Dear Confirmands--Be Strong and Courageous!
O dearest Jesus, my Lord and Savior-be with me and watch over me today as I worship in Your presence. Help me always to make You a priority in my life. Lead me to listen carefully to Your words of admonition, instruction, and encouragement. Move me to thank and praise You for Your many blessings and lay before You my petitions with confidence. Inspire me to desire to live my life in faithful devotion to You. Amen.
Peter urges us to be diligent in our faith-life, practicing Christian virtues and striving to be fruitful in our Christian lives. As we do this God, who by grace has called us to faith, will perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you!
Jesus is the vine and we are all by faith branches. When we abide in Jesus, we will bear much fruit. Without Him, however, we can do nothing. Let us, therefore, abide in Him by hearing His Word and living according to it!
Faithfulness to God’s Word guarantees your ultimate success!
Text: Joshua 1:8-9
[The LORD spoke to Joshua] “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
In Christ Jesus, who has promised to be with each of us—always, dear fellow redeemed and especially you, our confirmands:
All of us go through various stages and experiences of life. Some of those will be common to us all. We all, at one point for instance, were new-born babies and the vast majority of those present today have now passed through the pre-school stage of our lives. On the other hand, only a select few of us have ever served in the military and experienced combat conditions, while most of us have been spared that experience.
You confirmands are about to enter a new stage in your lives. You are nearing the completion of your primary educational years and will soon be entering high school. In your spiritual lives you will today move from being baptized members of this Christian congregation to becoming communicant members. Whenever you enter a new stage of your lives you will encounter new opportunities as well as new challenges. Many of those new opportunities will be exciting. Many of those new challenges may well prove difficult. But each of us, irrespective of the stage of life in which we find ourselves, as children of God, will want to listen carefully to what He has to say to us in His Word. He, after all, loves us, has a plan for us, and has promised to listen to us! What does God have to say to you today? DEAR CONFIRMANDS—His message for you today is the same message He had for Joshua—BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS!
For as you enter this new stage of your lives faithfulness to God’s Word guarantees your ultimate success! Joshua was standing on the eastern banks of the Jordan River looking into the Promised Land and about to enter a new stage of his life. Up to this point he had merely been an assistant. He had served at Moses’ side—Moses, whom God described as both His servant and His friend, one with whom God spoke “face to face” (Numbers 12:7), one whom the children of Israel revered and had followed for forty years. Now, Joshua was assuming the responsibility of leading God’s chosen people into the Promised Land. But this trip was to be anything but easy. They would have to wrest the land from its inhabitants, many of whom were giants and many of whom lived in strongly fortified cities. It was a daunting task—a task from which most people would have shied away, but a task to which God had specifically appointed Joshua.
The LORD God was aware of Joshua’s inner uncertainties as he stared across the river and considered the battles that lay ahead of him and the people. The LORD God came to Joshua and spoke directly to him: “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel…. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life…. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land, which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous!” (Joshua 1:2, 5a, 6-7a) There you have it—God’s words of encouragement to Joshua. But what is most interesting and instructive for you and for me is that God did not stop with a mere pep talk aimed at overcoming timidity on Joshua’s part. Rather, He gave Joshua His Word. God told Joshua exactly what it meant to be strong and courageous. It meant fulfilling the law of God as He had revealed it to Moses. God told Joshua, “Do not turn from the right hand or to the left that you may prosper wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7b). Then He spoke the words of our text: “This Book of the Law (that is, God’s holy Word) shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
My dear confirmands…my dear friends, the success of Joshua and the children of Israel lay not in their military strategy or might, but rather in their commitment to be faithful to God and obedient to His Word. Notice how God gave Joshua a three-fold command. The word was not to depart from his mouth. He was to meditate upon it day and night. He was to put all of it into practice in his life. Speak it—think about it—do it! That was the LORD God’s prescription for Joshua’s success.
That prescription remains the same today. While we may not have to enter a battle carrying a sword or spear, there are unbelieving Canaanites a plenty in our world, who will oppose the will of God and attempt to mislead you from His path. Today—in just a few minutes—you will be promising with the help of the Spirit to remain faithful to your God even unto death. Those are not just words to be spoken and then forgotten. They are solemn promises you will make, as have many others here in this assembly today, to be faithful to your God and Savior. In order to keep those promises—in order to overcome the challenges you will face in your future lives and to succeed at all of the opportunities God will give you, you will want on a daily basis to be in the Word—thinking about it, talking about it, and putting it into practice. Then, dear confirmands…dear friends, the LORD Himself guarantees your ultimate success! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting
The presence of God removes all reason to fear the future!
