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So, in this sermon series, I am beginning today, I want to talk to you about everyday matters because EVERY day does matter.  I want us to talk about practical principles for victorious living, the first of which is how to prepare well today to live well tomorrow.

Being prepared is important.  Getting ready for the next day, not putting things off that need to be taken care of in a timely manner, having what you need when you need it—is a life skill that helps us succeed in life.  I remember when God asked me to walk across the county to kick off our capital campaign called “Mission Possible” where we were raising money to move the dirt and prep the soil for this place, I thought to myself, “I had better get prepared.”  I knew I couldn’t just wake up, put on my shoes and walk 15 and 17 miles a day for four days straight and make it.  I had to train.  I had to prepare.  I had to get ready.  I had to start prepping my physical body and my mind.  What I did ahead of those four days would make or break those four days.  So I prepared.  For several months I started walking four miles a day, then six, then near the end of my training, I started walking ten miles a day.  (You would think there would have been less of me to show for all the effort, but no 🙂  I guess when you walk with a Snicker’s bar in one hand and Twix in the other, you are sort of canceling out the effort, but I had to keep my energy up!  Well, anyway preparation gave me endurance for the week of the walk.

Those of you with small children know that mornings can be rough.  Planning for the next morning by getting ready the night before can make things a bit more pleasant.  Laying out the clothes, getting the lunch packed and checking and stuffing those backpacks ahead of time make mornings run a bit more smoothly.  Preparation can help in those moments when our patience is being tested.  I actually personally know a family who had ten kids and one of their strategies for a successful morning was to have everyone shower at night and they would go to bed wearing  the clothes they were going to wear to school the next day so they would already be ready when they woke up!  Probably not super comfortable, but a great idea!

Studying for test day, a bit at a time, in increments helps your brain better absorb and store the information long-term.  Studying only on the bus on the way to school probably won’t produce the same results.  Preparation takes mental stress and pressure off.

Do you ever have dreams that are filled with anxiety because in your dream you aren’t ready for something?  You have forgotten some element of preparation and it causes you to freak out?  It happens, right?  There have been a few Saturday nights that I dreamed I hadn’t finished my sermon, and I was up here trying to wing it.  You should have seen the sweat pouring from my forehead in those dreams!  A lack of preparation can cause panic and fear while thoughtful preparation can help you have courage, confidence and anticipate great victory.  We want to live boldly, confidently, courageously, and we want to be able to succeed in each tomorrow by doing what we need to do today to prepare, so let’s look at some biblical principles that can help us get ready for what God has in store.

Joshua 1:1-18 1  After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2  “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, GET READY to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them–to the Israelites. 3  I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4  Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates–all the Hittite country–to the Great Sea on the west. 5  No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.

God wanted to prepare Joshua and His people to cross the Jordan River and to conquer the Promised Land.  So, God made several promises to them here in Joshua chapter 1.  He made the promise of land to them, a place where they could settle and be established.  He made the promise of His presence-that He would never leave or forsake them. In fact, He said it more than once in chapter one. He promised they would conquer the territory God had hand-picked for them and later in the chapter He promised that they would be prosperous in their new home.

This was more than a pep talk.  This was more than some charismatic guy saying, “I know we can do this.”  This was God speaking which means it wasn’t just a likely happening because the odds were in their favor; it was a done deal.  Later in chapter one, God tells Joshua to tell the people to get ready to conquer-to get ready for what was ahead-to get ready to cross the Jordan into the Land of Promise.  He helped them get ready by re-iterating some promises to them.  So, point number one of this message is that we can:

Prepare for tomorrow’s victory by trusting the promises of God.

The promises of God are so precious, and they become even more real and more precious when we are walking through a tough time.  Why can we trust the promises He has made?

Because God never breaks a single promise. We read in Number 23:19:  God is not man, that he should lie,or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it?  Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

I have made promises that I have forgotten to keep.  I’m human.  I have made promises that I couldn’t deliver upon because of some life complication or unexpected circumstance beyond my control.  I’m human.  I’ve made promises out of emotion or determination to solve someone’s problem that I had no business making because I didn’t have the authority or resources to even make the promise in the first place, but in my humanness, in my desire to help, maybe even out of desperation, I made a promise that I couldn’t keep.

