Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Death of a Saint--God's Purpose

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss gives perspective on this day with all its challenges.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: This is not paradise. It’s not here. It’s not now. There’s no point in moaning about it. So enjoy what God has given you, and then realize that the day is coming, at the end of the journey—which will be only the beginning of eternity—when we will be able to enjoy the fullness of the inheritance that God has given to us in Jesus Christ.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, November 11, 2014.

It may sound cliché, but life is short. Take a break from what you’re doing and give Nancy a few minutes. It’s a call to significance in the brief time you have.

This teaching comes as part of the series called "Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 12): Leaving a Legacy." 

Nancy: After all the months that I have spent meditating on the life of Joshua and being blessed by his life, it’s a sad thing for me today to come to Joshua 24, verses 29 and 30. Let me read to you what those verses say.

"After these things”—after giving the farewell speeches, after charging the people to follow the Lord and to seek after Him with all their hearts, obeying everything that God has told them to do—

After all these things Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being 110 years old. And they buried him in his own inheritance at Timnath-serah, which is in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash.

The other day I told one of our staff, as we were talking about this Joshua series, that I have come to think of Joshua as kind of a grandfather I never had. I’ve grown very attached to him. I said to the staff, “When I get to heaven, I want to find Joshua and give him a big hug.”

Now, there are others I want to see and hope to see, but Joshua certainly is one of them. And after I give him a big embrace, I want to maybe just sit down at his feet or across the table from him, and I want to thank him. I want to thank him profusely for his faithfulness to the Lord over all those years.

I want to tell him how God used his story and his life to meet me, thousands of years later, at a great point of need in my own life. God used his story to transform my heart, to bring me to new points of repentance, to instill faith in my heart, and to give me courage to press on in the battle when I thought I could not go any further.

At that point, if I haven’t already seen Jesus, then I think I want to ask Joshua to take me and introduce me to Him, knowing that Jesus is our heavenly Joshua. I’m so thankful for the way God has used Joshua, this Old Testament saint, to point me to Christ and to help me develop a greater love, affection, and devotion to Christ.

As I’ve been pondering the death of Joshua and the very brief obituary that is given . . . There’s not much said. There’s not a lot of fanfare here, not a lot of hoopla. It reminds me of what is said in Acts chapter 13, where it’s talking about another Old Testament saint, David.

It says, “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers” (v. 36). Joshua, like David, served the purpose of God in his own generation. This may not sound all that profound, but it strikes me that Joshua’s own generation was the only time frame in which it was possible for him to serve the purpose of God for his life.

He couldn’t serve God’s purpose for another generation that wasn’t his generation. The only time frame in the whole span of eternity in which he could serve God’s purpose for his life was his generation. The same was true with David. David lived in a different generation. But the only time frame in which David could serve God’s purpose for his life was in his generation.

You say, “What’s the point of that?” Well, the only time frame I have in which to serve God’s purposes for my life is right now. It’s the generation in which I’m living. I didn’t live in Joshua’s era. I can’t make any contribution to that era. I’m not going to be alive five hundred years from now, should the Lord tarry.

The only generation in which I have the privilege of serving God’s purpose for my life is while I’m alive. It’s right now, in this generation, the twenty-first century, with all the mess that’s going on and all the issues. God put me in this generation; God put you in this generation and has given us a span of years in which to serve His purpose. This is the only chance we get. We don’t go around again.

This is the chance we have—the only opportunity we have to serve the purpose of God for our lives, however long or short they may be. It’s all we’ve got. So ask yourself how you want to spend these years. How do you want to spend your few years on earth? You might say it is more than a few. Say it is 110 like Joshua's (which it is not likely to be for most of us). But if it is that many, in the light of eternity, it's just a few years. It's a short span of time. So do you want to spend your few years here on earth:

  • just drifting
  • just letting life happen
  • reacting to people and circumstances around you
  • accumulating things
  • building a name or reputation for yourself
  • wallowing in a pool of self-pity, depression, bitterness, anger, or selfishness

You say, “Do you think that’s where I am?” Well, I don’t know where you are, but I know from a lot of the letters I get from our listeners that that’s where they’re living.

Now, I’m not saying their lives aren’t hard. I’m not saying there aren’t some reasons—justifiable reasons, humanly speaking—to be living in anger and bitterness and resentment. But I’m saying, “Is that how you want to spend your life?”

