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If your Community Group is unable to use online video for discussions, a small number of DVDs are available at your c|Life campus Welcome Desk.
If your Community Group is unable to use online video for discussions, a small number of DVDs are available at your c|Life campus Welcome Desk.
He walked, the dust of the Jericho ground swirling up in little puffs around his feet. In silence, he walked. For hours, he walked, his fellow Israelites mutely trudging along with him. The trumpets blasted continually, the sound cutting through the stillness. The whole city watched with bated breath as the people marched in circles around it. For a moment, fear stole Joshua’s breath too, and he fought to remain calm as he walked and walked.
He walked, feet dragging up the mountain in Moriah. Every step increased his dread. In silence, he walked. For hours, he walked, his only son next to him. His son, whom he loved. His son, who had been the fulfillment of an audacious promise. Abraham’s nostrils filled with the sharp smells of freshly cut wood and fire. Isaac broke the silence with a question: “My father, I see the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham heard himself reply, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them continued up the mountain together. Abraham’s heart pounded as he walked and walked.
He walked, barely able to place one foot in front of the other. Behind him, the dirty path was speckled with droplets of blood. In silence, he walked. For what felt like hours, he walked with a stranger named Simon beside him, struggling under the weight of a heavy wooden cross. His nostrils filled with the crisp smell of freshly cut wood. Ahead of him lay Golgotha, the Skull Place. Behind him lay a lifetime of love and fulfillment of audacious promises. Behind him also lay a nightmare of betrayal, ridicule, and unbearable pain lasting hours upon hours. He struggled to keep breathing in and out, in and out. The whole city of Jerusalem watched as Jesus walked and walked.
He stopped, and the entire Israelite army stopped with him. Joshua knew they had circled back to the place where they had begun at dawn. They had reached the culmination; now was the time to follow through on the purpose that God had called them to. Joshua heard himself directing the people, “Shout, for the LORD has given you the city. And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction.” All around him, his family and friends and neighbors raised their voices, crying out with all their might to bring about the audacious promise God had made to them.
He stopped, and Isaac stopped with him. Abraham knew he had reached the place on the mountain where God had shown him. He had reached the culmination of this horrific journey; now was the time to follow through on the task that God had called him to. His throat tightening, tears stinging his eyes, he took the wood from Isaac and built an altar. Branch by branch, he constructed a death trap for his son. He felt a wave of determination wash over him, steeling him for the job ahead. He bound Isaac, his only beloved son, and laid him on the altar. With an ache so deep it split him in two, he raised his hand above his head, the knife glinting in the sunlight.
He stopped, and what seemed like the whole of Jerusalem stopped with him. He had reached his life’s culmination; now was the time to follow through on the purpose that his Father had given him. Jesus remembered his own words, prophesying this very moment: “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” His breath whooshed out of him with each strike of the hammer, the nails plunging through flesh and muscle and bone with agonizing blows. They raised him up, and the jeers of the crowd mixed with the weeping of his mother in a confusing cacophony. He struggled to catch each breath in the eerily growing darkness. With one last ragged inhale, he called out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” He breathed no more.
And Joshua heard a deafening crash as the city walls of Jericho fell down flat.
And Abraham heard a crashing in the thicket where a ram was caught by its horns as a voice called to him from heaven, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
And with a deafening noise, the earth shook and the rocks split themselves. The curtain of the temple was ripped in half; the barrier separating sinful humanity from holy God was forever destroyed by the love of an obedient Savior. A Savior who walked with determination toward the purpose for which he had been called. A Father who did not withhold his son, his only son, from us.
Today, we walk. We, who love this Savior and call him our own, we walk. We put one foot in front of the other because we have been called by God to a purpose greater than ourselves. We follow in the footsteps of heroes in the faith who have taught us through trial and through victory how to persevere. We tread in the footsteps of Jesus, who demonstrated his great love for us by laying down his very life. We walk.
In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell tackled the commonly held stereotype that students from Asian countries are better at math. Gladwell explains that they aren’t inherently better at math, but that cultures that have a tradition in the tedious and laborious work of wet-rice agriculture produce students with the fortitude to sit still long enough to find solutions to time-consuming and complex math problems. Translation: Asian students aren’t better at math. They just keep working at it when others would quit.
Sometimes, we look at other people’s lives, and we want what they have. We want the marriage they have. We want the business they have. We want the talent they have. And we think that either God just blessed them more than he blessed us, or they got lucky. But what is probably more true is that it didn’t come any easier for them than it would come for you. They just kept working on it when you never started, or when you quit somewhere along the way.
