Wednesday, June 15, 2005

True Courage

"I have commanded you, 'Be strong and courageous! Don't tremble or be terrified, because the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.'
Joshua 1:9
"Here is a critical juncture. Will we risk our comfort to follow what we know in our hearts to be true? Many don't make it past this point, preferring to co-exist in silence rather than pursue their passion. I understand why people do that, but also know that they miss out on a journey whose joys far outweigh its risks and its cost."
Wayne Jacobson
In exploring fear and faith's wrestle I came across this article written by Marc Brisebois. Definetely a word to meditate on and take to the Lord in prayer. In this struggle of fear, I tend to think its all about me.....fear always points back to me. But its all about you Jesus, your glory and your fame.

Lines in the Sand
by Marc Brisebois

How far will we follow the Lord? As Christians it is too easy to say ‘all the way’. History tells us that few, if any, have fully finished their course. And so while we would like to think we are more committed than others we should ask ourselves what is the reality of our heart? Where is the line of demarcation for us? At what point will we say enough is enough, I am unwilling to pay a higher price to obtain what I cannot understand? We have all heard the saying, ‘every man has his price’. But what price is too much for us to pay? This line is different for each of us. But in order to fully follow the Lord, we must discover that there is indeed a line, where it lies in relationship to the Lord’s.

The Journey:
When Columbus sailed to present day North America there were some who believed the world was flat. The prevalent fear was that at some point they would drop off the end of the earth. The level of fear each man possessed would most certainly be different. For some, the vision of another land was a vague, untrustworthy idea. Had each man had the opportunity to turn back, the question is 'at what point would that have occurred?' Had they been on a train instead of a ship, you can be sure many sailors would have gone ‘awol’ in the night. The point of departure comes as each one reaches the limits of their faith. Once we reach the capacity of what is believed possible, the urge to exit begins to grow. This is very much the case for every great and perilous adventure. It most certainly applies to the Hebrew’s exit from Egypt in pursuit of the famed ‘promise land’. While they left as one man there were many hearts and various expectations. The scripture records that a mixed multitude went out. This is an appropriate description of the vast diversity among them. Though each had heard what Moses promised, not all believed. The signs of power shown to Moses drew their attention but few were fully convinced. The promise was like a very distant line being drawn in the sand. Though the line was delineated by the promise, not all could see the line, neither could every heart extend that far. Generations of crushed hope had left them with a hollow tradition of faith. While they spoke of freedom and liberty, in the depths of their hearts, they had resigned themselves to perpetual slavery. Yet when it came time to leave, all left Egypt in the pretense of holding the same vision. They really should have counted the cost before departing, but one does not plan for what he does not intend. And so hidden from the eyes of man, in the secret places of the heart, something was missing. It is in this place where there is no faith, that the vision cannot take root. The doubts will go unstated but they live hidden from all scrutiny. Like most of us today, Moses’ contemporaries were ignorant of their own faithlessness. Unbelief only comes to light when we have journeyed to the limits of our capacity to believe. Until then we talk as though we are journeying to the end, but somewhere the lines are drawn and the limits are predefined. Of course these limits remain a non-factor until the journey brings us to them. Only then will they come into play. It is only when we approach them that our discomfort begins. Suddenly a sense of anxiety and a desire for safety overtakes us. We may not even have the capacity to articulate the problem because we are ignorant of our heart’s condition. These are issues of the heart and not the mind. Nevertheless, we suddenly feel uneasy, unstable and unsafe. For all the rhetoric of ‘going all the way’, the truth is we never really knew the journey would take us this far. It is at this point where we become a liability to the corporate vision. We invisibly shift from being on board to dragging our feet. Even though the problem is clearly our lack of faith, we conveniently point to pseudo-problems in order to justify our misgivings. Now comes the murmuring and complaining, which are the unmistakable qualities of unbelief (Hebrews 3:7-19). When we stop believing we begin looking for tangible reasons to bail out. The reality is small problems now become the outlet of choice for the growing tension over having gone further than we believed possible, or simply further than we understood.

