Study Guide

Look Up

Newbreak’s Sermon Study Guide is an in-house resource that serves sermon-based Life Groups and/or individuals who want to reflect further on how the message contributes to their spiritual formation. In this week’s study, we talk about the power of holy encounters with God. God is involved in the ordinary details of life, but there are also times when God invites us to step into “holy ground” moments with Him as we step into a new phase of our calling.

Icebreakers for Life Groups

  • Who do/did you want to win the Super Bowl?
  • If you could describe your relationship with God in a few words, what would they be? Why?

Point 1 – Look up.

Read Joshua 5:14a

How do I make sure I see what God is trying to do in my life?

Joshua looked up. He looked up to see something amazing that he could have completely missed had he not looked up. We miss the amazing things God is doing in our lives when we have our focus on anything other than God. When our focus is on God we gain strength, a correct perspective and are able to keep a sure footing. Throughout Scripture God encourages His people to look up (Genesis 15:5, Mark 16:4, John 4:35). Why does He do this? He knows that we have a tendency to become focused on the day to day of our “normal” that we sometimes miss out on the extraordinary He is doing all around us.

Who is the heavenly warrior?

Throughout Church History, the predominant stance is that this unidentified heavenly warrior is actually an appearance of the pre-incarnate Jesus. Scholars refer to these moments as a “theophany.” A theophany is an appearance of God in a form recognizable to us. In this case, God appears as an impressive warrior before Joshua.
(For a more detailed explanation of this heavenly warrior being a “theophany,” see Newbreak’s article on the subject).

“Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?””(Joshua 5:13b, NIV) Joshua was a warrior, and as such, he did not back away from a man with a drawn sword in his hand. He went toward him. When God draws our attention to something, there is a reason and we need to move toward that situation. Then Joshua asked the man, “Are you for us or our enemies?” In Joshua’s mind there were two sides, the Israelites’ side, and the side of everyone else. He wanted to know if this man was going to fight for him, or the enemy. Joshua had forgotten he was working for Someone.

The man rightly answers, ““Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”” (Joshua 5:14). God is not on our side, or someone else’s side. There is only God’s side. We are either for Him, or against Him. When Joshua remembered that he was the servant of the Lord, he fell face down in reverence. With this new perspective and the correct focus, Joshua was able to ask the correct question, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” Looking up gives us the opportunity to shift our focus from “me-centric” to “God-centric”. That, in turn, allows us to start asking the right question of, “What message does my Lord have for His servant?” When this is our life question, we move in the right direction and gain the ground the Lord wants us to take.

Questions for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection

  • What keeps me from “looking up” and focusing on God? How can I master these distractions and refocus my attention?
  • How do I make sure I don’t miss what God is trying to do in my life? What steps can I take today?

Point 2 – Discover the power of being second.

Read Joshua 5:13–15

Contrary to any Christian slogans, Jesus is not our “co-pilot!” Jesus guides us as our Shepherd, as our Commander. He is in charge, and sometimes we need that reminder.

The two traps we fall into thinking:

  1. That Jesus serves our agenda. This is the classic “Jesus is my co-pilot” theology. While it might sound pious, it mistakenly puts us into the cockpit—with our hands on the controls of where to go and what to do. But all great heroes of the faith found this in common—that the Lord is the One in control, and letting Him lead results in a life that truly is fulfilling and fruitful. Jesus is not our co-pilot, and He does not serve our agenda. We serve His agenda! We see this in the narrative when Joshua relinquishes the position of control and asks the Commander of the Lord’s Army: “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
  2. That we are the captain of our own life. As the famous atheist poet William Ernest Henley wrote: “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” This quote sounds inspiring and empowering, but it is a deceptive lie that enslaves us to see “me” as the hero of my own story. This is not true. We are not the hero and the story isn’t our own. Jesus is the hero and the story is all about Him!
    Being “second” is empowering because we get to see ourselves as part of God’s larger story and purpose in the world.

Questions for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection

  • What does it mean to be “second” in your life? How can we think about this in a way that is empowering and not belittling?
  • Based on the two traps above, which one do you fall into the most? Why?
  • How does knowing that God is our Commander, or Shepherd, comfort your heart? What is one way that God has shown you His Shepherding care or Commanding protection?

Point 3 – Replace our problems with God’s promises.

Read Joshua 6:1–2

Joshua 6:1 sets the problem.

“Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.” (Joshua 6:1)

The author of Joshua makes it clear that taking Jericho was a big problem. The wall that stood before the Israelites was formidable (can’t scale) and the text makes it clear that it was “securely” barred shut (can’t get in through the front door). After all, the people of Jericho weren’t going to lay down their swords and walk away from their city without putting up a fight. I’m sure walking up to the city was probably like what it’s like to walk up to the foot of K2, a mountain in Pakistan that towers 28,251 feet, (8,611 meters) in the air. Fear, dread, apprehension struck the people. The battle to take Jericho was a test for the people of Israel. Were they going to let the tall walls and fearsome people deter them from their God-given mission? They needed God’s help. They needed His direct intervention. God responded to the seemingly impossible situation with a promise.

Verse 2 shows God giving Joshua a promise that would have greatly encouraged his heart.

“Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.” (Joshua 6:2)

The promise was that the Lord would be the warrior to deliver Jericho into Joshua’s hands. They would literally see walls come down right before their eyes as God fulfilled His promise to them.

Through the battle of Jericho, the Israelites learned a truth that each of us can apply in our own lives: For every problem we face, there is a promise to sustain us.

Fear only can dominate us if we see no way through the problem. But here Joshua gives us an example of how to confront our fear with the promise—God’s promises.

How will the story pan out? We will find out next week!

Questions for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection

  • What causes you the most fear in your life? Based on this story, what would God want you to do with your fears?
  • What problem are you facing that you need to combat with a promise of God? What promise from Scripture will you encourage yourself with? How do you move toward God’s promises in the midst of your fear?
  • How has your mindset on facing challenges changed in light of this study today?

Final Challenge Questions

  • How are you going to think differently in light of what you have read, heard, and discussed this week?
  • What is one thing you are going to change in your life in light of the sermon?
  • BONUS: For those of you with kids or around kids: What is one truth from this message that you can share with your kids?

About the "Made for More" Sermon Series

The start of a new year is a natural time of reflection and planning for the future. What we often find as humans is that we like to dream big, but breaking out of our comfort zones can be easier said than done. We even find ourselves struggling to break out of our comfort zone when it comes to things God is calling us to. God reminds us that we are made for more - join us as we discover how to step into that!

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