By Shelly Hendricks
“Ye have not passed this way heretofore” (Joshua 3:4).
Joshua stood on the eastside of the Jordan River and listened to the words of the Lord echo through his ears and across the plain of Jordan. He rehearsed the instructions and directions the Lord had just given him over and over in his mind.
“Now let me get this straight,” he whispered, talking to himself. “God wants me to take over for Moses, one of the greatest men I have ever known, and to lead over 2 million people into a land we have never lived in before. This means we will have to defeat enemies we have never fought, accept new challenges we have never faced, and conquer new land we have never seen.”
I wonder what our response would have been if God had chosen us for such a task? Would we act like the excuse ridden Moses did when God first called him to deliver the children of Israel from Egypt? I do not ridicule Moses for his excuses. In fact, the last time I checked many of us have done the same thing when God asked us to do something that had not been done before. We are very uncomfortable being the lead dog, especially when we don’t know exactly where we are going. We are just running by faith because God said to run. If He told us what all we were going to run into along the journey that He has chosen for us, we wouldn’t be so eager to run, but would probably slowly drift to the back of the pack. Of course, you know what they say about being in the back of the pack: the view is quite obscured when you are running in the back. In contrast, if God let us see the end of the run, we would eagerly jump into the front and run for all we are worth.
Too many times we easily drift to the back of the pack because it is more comfortable there. For example, if you’re out front and you fall, then everyone is going to see you. How embarrassing it would be to start something and not finish it. To let everyone know that this is your project and then to see it fail can be disheartening. So instead of following God’s leading, urging, and instructing to launch out into the deep, we creep out into the shallow and take our dip net as we hope to scoop up a few minnows. If we refuse to step out by faith or go where no man has gone before or respond to the challenge or lengthen the cords and believe for the impossible, then we will never see the potential God has for us and for His church.
God told Joshua that Israel was going to walk on ground they had never walked on before. They were getting ready to cross the last boundary that would open up the Promised Land for them— the land that God had wanted to give them forty years before. At that time, they didn’t mix their faith with the Word, so they went on a forty-year camping trip in the wilderness. We know that God supplied them with food from heaven and water out of a rock and put clothes on their back. Their needs were meet, but look at what they missed by not having faith in God to help them conquer the giants and to give them the land.
Joshua was determined that history would not repeat itself this time, so he did as God said. He told the people to sanctify themselves and to prepare for God to work wonders among them.
How Do You Prepare For God to Work Wonders Among You?
The way that Israel had prepared was by sanctifying themselves and by obeying their leader’s instructions as he received them from God. By sanctifying themselves they were empty of self. This caused them to be free from the fear of failure and completely reliant upon God to work through them.
They had crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, but this time they faced the swelling Jordan River. A river that was 3 to 10 feet deep and could be 90 to 100 feet wide in certain places. Since bridges were not prevalent in that day, the wide places of the Jordan were a perfect boundary to keep the enemy from crossing into your territory. The more narrow places were guarded to keep others from crossing there. Since Israel was invading the land that God had promised them, they would have had to find a way across the wider, unguarded waters of the Jordan.
Israel was standing at a new place. One they had not been in before. They were getting ready to conquer new land. Do you feel that way today? There you stand looking at a swelling Jordan River, wondering what is on the other side. We are preoccupied with the problem of crossing. After all, no one has ever crossed at this place before. What will people say if I try to cross and don’t make it? Where do you have to go anyway? Back to the wilderness? I don’t think so. You have been there and done that! What about new territory? There it is just across the Jordan. Okay, I am ready. You talked me into it. How do we get across the river? Just follow God’s directions. The priests will stick their feet in the water, and when the soles of their feet rest on the bottom of the Jordan, then the waters shall be cut off and shall make a heap, and you can all pass over on dry ground.
Wait a minute! That is not the way we did it at the Red Sea. God parted the waters before we stepped into the sea. I don’t know if we should try something new. Isn’t it amazing how people are so quick to bring up reasons why we should continue to do things the way we have always done them? I am not talking about changing the gospel, the doctrine, or the truth that we preach and live. Nevertheless, I think we should look at our methods. God’s method for Moses was the rod, and God’s method for Joshua was the priest, the ark, and stepping into the water. I don’t read about anyone complaining because Joshua didn’t use the rod to part the Jordan. Who cares how you get across as long as you get across the river?
