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Boldly Claiming the Promises of God
There they were - the Israelites, right on the cusp of entering the promised land (Deuteronomy 1). They had seen God’s plagues on Egypt and miracles such as the parting of the Red Sea. Now the promised land was before them, ready for the taking. God told His people through Moses it was time to be courageous, and go and claim His promises of a good land flowing with milk and honey.
Instead of being excited at the prospect of taking the land, most of the spies saw obstacles and focused on them. They looked at the giant people and fortified cities like Jericho. The Israelites became discouraged and fearful. They complained that God hated them and was sending them to the promised land to be destroyed. A couple of spies took a different tack. They pointed out that God was with the Israelites and would help them take the land. They were visionaries.
The complainers were stuck. They refused to go and claim the land. They were consumed by fear and did not believe that God was with them. God was so angry at their lack of faith that He condemned the Israelites to wander in the wilderness until the rebellious generation had died out. Then, after forty years, The Israelites were finally ready to enter the promised land (book of Joshua).
Looking for the promised land
Many times our lives are like this. We stand on the edge of the promised land. We want what God has in store for us, knowing that it is good for us, but we hesitate. Sometimes, we need to step out into the unknown to claim the promises.
When the Israelites came to the Jordan River, it was flooded (Joshua 3). God gave them specific instructions on how they should cross the river. The priests would carry the ark of the covenant first, and then the Israelites were going and standing in the river. When their feed touched the water, the waters from upstream stopped flowing and accumulated a great distance away. With that barrier removed, they could cross and claim the land for themselves.
Sometimes we long for our own promised land. We may have prayed for something for years such a better job, marriage, or a leadership position at church. We need to face our own Jordan River and take the plunge before we can reach the things God has promised to us on the other side. When opportunities come our way, we may react in one of two ways. We can be stationary or visionary.
When we are stationary and stuck, we hold back and make excuses not to reach for the thing that God has prepared for us. The term stationary is deceptive in a sense, because it means standing still. In some ways we are, but our path in life usually means going forward or going backward. As we retreat, our anxieties and fears can grow to epic proportions.
As opportunities and choices come our way such as applying for a job that we want, we do not step out and grab them. We do not see the potential blessings that God has waiting for us. Instead, we focus on what we think we cannot do.
Reasons we stay stuck
Negative thinking: When the Israelites heard about the giants and strong cities (one of which was Jericho) in the promised land, they immediately focused on the negative. They looked at the challenges as being insurmountable. They thought that they had to conquer the land on their own strength and were not equal to the task. They thought God had led them there to die, not to claim His promises.
Negative thinkers bring other people down. They infect other people with their negative attitudes and discourage others from pursuing their dreams. They put a wet blanket on other people’s hopes and aspirations.
Denial and blame: Some people blame others for feeling stuck and not moving forward. They do not accept that the state of their lives is probably due to their own choices. They also blame God for not getting what they want.
Powerless: People feel powerless to make changes in their lives because they are relying on their own strength to get things done. They do not believe in their own abilities to move forward. They do not depend on God.
Fear and anxiety: Sometimes God calls us to cross our own personal Jordan River and go forth into the unknown. We may be held back from stepping out into his promises by a fear of failure, rejection, or humiliation. Fear may paralyze us. God watches in frustration as He opens doors and we refuse to walk through them.
Fear is a terrible thing that can grow into a monster. It can become all-consuming and contaminate other parts of our lives. We feel paralyzed when challenges come.
Reliance on God: So what about those tall giants and walled cities? Visionary people are not intimidated by these types of challenges because they rely on God to help them fight their battles. They recognize that they do not have the power in themselves to get things done.
They meet life's challenges head on, depending on God and praying for the strength and courage to go on (Phillipians 4:6). God has promised that He will give us the things we seek and will open doors to us (Matthew 7:7-8) but we must ask for them (John 16:24). We should do things on God's strength (1Peter 4:11) and not try to do things on our own strength.
Are committed to following God's will for their lives: When God calls the visionary to do something, they step out in faith. It does not matter how impossible the situation seems.
Sometimes God’s will does not make sense. For example, God told the Israelites to march around Jericho once every six days with all the armed men (Joshua 6). Seven priests carried trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, they were supposed to march around the city seven times while the priests blew their trumpets. A long blast on the trumpets was heard, and the army gave a loud shout. Only then could the city's walls collapse and the army could enter. We need to be willing to do whatever it takes to our promised land, no matter how strange it seems or impossible it seems to us.
Are courageous: One of the most repeated phrases in the book of Joshua, Moses’ successor, is to “be strong and of good courage.” We need to step out in faith and not allow our fears to control us or hold us back.
Encourage others by their example: When we claim the promises of God, other people are encouraged to do the same. They will want the same blessings in their own lives.
God has plans for us, just as he did for the Israelites. These plans are for our good, not to harm us, and are meant to give us hope and future (Jeremiah 29:11). Jesus said that we will receive God’s promises if we ask for them in prayer (Matthew 21:22). We should not be rebellious and fearful as the Israelites were at first. We cam boldly step into and cross our personal river Jordan into the promised land.