promised to serve God alone, but they were merely giving lip service to that commitment.

Joshua 24:31 Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel.

By the time we get to the next book of the Bible, the book of Judges, we find that the people had already violated their promise: Judges 2:8-11 88Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. 9And they buried him in the land of his inheritance… 10After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. 11Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals.

By the time we come to the book of Ruth, there is a famine in the land flowing with milk and honey. Ruth 1:1 In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and sons went to live for while to live in the country of Moab.

Later we find that the same people who possessed the Promised Land were defeated by their enemies and taken as captives to a foreign land. They lost out on the Promised Land. Here are God’s people who followed God, received the promise, but their destiny was bad because of wrong choices.

Remember destiny is not a Chance, Destiny is a Choice.

How to choose the right destiny?

1. Remember what God has done.

In the first 13 verses of Joshua 24, Joshua lifts his voice in thundering tones and speaks on behalf of God. He begins with God’s call to Abraham and he recounts in stirring notes all the wondrous ways in which the Lord led his people down to this very day. Seventeen times Joshua takes the name of the Lord.

The key of Joshua’s address: Joshua 24:12b-13 You did not do it with your own sword and bow. So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.

When people obeyed God, God prospered them. They have a land they had not labored for, cities they had not built, and a harvest that they had not planted. All our blessings are God’s gift to us. One of the ways for us to help keep focus in life is to remember what God has done in our life.

The primary way we remember what God has done is through reading His Word. Remember the work of Christ. However, we also need to be constantly reminded of all the things that God has done for us personally throughout our life. We need to remember what God has done for our church.

It might very well be helpful to establi`sh some physical reminders of God’s goodness – things like baptism, or keeping a journal or some other way to be reminded of all that God has done for us. Joshua did not focus on what he did but on what God did.

2. Get off the fence.

Joshua 24:14 Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.

When Joshua urged the people to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully, the biggest danger here wasn’t that the people wouldn’t worship God. It was that they would develop a religion that just mixed in God along with all the other God’s and other priorities of life. Joshua is telling them to not to mix with different priorities. Don’t serve two masters.

We live in a “fence-walking world.” Ours is a world that has grown comfortable with partial commitments. All of us want to feel part of the game, but we also like the safety of the stands. Get off the fence. Give your 100% devotion to God alone. If you are serious about God, get off the fence.

Illustration:

I once heard the story of a man who finally worked up the courage to propose marriage to the girl of his dreams. Dropping to one knee, he looked his beloved in the eye and said: “Jane, I know I’m not wealthy like Tom. I recognize that I’m not handsome like Tom. I may not be as well-educated as Tom. But I love you, Jane.” The woman, obviously moved, responded sincerely: “Why, I love you too, John. But tell me a little more about Tom!”

We do this fence-walking with God, too. We sing “I give myself away so you can use me, I surrender all” and we still hold back a bit of ourselves.

James gives us the key to avoid doublemindedness. Submit to God and resist the devil. James 4:7-8 7Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

But God is not interested in these partial commitments. Author and Pastor, Gordon MacDonald explains: “When the crowd got too large, [Jesus] would inevitably sharpen the blade of his teaching. He would make it clearer that there was a dramatic cost to discipleship. It was almost as if he were saying the size of this crowd suggests that you haven’t heard me plainly enough or some of you wouldn’t be here; so let me give it to you another way. And when he finished restating his message, many would then leave because they finally understood that no one can remain in the presence of Christ and be merely a very nice person.”

Jesus said to the church at Laodicea: Revelation 3:15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

One of the biggest dangers for Christians today is this: Not that they will reject Jesus, but rather they will add Jesus into their lives along with other things.

Joshua says “Get off the fence.” And Jesus is even more direct in the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 6:24 No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

3. Choose to serve God alone.

Joshua 24:14-15 14“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

And if we’re going to be effective in getting off the fence and choosing the right destiny, then we need to make a conscious choose to serve God alone.

Joshua mentions a list of their traditional practices and gods that can hinder their service to God. In this passage, Joshua identifies three classes of God’s.

Joshua 24:14 Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River. This refers to the gods that the people worshipped during the time of Abraham’s father, Terah, in Babylon before God called Abraham. There were a number of gods people worshipped there but two of the most prevalent there were:

Tammuz, also known as Astarte was the God’s then. One of the rituals for this deity was forced ritualistic temple prostitution. It involved rape and violence. God is telling make a choice.

They also worshipped the zodiac. They followed the movement of the constellations. This maybe the reason why the tower of Babel was built.

Joshua 24:14 Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. The Egyptians were pantheistic, making gods out of just about everything imaginable – the sun, the moon, the Nile River, even flies. And one of their chief gods was the calf. All of the plagues that God directed against Egypt were directed against their gods to prove that they really weren’t gods at all.

Joshua 24:15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. The Gods of the Amorites. The Amorites had an essentially pragmatic approach to worship. They wanted abundant harvests so they worshipped a multitude of god and engaged in practices which they thought would promote fertility and growth. Their worship also included other practices which God considers detestable like child sacrifice and the occult.

Today we can have other things that we serve like money, materialism, career, health, sports, internet. We spend more time on these things than with God.

Don’t go by the majority of the world. Do you know that the majority can be wrong?

Illustration:

Do you realize that most of the people in Germany thought Hitler was right when WW2 broke out? Do you realize that most of the people thought slavery was right when the Civil War was fought?

Often the majority is wrong. We are each accountable to God for the choices we make, regardless of what others may say or do.

How do I know when something or someone has become a god to me? A good place to start is to evaluate ourselves. See if anything is taking more of my attention, time and resources than I’m giving to God. Destiny is a choice, choose to serve God alone.

4. Choose to stay the Course.

Now that we have chosen God, we are to stay on the track. Stay focused and finish well. As the apostle Paul reminds us, the Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint race.

2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

1 Corinthians 9:27 I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. He says I do everything I can not to be disqualified. I run to reach the prize with maximum effort.

So Paul says that he hadn’t reached it and this is thirty years after his salvation. Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

Frankly speaking nowadays there are a lot of believers, but very few followers. That day at Shechem, there were a lot of believers who said “I believe God and I’ll serve Him.” They were sincere then but they could not press on to the goal. Within one generation they had completely forgotten the commitment they had made.

The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. They forsook the Lord, and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them; and sold them into the power of their enemies round about, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies.

Conclusion:

Friends, remember destiny is not a matter of chance, destiny is a choice.

Everyone has to make a choice and our destiny depends on what we choose.

Eve chose her action and we know the consequences.

Lot chose by sight, he was headed to destruction.

Young people, choose to serve God. Your destiny is your choice.

Stay on track. Choose to stay on course. We parents are to stay on track for our children to follow suit.

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 19This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Illustration:

There was a story several years ago about twin sisters who had an alcoholic mother. One of them became an alcoholic, but the other didn’t drink at all.

A relative went to the alcoholic daughter and asked why she was an alcoholic. She said, “Well, my mother was an alcoholic, so what can you expect?” The relative asked the other daughter who was sober. She said, “Well, my mother was an alcoholic, so what do you expect?”

You see, the choice is ours. We can choose to obey God or to disobey. But remember, we’re responsible for the choices we make.

Let us take some moments to pray our choices. Ask God to reveal any changes that we need to make in our life. Remember, Destiny is a Choice.


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