Leaving God out of our decision making is dangerous and leads to difficulties that could have been avoided. In the Old Testament, Joshua made a decision just like this that led to Israel being at war with enemies it wouldn’t have had to face. But Joshua didn’t make the same mistake in the midst of these consequences. He cried out to God for a miracle in the battle and the Lord made the sun stand still! No matter if it is a difficult decision or the consequences of a bad decision, the God who is big enough to make the sun stand still thousands of years ago is still working all things together for good for those who love him.
Father, there are people here that are listening on video, listening on a webcast, listening in a home, and listening here live that have made some really bad decisions in their life and are still paying for them right now. But today you're going to bring hope to this building. You're going to speak hope. God, the biggest consequence we have faced as a human race is the decision that was made thousands of years ago when a person decided to listen to the devil itself, just decided to go above and beyond what God has prescribed and the boundaries that God has put on their lives. And Lord, this world, this planet is paying for that today, but thank you that we found hope in the midst of a bad decision thousands of years ago. The hope came in the form of the Son of God himself that would die on the cross for us.
There are people that are in this place and see no way out. They see no light at the end of a tunnel, but I pray, Lord God, today is going to be a different day. Somehow, hope is going to rise up inside of their hearts today. Something's going to happen. I believe, God, as your word goes forth. Let your word, oh, God not return void today. Let the word of God be powerful. This was your promise. If we preach your word, it wouldn't return void, and if we lift up Jesus, you'll draw men. That was your promise. So we have made a decision here, this church, we're going to lift up Jesus, so draw men. We'll preach your word, so don't let it return void. No one will leave here untouched by the word of God today.
That word can bring men a couple steps closer or all the way in, but we're believing no void place, but God, your work to take place in everyone's heart today. And God, what we're asking for is simply this, that when men and women leave this place, they're not going to say, "What great music, what a great choir." They're not going to say, "What great preaching, and what a great church." They're going to say, "What a great God they serve." In Jesus' name, and everybody said, amen. God bless you. You may be seated. [applause]
I'll let you decide the validity of the article. I've read it some 10–15 years ago. And because of the culture that we live in, some people are trying to disprove this, but I have a sneaky suspicion that God has a way of sneaking up on our culture and making himself known. It happened in Greenbelt, Maryland almost two decades ago. In their lab, they would do calculations on all of our satellites that we would send into space, and those calculations were important because they had to go backwards and forwards to make sure that when we send up our satellites or any-- whether it was a moon launch, whatever that would be, they wanted to make sure that because of the orbits of planets, they're making sure that we weren't running into anything up there and they wanted to be careful about that.
Well, over two decades ago, there was a calculation that was made and literally they said at Greenbelt, Maryland in the lab that the computers came to a halt. And it said when they went backwards and when they went forwards, literally, a red light went on and said when we were making our calculations, determining by the days and months and years from backwards to forwards, we wanted to make sure that we understood where all the calculations were going, whatever we sent up into outer space. We found out that our computers can no longer calculate because they said, the computer said there is a day missing in history that they didn't know what to do with. And some genius at the labs said, "I grew up in Sunday school, and I found out that all the way back in the book of Joshua, I remember the story where God intervened in the battle and made the sun stand still. And I just decided..." And this is what they propose. "Let's go back as close as we can, readjust the calculations and see if that's the missing day." And sure enough, the calculations all came back and the missing day was God's fault over 5,000 years ago when God made the sun stand still. [applause]
Once again, it's not science disproving the Bible, it's science confirming what God has already done thousands of years ago. And even one of the greatest minds that has been in human history, Albert Einstein said this, he said, "The more I study science, the more I believe in God." And I truly believe that what I want to do today is I want to bring hope and I want to take you to that very story today. I have to tell you this story backwards. Because everyone in this place, if you would join with me would understand what it's like. How many would say I've made some bad decisions in my life? Would you go ahead and raise your hand? And if you didn't, that's a really bad decision. So now you could put your hand up right now.
