Episode 1. Courage in the Promises
Sometimes God’s promises can be a bit confusing. Do you just sit back, believe and wait for Him to deliver? Or do you have some part to play – in taking hold of those promises? Discerning that, how much God wants you to do and how much He wants you to leave to Him, isn’t […]
Sometimes God’s promises can be a bit confusing. Do you just sit back, believe and wait for Him to deliver? Or do you have some part to play – in taking hold of those promises? Discerning that, how much God wants you to do and how much He wants you to leave to Him, isn’t always easy is it?
We’ve been talking the last couple of weeks about taking hold of God’s wonderful and outrageous promises in our lives. Not easy sometimes and it seems that we can face uphill battle after uphill battle and we’re left wondering, “is this really what God’s promises are all about?”
But my hunch is when God makes promises He means us to believe them and press through those battles like we believe them. A bit like Joshua when he was about to lead Israel into the Promised Land after centuries of slavery in Egypt and forty years wandering through the desert on the exodus, standing on the banks of the Jordan ready to cross over into that Promised Land.
As we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks God told Joshua that there’d be a lot of battles but He also reminded him that this was the Promised Land. Then, then Joshua did something that’s bothered me for a long time, he sent some spies across the river to check it out and there in lies my dilemma.
You see here’s the dilemma for me, on the one hand we’re supposed to trust in God, without faith it’s impossible to please God. And look at what God said to Joshua about the battles that they were going to face when they headed into the Promised Land. He said:
No-one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I’ll be with you. I will never leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous because you will lead these people to inherit the land that I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and courageous, don’t be terrified, don’t be discouraged because the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
Now you get a promise like that from God and that’s serious stuff. God is calling you into a difficult place but encouraging you with His promise and Joshua had a decision to make. To step over the Jordan, to head down the path, to encounter the battles, trust God, battle his way through, keep going or turn away and not cross over into the Promised Land.
But here’s what Joshua did, you see he hears the promises of God but before he headed off he sent some spies across the river into the Promised Land to check it all out. The first city they came to was Jericho, it tells us in Joshua chapter 2:
Then Joshua secretly sent two spies telling them, ‘Go look over the land especially Jericho.’ So they went and they entered the house of a prostitute called Rahab and they stayed there.
Now come on, is that really trusting God? God comes along and promises you the land, He promises you He’s going to be with you, He promises you that He’s already given you the land and no-one will be able to stand against you and then it’s almost like Joshua doesn’t trust Him. He sends out spies and wait for this, they go and shack up with a prostitute.
Now the rest of the story is they check out the land, the King finds out that they’re there and comes to try and kill them and Rahab, this prostitute helps them flee and they promised to keep her safe when they come and attack Jericho.
When they came back to Joshua on the other side of the Jordan they reported this, they said:
The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands. All the people are melting in fear because of us.
You see this bothered me for a long time, why did Joshua do that? Why, why didn’t he just trust God and go and do it? And why didn’t God get upset with Joshua for sending spies and checking it out for himself? They’re all good questions.
The answer came to me one day. I was reading a story in the New Testament something that happened centuries later. The Apostle Peter is in jail, he’s being persecuted and an angel comes and springs him out of jail. The angel woke him up in the middle of the night and said this:
‘Get up quickly’ and the chains fell off Peter and the angel said to him, ‘Fasten your belt, put on you sandals’ and Peter did. ‘Wrap you cloak around you and follow me.’ Peter did. And the gates swung open and Peter got out.
You can read about it in Acts chapter 12 beginning at verse 6. See, the angel didn’t dress Peter because he could do that for himself. The angel did the miracles that Peter couldn’t do, the angel got rid of the chains, the angel flung the gates open.
For me I’m a doer, I plan, I execute, I achieve, I’ve been like that all my life. I go and get it, classic type A personality and the struggle for me is that God comes along and promises me all these things that my whole life had eluded me.
Relationships, peace and joy and a quiet calm delight, this Promised Land in my heart, this Kingdom of God in my heart. And I had a choice. Either I try to do this in my own strength, well that would never work, or I let God have the drivers seat, I let Him be in control and I follow after Him in faith and obviously its the latter, obviously that’s the right thing to do but you know something, we can become spiritual couch potatoes doing that. God calls us to do our bit too.
Joshua received promises from God, this Promised Land, “I’m going to give it to you. No-one will stand against you; don’t be afraid I’m with you.” So Joshua receives those promises from God and then he sent spies ahead, why? Because any good military operation always does forward reconnaissance to see what’s out there to plan ahead.
It’s an important principle here. Joshua received the promises of God, he had to cross into the Promised Land and to do the things he could and should do, to plan, to look ahead, to organise the people and the armies to get them through and rely on the miracles of God that only God could do.
Imagine moving a million or so people into this land, moving huge armies, what a massive logistical operation. God just didn’t wave a wand. Joshua and his leaders had to plan and execute that and so Joshua sends a spy, he spies out the land, they come back with the right report, he crosses over into the Promised Land and then you can read the story for yourself.
Jericho was a fortified city, it was almost impregnable and instead of attacking it they listened to God. God told Joshua ‘just march around it for 7 days in a row blowing your horns and the walls will fall down.’ You know something, the walls did fall down, God did the thing that Joshua and his people couldn’t do.
You see the problem with us is we receive the promises of God and then we expect it all to go smoothly and miraculously, never thinking ahead, never doing a forward reconnaissance to look at what’s likely to happen.
There are going to be obstacles, there are going to be battles. You know as we follow after the promises of God the enemy and the world are going to come against us and we need to get our minds around those things, we need to know what to expect, we need to use the brains God has given us and then rely on the miracles that He has to do along the way to get us in the Promised Land.
Now for me, every day, that takes wisdom, that’s why I pray each morning, that’s why I spend time every morning with God because I’m prone to do a whole bunch of things in my own strength and sometimes I get tired and dejected and I expect God to do it all. They are two ends of the spectrum but somewhere in the middle, somewhere in God’s wisdom, somewhere in God’s blessing is the right answer.
God expects us to do the things that we can do and then as we put our faith in Him, God shows up with the miracles to do the things we couldn’t possibly do.