You only have it once: only one life. Do you want to spend these few years that you have nursing your wounds?Real as those wounds may be. Do you want to spend this short life that you have saving up for retirement so you can see the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet?

When it is all said and done, you know, they say life is just the hyphen between two dates on your tombstone. That's your generation. When it is all said and done, do you want that to be the sum total of your life? You see, I think we get so caught up in the here and now and the pressures, problems, and challenges of life at this moment, that we lose perspective. That’s why I think it’s important to go to funerals. It’s important to go to cemeteries from time to time.

Now, I’m not saying you ought to live there, but there’s something recalibrating and refreshing and challenging about stopping, taking stock and saying, “What do I want to be true of my life when it’s all said and done? I don’t have a chance to go back and do it again. Am I going to have regrets?”

  • Do you want it to be said that you spent your life in the ways I just described?
  • Or do you want to have it said at the end of your life that you served the purpose of God in your generation?

We are called to live purposeful lives, intentional lives, useful lives, fruitful lives. I just want to say that I believe God has broader and greater and bigger and grander and more eternal purposes for most of our lives than we ever experience—because we’re so buried in the minutiae, the monotony, the pain, the struggles, and the stresses of everyday life.

We live in human bodies. We have health issues. We have family issues. We have financial issues. We have laundry. We have cars that break down. We have cars that need fuel. We have bodies that need fuel. There’s reality; there’s the stuff you’ve got to do every day to survive.

But are you doing that stuff with a bigger picture in mind of serving God’s purpose in your generation? I don’t mean to suggest that God has made most of us to have big public-platform ministries. That may be God’s purpose. That is God’s purpose for some people, but that’s not God’s purpose for most people. There was only one Joshua in Joshua’s era.

God had a purpose for his generation, and Joshua served God’s purpose for him. But everyone else living in that generation, including the daughters of Zelophehad that we’ve talked about and Achsah, the daughter of Caleb—these people that are obscure people, little-known—God had a purpose for them in their generation.

God has a purpose for you. It may never be written up in history books. It may not be noticed by other people. But God knows what His purpose is for your life. Are you going to fulfill it? Are you going to be intentional about fulfilling it?

Let me ask it this way. If your whole life were summarized in one phrase after you were gone, what would you want that phrase to be? That’s a good thing to think about from time to time.

For Joshua, there’s no question what that phrase was at the end of his life. We find it in this text, verse 29: “After these things Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being 110 years old.” The servant of the Lord—could I suggest there is no higher title on all the earth?

For all of your lifetime, if you could live to 110 or 310, there is no higher designation, no higher description, than to be the servant of the Lord. For Joshua, I believe that title represents the pinnacle, the crowning achievement of his life.

You say, “What makes you think that?” If you were to go back to Joshua chapter 1, verse 1, you’d read this: “After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant”—and then it goes on to say what God said.

“Moses the servant of the LORD”: that phrase is found sixteen times in the book of Joshua. “Moses the servant of the LORD”: that’s how Moses was known. But at that time Joshua was a young man, and what was Joshua’s title? He was Moses’ assistant. Early in his life, when we meet him in Joshua 1:1, that’s his title. He’s Moses’ assistant.

Now, that’s not a bad job. Moses was a pretty high-powered guy, and a lot of people would have aspired to that job. Joshua was very content in that job. But there was a higher, better position on which Joshua set his sights. Like Moses, his ambition was to be the servant of the Lord.

It’s interesting to me that it’s not until the last chapter of the book of Joshua that Joshua receives this description, this designation. That’s where he received the designation “Joshua the servant of the LORD.”

I had this picture last night as I was thinking about this verse of Joshua standing on the podium at the Olympics with a garland being placed on his head, as they used to do in the old Olympics, or a medal being put around his neck here at this point in his life. He is the winner; he is the servant of the Lord. He has attained to the highest calling there could possibly be. He's run well. He's received the supreme achievement.

How do you want to be recognized when you die? How do you want to be remembered after your life? We could answer that question different ways, but I know for me, what I want to be known and remembered as is a servant of the Lord, the handmaiden of the Lord (kind of the feminine version of that). I want to have faithfully served the Lord and fulfilled His purpose for my life in my generation.

>In this session and the final one, I want to close this series with a review of the life of this faithful servant, this faithful soldier, this great man of faith. There are a number of different grids through which we could overview Joshua’s life. I want to do it in a couple of different ways, starting today with a list that I made in my quiet time not too long ago. It’s a list of the different geographic locations where Joshua lived at one time or another, locations where significant events in his life took place.