I want to show you the context of this miracle because some people are in a place that they would think, "I've done this and I have to pay for this. I'm all by myself, and God just leaves me to myself." I want to show you the context that this is a miracle from a really good guy who made a really bad mistake, and God intervened in the mistake and the really bad decision. In fact, the consequences went on for hundreds of years, and I'm praying today that we're going to find hope. As I was praying for you today, I'm believing hope is going to come to that home group, to that home fellowship that is meeting, those that are watching at the Jersey church. I'm believing for those that are right here. You're going to find hope before you leave this place today.
So let me tell Joshua's story backwards. I want to read from the book of Joshua, but I want to start with it backwards because it was one of the greatest, and he's considered one of the greatest Jewish generals to ever have lived in the history of Israel. And when you read Joshua, there is not a blotch on his record except for this one bad decision which coincides with the sun having to stand still. In fact, let me tell you that story. In fact, the miracle day, this is what the Bible says about that miracle day, Times Square Church. Let me read it to you in Joshua chapter 10:14, "There has never been a day before, and there's never been a day since when the Lord stopped the sun all because of the prayer of one man."
Think of that. The Bible says there was never a day like this when God literally intervened in his creation. Not only do we read that, we begin to go, "How did that happen?" And I have to just give you quickly the who, what, and why for just a moment. Really the what was the miracle, is basically God gave them more daylight so they can win a battle. God literally intervened in his creation. Stopped the sun, stops the moon, so they can have more daylight to defeat an enemy that they didn't realize that was going to become an enemy. Which is the who, which is a group called the Amorites that weren't even on the radar, and now they're having to fight a group of people that they didn't think they were ever going to fight. But I'll explain that part later.
But it's the why behind the miracle is that what blew me away as I was reading the book of Joshua. Because Joshua chapter 10 is a miracle. Listen to me close now. It is a miracle because of a bad decision Joshua made. It's not a miracle because God was going, "I'm blessing all these battles," which he did. He says, "But it's a miracle because you really, really blew it when you made a decision,all the way back in Joshua chapter nine." It was all because Joshua decided something, and all of a sudden his life and he thought even the history of Israel was going to be messed up.
Let me tell you the story really quickly. Moses has led the children of Israel out of Egypt. He has got them right to the edge of the promised land, passes the baton to Joshua and says, "I'm not allowed to go any further, but you're going to have to take them in." Joshua takes the baton, and that's where we get the book of Joshua from. He steps in to the Jordan river and is about to face his first battle, which is the story of the city with the giant wall that we call Jericho. The wall comes down, they go in, and all of a sudden they get on a roll and are defeating everybody. God's hand is upon the children of Israel.
They're about to take over the promised land and all of a sudden, as word started going out on how they were defeating everybody, there was a very, very cunning group of people called the Gibeonites that said, "If we don't come up with a plan, these guys are about to beat us." And all of a sudden some guys came up with a plan that said, "Let's try to defeat them and let's see if we can begin to go ahead and trick them and let them believe that we are from a faraway country, and that we just want to be in alliance with them." When actually they were around the corner.
Let me read to you the story from a paraphrased version. Joshua chapter nine tells the story. Joshua chapter 10 tells the miracle. Listen to this. The people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, and looked up and began to cook up a ruse. This is a paraphrase. They posed as travelers, their donkeys loaded with patched sacks, mended wineskins, threadbare sandals on their feet, tattered clothes on their body, and dry crusty bread. Did you see what these guys went through? They got a bunch of old clothes, went to the secondhand shops, sewed on a bunch of patches, let bread get really crusty and old. They got the oldest pair of shoes to make them think that they came from many, many, many miles outside of Canaan, and were just coming to build an alliance.
The Bible says they came to Joshua at Gilgal, spoke to the men of Israel. "We've come here from a far country. Make a covenant with us." What did Joshua do? Now, here's the part I want you to listen to today, and then we're going to really dive in to be practical, and unpack what this means to us. What did Joshua do? Listen to these words. Joshua 9:14, "The men of Israel looked them over, accepted the evidence." Here it is. "But they did not ask God about it." Listen to this. So Joshua made a peace with them, formalized it with a covenant to guarantee their lives. The leaders and the congregation swore by it. Does those words echo inside of you? "But they didn't ask God about it." Think of the decision that they were about to make, a covenant they were about to walk into, and all of a sudden a giant decision. Never asked God about it.