In Joshua 6, we see the incredible story of the battle of Jericho. God told Joshua the plan, “March around the city one time for six days, and on the seventh day, march around it seven times, and after the seventh lap, the walls will fall down and you will take the city.” God told Joshua, but Joshua didn’t tell his men. The instruction to the men was, “March. And keep marching until we take the city.” It was God’s plan all along to give them the city, but not until the seventh lap on the seventh day.
Maybe God has a plan for you too, but you’re just on lap one of day two, lap one of day five, or even day seven, lap six. Just because you haven’t seen it come to pass doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. You just haven’t taken enough laps yet.
And that person over there that you’re comparing your life to? You want the marriage they have, the income they have, the title they have, the joy they have, the peace they have, but you haven’t walked the laps they’ve walked. You walk your laps, trusting that God has a good plan for your life, and watch what he will do. Each lap you walk, you’re one lap closer to where God is taking you. So take another lap!
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
— 1 Corinthians 9:24- 27
1) Your goals are lazy.
I’m going to be honest. Lots of people fail because they don’t want the things they say they want. We tend to look at other people’s goals and think,”That sounds good, I’ll do that.” Change for the sake of change isn’t vision. It’s lazy.
Do the hard work of finding out where you need to make changes in your life. Don’t make stuff up because it seems like a good idea or because it worked somewhere else. If the only vision you have for your life is to be like someone else, you are destined to fail, or at least never know what pure joy can be like.
2) Your focus is all wrong.
When you dream about what your life looks like at its best, don’t let your vision be about your weight, your money or surface stuff. Think of those things as tools to accomplish the vision. As Christians, we should never focus on things that are fleeting and meaningless, because those things cant satisfy us, emotionally or spiritually.
Your prize is things that are lasting, things that are worth having. Think about why you want to be healthier, make more money or have a bigger home. Stuff for the sake of stuff is pointless in the big scheme of things, and not very motivating. However, being healthier so you can play with your kids, go on that mission trip or love your spouse better, those things can be very motivating. Get emotional about those things, get spiritual about those things. If you want to make a change, you have to feel as strongly about the change as you do about not changing.
3) You give up too soon.
You mess up, and you quit. Don’t do that anymore. You allow the reasons to quit to be bigger than your goal. You let your body call the shots. Its goal is self-preservation, but your goal is so much more! Who cares what your body wants? It’s your slave, given to you by God to accomplish his will in the world.
Make your body your slave. Use it to accomplish the things you care about. Don’t worry about wearing it out. I hear we are all going to get new ones anyway! Don’t give up in the middle. Take back control, and stop existing on default.
Last Sunday, I went to the 11:30 service at c|Life’s Forney campus and heard an amazing sermon about not giving up, even though you have yet to see results. The sermon came from the story of the Israelites and their conquest of Jericho.
Now the gates of Jericho were tightly shut because the people were afraid of the Israelites. No one was allowed to go out or in. But the LORD said to Joshua, “I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.”
― Joshua 6:1–5 NLT
God promised the Israelites victory over the city of Jericho. Victory was as certain as if it had already taken place. When God promises you something, you can go ahead and start thanking him for it, because he has already given it to you, even though you have not experienced it yet.
God not only promised the Israelites victory, but he also told them exactly how this victory would take place. They did not have to try to figure out how to achieve it. They just needed to do what God told them to do. They just needed to walk in obedience, literally. God told them to walk around Jericho once a day for six days and seven times on the seventh day. Then, when they heard the priests give one long blast with the horn, they were all to shout as loudly as they could, and the walls would collapse so they could charge straight into the town and conquer it. When God promises you something and then tells you exactly what you need to do to receive it, all you have to do is walk in obedience and you will receive what he promised you.
When God promises us a victory and tells us to start walking, we should thank him for the victory and happily walk until the victory is realized. There is absolutely no reason for us to complain or get discouraged, because the God of the universe promised us victory and he will surely make good on his promise.
So why do we complain and get discouraged?
Pastor David Griffin pointed it out clearly Sunday when he said that, even though God told the Israelites the number of laps they would need to walk around Jericho before they would receive their victory, God does not always tell us how many laps we will need to walk. God does not always tell us how long we will need to fight an addiction and beg for deliverance before he will free us from its bondage once and for all. God does not always tell us how many years we will need to pray and how many tears we will shed before our loved one finally trusts in Christ and is raised from death to life. God does not always tell us how long we will need to pray for our spouse and love them unconditionally while receiving nothing in return before he will finally restore our marriage. And as a result of not knowing how long until the victory, we will usually get to a point where we stop thanking him for the victory to come and start complaining and getting discouraged.
