The history of the Israelites has always been connected to the land. Canaan, the Promised Land, the Holy Land, whatever name we give it, the land has been at the heart of the people of Israel. It has been the symbol of the blessings of God for them. When they were doing well and obeying God, they were “landed.” When they were disobedient and not following the Yaweh, they were very often without land. From their earliest history, the call of Abraham, going to the land has been what they were about.
Sometimes that land was beautiful and came to them easily. Most of the time possessing the land was a battle and came with great cost. In fact, the primary reason for the 40-year journey through the wilderness was their unwillingness to follow God and fight for the land. Moses sent spies into the land to check it out. Two of them came back and said, “Let’s do it.” (It was the first recorded Nike commercial.) The rest said, “There are giants. We can’t take the land.” The people got scared and God had them wander around in the desert until everyone of those fighting men had died off. He had to raise up a new generation of warriors to fight for the land.
As I look back at my own history on this 2nd day of January, I see lots of times when the blessings of God were right there in front of me, but I got scared and missed a great opportunity to take the land. If I followed close to God and kept my trust in Him, blessings came easily. Churches grew, my family was well, my marriage was joyful. When I didn’t follow close, when I was afraid to trust Him, well…it’s in the book. Marriage at risk, kids angry with me, churches kicked me out, (And rightly so.) Trusting God equaled blessing in my story. Being afraid to trust Him equaled being kicked off “the land.”
And being afraid has different looks. At times, my fear was just that, an unwillingness to leave my comfort zone and step out into the “land” that God had prepared for me. I was called to a church Florida when I was young in ministry. It had some pretty big challenges, location, entrenched leadership, spiritual apathy, but it also had amazing possibilities and I felt like God wanted me to go. Doris and I flew down, interviewed. Got the call. Got the vote. Accepted the call. Accepted the vote. And then went back to our very wonderful, very comfortable place of service, and I changed my mind and said no. I was afraid to leave the comfort of the known for the unknown, even though I felt God calling me there. Missed it. Wandered around for many years before really trusting God again.
Most of the time though, my fear to trust God was not so obvious. Instead of looking like fear it looked like selfishness, or rebellion, or outright sin. I decided that I knew what I needed to be happy and I didn’t trust God for my serenity. In the words of a true addict, “I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it.” And afraid to trust God, I took the land that wasn’t mine. In Deuteronomy 2, God leads them through many different lands. For most of them He says, “This is a good land but it is not your land. Trust me and keep walking.” When they have trusted long enough, and walked far enough, God says, “This is the land. Go fight for it.”
So, here’s the history lesson for today, at the beginning of this new year. There will be many wonderful opportunities in front of us in 2018. I am sure that God has prepared a path for you that will amaze you with its beautiful twists and turns. There will be some opportunities that you will recognize as coming from God, but you will be afraid to tackle them. There may be others that look good, but you aren’t sure they are from Him. The secret for 2018 is to trust. Trust that He is leading. Trust that He knows what’s best for you. And trust that when He says, “Fight for the land,” He will give it to you if you fight with all you’ve got. That’s my goal for 2018, to stay “landed.” And to trust Him like I never have before.