But God isn’t like me or you.  He isn’t human.  He is the very essence of righteousness, He is the epitome of authority, He is the example of truth and He only speaks what is true.  Not only is His character impeccable and His ability unlimited, but His ways are consistent.  He is always the same.  He is unchanging.  Our minds may change with our feelings.  Our minds may change about someone or a situation because of new information we obtain.  God knows the end from the beginning.  He never regrets a decision because He never makes a bad one.  We have to learn from our mistakes.  God never makes one.  He never makes a promise and then thinks to Himself, “I shouldn’t have said that.”

He is infinitely wise, so when He makes a promise, He makes it based on perfect information.  You know how we move through life and have to respond to things we couldn’t know in advance?  How we have to shift our plans based on unexpected happenings?  God deals with none of that. If God has said it, you can believe it.

That is very comforting to us as believers.  The promises of God move us forward in times of challenge.  They anchor our faith in times of difficulty.  They comfort and reassure us of God’s presence and loving purposes.

For those who aren’t trusting Christ as Savior, who aren’t in a relationship with God, I want to speak to you directly for a moment. If I was in that category, the promises of God would scare me spitless.  Why?  Because God means business.  What He says He will do, and when He says eternal separation from Him awaits those who haven’t had their sins covered by the blood of Jesus, He means it.  Hell is real because He has declared it to be so.  It doesn’t matter what anyone wants to wish for or believe.  Because Jesus delivers on every promise those promises that come with a consequence will be acted on including eternity in Hell for all who choose to live in sin rather than repent and be made righteous through Christ’s blood.

6  “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. 7  Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8  Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Prepare for tomorrow’s victory by obeying the Word of God.

What you do today determines where you will be tomorrow.  I wrote a poem when I was sixteen that I have shared one time before, but it speaks to this concept.  It says, “When I think about forever THIS moment seems to fade, but the way I spend this moment is how my forever is made.  So each moment I give you, Lord.  In my life, have Your way.  My forever, I entrust to You today. This moment matters because every day matters, including your tomorrows.  So, what you do today DOES determine where you will be tomorrow.

Consistent obedience to the Word of God will take you to the place God desires and will give you success.  The word “success” is repeated twice here.  God wants you to succeed.  I’m not talking about worldly success, but success according to God’s standards.  God wants more for us than we want for ourselves.  His plans and ways are perfect even though they don’t always seem so to us.

Remember Joseph?  He was the beloved son of Jacob.  He had dreams of great success as a young person.  When he shared those dreams with his brothers, it infuriated them.  They saw the love their father had for Joseph and it infuriated them even more.  They actually sold him to slave traders who took him to Egypt.

A guy named Potiphar, who worked for the Pharaoh, bought him as a slave.  That doesn’t sound like the path to success, does it?  I’m sure it didn’t feel like a step up to Joseph.  But look what happened.  Genesis 39:2-6 2  The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. 3  When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him SUCCESS in everything he did, 4  Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. 5  From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. 6  So he left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.

Listen, as you love and follow God’s Word and live in obedience to Him, He can grant you success in the unlikeliest of places in the midst of the unlikeliest of circumstances.  Though his brothers thought they had gotten rid of him, though they thought they had crushed his dreams of success, Joseph wasn’t in their hands.  They weren’t determining his destiny.  He was in the hands of God Almighty, the Destiny-Maker.

God wasn’t through elevating Joseph, but in order to give him the kind of success He had purposed for Joseph, He had to put him into even tougher circumstances than he had already experienced.  He was falsely accused of making advances toward his master’s wife and he wound up in prison, but look what happened there:

Genesis 39:20-23 20  Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21  the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. 22  So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23  The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him SUCCESS in whatever he did.

Isn’t that awesome?  Joseph went on to interpret dreams that the Pharaoh had about an upcoming famine in the land.  The Pharaoh elevated Joseph to second in command in Egypt.  He was in charge of storing and stockpiling food to help them through the famine.  When the famine hit, guess who came to Egypt looking for food to eat?  It was Joseph’s brothers, right?  God had strategically put him in a position to help the very ones who had rejected him and sold him into slavery.  Here’s the thing about the kind of success God enables:  When God causes us to triumph it is never simply for our own good or enjoyment.  Joseph’s success was to enable the prosperity and well-being of all in Egypt as well as the prosperity of his own family.  Worldly success is for self.  Godly success is for others.  Godly success involves a bigger picture.

When David’s life was drawing to a close, he shared some parting words with his son, Solomon.  They are recorded in 1 Chronicles 22:11-13 11  “Now, my son, the LORD be with you, and may you have success and build the house of the LORD your God, as he said you would. 12  May the LORD give you discretion and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the LORD your God. 13  Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the LORD gave Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged.

