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Text: Joshua 17:12-18
This morning I want to bring encouragement to those who are stagnant in their walk with God. I want to bring encouragement to those who are sidetracked. I also want to encourage those who are on the right track.
Billy Sunday used to say, “If we Christians were as weak physically as we are spiritually, we would all need crutches.”
Just as there are enemies to physical growth, there are also enemies to spiritual growth. We do not simply wake up into maturity. To grow we must be intentional, and we must daily train and persevere against the stubborn obstacles that try to hold us back.
So, what are some things this morning that we can see that will stunt our growth?
I. We will fail to grow when we ARE NOT OBEDIENT.
There’s a telling statement in verses 12, 13, “Yet the children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities; but the Canaanites would dwell in that land. Yet it came to pass, when the children of Israel were waxen strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute; but did not utterly drive them out.”
Although Israel had conquered the land, many of the Canaanites still lived there. There were commanded to completely destroy the Canaanites, but they only destroyed them enough to feel comfortable.
See Joshua 16:10, “And they drave not out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer: but the Canaanites dwell among the Ephraimites unto this day, and serve under tribute.”
Are you living up to your capacity? Look around; have you allowed some sin to remain in your life? God told you to drive out everyone, but there were two or three you were especially fond of and so you’ve allowed them to hang around.
It’s interesting to note some of the reasons we keep sin around:
A. A spirit of compromise
God said that every inhabitant had to go. We reason that surely one or two won’t make any difference. That’s the way it begins. We know something is wrong--but just a little bit won’t hurt.
B. A spirit of complacency
Over and over again, they had the opportunity to drive out the Canaanites, but they were complacent just having them as slaves. But look at what happens when you become complacent.
Joshua 17:16, “And the children of Joseph said, The hill is not enough for us: and all the Canaanites that dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, both they who are of Bethshean and her towns, and they who are of the valley of Jezreel.”
C. A spirit of cowardice
Wait a minute, a minute ago the Israelites were saying, We're not going to drive them out, but they are going to be our slaves. We can control them. But now they are afraid of the slaves they are controlling.
Be not deceived, there are sins you think you can control; but once you allow them in your life, it will create a fear and bondage, and it will be hard to overcome.
II. We will fail to grow when we EXPECT PREFERENTIAL CONSIDERATION.
Manasseh was the firstborn of Joseph; the Ephraimites were relatives of Joshua, the head man. Surely, they deserved special treatment. You couldn’t expect someone as great as they were to live by the same rules as everyone else.
Our passage reveals two factors that contribute to this attitude.
The sons of Joseph boasted that they were a great people and had been singularly blessed by the Lord. This, they thought, should qualify them for preferential treatment.
A respected position in the church, widely acclaimed talent, past blessings, high honors--any one of these can inflate us with Pride.
You could say, Unless we’re humble, we’re sure to stumble.
I’m convinced that a lack of spiritual growth is just plain laziness.
Oh, I know we moan and groan, wishing we were more spiritual; but wishing won’t get it. It’s useless to beg God for more growth if we’re not willing to build and battle for it.
There are no shortcuts to maturity. To reach it demands discipline and determination.
III. We will fail to grow WHEN WE DON'T LET GOD CHISEL.
Note Joshua’s solution to their problem in verses 17-18. “And Joshua spake unto the house of Joseph, even to Ephraim and to Manasseh, saying, Thou art a great people, and hast great power: thou shalt not have one lot only: But the mountain shall be thine; for it is a wood, and thou shalt cut it down: and the outgoings of it shall be thine: for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong.”
Until this is done, no expansion could be expected. The land was theirs; but before they could possess it, these things had to be done.
I see two commitments we all need to make in our lives
A. Clear Out The Clutter (v. 18a). Chop down the trees!
They needed to clear out the harmless things that cluttered their life! Have you done that? The trees symbolize the many harmless things, even good things, that fill the agenda of our daily lives.
I find that people usually manage to make time for what they think is really important. And if you don’t have time to do everything God intends you to do, it simply means that you are misusing some of your time. You will never find time for God; you will have to make time.
B. Clean Out the Corruption (v. 18)
We must clean out the harmful things that corrupt our lives. After the trees come the Canaanites.
You will never have the power to drive out the habits of sin in your life until you give priority to a daily time of fellowship and communion with God.