Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Never too Old to Serve (Joshua 14)

Josh 14:6-15 Now the men of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, "You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. So on that day Moses swore to me, 'The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.'  "Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said." 

Caleb and Joshua were two of the twelve spies that Moses sent to explore the land of Canaan some 45 years ago when Caleb was only 40 years old. They were the only two of the twelve spies who gave a good report while the other ten spies sparked panic in the camp of Israel through their negative report. Now, at 85, Caleb was ready for another major project: "Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day... the Lord helping me, I will drive them out as just he said." What a man of God! At 85, Caleb was not thinking of retiring to look after grandchildren but of re-tyring for his next lap.

There are four reasons why Caleb at 85 was still ready for the next challenge of his life:

(1) A Man of Character ("I brought him back a report according to my convictions"): Caleb was a person of spiritual and moral convictions--in other words, a man of character. Nowadays, too many Christians are chasing after leaders with charisma instead character. Men and women of godly character may not always have scintillating personality, but they are solidly built on spiritual and moral convictions. In this post-modern era where everyone lives by the values of convenience and comfort, we need more men and women of godly character who live by solid scriptural convictions and are prepared to make a difference in the world by standing up against ungodly values.

(2) A Man of Obedience ("you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly"): A godly character is demonstrated in godly conduct of wholehearted obedience to the Lord. Caleb was a man who followed the Lord wholeheartedly. He did not follow the crowd, but stood with Joshua against the majority opinion. Godly people are able to stand on their own convictions and not be swayed by the spiritual or moral flavour of the month.

(3) A Man of Vigour ("I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out"): Here is where many Christian leaders fail: we are not disciplined in keeping our body under subjection and therefore our ministry is cut short by poor health and premature death. Paul himself said, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified" (ESV).

Here I'm referring to the discipline of eating, sleeping and exercise. We are all familiar with pastors and ministers who died prematurely of degenerative diseases. We like to say that their premature demise is "God's will", thereby blaming God for their poor physical health. Whereas the truth is our physical vigour is a consequence of our choices. In the Scripture, we do not read of men and women of God dying prematurely of degenerative diseases but they lived till a ripe old age--with the exception of martyrdom. Jesus and his eleven disciples died prematurely through martyrdom but John lived into his 90's. The Apostle Paul also lived into his 80's before he was executed for his faith in Rome. Many Christians spiritualize their gluttony as "enjoying God's abundance." We need to be like an athlete, subjecting our body to discipline and training so that we can remain vigorous at 85 and not bed-ridden and senile!

(4) A Man of Faith ("Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day"): Finally, Caleb was a man of faith. Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of God. He held on to the Lord's promise for 45 years. And he was ready to claim that promise at 85! Our faith is always based on God's promise, not on wishful thinking. If there is no promise in the Word for a blessing, we should not pray for it because it's likely to be presumption not faith. There are many promises in the Old and New Testaments and Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:20-21 that all of God's promises are always yes and amen in Christ: "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ. And so through him the 'Amen' is spoken by us to the glory of God." That is why faith is nurtured when we read God's word. The more we know Scripture, the more we know his promises and the stronger our faith in God.

Father, You have given us Caleb as an example of what a man of character, obedience, vigour and faith is capable of doing. May those among us who like to think we are too old for any new venture reject such unbelieving idea and renew our commitment to You to conquer our next mountain. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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