Last Words

Marathon runners say that something interesting happens between about miles 18 and 22.  People "hit the wall."  People have to discipline their minds to stay focused on their goal of finishing, and being close but not quite there is not only physically demanding, but mentally and emotionally demanding, too.

That is a good metaphor for how so many of us feel.  In January, Covid-19 was a story from overseas.  In February it came stateside.  And in March it shut us down.  We've been running this marathon ever since and in some ways it's even harder because we don't know how long the race will actually be.  

We've also been studying the book of Joshua since the springtime, and Aug. 30 is our second-to-last look at it in this series.  The Israelites, too, had fought for years to finally settle into their new land.  They had persevered.  

And in Joshua 23, Joshua delivers his farewell speech.  He is getting older and getting ready to pass the baton of faith on to those whom he hopes will be able to carry it after he is gone.   There are several farewell speeches in scripture, including Moses, David, and Jesus.  Farewell speeches have a few features in common that can inspire our perseverance today.

1) They usually occur when someone's life is coming to an end and they want to pass along the faith to those who remain.  The encouragement is that those who have departed this life from us still act as a great cloud of witnesses who still influence us.  We are not alone.

2) They always express gratitude for the work that has been accomplished.  Joshua basically ignores the mistakes made in his life and this conquest, and instead expresses his gratitude to God for fulfilling his promises.  An excellent modern example of someone who exercised the discipleship of gratitude was Lou Gehrig.  Retiring after an excellent career from the NY Yankees because of his ALS diagnosis, Lou's farewell speech was the epitome of seeing his life in perspective and expressing gratitude.  

3) They communicate hope even when the future is not guaranteed.  Little did Israel know (or did they?) how foreboding their near future would be.  Jesus' farewell speeches and prayer (John 14-17) also acknowledge the hatred that the world would have for those who believe in Jesus.  Like the Israelites and Jesus' disciples, we are facing a future which seems more obscured from our vision than ever.  Who knows how this chapter of our story will end?  And yet there is reason to hope.  

Like driving on a dark road, we can see only a few yards in front of us.  But because of the grace of God, we have all the light we need.      
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