The Importance of Follow Through
Text: Joshua Chapters 12 – 19
Proposition: To follow through on the directions God gives us takes as much faith as the very first step and without it we can go off course quickly.
Introduction: This morning let’s talk about a thing called follow through. If you like golf or bowling or baseball or visiting friends, going to church, leading a meeting or raising your children or being a great husband or incredible wife then follow through is something you need to know about. When you talk to a person learning to play golf the idea of what happens to the golf club after it strikes the ball seems irrelevant yet without a good follow through on a golf swing the ball can’t be hit straight or travel very far. The simple reason for that is that follow through begins before the swing ever happens, it sees or imagines the full arc of the swing. Once you can imagine what the follow through of the golf swing will feel like and look like then you are ready to hit the ball. Follow through is the process of seeing the whole action and then engaging in that action. It’s the same when raising children, if there is good follow through on your part your children will know where they stand with you, what you expect and what they are responsible for. Today we’re going to look at a large portion of Scripture that has everything to do with follow through. I’m going to summarize 8 chapters of the book of Joshua. They give the details of the dividing up of the conquered land and one of the overarching themes in them is the importance of follow through. So let’s look at Joshua chapters 12 to 19 and consider the follow through of Israel.
Chapter 12 – The chapter is a summary of the conquests of Moses on the east side of the Jordan and the conquests of Joshua on the west side of the Jordan, in all 31 kings were overthrown. There were 9 and a half tribes on the west side of the Jordan, east of the Jordan River were the two and a half tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh. The term half tribe refers to the two sons of Joseph each receiving half of what would have been Joseph’s allotment. That’s why there is no tribe of Joseph but rather the two so called ‘half tribes’ represented by his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.
Chapter 13 – The land that Israel had yet to follow through on is extensive. In the opening verse God says to Joshua, “…You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much land yet to be possessed.” Though there have been 31 kings overthrown there is still a lot of follow through ahead. In Joshua 13:6 God gives this instruction, “…them I will drive out from before the children of Israel; only divide it by lot to Israel as an inheritance, as I have commanded you.” So each must do their part in following through. Then comes this indictment in verse 13, “Nevertheless the children of Israel did not drive out the Geshurites or the Maachathites, but the Geshurites and the Maachathites dwell among the Israelites until this day.”
Chapter 14 – Caleb was 40 years old when he was a spy for Moses checking out the Promised Land. It’s now 45 years later, at 85 he asks Joshua for the hill country near Hebron as part of his inheritance inside the tribal boundaries of Judah. The phrase that resonates here is that Caleb, “wholly followed the LORD my God.” Caleb followed through and as a result drove out giants that were half his age and twice his size. Follow through is not about age or ability, it’s about the vision that the task was begun with as we wholly follow after God in completing it.
Chapter 15 –This chapter details the land given to the tribe of Judah but it too ends with an indictment, “ As for the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem to this day.”
Chapter 16 –The borders of one of the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim, is given next and once again there is this conclusion, “And they did not drive out the Canaanites who dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwell among the Ephraimites to this day and have become forced laborers.”
Chapter 17 - Now comes the boundaries for Manasseh, both western and eastern boundaries. This chapter also concludes with the phrase, “And it happened, when the children of Israel grew strong, that they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not utterly drive them out.”
Chapter 18 – This chapter begins with the gathering of Israel at Shiloh, they had moved as a nation from Gilgal and their spiritual capital was now Shiloh. Yet it is here that Joshua again calls the nation to recognize their slowness in following through. “Then Joshua said to the children of Israel: "How long will you neglect to go and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers has given you?” He has them send out teams to survey the remaining area into seven portions, one for each tribe that was yet to receive their land. The chapter concludes with the allotment of land to the tribe of Benjamin.
Chapter 19 –The seven portions are surveyed and the boundaries of Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali and Dan are detailed. Joshua is given a city in the mountains of Ephraim as his reward for leading well. The chapter concludes by saying, “So they made an end of dividing the country.”
That’s what the division of the land looked like but the degree that they followed through on it was weak and in many cases and it caused them to go off course and to fall short of what God had envisioned for them. If you go on to read the first chapters of the book of Judges it details this lack of follow through and God uses it to test them to see if they will follow His word or give in to the idols about them.
So let’s let talk about follow through in terms of our lives.
I. Follow Through Sees the Process and Believes in the Purpose.
Did you know that in bowling follow through with your arm and hand is critical for the hitting the pins you are aiming at? Your hand should continue in a motion in the direction of your target. If I will succeed in bowling I have to know that, see why it’s an effective strategy, purposefully intend to do just that and believe that my success rate will increase the more I develop the skill. In Philippians 2:12 Paul says the same thing, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;”. He then goes on to say what that process looks like and the purpose it will achieve. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ but the follow through work is ours to continue to perfect.
II. Follow Through is More Motivated by Love Than by Results.
It’s not that results aren’t important but they won’t be enough to keep you seeking to do the follow through that God desires in us all. From a sports analogy it will be the love of the game but from a spiritual perspective it will be the love for God that takes you the distance in following through. It was follow through that the church at Ephesus was being cautioned on in Revelation 2:4. There’s all this commendation on their good works, labour, patience and perseverance but then Jesus says, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”, meaning their love for the Lord and their love for each other. Follow through is done out love not out of obligation or duty.
III. Follow Through Sees the Ground That Is Yet to be Claimed and Won.
In these chapters of Joshua that we’ve been summarizing the shortfall of the people is that again and again they didn’t follow through on taking all the land. They let Philistines and Canaanites stay in the land. What would be the rough equivalent to us taking the land we were intended to take? Would the Word of God qualify as land which we were to follow through on? Do I know as much of the Scripture as I am able to? Do I have possession of it in the sense that I can find direction from it, receive wisdom from it, know God more than I did before, everyday, because of it? I mean we could extend the metaphor of following through to all kinds of Christian disciplines, is there more for me to occupy and drive out of my life in terms of prayer? Should I be following through on developing more self control through fasting, through meditation on the word, through giving and through repentance from sin. The question then really becomes, ‘How much land is there yet for me to occupy, have I settled for the portion that I’m on and let the Philistines remain?’
Even when it comes to abiding in Christ, it’s still all about follow through. Follow through on being a disciple of Jesus, follow through on the cross of Christ as it is no longer I who live but Christ in me. Follow through in the understanding of who you are in Christ and in His righteousness. There is still a lot of ground to be won.
The Importance of Follow Through