I want you to get something just to jot down some thoughts. You can do it on your phone, your iPad, in your Bible, and I want to give you some big rocks here because when I read this story, I know that there's some really bad decisions I've made in my life and some of us have made such bad decisions that consequences while you're sitting here are still being paid for today. And I want to help you through this today. Not only when there are consequences, but I also want to help you not to find yourself in that position ever again.
Number one, jot this down. There is a danger when you leave God out of your decision-making. There is a huge danger when you leave God out and you decide just to make the decisions all by yourself. In Joshua's case, it was who he was to get connected to and walk for a long time. That's why, listen to me, single people listen to me. Before you get married, get God's advice on the situation before you make a covenant with somebody. "But he's so good looking." There has to be more than good looks. Because you're going to wake up the next morning, and the looks will be gone. So you have to understand that it's not simply, "I feel good." We need God's word. We need God's mind on the decisions that we're about to make. And we need to pause here because what we're basically saying is this. If we were to pray and involve God, think of how much we would save ourselves in pain. We would save ourselves if we just involve God in the decision.
First Baptist Dallas Pastor W.A. Criswell said that this way. "We go further on our knees than by any other way, through a thousand mistakes we make that would never have been made if we would have just took the time to pray. There are hasty decisions we follow after, hot and intemperate remarks we make, false goals we pursue, and lost souls that we never win all because we didn't stop and just pray first." My goodness, I've been there. I've done that. Then all of a sudden I have examined the evidence, but I never asked God about the situation.
And that's why Proverbs three, four, and five, God invites us, five and six invites us to ask God's counsel. Listen to these words. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your," what? "Own understanding." Here it is. "In..." What? "All your ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your paths." That's such a great word. When he says the words in all your ways. Solomon chooses a word which literally means not a main highway. He says it's a word that was used for little goat paths that were made there from the hooves of goats, and he says not even on the giant decision, but even on the little things. Just ask God.
He is inviting you to ask his opinion on things. If Joshua just paused and said, "Let's see what God says about this decision here." Let me just say something about this for just a few moment. Get this down. Here's what I've learned. Fast feet are very dangerous. Fast feet are very dangerous. Listen to me close. Here's some important words that even Solomon says from the Good News Translation. He says in Proverbs 19:2, "A person in a hurry will always make mistakes." "A person in a hurry will always make mistakes." "What do you mean, Pastor Tim, fast feet are dangerous?" When making a decision and there is an uncomfortable deadline, the answer is no if you have nothing from the Lord. Those who rush into something usually make a mistake, with what Solomon says.
Always get this. When you're called to make a rush decision, it's usually a rash decision. And that's why when people tell you, "We need a decision immediately," "We need to know if you're going to do this," "If you're going to buy this house," "You're going to buy this car," always remember this. "I'm unable to do that, and I have to decline because I'm unable to wait." Which basically says this, if you're being rushed today, that the only place you need to rush to is not into a decision but into the presence of God, to get God's mind upon a situation. That's where Joshua missed it. He missed that, and his fast feet all of a sudden brought him into a place that he didn't want to be. Joshua makes a covenant with the people that he never should have made.
And this is so important. "What do you do, Pastor Tim, when you begin to find yourself in that?" Because another name for covenant even for us today could be a contract. Not even just a piece of paper, it's something that binds us, whether it's by our name, by handshake, whether it's simply by us giving our word from our name and our character, any one of us. And here's what I've learned.
Number two, jot this down. Prayerless decisions will add more battles that could have been avoided. Prayerless decisions, prayerless decisions will add battles that you probably never would have had to fight if you just would've prayed in the first place. If you just would've asked God. If I just would have asked God. There were decisions that I've made without God that brought an additional set of battles that I wish never would have came, but I had to fight them because... and that's exactly what happened with Joshua.