In each of these locations, Joshua came to know God in a different way. I won’t name them all because there were lots of battles in lots of places. But here are some of the key ones. I want to use these cities or these geographic locations to help us review the life of Joshua: where he started, where he ended up, and what happened in between.

First of all, where was Joshua born? He was born in Egypt as a slave. He knew what it was to be in slavery. He also knew what it was when Moses came and said, “I’ve come to set God’s people free.”

Joshua had the privilege of celebrating, along with God’s people, the very first Passover in Egypt. That’s where, as his family put the blood on the doorpost, he experienced God’s redeeming love and grace along with others in the community of faith.

Having been rescued out of Egypt, he was with the other Israelites when he came to the Red Sea. He saw God’s power in taking them across the Red Sea and delivering them from the hand of the Egyptians.

Then a next key place in his life, along with the other Israelites, was Mount Sinai. That’s where the law was given. Remember that Joshua, as Moses’ assistant, went with Moses up into the mountain where God gave the law. Joshua waited, apparently, at a midway point while Moses went in the highest part to get the law from God. But Joshua waited, meditated, serving, being available, being faithful.

He was with Moses when Moses came down the mountain and they saw the idolatry that the people had fallen into in the meantime, with the golden calf incident. That all took place at Mount Sinai, an important place in Joshua’s life.

Then you remember in Exodus chapter 17—we’ve covered most of these through the course of this study—how in a place called Rephidim, Joshua fought his first major battle. He was down in the valley fighting while Moses was up on the mountain with his arms outstretched, lifted up with the rod of God.

Every time Moses held the rod up, Joshua was winning down in the valley. And every time Moses got tired and his arms started to fall, the Amalekites would start to win against Joshua. Remember that Moses had Aaron and Hur come along and lift up his hands by his sides.

Joshua was the one leading the troops down in the valley. That’s where he first began to understand that the battle is the Lord’s, that it wasn’t to be won by his own ability. It wasn’t his own military prowess that was going to make him a successful captain of the Lord’s troops. It was the power of God in heaven, fighting with and for his people. That was an important lesson Joshua learned at Rephidim.

And then he came with the Israelites to Kadesh-barnea, where they were to go into the Promised Land. He was one of twelve spies sent into the land, and the goal was that they would come back and say, “Let’s go in and take over the land with God’s help.” For forty days at that point he was in Canaan.

Now, the other Israelites—most of them never lived to see Canaan. But Joshua actually did see it with his own eyes as a young man—he and Caleb. He saw the land of milk and honey, and he saw the giants. But he came back to Kadesh-barnea, and that’s where there was a collision of fear and faith.

Joshua stood alone with Caleb and said, “God is bigger than the giants.” Having tasted Canaan and having seen it, having experienced it, he was ready to go in. But the Children of Israel voted with the majority, the ten spies. As a result, Joshua and the rest of the Israelites went back into the wilderness for thirty-eight more years.

In the wilderness Joshua suffered for the unbelief of all the rest of the people. It wasn’t his belief that got them there. He and Caleb had stood for God’s way—to believe God and to go against the giants. But all those years in the wilderness, as he watched all his peers die off except for Caleb, Joshua never had his faith shaken. He still continued to believe in the faithfulness of God.

Then we come to Shittim on the east side of Jordan. That may not be a name that’s really familiar to you, but we talked about the place where Moses handed the baton to Joshua. God told Moses to appoint Joshua as his successor. Just imagine the trembling that Joshua must have experienced as he realized that there was not another one like Moses. There never has been. There never will be. The Scripture actually says that.

But he agreed to accept the baton, realizing, “I can’t be Moses. But I am Joshua, and I can fulfill the purposes that God has for my life.” So he accepted that baton, and then, holding that baton, he led the Children of Israel across the Jordan to another key place, another key geographic location, where the Children of Israel walked across the Jordan on dry ground.

Joshua is the one who had to exercise faith and leadership to get them across. And now they were in the Promised Land. Joshua’s life started in Egypt, then was spent in the wilderness for all those years, and now he was in the Promised Land.

Do you remember the name of the city that was the base of operations for the next seven years of the conquest? It was Gilgal. That was an important place, and there were some markers. As I go through these in my mind—as I did in my quiet time not too long ago—I can picture each place, what it was that Joshua experienced there, and the encounters they had with God in each of these locations.

