- What are the distractions around you that you struggle with keeping in the right perspective?
- What are some things that are way more important to your friends than to you?
- What are some things that win out in your life when the choice is between doing them OR going to worship or youth group or spending personal time with God?
Joshua gave the command and the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the land that God had promised their ancestors four hundred years before. They were no longer the fearful, complaining rabble that had followed Moses out of Egypt. All those who had questioned God’s plan or worshiped the golden calf had passed away in the wilderness. Years of life on the move in the wilderness had hardened them. These were the survivors, ready to claim the land before them as their own.
Yet there were still great challenges stacked against them. Their enemies were numerous, living in cities behind high walls and guard towers, and ready to defend their territory against the poorly armed invaders coming out of the desert. Joshua sent his officers throughout the Israelite camp, repeating the instructions he had received from God, “Be strong and courageous.” They conquered the city of Jericho and from there went on through a series of victories, each time gaining more of the land promised to them. But at the same time, becoming more tempted by the trappings of the people they had conquered.
At the end of the campaign, Joshua gathered all of the people together at a place called Shechem and reminded them of all that they had endured and gained because of their faithfulness to God. Through Joshua, God told the Israelites, “I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and towns that you had not built, and you live in them; you eat the fruit of vineyards and olive yards that you did not plant.”
Joshua urged all the people to make a choice that day as to who they would serve now that they had received all that they had ever dreamed of. They had heard stories of the riches of the Pharaoh and the enormity of the pyramids. They had come into possession of homes and villages with statues of strange gods worshiped in the region they now called their home. Their own God had no great temple or statues. They carried a container called an ark with them and inside were the tablets of the law that Moses had given them. When they were traveling, priests carried this ark before the people and when they stopped they would put them in a special tent called a tabernacle. The ark and the tabernacle were nothing like the statues and temples that they saw of the gods in the cities they conquered, which were much more impressive. Yet they had experienced God’s very real presence and power in their lives time and time again. Would they forget that now that they could finally stop wandering?
Joshua stood on the hillside and called out to all the people of Israel. The choice was theirs.
Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River 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 24:15)
The people answered back that they would never forsake God and Joshua assured them that they would be held to their promise. He erected a stone to stand witness to their vows and sent each tribe away to the lands they had been given. When he died, his bones were laid to rest on the hillside where their people had made the promise to God. That first generation that entered the land kept the promise.
Every day we make a choice. Parents and adults are our church can tell us over and over again about how we need to love and serve God because he loves us so much. But it still ends up being our choice, doesn’t it? God wants us to be his people. He has chosen us. Yet in the end, we have to choose him. It’s ultimately up to us.
Remember: The choice is yours.
You can remember what you’ve learned about God’s character and you can hold on to what you’ve experienced in his presence at events like Discovery Weekend or on mission trips or retreats. You can take those things and then make a commitment to God. But you can also choose to follow other paths in your life. The world is full of distractions and alternatives to our faith that seem great at the time but ultimately fall short of fulfillment. The choice is yours. Think about something that you can do to symbolize your choice to follow God. Maybe it’s baptism or a remembrance of your baptism. Maybe it’s a necklace or something on your phone that you’ll always see.
Tell God about the very real struggles between your desire to serve him versus all there is out there that gets your attention. Ask God to help you make your commitment real.