A Finished Work—The Method

A very special promise for our time is given in Romans 9:28: “For he will finish the work, and cut [it] short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.”

The Lord is going to finish His work. In the first article of this series, you may remember that our study concerned the challenge that this presents to us today—the giants and the fortified cities that are in the land even now. In this article, let us look again at the challenge and also at a finished work—the method.

Entering the Promised Land

In the first chapter of the Book of Joshua, we find, in our study of the conquest of the Promised Land, that the children of Israel, having journeyed in the wilderness for 39 additional years, were to enter at last into the Promised Land. God presented the method by which they would finish the work that was given to them.

Notice the Lord’s introduction to Joshua: “Now after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord it came to pass, that the Lord spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying, Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, [even] to the children of Israel.” Joshua 1:1, 2.

This is the first recorded time that the Lord communicated directly to Joshua. Previously, when the Lord communicated to Moses, Joshua was a minister—a servant or co-worker—with Moses, and had not had that privilege. But now the Lord was communicating directly to Joshua and giving him the methodology he was to follow.

Crossing Jordan

The Lord’s introduction to Joshua was, “Arise, and go over Jordan.” Did the Lord tell him how this was to be done? We do not find it recorded here; we are only given the instruction that the Lord gave: “Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, and I will be with you.”

Now, humanly speaking, did this make a lot of sense? Was it a good time to ford the Jordan? No! It was flood season! It was springtime, and the Jordan was a raging torrent. Raging torrents are not what someone would want to venture into, yet this was the direction that God gave to Joshua. He did not tell him how it was going to take place; He did not tell him to build a bridge; He did not tell him to go by another route and bypass the Jordan. He said, “Arise, go over this Jordan.”

The Lord expected Joshua to explicitly follow His directions, even when they made no sense. And they did not make any sense! How could a person cross Jordan at this time? The Lord did not try to explain all of the details of how it was going to happen. He wanted Joshua and the children of Israel to manifest faith that if God gave the directions, He would also supply the means for how the task could be accomplished.

In Joshua 3, we read of the children of Israel marching down into Jordan. The priests advanced first, and we may wonder what they were thinking as they started marching down the banks of the Jordan, far in advance of the rest of the congregation, carrying the symbol of the presence of the Lord. As they drew closer and closer to the raging water, what might have been the thoughts going through their minds? Then, as their feet dipped into the torrent, the waters were cut off. (See Joshua 3:13–17.) God called them to explicitly obey His directions and instructions, and they followed His command.

Another Sign of Obedience

“At that time the Lord said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time.” Joshua 5:2.

After they obeyed the directions to arise and go over this Jordan, the Lord came to Joshua and said, “Now I want you to again circumcise the children of Israel.” Since their rebellion, 39 years before, circumcision had been stopped—postponed to indicate the withdrawal of God’s favor and blessing. God now asked Joshua to obey Him, to follow His directions—not just when they did not make sense but when they hurt as well.

A Battle Plan

“And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, [Art] thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but [as] captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? And the captain of the Lord’s host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest [is] holy. And Joshua did so.” Joshua 5:13–15.

His directions are recorded in verses 2 and 3 of chapter 6: “And the Lord said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, [and] the mighty men of valour. And ye shall compass the city, all [ye] men of war, [and] go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days.”

March Around It

Here we learn that even when it does not make sense to us and even when it hurts, the directions which God gives are to be followed, for the Lord Jesus, Captain of the Lord’s host, directs the battle plan. What was the battle plan for the children of Israel to take Jericho? March around it!

Humanly speaking, is it possible to conquer a city by marching around it? Of course it is not. But here we see God asking Joshua and the children of Israel to explicitly obey His directions even when it seemed impossible. Even when it made no sense, He asked them to explicitly obey His directions. Even when it hurt, He asked them to obey His directions, and even when it seemed like an impossibility, He asked that His directions be obeyed.

The children of Israel could have done a number of other things. They could have taken an alternate course. They could have patterned after what the other contemporary armies were doing at the time, but God said, “In order to conquer Canaan, you have to be operating on a different principle than the Canaanites. To conquer Canaan, you have to operate by explicitly following the directions that I give to you.”

Still Applies Today

If the work is going to be finished today, we have to learn the same lessons as they did. We have to learn that the only way the work of God is going to be finished upon the earth today is by explicitly following the directions that He has given in His Word and in the Spirit of Prophecy.

I recently listened to an audiotape of a sermon that was recorded about 30 years ago. The minister who was speaking said that if God could have finished the work by using a plan other than the blueprint He has given, He would have already done it. The only way that the work is going to be finished today is by explicitly following the directions that God has given.

Forget the Side Issues

The devil brings about many traps. In Ellen White’s day, when she was urging and appealing for the church leaders and members to work the cities, a theological issue arose which resulted in a theological debate. There were prominent men on both sides of the question, debating this issue back and forth, and she counseled, “Do not speak about it. Do not worry about it. Work the cities!”

She said, “Wherever we go, we shall find men ready with some side issue.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 6, 245. She continued in telling of a man who had come to her with the message that the world was flat. She did not try to show from the Bible that the earth was round. She did not try to show from science that the earth was round; she referred him to Matthew 28:16–20.

Forget the side issues! Forget those minor theological issues. That is not our work. Those are not the directions God has given to us. God has directed for us to work the cities, to look those giants in the face, and advance as quickly and as aggressively as possible.

