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The Lesson of the Little Stones

By Tracy Jessup

Gardner Webb

the lesson of the little stones

“Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14-15)

In his book, Impossible People (InterVarsity Press, 2016), Os Guiness tells about growing up in a China that had been ravaged by two centuries of European and American exploration, and then by World War II and brutal civil war. “We lived in Nanjing, which was then the nation’s capital, but there were few good schools to go to, so at the age of five I found myself setting off by plane to a boarding school in Shanghai.

Obviously, the conditions behind the decision to send me out at that age were extreme, and I was not the only one launched on that path so young. But it was the first time in my life that I had been away from my parents and on my own. So, to give me a constant reminder of the North Star of the faith at the center of our family life, my father had searched for two small, smooth, flat stones and painted on them his life motto and that of my mother. For many years those two little stones were tangible memos in the pockets of my gray flannel shorts that were the uniform of most English schoolboys in those days. In my right-hand pocket was my father’s motto, ‘Found Faithful,’ and in my left-hand pocket was my mother’s, ‘Please Him.’

Many years have passed since then, and both of those little painted stones were lost in the chaos of escaping from China when Mao Zedong and the People’s Army eventually overran Nanjing, returned the capital to Beijing, and began their iron and bloody rule of the entire country. But I have never forgotten the lesson of the little stones (p. 28).

Today’s passage is part of Joshua’s closing address to the people of God in which he concludes that the gods of the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites – all completely defeated – offer no credible alternative to serving Yahweh. Joshua compels the people to “revere…and serve” the Lord God “in sincerity and faithfulness,” worshiping him alone. And the memory of what God has done for them in the past is an important reason to be faithful to God in the present as well as in the future.

However, God does not twist anybody’s arm to serve him. We are called to make a conscious choice to serve God, and God alone. Oswald Chambers writes, “Your choice must be a deliberate determination – it is not something into which you will automatically drift. And everything else in your life will be held in temporary suspension until you make a decision” (My Utmost for His Highest: An Updated Edition in Today’s Language, July 8).

Prayer:  Lord, we have made our choice to follow You. In all we do, may we be found faithful and please You.


Dr. Tracy Jessup serves as vice president for Christian Life and Service and senior minister to the University. He is a graduate of Gardner-Webb with a B.A. in Music and earned his M. Div. degree at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He also teaches in the undergraduate department of religious studies and enjoys the opportunity to serve the local church through interim pastorates, pulpit supply, and preaching revival services. he and his wife, Teresa, have two children, Christian and Anna.

Read more Good Christian News from Dr. Jessup HERE.