This is a message from pastor and teacher Bill Serjak from the Joshua series “New Beginnings”
It’s All From God
Joshua 13:32 – 14:5
In a couple of areas, I see my faith differently from many Christians. Making choices and determining God’s will is one of those areas. I believe we make choices to glorify God within chance and governing authorities. I see that being done in dividing the land among the twelve tribes of Israel. They used three different methods to determine how the land would be divided. Some received their inheritance by casting lots; some received it by the direct order of Moses; and a third group did not get any inheritance in this world. Those ways show us how the things that happen to us often come into our lives.
Most of the inheritance of the tribes was determined by the casting of lots. Nine and a half of the tribes received their inheritance by the casting of lots; their inheritance came by pure chance. Some may say that God worked His will in the casting of lots, but there is no evidence to show that God was not willing to just accept the results of chance in this case. I think God leaves many things in the world strictly up to chance and we then have to live with what we receive in that way. The nine and a half tribes did not get a choice whether they wanted to live by the seacoast or the mountains. They were dealt a place to live and work simply by chance, then were to live in a way that would glorify God in the place they chanced to live. I think the element of chance plays out in much of what happens in our world.
God wants us to work out His will within what we have been dealt by chance. I came to Sylva over thirty-two years ago. I don’t believe this is the only place where God could have used me. There are likely many other places I could have gone and worked out God’s will in those places. God is more concerned with how we minister than with where we do it. I think many areas of where we work are left up to chance. The same thing may also apply to whom we marry. I don’t think there is only one person who is the right person for each of us to marry. Chance circumstances may have a good deal to do with who comes together. However, once we are married, God has a great deal to say about how we are to treat our spouse: being loving and faithful. The element of chance has a good deal to do with what happens to each of us.
Once each tribe was given his land, each person in that tribe was to live on the land and be directed by God’s ways. They were not supposed to spend their time griping that they had received land on the seashore when they wanted land in the mountains. They were to take what they had been given and work it for good according to how God’s law guided them to live. I think many things in our lives work that way. A family may have a handicapped child. God did not necessarily single them out specifically for the extra difficulty that child will bring. But once they receive him, they are to love and care for him in a way that will glorify God. Many things happen to us by chance, by the casting of lots, but we are to work out all the things that happen for God’s glory.
My coming here to Sylva may have had as much to do with chance as with anything else. However, once I came, it was my responsibility to minister according to the way God told pastors to minister. Once here, I was to seek what God wanted to teach the people here and help them come into relationship to Jesus Christ and help them grow in that relationship. I did not do that perfectly and need God’s forgiveness and that of other people. However, as my relationship to God grows deeper and becomes more important in my life, I make better choices about how to live out the life that has been given to me.
Many of my choices are made because of the background I had. My relationship to my father, mother, family, and friends has molded me into the person I have become. I have made most of my choices based on the person I am. Once I became a Christian and came to know Christ, my relationship to Christ began to mold me into a different person and I began to make choices based on who I am becoming as God’s child. As the relationship any of us has with God grows more significant, we make better choices. Once the various Israelite tribes were given a place to live, they then were to live there according to God’s law and the direction He gave to their lives.
It was not that significant where they lived; how they lived was much more important. Too often we concentrate on making the chance things work out according to how we want them to work out and don’t concentrate on living the way God wants us to live. The many things in our lives that are open to chance aren’t that significant. We are to live according to God’s ways in the place we find ourselves. You and I are to work out in God’s way what we have been given.
Two and a half of the tribes were given land according to what Moses had said they were supposed to have. Authority structures also make many choices for us. Authorities in the Church and in the world often tell us what we have to do. Nathan Hopper, one of our church members is serving time in prison. He is not there because he chose to be there or necessarily because God sent him there. He was assigned to go there by the governmental authorities. Once there, he then had to seek to glorify God where he had been placed. Nathan has done of good job of seeking to grow in his relationship to God and helping others grow in their relationship to God.
Methodist ministers find out where they will serve God through their church authorities. They do not need to seek out where God wants them to serve. Their bishop assigns them to the church where they are to serve. When they go there, they are to work as God’s ministers, seeking to glorify God in all they do. Working through the authorities over us is another way that decisions are made in our lives.
Once those decisions are made, we then need to serve the Lord where we are. You may have made a bad choice or a good choice with the spouse you chose, however, once you are married, you need to serve and glorify the Lord in the best possible way. We work out God’s will in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.
There was another group that didn’t get any land. They were the Levites, the priests of God. Their inheritance was God Himself. They served as the representatives of God in the daily lives of the people. The role of a priest is not the same as that of a Presbyterian minister. A minister’s job is more like that of a prophet. He is to proclaim the Word of God. He is not a king, who rules over the people, as Moses did. The priest stands between God and the people. He takes the sin of the people to God and brings God’s forgiveness to the people. Christ serves as the priest for all Christians. We believe in the priesthood of all believers. The Levites were the priests for the Jews. Their inheritance was not so much in this world as in the Kingdom of God. They were to bring God’s presence to the people where they worked each day.
The inheritance of the Levites was a wonderful inheritance. I am not a priest the way Jesus is the direct priest for all Christians. However, the inheritance I would most like to pass on to my daughter and grandchildren is a relationship to God. I want God to be in their lives more than I want them to have any thing in this world. Leaving land to their children like the other tribes did would be nice, but that pales in significance to being able to leave a relationship to God as their inheritance. That was the inheritance of the Levites. Since all Christians today are priests, we also have the opportunity to leave our children a relationship to Christ. That is an inheritance in the Kingdom of God.
Jesus has told us to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust cannot corrupt and corrode. The only real inheritance that any of us will have is with God. It is not a matter of acquiring a lot of things in this world, but it is a matter of how we use what we have. We have the opportunity to use what we have in order to glorify God in this world. By doing that, we lay up eternal treasures in heaven. God calls us to make good choices within the framework of what we have been given. We are to use what we have to glorify God.
Jesus told the parable of the talents in which three different people were given three different amounts of money to use. They were expected to make good choices with what they had been given and to use it to benefit their master. One made very wise choices; one made very poor choices. God calls us to use what He has given us in ways that will bring benefit to Him. When we do that, He will reward us. As we grow closer to Him, we reflect His ways more completely in our lives and we make better choices with what He has given us. As we make better choices with what we have been given, we lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven. All Christians have the same inheritances as the Levites, our inheritance is God Himself and our relationship to Him. As we share that relationship with others, we gain real treasures that will be eternal. Everything else will pass away and the only thing that will remain of our lives is what we have done for Jesus Christ.