Years ago, almost every church had a song leader. He or she would step to the pulpit and instruct everyone to turn to a certain page number. They would lead us through the entire song service this way. Now more churches use praise singers. They are a group of singers, leading us in praise choruses. The choruses are often printed and displayed on an overhead projector. This makes the words available for all to see, so everyone can easily sing along. It also helps promote worship with the hands because people aren’t holding books. Some people complained when their church switched from a song leader to praise singers. I heard various reasons why we shouldn’t switch. Of course, there was nothing wrong with a song leader and there is nothing wrong with praise singers. They are both leading the congregation in worship. Nevertheless, to hear some people tell it, the church was getting ready to become worldly and backslide. “This new way of singing just can’t be the way to do it. We have always done it the other way. We must realize there is more than one way of doing something. Why is it that when we do something different, many automatically think we are trying to be like the world? Some will say we are just being too trendy; others will simply look on in displeasure. Nonetheless, if it magnifies God and promotes His kingdom, then people should just accept it as a new way to continue to reach the world.
God is using believers to communicate and propagate the gospel to men, women, boys, and girls in new ways. We are not changing what we are presenting, but we have found new ways to get the gospel to more people. Many are unsure of stepping out to use these methods. Why is that, you ask? Could it be because we have never tried them before? It is, after all, new territory. What will people say and think? They will say plenty and think even more, but they won’t reap the spoils of taking new territory. We do not have time to either be passive in evangelism or to tip toe around wondering if we are going to be misunderstood. Follow God’s command and spread the gospel to the whole world.
We need to use every available channel to reach the world. Who would walk out into acres and acres of corn and start plucking the stalks, ear by ear, when you had a John Deer combine available. Some would say, “Oh, no, the combine is something we have never used before and there are surely all kinds of problems that come with using it. You have to put fuel and oil in it. Let’s not use it because some parts of it are bad. Someone might stick their hand in the machine and become injured.” You’re right, it does take a little time to learn how to run the machine and take care of the machine. There are some dangers involved in using it, but once you learn how, then you can reap a mighty harvest in just one day.
Why are we so afraid to do something new to reach lost souls? Are we afraid of failure? Maybe we are concerned about what others will say. If we are going to reach the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ, there must be men and women that will go where others have dared not go before. We can’t wander in the wilderness anymore; it is time to take new territory.
Before we take new territory we must deal with two questions that many people are asking today: (1) What will others say? (2) What are the consequences?
What Will Others Say?
If you are one that bases your accomplishments and advancement in God’s kingdom upon what others say, then you will always sell yourself short of what God has in store for you. Follow history and ask this question to the great men and women that stepped out by faith and took the risk of going where none had gone before.
What did people say about the idea of putting man on the moon? “Ridiculous,” “impossible,” and “not in our time” were only a few of the remarks made. Did NASA let what others thought and said stop them from fulfilling their vision and dream? History shouts a resounding NO! Yes, they did put a man on the moon, in fact, more than one. It is documented with film footage and facts, and there are still people that believe that Hollywood staged it all and that man never did actually walk on the moon. So you must understand that even when you do fulfill your dream and vision, others will still doubt it. That should come as no surprise to you. There were doubters before you accomplished the feat, and that is why they never tried it: they are full of doubt.
What will people say? What did they say about Columbus when he set out to discover America? “He’s insane,” “it’s suicide,” and “he’s lost his mind” are probably just a few of the words his contemporaries attached to his name. Can you imagine going to the queen and persuading her to finance the trip? How could he do it? He believed. When you believe in something, you can be persuasive, and he was. History tells the rest of the story, or you prefer, ask Paul Harvey, he will tell you the rest of the story. What people said, however, did not stop Columbus. Furthermore, what people said didn’t stop Lewis and Clark from exploring the West.
We shouldn’t allow what people say inhibit us from fulfilling the great commission and the vision God has placed in us. Finally, one last statement concerning what people say: those people are going to talk anyway. They will be talking about what you are trying to do or about your complacency or about your inability to try something new. Learn the lesson early: people talk! What do you want them talking about, the adventurer or the dull, uneventful, but safe person? You decide! I think you hear the Jordan calling for you to step into the water and wade out a little deeper, while God parts the water.
What Are the Consequences?
Now let’s look at the second question. What will be the consequences? There are consequences if you do something and consequences if you don’t do something. Which consequences will you face? What were the consequences at the Jordan? They were positive: they stepped out by faith, trusting God to work miraculously. They probably thought, “If the water doesn’t part, then we will just get our feet wet, no big deal; we have gotten our feet wet before.” What were the results? God parted the water, and they walked over on dry ground.
What were the consequences at Jericho? They had to march around the wall and shout on the last day. “If the wall doesn’t fall down then we will just get a little exercise and strengthen our voices.” What were the results? The walls fell down flat, and they triumphed over the city!
Should I continue? I could go on and on with Bible story after Bible story, but I think you get the point.