Worldly Pattern

Are we following the directions today? Are we studying the directions that God has given for the finishing of His work? A wealth of material is available for our use. There are people who tell us that we need new methods and new ideas, but those new methods and those new ideas need to be based solidly on the directions that God has already given us in His Word and in the Spirit of Prophecy.

We see many around us implementing contemporary methods. They look to other churches and pattern after the world, but the work will never be finished by patterning after the world. Joshua could not pattern after the world. If Joshua had patterned after the world, Jericho would still be standing. Are we patterning after the world today? Are we patterning after the world in our work? Are we patterning after the world in our own lives?

This has been one of the problems throughout the history of God’s people. They pattern after the world, without realizing it, because it is so prevalent around them. For example, consider when Sarah encouraged Abraham to lay with her handmaid, Hagar. It did not seem like such a wrong thing to them, because everyone else was doing it. They were just using then known contemporary methods. But, in doing so, they were not following God’s pattern.

There is nothing wrong with contemporary methods—just as long as they are based upon the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. The only way God’s work is going to be finished is if we look at the directions—at the blueprint that God has given—and follow that blueprint. Anything short of this will fail.

Directions Given

Consider briefly some of the directions that God has given to us. In the Book of Colossians, a time is recorded when the work was finished. Paul said that the gospel had been “preached to every creature which is under heaven.” Colossians 1:23. The gospel had been preached to every creature under heaven in a day when there was no Internet, no satellites, no television or radio; there was not even a postal service per se.

Interestingly, when I was in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I noticed that none of those things—electricity, postal service, etc.—existed there. It was amazing, however, when there were no modern methods of communication, how quickly news traveled. When my travel companions and I arrived in a village, a number of hours away from a larger city, it was only 10 or 20 minutes before a secret service agent was right there to get our names, to register us, and to check out what we were doing. Even though they had no telephone service or other modern modes of communication, notification occurred very rapidly. The “bush telegraph” worked better than some e-mails work today!

“And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judæa and Samaria, except the apostles. . . . Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.” Acts 8:1, 4. The believers were scattered abroad, and they were preaching the Word. Not just the apostles were preaching the Word, but the believers also were preaching.

The Entire Membership

Sometimes it is easy for us to look to ministers or ministries to finish the work, but it is not going to be ministers and ministries alone that are going to finish it. They have a part to play, yes, and they need to be focused on finishing the work and laying broader and more aggressive evangelistic plans, but what finished the work in the days of the apostles, what took the gospel to the entire world at that time was not just the preaching of the apostles, but the sharing of the Word of God by every believer as well. It was people such as Aquila and Priscilla who, ministering at their workplace, led one of their co-workers, Apollos, into a more perfect way. (See Acts 18.)

“The work of God in this earth can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church membership rally to the work and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers.” Testimonies, vol. 9, 117.

Are the ministers and the church officers going to finish the work? The work will be finished by the entire membership rallying together, each one playing his or her part to complete the task. If we do not do it, God will use other means to finish the work, and He will finish it without us. The entire membership—that is you and me.

I read a statement recently that said, “I am just a nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody who can save anybody!” That is what we need to do! We need to be nobodies trying to tell everybody about Somebody who can save anybody. We have a work to do, but until we unite and do what we can—not just in giving out literature, not just in sending our money to those who are doing big projects, but by ourselves personally taking up the work that lies nearest us—we will never finish the work. God will finish it, but He will pass us by.

A Personal Work

“Servants of God, with their faces lighted up and shining with holy consecration, will hasten from place to place to proclaim the message from heaven. By thousands of voices, all over the earth, the warning will be given.” The Great Controversy, 612. [Emphasis supplied.] How many voices? Thousands of voices. It will not just be one or three or ten major evangelists. There will be thousands of voices—the voices of God’s people.

“In visions of the night, representations passed before me [Ellen White] of a great reformatory movement among God’s people. Many were praising God. The sick were healed, and other miracles were wrought. A spirit of intercession was seen, even as was manifested before the great Day of Pentecost. Hundreds and thousands were seen visiting families and opening before them the word of God. Hearts were convicted by the power of the Holy Spirit, and a spirit of genuine conversion was manifest.” Testimonies, vol. 9, 126. [Emphasis supplied.]

This will be personal work. It will be personal voices. All of these other mechanisms—the Internet, television, radio, and satellite—are good, and they play a part in finishing the work, but the work is not going to be finished solely through them. It has to be finished by personal voices, by your voice and by mine.

The work will be finished by personal work. As quoted above, hundreds and thousands will be visiting families and opening the Word of God to them. This means we will be going to our neighbors, to our co-workers, and to our friends, giving them Bible studies.

You and I have a work to do. The only way that the work is going to be finished is if we look those giants in the face, if we look at those challenges and are not diverted by the difficulties. We must study and pray to learn what God’s methods are, what the instructions are that He has given for finishing the work. Then, as the Lord leads us to the area of ministry that He has for each of us and as we do our personal work, His work is going to be finished.

When a fire is lit, not just under the ministers but also under the entire church, God’s work is going to be finished. We need to listen, as did Joshua, for the Captain of the hosts’ voice. Listen to His voice; study the directions He has given, and lift up and do the part that God has given to us to perform. May we be faithful in that work.

Cody Francis is currently engaged in public evangelism for Mission Projects International. He also pastors the Remnant Church of Seventh-day Adventist Believers in Renton, Washington. He may be contacted by e-mail at: cody@missionspro.org.