Then remember that they went out from Gilgal for their first major battle, which was where? At Jericho. How are we going to scale these walls? This is humanly impossible. That’s right. But God is going to get you over that. Remember how they marched around the city and saw God bring those walls down, saw God spare Rahab and her family. We’ve talked about that during these series. Jericho had to be an important place for Joshua to remember.

Then where was the next battle? Ai. That’s where they suffered the only recorded defeat in the book of Joshua and learned two important lessons: the importance of seeking the Lord for direction in each new battle, and the seriousness of sin.

God takes sin seriously. They lost that battle because of the sin of one man who had hidden the forbidden items in his tent. I don’t think Joshua ever forgot Ai and what he learned there.

Then there was Shiloh. We come to that in Chapter 18 as the tabernacle is relocated at the end of the conquest to the city of Shiloh. The name Shiloh means “rest.” God’s tabernacle, with the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord, came to rest at Shiloh, a symbol of the fact that the people had come to rest in the land.

The major battles were over. There were still more battles to come. There was still more land to be possessed. But the major conquest had taken place, and they were able to enjoy the Promised Land, the place of rest.

Then we go back to Shechem in chapter 24, where Joshua gives the final charge to the leaders of the different tribes. He passes the baton on to the next generation. This thing of the continuity of our faith from one generation to the next is an important thread in the story of Joshua. And then he comes to Timnath-serah, finally, his own inheritance.

We said earlier that Timnath-serah means “my abundant portion.” It struck me last night that . . . I found myself reading this record of Joshua’s death and his burial at Timnath-serah, and I found myself at one point in tears thinking about the fact that Joshua never got to live there and enjoy his own inheritance until the very end of his life. The rest of his life he was a wanderer. He was a pilgrim.

He didn’t get to settle into his own place, even though he had had faith forty-five years earlier when nobody else did. It wasn’t through his own disobedience that he had wandered. He was obeying God, and in this life of faith he didn’t get the reward of his own faith until the very end of his life.

And I was crying as I thought, You know, there are days when I think there’s a lot of sacrifice involved, there’s a lot of effort involved, there’s a lot of not being able to settle down involved in fulfilling God’s calling in my life. But God has blessed me with so many rewards and joys in ministry that I thought, You know what? If I don’t get to experience the fullness of a relaxed, peaceful life until it’s all over, it’s okay.

I wonder if Joshua thought of Abraham and others before him who had paid that kind of price, who had been faithful and had lived in tents and traveled and wandered. Hebrews 11 gives us a perspective on the Abrahams and the Joshuas. It says that,

[Abraham] was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. . . . These all died in faith . . . having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. . . . They desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city (vv. 10–16).

Now, I enjoy a lot of blessings here. I have a home and a lot of sweet relationships. God has been so good to me. So I’m not complaining. I’m just saying that this is not paradise. It’s not here. It’s not now. There’s no point in moaning about it. Enjoy what God has given you, and then realize that the day is coming—at the end of the journey, which will be only the beginning of eternity—when we will be able to enjoy the fullness of the inheritance that God has given to us in Jesus Christ.

So why settle for a mansion here when it’s nothing compared to the city that God has prepared for us? What He has awaiting for those that love Him . . . Eyes have never seen and ears have never heard and hearts have never imagined all the things that God has prepared for those who love Him (see 1 Cor. 2:9).

So don’t lose heart when you find yourself feeling like a wandering pilgrim. We are pilgrims. The earth is not our home. This is not paradise. And remember that the day is coming—I think Joshua reminds us of that—when we will be able to settle down into that inheritance and for all eternity enjoy the sweetness and the fullness of the reward of the life of faithfulness.

Leslie: That’s the type of teaching I want to return to again and again. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been calling you and me to find God’s great purpose and live it.

We all need to take a break from the details and the rush of life and make sure we are leading purposeful lives. I hope you’ll get a copy of this message on CD and use it for times of reflection and refocusing. This teaching comes as part of a multi-CD series. It’s called "Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 12): Leaving a Legacy." You can also find out how to get all the Joshua series on CD. For details, visit ReviveOurHearts.com. >

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The story of Joshua has moved Nancy personally in a time of great discouragement. Hear what God did in her heart while studying for this series, next time on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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