When you make a covenant, the end, their enemies become your enemies. Their assets become your assets, their liabilities become your liabilities and all of a sudden it becomes us together. What did this covenant mean to Joshua? It meant that the Gibeonite battles would also become Israel battles that day. Israel was on a tear to go through the Canaan land, and all of a sudden it got put off course by a decision that they never prayed about, and not only did Joshua have to fight the battles that God prescribed, but he also had to fight the Gibeonite battles because of their mistakes and the lifestyle that they lived. And all of a sudden, what seemed to be one set of battles now begin to grow and you find yourself being pulled aside in every situation and in every direction. Listen to what happens.
It didn't even take a dozen verses. When Joshua said we'll make a covenant, all of a sudden he finds out these people live around the corner. They don't live far away. This was all a lie. And here's what happens, in less than 12 verses, their battles have to become Joshua's because he made a covenant. Listen to this. Joshua chapter 10:6, "The men of Gibeon hurriedly sent messengers to Joshua. Come and help us, your servants, they demanded. Come quickly and save us for the kings of the Amorites," who he was never going to have to fight in the Canaan land, "who live in the hills are here with their armies. So Joshua and Israel army had to leave Gilgal and begin to go rescue Gibeon." Joshua now had to fight their battles because of a prayerless decision. Now bear with me because there's some good news coming.
Joshua had a choice here. Think about it. Do you honor the covenant that you made even under deceptive terms? Because I have to believe that Joshua was thinking, "Do I honor this, or do I cry foul because you lied to me?" And I'm wondering if this was the mindset that Joshua was going to. "Do I have to do this because you didn't tell me the whole truth about you?" You get married and don't realize that they snore. You get married and, "You didn't tell me you don't pick up your clothes and you don't do dishes." You got married and, "You didn't tell me that we're not sharing bank accounts and you got your account and I got my account and that's my money because I earn it. You didn't tell me." So my question is this, can you break it when you find out they have six kids in New Jersey?
And the question is when you find out the information prior to making the covenant, can you get out? And I have to believe that's the question Joshua was even asking. On the way to going after the Amorites thinking, "If I just would've prayed. Do I have to... God, do I really have to do this? Because it came under false pretenses. They didn't tell me the truth. And all of a sudden I made a covenant, but do I still have to keep that covenant?"
Because let me just tell say something. People will look for a loophole on anything. They will try to find... This exactly happened. Doing a marital counseling situation, upset wife, real sheepish husband, and he just looked and he... She just all of a sudden started off. She goes, "Tell him, tell him what happened." And all of a sudden he goes, "All right. We're walking in the mall. A pretty lady walked by, and I looked at her. And my wife said, Jesus said that if you have lust in your heart, that's adultery and now she wants a divorce." I said, "Hold on one second here." I said, "I think somebody has bigger issues than what just happened in the mall." Because everybody, anybody could look for a loophole on anything.
I was reading the story that was sent to me of a man that was doing so good on his diet. Because the problem with him was every time he went to work, he went right by that bakery where the smell was amazing every single morning. You know what I'm talking about? You're going right by, and he smelled it every day. So what he did so he can begin to make sure that he is going to keep his diet, he changed his direction going to work every single day. And then one morning, just out of habit, he went by the bakery, smelled the pastries, and thought to himself, and this is what he said, "When I drove by it," he wrote this down. He says, "Lord, this is no accident. Jesus, it's up to you." Here's his prayer he wrote in his journal. "If you want me to have any of those delicious items, create a parking place directly in front of the bakery for me." And then he said, "And sure enough, the eighth time around the block, there was the parking place."
You can find a loophole for anything. And I can see Joshua going, "Look at this!" Calling the Jewish lawyers, "Hey, look at this. Can we get out of this Gibeonite covenant? They didn't tell us the truth." See, you give God the opportunity to do something miraculous with the bad decision when you keep your word. You give God the opportunity. Listen, when you honor the covenant that you want out of and you honor it, you give God the opportunity to do something miraculous with a bad decision. The miracle. Listen to me close. Some of you need to hear this. The miracle was not getting him out of the covenant. The miracle was God showing up in the bad decision that he made. That's what was going about to happen in Joshua chapter 10. The Gibeonites deceived, then Joshua didn't pray, and Joshua stayed, and God showed up because he knew that integrity was important. His word was important.