Joshua knew our tendency to get discouraged and start complaining. He knew our tendency to give up on God, stop walking in obedience, and start trying to do things our own way, and that’s why he told the Israelites the following:
“Do not shout; do not even talk,” Joshua commanded. “Not a single word from any of you until I tell you to shout. Then shout!”
― Joshua 6:10 NLT
Pastor Griffin summarized this command so well with the phrase, “Shut up and keep walking!”
That is possibly some of the best advice I have ever received. It addresses two of my worst tendencies. It addresses my tendency to quit walking in obedience and give up because of discouragement. And it addresses my tendency to open my mouth and start complaining because I do not feel I am any closer to victory than when I started walking.
Notice in the passage that God was very clear that the walls of the town would collapse only after all the walking was done, and not a second before. The Israelites would not see even the slightest sign that victory was theirs before the walking was done. They would have nothing to propel them forward except the promise of God.
Is the promise of God enough for us to shut up and keep walking? Do we trust God enough to keep walking in obedience even if we never receive any signs that victory in near? Will we give up, or will we keep walking in faith and obedience until victory is ours? Every one of us must answer those questions for ourselves.
Toward the beginning of Pastor Griffin’s message, he talked about how his views have changed since he first became a pastor. He said that great starts do not impress him as much as they did when he was younger. Now, it is finishing strong that impresses him. He said having a child doesn’t impress him. He said anybody can have a child. It’s raising a child right that impresses him.
I understood his point. But the part that caught my attention most was when he said, “Anybody can have a child.” The reason that part caught my attention is that my experience says different.
My wife and I have been married for over 17 years, and we started trying to have children a year and a half into our marriage. For 16 years, we have been trying to have children, and still the only sounds of children ever heard in our house were made by the children of others. I have been praying for a child for many years, and I believe that God has directed me to continue praying for one until we receive one. I truly believe he has promised us a child, but it is not a promise I can prove to anyone. I do believe that he has told me to keep walking until he lays that victory in my lap in the form of a child.
Will I get discouraged and stop walking? I certainly could, if I focus on the fact that we are almost 40 and have never seen even the slightest sign that victory is near. Or will I thank God for the victory he has promised and keep walking? I believe this is what I will choose to do. I will shut up and keep walking. If we turn 40 and still don’t have a child, I will shut up and keep walking. If we turn 45 and still don’t have a child, I will shut up and keep walking. If we turn 50 and still don’t have a child, I will shut up and keep walking.
No matter what, I will shut up and keep walking, because God can do anything, no matter how impossible it seems. He is the same God that gave Abraham and Sarah a child when he was 100 and she was 90, so I will trust that he can give us one too.
I will not question God’s promise or his ability to fulfill it. I will simply shut up and keep walking until victory is mine. And when that day comes, you can bet you will hear all about it in my next devotional. But until then, I will shut up and keep walking.
How will you respond to the promises of God?
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints
— Ephesians 6:10–18
There is an enemy who wants you to give up. He cannot keep you from anything that God has for you, but he knows that you can. Therefore, he is doing everything he can to get you to quit and stop short of receiving God’s promises for you. It’s quite a strategy, and it is a shrewd effort to keep us from being effective at accomplishing God’s divine purposes for our lives.
Notice in the passage above that the keys to overcoming his attacks are putting on the proper spiritual equipment and then persevering through the tough times: times where God seems to be silent, times where you seem to be making very little progress. There will almost always be obstacles along the way but we don’t have to give in to them. We should stand firm, knowing that the battle has already been won.
When we know the result of a battle, a challenge, or even a game, we are able to enter in confidence. We do not have to fret over the outcome, because the victory is ours for the taking. The danger is not that the enemy will take us down, but that we will get discouraged and abandon the fight. Some will grow weary. Others will get distracted. In the end, the result is clear: we leave a lot on the table.
So as you walk through the day today, just remember that you will need to persevere and keep walking, even when you don’t feel like you are making any progress. Keep responding in obedience, and let him bring the victory to pass. I wish I could tell you it will be easy, but I can’t. What I can tell you is that it will be worth it as you will truly begin to understand what the Scripture means when it calls us “more than conquerors.”