Browsing Tag

wilderness

Faith

What if You’re Already in the Promised Land?

October 16, 2014

“We’ve gotten the promised land and the wilderness confused,” he said over another one of our coffee talks. It may have been the same morning as this talk, but it was likely a different one. They all blur together into a story of deeper truth that unfolds at the table with family.

“When we find ourselves working hard for something, having to provide our own sustenance and work our own land – that’s the promised destination. The wilderness had supernatural provision, but the promised land brought hard work.”

And there’s the truth.

There is something easily overlooked in the middle of our wilderness seasons. We scan our circumstances and cry out loudly about the barrenness, the lack of direction or clarity of path, and the slow-moving pace. But we easily forget the provision.

“For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.” [Neh 9:21]

For forty years, as they wandered and journeyed, God alone upheld them. Pure and simple.

But the people grumbled in unbelief and wished they could turn back, all the while forgetting the presence of a God who sustained them even in the driest and most barren of seasons. The testimony of God was in this season. The provision of God was in this season. The grace of God was in this season.

It takes no faith to look around at our circumstances and see what is missing and all we wish could be. And it takes no character to grumble to those around so the message spreads of the painful process of the wilderness season.

As barren and dry as your land may be, God has not abandoned you to a life in the desert. He is actively providing for you. For the wilderness is where you and I receive supernatural sustenance for the day at hand. No more, no less. Just enough to move through today.

10446164546_d2abf43fd7_zPhoto Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture

And when we finally break camp, advance, and cross over, it is time to head up the hill. To take possession of the land and eat the fruit of the soil, not the quail and manna from above. What is supernaturally provided in the wilderness becomes what we work for in the promised land.

To receive what is being given to us isn’t some passive sit-down-and-wait posture, but a wholly active one. It means we dig our hands deep into the dirt of the ground, get bruises on our arms and sweat on our brow, and work to receive what is promised.

Because God gives to us by grace what we are to work for in that grace. For the promise is both the gift and the burden.

What is offered to us as we step into new land, just as to the Israelites, is the potential of the promise, the possibility of what the land could be. But they, like us, were responsible to steward and work for it. To overcome the enemies’ holds, labor for the provision, and be faithful in it.

This is where we get to partner with God, equally receiving both the potential and the responsibility of what he promises to us.

If you find yourself digging hard today, plowing and toiling while wondering when in the world you will move into that promised place of your dreams, reconsider where your feet are planted. If you have tired muscles and dirt under your nails, it’s likely you’re standing on a ground of potential with a God who calls you to steward, sow, take responsibility, and actively receive the promised land below your feet.

Faith

Time to Break Camp and Advance

October 9, 2014

It seems that the fulfillment of God’s promises in our lives typically comes by traversing an off-road path that keeps us dependent on him. The journey isn’t the nicely paved road, but the trek filled with mountains, sharp edges, and unexpected turns.

We easily can relate to the disciples who were told to get in the boat and head to the other side. They saw a destination ahead of them, not the storm that would be their teacher long before their feet were back on ground. [Matt 8] Or there are the Israelites, whose 11 day journey in the wilderness to the promise land stretched out over 38 years and 8 months.

Promised destinations never arrive quickly. Though they sure come suddenly.

When the Israelites first headed into the wilderness, they were full of trust in the God who parted waters before their eyes. He performed miracles, provided supernaturally, and promised a land to them. They started out eager to arrive, conquer the land, and dwell within their home.

Most of our journeys are the same. At first, with the promise before us, our hearts are full of trust. We remember who God is and how supernaturally he works, and we’re expectant to see it. We’re excited to get to that promised destination and plant ourselves in what he has destined for us.

But, just like the Israelites, it’s easy to forget.

The time came along their journey where they were given the chance to explore what was up ahead. “Go check it out,” said God. “This is what I set aside for you.” [Num 13]

3423151541_2019bd4336_z[Photo credit: Lars Plougmann]

But instead of coming back with fiery eyes of passion and hearts full of gratitude, they came back wearing a heavy coat of intimidation. They forgot how God could work through them, making it all look too big, impossible, and overwhelming.

In fact, they came back holding onto words never actually spoken to them. It wasn’t the enemy who said they were the size of grasshoppers. They allowed the circumstances to fill their unbelief with words and pictures to validate those internal fears.

They became intimidated by what they saw, minimizing their identities by their own perceptions. And all of a sudden, what was promised became terrifying with giants too large and them too little. They peered over into what was ahead and said, “It’s too big.”

The Israelites refused to believe God’s ability to work in them and became totally lost, desiring to head back from where they came rather than move forward into what was promised.

I wonder if a transition happened along their 38-year journey of waiting in the wilderness as their hearts started to doubt what was possible with God. I wonder if, as dry and barren as the wilderness was, it became comfortable to them. Safe. Familiar. Without intimidating giants to keep them feeling unqualified, small, or exposed.

I wonder if their season of hiddenness, marked by God for a purpose, became a season of hiding by way of their own fear.  

As fired up as they were when they first left Egypt for this destination, along the way they became willing to forgo it for the slavery of the past, or the wilderness hiding of the present. Comfort and safety in hiding outweighed the responsibility of stewardship and leadership over what was being offered.

But then, all these years later, as God’s people stood at the same place where the law was first given and God was encountered, he spoke these words: “You have stayed at this mountain LONG ENOUGH. Break camp and advance.” [Deut 1]

It was time. No more hiding or wandering. God charged them to turn, take hold of their journey, and head up that dang hill to occupy what was theirs.

As much as we wrestle and battle through our own wilderness experiences, we can hide in them past our season. The Israelites found themselves in the desert because they were enslaved and needed freedom. We similarly find ourselves in the dry land because of God moving us out of where we were to bring us into something new. Yet, if we’re not careful to remember the God who works through us even when our circumstances are barren around us, we may find ourselves hiding in a wilderness of fears and doubts that says we’re too ill-equipped for what’s up that hill.

But then an unassuming Thursday comes along and we are standing in the middle of a wilderness journey long past when we were sure we would be on the other side. We wake up to how we’ve been hiding in our fears, that it’s time to get moving again. Yet, in the same breath, we remember how we don’t feel like it and decide tomorrow will be better.

Just as we go to sit down and wait out another day, God’s arrow of grace comes shooting at us with the words, “You have stayed at this mountain LONG ENOUGH. Break camp and advance.”

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