It's like David Jeremiah, the Baptist preacher from San Diego, said this, "Integrity is keeping a commitment even after the circumstances have changed." It's not me looking for a way, "You lied. You didn't say this, I'm out of this thing." Joshua honors what God honors and that his covenant. He fights for these people, wins the battle with the Amorites on that miracle day. I remember a verse the Pastor Carter used to talk to me about from Psalm 15. He says, "This word is so important to me. This verse is so important to me." And it says this in Psalm 15:4, "You keep your word even when it costs you."
That's what Joshua chapter 10 is. It's not trying to get out of something. It's not getting out of a marriage. It's not getting out of this thing. It's not getting out of this commitment. "My circumstance has changed at my job, so I'm not going to go ahead and pay this." "I'm not going to pay this bill." "I'm not going to pay this thing," and all of a sudden you're trying to get out of something. God goes, "You don't need to get out. You just need to get me in the situation that you're going through right now."
I want to give you, just in the last few minutes, my personal revelation on this story, what I thought had God spoke to me about a bad decision that I've made. So just pause for a second. Here's what God does. Joshua goes to battle, is about to lose the extra battle, and prays, and I'm thinking, "You should've did that in Joshua chapter nine." But he knew how to pray in the battle. That's kind of what Greg was talking about. People just start calling upon Jesus usually when the consequences start, not to get wisdom before the consequences happen. And so he prays in 10 when he should have prayed in nine, and God didn't go... Because I would have gone... I would have simply just been mean and just simply said, "Well, you should have did that before. Good luck for you Joshua." But God didn't do that, because God's not like us. And God goes, "I wish you would have done it here, but I am going to honor it because you kept your word, and I am going to show up here."
And this is where-- this is where you have to realize God's not like you, and God's not like me. Thank God we're not God. [applause] He finally prays when he should have prayed in chapter nine. Decides to pray in chapter 10, and this is what God does. He makes the sun stand still. Okay, let me help you on this for just a moment. The sun is the largest and most massive object in the entire universe. Stay with me for a second. The sun is the largest and the most massive object in the universe. "How big, Pastor Tim?" The diameter going across the circle of the sun is 864,000 miles, which means you can line up 109 planet Earths to go across the entire sun. 109 of our planets go across the sun. Listen to this. The circumference of the sun is 2.7 million miles, which means it's so massive you can throw in 1.3 million planet Earths to fill up the big ball called the sun. And that sun begins... You ready for this? Is always moving at 43,000 miles per hour.
Okay, not a trick question. How many would say that's pretty big? Just want to make sure that we're on the same page. Four of you, okay. Stay with me now. Here's what I think God did. God says, "You made a bad decision, Joshua. You made a bad covenant." "You didn't pray, Pastor Tim. You should have prayed about this." I think God shows up and says in this story, "I can take the largest and most massive object in the entire universe and make it do whatever I want it to do, so I am able to make all things work together for good." [applause]
You know what God was saying? Just look at it like this. "You don't understand my boss. He's a big man." Bigger than the sun? "My husband's a big dummy." Bigger than the sun? "I've got big debt." Bigger than the sun? "My kids have big problems." Bigger than the sun? You don't want to counsel with me when you come in and go, "I don't think I can make it through this marriage," and I'm going to look at you and go, "He made the sun stand still." "I think I got to get out of this debt so I don't... I'm going ahead and I'm going to claim bankruptcy." He made the sun stand still. If you're sitting here today and going like, "I don't want to do this anymore. I'm out of Christianity because the battles are too big." He made the sun stand still. "I don't think I can make it here in New York City. It's too tough." He made the sun stand still. "I don't think I can do this anymore." He made the sun stand still. Tell me your problem and I'm going to tell you about Jesus, who made the sun stand still. [applause]
There are some here and listen, you're about to get a divorce from a covenant that God goes, "You didn't even invite me in." You drove down the Jersey Turnpike, saw some stupid lawyer advertisement: I can get you out of a covenant for $300. And you didn't even realize you never got God into the covenant. And God says, "You didn't pray before, but this is a good time to start praying. That you're not going to become one of those other people that your kids are going to have to see your husband on the weekends. Because I can take somebody who's a big atheist, a big agnostic, and a big in all the other junk, and I can turn the thing..." Why? He made the sun stand still! [applause].