Faithfulness to the Word of God will bring you the kind of success that will be a blessing to you and to others.

David’s words to Solomon were very similar to God’s Words to Joshua in Joshua 1:9-119  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” 10  So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: 11  “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you for your own.'”

Skip to Joshua 3:2-17 2  After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3  giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and FOLLOW IT. 4  Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between you and the ark; do not go near it.”

God told Joshua to follow the Ark of the Covenant which carried the presence of God.  The Ark of the Covenant was the very presence of God in the midst of His people.  Success would come to the Israelites as they followed the Presence of God, as they followed the leading of God.

Notice that not only were the Israelites supposed to follow the Ark of the Covenant, but they were to keep a certain distance from it.  They were to respect the Presence of God and they were to rely on the presence of God because they were in uncharted waters.  They couldn’t rely on their own instincts and strength and be victorious.  They had to be led by the Presence of God.

God knew the lay of the land.  God knew their enemies.  He knew how to clear the way.  In wartime a soldier must be very careful to follow his commanding officers. They know more about the enemies’ movements and traps then he does. When the army advances through a confined area like a mountain pass or valley, the enemy often places traps or mines there. At these times the commander of the division will send demolition experts ahead to disarm the mines. The rest of the division can then pass safely through. However, they must be careful to follow in the path of the demolition squad so that they don’t get hurt. If they step outside the prepared path they will get hurt. Israel had not been this way before. But their Commander in chief was God and He knew the right path to take. They had to follow Him.  They had to stay in the path that was prepared God Himself.

Prepare for tomorrow’s victory by following the presence of God.

Do you remember what three things were inside the Ark of the Covenant?  First there were the two tablets of stone upon which were written the Ten Commandments.  They had been written by God Himself.  Those commandments are a blueprint for our lives, and they are meant to be followed.  As they followed the Ark they were following God’s written commands.

The second item was a miraculously preserved pot of manna, a type of bread that God had supplied for His people in their years in the wilderness.  They were a reminder that God alone could satisfy.

The third item that they would be following as they followed the Ark of the Covenant was Aaron’s rod which budded.  It was a reminder that God was a miracle-working God.  It served to remind them that nothing was impossible with God.

So, to follow the Ark of the Covenant was to follow the Word of God, the Provision of God, and the Miraculous Power of God!  The Presence of God contained all three elements, and all three were needed for their success.

Joshua 3:5 5  Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.”

Prepare for tomorrow’s victory by consecrating yourself to God.

We trust God’s promises, we obey God’s Word, we follow God’s presence, and we make sure that we are truly ready to embrace God’s victory by consecrating ourselves daily.  What is consecration?  It is the giving over of ourselves to the Lord to become a Living Sacrifice as we continue to talk about from Romans 12:1.  It is the presenting of our whole selves to God for His service, for His glory.  Consecration is the act of setting ourselves apart and committing ourselves exclusively to the Lord.

Old Testament sacrifices were that which were set apart for God alone.  When someone offered a sacrifice to God, it no longer belonged to them.  It belonged to God.  It was His for His use.  It was His for His satisfaction.  To consecrate ourselves to God means we give up control of our lives and surrender them completely to God.  Where we used to live for our own satisfaction, we now live for His alone.

Salvation is step one.  It is where we take Christ to be our Savior.  Sanctification is step two.  It is where we allow Christ to take us.

Ask God every day to help you separate yourself from anything that keeps you from belonging fully to Him and being used fully for His purposes.

What happened next in the Israelite’s story was incredible.  The priests carried the Ark of the Covenant into the Jordan River.  It was at flood stage.  Its waters were flowing.  It didn’t seem prudent to walk into the middle of a flowing, flooded river.  That didn’t seem to be the way to victory, but rather the way to sure death.  How many of you know that sometimes, in order to have a God-sized victory in your life, you have got to get your feet wet?  Anybody know what I am talking about this morning?  Feet of faith are going to get wet from time to time.  Feet of faith are going to get muddy from time to time.  Feet of faith might get a few blisters because of the journey, but feet of faith that move at the command of the Lord will experience sure victory.

And when the priests got their toes in the water, a miracle occurred.  The waters piled up in a heap and the whole nation of Israel crossed through the river bed on dry ground.  Preparation prepared the way for a miracle!  Does anyone need a miracle this morning?  Does anyone need an impossible situation made possible?  Prepare for victory by trusting the promises of God, by obeying the Word of God, by following the Presence of God and by consecrating yourself to God alone!

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