Switching gears here a bit, it’s time to look at how we move forward in faith and trust in the Lord into 2021. We’ve spent sometime looking back (Looking Back To Move Forward) and we’ve also broken down a verse (James 1:12) to help us understand what’s at stake in this journey (No Time For Autopilot). This week’s blog is somewhat of a throwback but it incorporates an idea that will still beset us if we don’t get it right: if we do not step forward in faith, we will forfeit the promise God has for us this year.
A passage God has used to speak to me in recent years is Numbers 13: the spies being sent into the Promised Land. If you recall the story, you remember that this was the point in which Moses selected leaders from each of the 12 tribes to scout out the land of Canaan; the land God said He would give to the Israelites. Each of these leaders were men we assume Moses selected because of their maturity and depth of faith and devotion to God. These men were the best of the best and chosen because they were dependable, reliable, and would do the job well.
If we read all of Numbers 13 and into 14, we realize a majority of these men were not so reliable and not so confident in the Lord’s power to deliver. In fact, of the 12 spies, 10 had a bad report about the land and deemed it too big and too difficult to conquer:
But the men who had gone up…responded, “We can’t go up against the people because they are stronger than we are!” So they gave a negative report to the Israelites about the land they had scouted: “The land we passed through to explore is one that devours its inhabitants, and all the people we saw in it are men of great size.” Numbers 13:31,32
Only 2 spies, Joshua and Caleb, reported positively about the land. They admitted it had some giants to conquer but God would surely be with them:
Then Caleb quieted the people in the presence of Moses and said, “We must go up and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!” Numbers 31:30
In chapter 14, Joshua encouraged the assembly to rise up and take the land:
“The land we passed through and explored is an extremely good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, He will bring us into this land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and give it to us. Only don’t rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land, for we will devour them. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us. Don’t be afraid of them!” Numbers 14:7-9
So what went wrong with the spies? Why did they refuse to believe God could take them into the Promised Land? They had seen so many of His provisions: the 10 plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, God’s distribution of manna, a cloud guiding by day and a pillar of fire by night…and on and on. Why did they doubt that He would bring them through these battles? I believe it was because the land involved a stretching of their faith that they were unwilling to go through. It was a step too far, too unknown, and too risky and the majority of people weren’t comfortable with it.
Let’s be honest, the majority of us as Christians aren’t comfortable stepping out either. Sure the idea of being in the Promised Land sounds great. But the journey and the road it takes to get there does not. This is not a path for the faint of heart; following and pursuing Christ must stretch us at times to a point where God has to show up if we are to succeed. If there are some lessons and principles we can gather from this passage, I believe it is the following:
1. Taking the land will always stretch our comfort level
Make no mistake, stepping out in faith is a place we don’t naturally go. We make plans for safety and security. But the more I study Scripture, the more I realize God is with those who go out and boldly proclaim His Name…safe or unsafe. Stepping into the land comes first after a realization of what God’s call is. He burdens your heart for what He is planning for you to do (we talked about this in the first week of this series). After embracing and starting to actualize that call in your head, the next step is to simply obey and go forward. It will stretch you and the thing God is calling you to do today might look bigger and riskier than what He called you to do yesterday, or last month, or last year. But I think God gives us more as He deems us able to handle it. A deepening of our faith should always stretch us in some way or another.
2. There is no room for fear to coexist with faith
“You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Those were the words of Jesus to Peter when Jesus rescues Peter from drowning after Peter attempts to walk on water (Matthew 14). Jesus addresses the very thing that held Peter back. It’s the same thing that held back 10 of the 12 spies. It’s what holds us back as well: fear, doubt, and anxiety. These are the things that can’t exist within a believer if he or she is truly desiring to follow after Christ. What it comes down to is really a mark of the Holy Spirit deepening the faith of a man or woman and then causing that faith to move towards trust. That trust is built upon love; perfect love. Which by the way, casts out fear. There is no room for fear when you trust in Perfect Love. As you grow in love for the Lord, fear starts to melt and you realize He really can move mountains and conquer giants. At that point, it’s time to take the land!
3. Disobedience can bring God’s judgement
This point is probably the hardest to swallow but has been impressed upon my heart so clearly. It was Israel’s disobedience to the Lord that led to 40 years of wandering in the desert. There was a direct correlation between their decision not to follow and God’s judgment which kept them from inheriting the land. I’ve come to the realization that sometimes the most natural thing we choose…to stay safe, to be secure…is not the path God ultimately wants us to take. And by choosing the opposite route (i.e. pulling a Jonah and not going to Ninevah), we incur some sort of punishment or at least a “wake up call” that is meant to realign us again to God’s will. I’m not sure how that looks for you and I don’t want to project any sort of belief here that an apparent circumstance you are going through is the direct result of disobedience. But I do see this pattern in Scripture and I do believe we can bring about certain results by not doing the very thing God wants us to do (If you have questions about this specific point, I’d love to talk further.)
In closing today’s entry, I will mention this once again: what I write and share are many of the thoughts and feelings already going on within me. I wrestled a lot in 2020 with the idea of taking the land…God has shown me some things and has burdened my heart for certain opportunities. But I know they are so big and appear as giants. How can they be conquered? How can I not feel like the 10 spies who dug in their heels and said “nope, not gonna do it"? If you are resonating with this topic, how can we pray for each other? This is a year in which we must step out; our avoidance of this call will be to the detriment of ourselves and those around us. I would love to start the process of accountability with you to say, let’s not let fear and lies hold us back from stepping into our God-ordained promise. The land is there and I believe if God has called us to it, it’s ours for the taking. Let’s go!
Sign up to get these blogs delivered to your email inbox! Visit http://derekcharlesjohnson.com/as-bold-as-lions
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17