Consider this question: do you think God would be disappointed in someone that tried to win someone to God and failed or in someone that never tried to win someone to God? Let me help you answer the question. Remember the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30)? The servant with the one talent just sat around and did nothing to multiply his talent. The servant with two talents multiplied his to four, and the servant with five talents multiplied his to ten. Was God upset with the servant that had four talents because he had only earned two more? After all, one of the other servants had earned five more talents. Was the servant with the one talent afraid of what people might say? Yes, the consequences were a big part of it. Are you afraid of the consequences? He knew his Lord would want a return, and so he was afraid of losing what he had, so he just hid it.
That sounds really familiar to me. Some people are afraid that if they step out into the realm of aggressive evangelism and take new territory, they could possibly lose the one talent the Lord gave them. God was displeased with the servant that had only one talent and cast him into outer darkness for not doing something with it. He even told him that he should have gone and gotten some help from someone that knew how to multiply a talent. God has never cursed, cast out, or rebuked anyone for trying to expand the kingdom. Nor does He condemn those that only sit by, holding on to what they have. He just wants people to step out into the water, take new territory, and go where no person has gone before.
Some of you reading this have ideas, visions, and dreams of reaching the lost, but you have let others dictate your actions and efforts. Maybe you get your feet wet, and others laugh while you stand in the swelling Jordan River, but what will they say when the water parts? Maybe they laugh, while you march around a stone wall for seven days. Sure your feet are tired and your muscles ache, but when the walls fall, the pain subsides and you only remember the victory. Come on and step up to the plate. It is our turn to walk on land that we have never seen before. It is time to conquer the enemy, defeat the foes that have oppressed us, and move on to taking new territory.
You say that it seems like a big step to go where no one has gone before. Am I saying that you should step out and take the risk of others misunderstanding you? Whose opinion am I concerned with man’s or God’s? I think John 12:43 describes some people’s problems. John said that some people wouldn’t confess Jesus because they loved the praise of people more than the praise of God. Oh they believed in Jesus, but they didn’t want to do anything to upset those that were used to things being done a certain way in the Temple. Likewise, we have too many people worrying about what those in the church will say if we follow through and take new territory.
We must not forget that twelve spies went over to the promise land to bring back a report. Ten brought back an evil report, and two brought back a good report. The people listened to the ten, and they didn’t go over and take the new territory. Were they God’s people? Yes they were, but they wouldn’t mix their faith with the word. They were afraid to go where they had never gone before.
What did they do for God after that, besides die in the wilderness? Can you name one of the ten spies that brought back the evil report and persuaded the people not to try this new land? I didn’t think you could name one. However, I am sure you remember the two spies’ names who brought back the good report: Joshua and Caleb. They were willing to be misunderstood and to be valiant in their effort to take the new land. After the forty years in the wilderness, we read about their victorious journey into the new land. I am sure there were times after living in the new land that Joshua and Caleb would meet and talk about old times.
“Hey, Caleb. Remember the first time we stepped foot in this land?”
“I remember. I find myself wondering what it would have been like to have lived those forty years in Canaan instead of the wilderness,” Caleb replied.
“You know something, Caleb, we never could get those guys convinced to try something new. It is sad, but they all died in the wilderness. They talked about us, and disagreed with us. If they would have just believed God and trusted Him, they could be having as good of a time as we are right now.”
There they sat in the cool shade, sipping on some juice and enjoying the fruit of the new land. You can do that when you take the risk, accept the challenge, and take the new territory.
What are you waiting on, approval? You’ll wait a long time before you get everyone to agree with you.
Go talk to the priests and ask them if they were glad that they obeyed God and put their feet in the water. Do you think they worried about being the first ones in the Jordan? It was their stepping into the swelling Jordan that helped many to pass over to the other side. Don’t forget that they stayed in the Jordan until everyone else had passed through the river. You’re the leader and others will follow. It doesn’t take much faith to cross the Jordan on dry ground, but who will step into the water, while it is swelling, and its twenty-seven currents are racing throughout it? I’ll tell you who will: a priest, a Joshua, a Caleb, and who knows, maybe you will too.
I am not telling you to jump off the deep end, but I am telling you that it is time to get aggressive in evangelism and to quit being intimidated by what others might do or say about you. You know if God is leading you, and if it makes good spiritual sense. Let God lead you. If you’re winning the world, and souls are being saved, then does it really matter what someone says, does it? Oh yes it is a big step, but like Neil Armstrong said, your one step could be, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind!”
The above article, “New Territory to Conquer” was written by Shelly Hendricks. The article was excerpted from chapter four in Hendricks’s book, Evangelism, God’s Heartbeat.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.