A pile of blank notebooks wait in a corner of my closet. There are folders, #2 pencils, index cards, unopened crayons, and stacks of wide-ruled paper. Two backpacks and two lunch-boxes are propped against the wall, prepared to be filled.
Yes, we are in the midst of preparations for the first day of a new school year. There are new shoes to be bought and juice boxes to stock-pile. The hair-cuts have already been done, but a back-to-school wardrobe trip to the store is in the imminent future. Who knew boys could grow so much over one summer?
Back-to-school and so autumn must be near, bringing a welcome cool-down (soon, I hope!) and changes all around us. Leaves will burst into shades of orange and yellow, pumpkins will appear on porches, and the scents that mean fall to me (pumpkin-spice, apple pie, warm vanilla) will fill my house, courtesy of all my favorite candles…even though I am sad to see summer come to an end, I find myself looking forward to what will come next.
We talked about the changing of seasons during the kids’ class at church last night. The discussion began with Jesus’ first miracle at Cana of Galilee, when He changed the water into wine (for more on that, take a peek back at The Art of Transformation). We talked about how Jesus has the power to change the situations in our lives…and, most importantly, how He can change our hearts. When I asked the kids to think of changes God makes in our world or in people, Sean brought up the seasons. Winter, spring, summer, fall…seasons orchestrated for the good of His creation…changed by His hand in His perfect time.
This has stayed with me all day. Because, as I shared in early July, I have been in a season of waiting…of learning and preparation. But, lately, I have felt God leading me into a new season–one of action. And, even as I feel excited about the new tasks at hand, I can feel doubts tugging at me. I believe that God can and will do great things for His purpose…so why do I feel afraid to say that I expect to see these things happen in my own corner of this world? Why do I hesitate now that it’s time to take the next step in sharing the hope I’ve been given?
The Israelites come to my mind. In the book of Numbers,chapter 13, the Lord told Moses to send men into Canaan, the land He had promised would be theirs. The men were to explore the land, to see what the soil was like and to check out the fruit. They were to search out the people, to find out if they were strong or weak. They were asked to come back and give report, so that the Israelites could prepare to take the land for their own home, a home given by God.
So the group came back and this is what they had to say: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there!” (Numbers 13:27-28) (Anak was a descendent of the Nephilim, so those folks were giant-sized. And scary.)
So the report was given. And what did they do with this knowledge of their territory?
There were two responses.
Most of the men said this: “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are. The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size…we seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them!” And the people of Israel wept aloud. They cried and repeated their favorite go-to complaint—“If only we had died in Egypt!” They went on to add “Or in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword?…Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” (Num.14:1-3)
The second response was much different. These were the words of Caleb and Joshua: “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it…The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, He will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them!” (Num., Chap. 14)
Do you long, like I do, to have a heart like Caleb and Joshua!? A heart of trust—a heart to obey God, no matter the risk, because we know that He is the great I AM!
But aren’t we sometimes more like the Israelites, afraid to live in the victory that He has already won for us? Do we doubt that God will prove Himself faithful and able? Do we begin to fear when we attempt to control the next step instead of trusting that God will take care of it all, putting our focus on ourselves instead of on Him?
I take a closer look at my own hesitations and think of the Israelites crying out, ‘If only we had died in Egypt!’ For me, that’s the voice of the enemy saying, ‘things are only going to just go back to the way they were. This is just a cycle. You haven’t really changed. Things aren’t really moving forward. Things aren’t going to be different. ‘ In other words, don’t you know you’re not strong enough to make a difference in this world? So why not retreat? Come back into captivity, where you are miserable, but at least you know what to expect.
If those thoughts sound familiar to you, please know that these doubts are tools of our enemy!
Because satan does not want us to take action. He does not want us to walk in the change that Jesus brings to our hearts — he wants us to forget that the old man has passed away and all things have been made new! He does not want us to trust that God is going to protect and guide us as we step into new territory. He doesn’t want us to remember that it’s not about us or our capabilities, but about our God who provides everything we need to fulfill His purpose and joy along the way! Satan wants us bound by fear, talking but never doing, rendered ineffective because we are too hesitant to live by faith.
He wants to keep us from living by faith because he knows the results when we do.
You see, the day came when Joshua and Caleb had to put their faith into motion. Those two, they weren’t super-human. They were people, just like you and me, who chose to trust and to act in faith. So they obeyed the voice of the Lord and picked up their feet — they couldn’t just strategize and make plans forever. They had to actually move across the river into Canaan in order to fulfill the plan God had for their lives. Joshua knew the might of His God and told the new generation of Israelites: “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you!” (Joshua 3:5). Joshua was not afraid to claim their victory in this land filled with warriors, because he was not boasting of his own power, but in the power of God!
And do you remember what happened?
The Jordan River was parted. The walls of Jericho tumbled down. Idols were destroyed. Enemies were defeated. The sun stood still in the sky so that Joshua’s army could obtain their victory! God’s people, restored and blessed by His hand, lifted their voices in worship and freedom. Joshua 21: 45 tell us that “Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”
The thing is, we’re all called to action–we are all called to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and to help those in need. And so not one of us is exempt. We will have seasons of preparation and then the day will come in which we must move ahead in our purpose…and there will be enemies in our path. Yes–we will survey the land and see giants and a world that devours. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual force of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6: 12)
But remember the words of Joshua–“Do not be afraid of the people on the land, because we will swallow them up…the Lord is with us! Do not be afraid of them!” We are not slaves to fear! (Romans 8:15) We have been set free by the power of Jesus Christ, and we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us! (Romans 8:37) Can we cast aside the anxiety of failure, knowing that this isn’t about our personal stake in the land, but about the eternal picture that only God can see? Can we remember that He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus…and can we really grasp that all of these things, they work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose? (Phil. 1:6 & Romans 8:28)
Because if we can walk in faith and the victory of our God, then we will know that every single promise in His Word is fulfilled, in His perfect time. We will see the ‘amazing things’ that the Lord will do among us!
Our paths will be made straight and clear before us…walls built up around hearts and between people will tumble! The ‘idols’ of our lives will be destroyed and our enemies defeated. Addictions will be broken, fear cast out, and the good news of salvation spoken into this world! Aren’t we still God’s people, restored and blessed by His hand? Isn’t it time to lift our voices in worship and freedom?
Whatever your season, whatever your task may be–know that when we submit our lives to the Lord, for His glory, He will be with us. Step into that new territory in faith and living by His Word– “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Friends…let’s surrender all of our fears and move forward in faith. Like David, we can say to the Lord, “When I called, you answered me; You made me bold and stout-hearted!…the Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your love, O Lord, endures forever!” (from Psalm 138)
We will see that God is true to His promises–every one will be fulfilled!