It is the Lord our God who arms us to stand against every spiritual temptation and battle, and who equips us to serve Him through every day of our lives. In His name, dear fellow-redeemed, dear Justin, Katie, Emily, Aaron, Adam, Jacob, Andrew, Katelyn, Tyler, Zac, Kelsey, and Leah:
As Pastor Nolting pointed out, not unlike Joshua you stand at the brink of something new. The fear that Joshua would have felt wasn’t because he didn’t think God could help or because He had doubts about God. Joshua knew very well the past history of the people of Israel. Joshua was there to witness the ten plagues in Egypt and then to see the Red Sea parted. Joshua was on Mt. Sinai with Moses. Joshua saw Moses’ anger when he crashed the stone tablets on the ground after hearing and seeing what the Children of Israel were doing around the Golden Calf. Joshua was there when God told Moses to lead the people away from Mt. Sinai and He promised: “My presence will go with you and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14); and Joshua was one of the twelve spies who had entered the Promised Land 40 years earlier and had seen that it truly was a land flowing with milk and honey.
There was no doubt in Joshua’s mind about God’s ability. There was no doubt in Joshua’s mind that God had clearly been with His people from before the days in Egypt, through the time of slavery, at Mt. Sinai and beyond, and now once again to the brink of the Promised Land. It wasn’t questions about God’s ability or His presence in the past that would have created fear for Joshua. It was a question, “Will that presence be with me. Will I, be able to go forward? What will I do as the leader of this people? Will God’s presence be as active in the future?”
You twelve (confirmands) as well as your peers are the next generation in training. You have probably already begun to hear and will continue to hear that you are the next generation of this world’s leaders, businessmen, community leaders, etc. All of that aside, you are the next generation carrying forth the Word of God. You are able to do that with boldness and courage as Pastor Nolting has already said, as you follow God’s Word, but what about the fear and the future?
Being entrusted with the Word of God is a tremendous responsibility that is laid upon you as much as it is upon your parents, upon me, and everyone who is gathered here. There will come a time when most of the people you see here won’t be on the earth anymore and you will be the 40 and 50 year olds, then the 60 and 70 year olds, and then the 80 and 90 year olds. Carrying the Word of God forward depends upon the Lord’s presence being with you.
Some of you may be called to be teachers of Jesus’ lambs. Some of you may be called to be pastors, some of you will be called to other things. These things lie in the future, but you are already carrying God’s Word. God is already training you for whatever His calling for you will be—whether it be in the work of the church as a called servant, or employed otherwise and still working in the church as a layperson. Wow! What a responsibility! What a privilege and what a blessing! Wow! What a weight on everyone’s shoulders to be the ones who will carry the Word of God forward. What an opportunity to have the truth to share with those who already have it in order to encourage them and to share it with those who don’t have it in order to instruct them about their Savior. Who is sufficient for such things? (2 Corinthians 2:16). You are! Because your sufficiency is found in Christ and God promises: “the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
There are other places in Scripture where the essence of this promise is repeated but in different ways. Jesus said, “Where two or three of you are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). As you go forward and keep studying God’s Word, as you worship with fellow believers, as you spend time together around God’s Word encouraging one another and uplifting one another, Jesus your Savior will be there. He promises it. It will be so!
The apostle Paul encouraging the Philippians said, “The Lord is at hand, be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:5-6). Be anxious for nothing—why? Because, Paul says, the Lord is at hand. His presence is there. As you go forward and face challenges and are in times of trouble and are met with big decisions, where do you go? You can go first and foremost to God in prayer and you will know that He will hear you because the Lord your God is with you wherever you goand is ready to hear your prayer and answer your every need.
You will undoubtedly, if the Lord wills, accomplish many things in your lives. Some things will be unnoticed by anyone. Some things will only be noticed and appreciated by your family and closest friends; and perhaps some things will be noticed and appreciated by many. But the Lord’s presence will be with you as you abide in His Word. With the Lord’s presence you can know that you will always be successful as the Lord sees fit to bless your labors. After the apostle Paul spent a whole chapter in 1 Corinthians to explain how wonderful and meaningful it is that Jesus is a living Savior, he concluded by saying: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1Corinthians 15:58). Today, tomorrow, going through your adult life, anything you do in connection with the Lord will not fail to succeed and serve a purpose. It may not always look like success on the outside, but because the Lord’s presence is with you it will not fail.
You have the sure promise of God that He will be with you. He will be with you as you study His Word and you will grow in faith. You have the sure word of God that He will hear your prayers because He is always with you. You have the sure promise of God that He will be with you to bless you in everything you do. Therefore, you do not need to fear one second of the future, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Amen.
—Pastor Wayne C. Eichstadt