So you're like, "Why are you angry?" I'm-- don't know. [laughter] I'm not angry. I'm not angry. He can make the sun stand... Even if you prayed too late, he can make the sun stand still. He wouldn't get his big body out of bed, but God can make the sun stand still. "I'm here all by myself." He can make the sun stand. "I can't make it financially." He can make the sun stand still. You didn't pray before. Pray now, and invite God into a bad decision and say, "I can't do this by myself anymore. And if you would just show me mercy because nobody else... Everybody yells at me about Joshua chapter nine but I need Jesus to show up in Joshua chapter 10." [applause]
Let me close and tell you two things. The end of the story, the history of the Gibeonites is pretty amazing. Joshua was so upset with these people. You know what he does in Joshua chapter nine? These people come from an idolatrous nation, and this is what he says. Listen to Joshua 9:27. He says, "You know what you're going to do? You're going to cut wood and bring water to the temple." He just tells them, he says, "You're not even going anywhere. Your whole people are going to be drawing water and cutting wood, and you're going to do it for the temple, and you're going to know this is what we do for God." Because Joshua was upset. Those words in 9:27 seemed pretty angry words. He just goes, "You're not even going home. Cut wood and bring water."
And you know what's amazing? Bible historians tell us something incredible. That the longer that the Gibeonites we're cutting wood and drawing water, what was amazing was Joshua's mistake, because he invited God into the mistake, started to turn the hearts of these people hundreds of years later. You ready for this? This is incredible. After the Babylonian captivity and after the destruction of the temple, do you know who the next group of people to replace the Levites to start doing all of the work in the temple and became a God-fearing people? The Gibeonites. Hundreds of years later what you thought was going to be a problem, God goes, "Hang on. If I can make the sun stand still, I can take an idolatrous people and I can make them God worshipers with everything that's going on in their life." [applause]
"Pastor Tim, I don't want to make this mistake." I don't want you to either, but let me just say this. Making a good decision so you don't have to manage a Gibeonite decision is really important. Can I just say these three things to you really quickly? Number one, in every decision you have to make, one, start with prayer. Two, does the Bible speak to the issue? And three, did I get wisdom from the people that have more journey and are wiser and smarter than I am? I need wisdom from people that are not my cheerleaders going, "You go, whoo. You go, boy." I don't need all that.
Greatest words I've heard in this last month, I told the men yesterday at the men's ministry and in North Jersey was this: I need people in my life listen that can no me and not just know me. "What does that mean, Pastor Tim?" I need people that can no N-O me, and not just K-N-O-W me. I have to have people that go, "No, don't do that." "No, that's a right decision." I don't need you to go like, "You're the man. Ooh." I don't need all that. I don't need you to do that. It doesn't help me. I need people that can no me and go, "That's dumb. That's stupid." [gasp] Yes.
I start with prayer. I go to the word to see if the word speaks to this. "Man, I'm not really sure if I should tithe to the church. Let me pray about it." Go to the word of God. Let's see if it's there. And then you're going to come to somebody, they're going to go, "No, it's not right." "You are supposed to give." "God wants that." In any decision, start with prayer. Go to the word and go to wise people in your life. It's so much better to pray in Joshua nine than to pray in Joshua 10. But if you have to pray in Joshua 10, here's the joy, God shows up. It's so much better to get wisdom in nine. But man, if I need a miracle, God doesn't go, "You blew it. You're on your own." God's mercy is amazing for us.