The Lines:
The real problem is with the lines that are drawn in our heart. The lines are the limits of our faith – the most we can possibly foresee or hope for. The lines begin to be drawn the moment we first hear the promise.
For the Hebrews it began when a man called Moses appeared on the scene articulating a grand vision. “God spoke to me and promised a land flowing with milk and honey”, he says. For most it is too good to be true. After 400 years of slavery the thought of true liberty had long died. Sure, a tradition of hope existed, but it was the talk of old men and dreams of the uninitiated youth. Yet, the passion and conviction of this leader was too much to dismiss. And throughout the nation people began to entertain a ray of hope. Nevertheless outside of a few notable exceptions, the people were quite prepared to settle for less. They did not actually believe in the final destination but perhaps there was something else for them. For some the promise meant simply a life without toil. The thought of a house and a small piece of land without the threat of oppression was the most that could be hoped for. Others may have believed for a strip of land on the side of the desert– a place where their children might somehow realize a normal existence. Still others could see a little further and envisioned a city with it’s own government. Maybe, just maybe a tiny bit of self-determination. All of which fell far short of the spirit of prophecy circulating over the nation. It is not that these things would have been wrong or not part of what the Lord was wishing to give. The problem was that these limitations came from not being able to hear the Word of the Lord. “And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:18-19)“…but the word did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” (Hebrews 4:2b) Dreams had previously been crushed and they were unable to heed Moses word because of cruel bondage and anguish of spirit (Exodus 6:9). “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” and for many the idealism of youth had long ago melted away. The scar left on the heart impeded them from seeing that this was far more than idealism. It was the sound of inevitability looking for a heart in which to rest. For many the heart had already ventured to believe once too often, only to be disappointed again and again. So now when the promise of a land flowing with milk and honey comes, it is too much to fathom. The result is that in the shadow of this larger vision, a lesser vision is nurtured. We exchange a wonderful plan for something far less. “I cannot believe for a land flowing with milk and honey, but I believe we can find a place just beyond the reach of Pharaoh”. Our willingness to settle for less remains hidden for a time. It is only when we approach or cross the threshold of our expectations that the tension becomes apparent. At that moment faith gives way to fear.

When a man goes beyond what he believes possible fear rises.
Faith enabled him to behold what he could not see with his natural eyes. But now, without faith there is no sight and no understanding. Faith provided the substance (dry land) when substance was unavailable. Now without something to hold onto my flesh requires a replacement. Like a fearful sailor the urge to return to dry land consumes me. This is exactly what happened to the nation of Israel. “Why does this Moses want to destroy what we have? Were there not enough graves in Egypt that he had to bring us to this desert to kill us?” Their fear caused them to continually prophesy their demise. The fact that they now possessed a freedom they did want to lose meant they were tormented all the more.The problem is that the challenge of believing for greater things seems to put in jeopardy the hope of lesser things. For those who never believed they would leave Egypt alive, it was time to cut their losses. “Why risk the first chance at a normal life for what I do not believe possible. Why should we go to battle against other nations and risk having our children become slaves once again?" “I do not believe ­– I cannot go further.” For those that are satisfied with a plot of land and a house just beyond the reach of Pharaoh every step beyond them is a death they cannot bear. They neither want more nor are they prepared to sacrifice further to go farther. As such they are truly a mixed multitude – one people with multiple visions. Someone once said this is the recipe for division. Without a common vision the people are easily fragmented as spirits of fear prey on their unbelief. Now that they had achieved what most believed improbable, it seemed unwise to risk it for what seemed truly impossible? It is out of this fear that rebellion was born. The people would not believe and so chose something less than the promise and defied those who would have them face their fears. Had this been primarily about God delivering them from the hand of Pharaoh this would not have been a problem. But God was not so limited and His ultimate intention was far greater. As a nation they were a beginning point for the work of God in the earth – a kingdom of priests that would become the expression of His heart to the nations.“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is mine. And you shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5-6) As His own special people they would be the scepter of redemption for the nations. His intention was not to merely occupy a small strip of land east of the Mediterranean Sea. Rather, He anticipated doing what He had always intended – to fill the earth with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord. This is the ultimate line in the sand. The anger of the Lord’s displeasure was in the fact that Israel constantly interpreted the promises of God in the light of their own need for security and comfort. Their refusal to enter the promised land almost resulted in them being annihilated. The truth is they feared losing their children to captivity. In His judgment the Lord declared that these very children would walk in faith and possess it. Of that present generation all would perish save Joshua and Caleb. The Lord declared them to be of a ‘different spirit’, and that Caleb ‘fully followed the Lord’. On the other hand, the unbelief of the rest of the nation meant they were putting the intention of the Lord in jeopardy. Since that time the Lord has only looked for, and been pleased by one thing: Faith. The Lord is pleased by those who believe His Word. This Caleb did! Thus the Lord is only asking for us to do one thing – to not lean on our own understanding and to be willing to let Him draw the line.

The Pattern:
The consequences of this truth are many. Today in churches and lives throughout Christendom this pattern is repeated again and again. While the Lord says ‘all the earth is mine’ few believers actually believe it. Though the Spirit has drawn a line in the sand that encompasses the nations, Christians are content to draw their own lines. According to our limited gifts and abilities we imagine what we might do and where we might go, and there we draw our line. We are quickly satisfied by the achievements that distinguish us in the eyes of others and abandon the greater hope. For some, the lines are drawn in terms of professional advancement or material acquisitions. Others cannot see past being a father, wife or husband. Pastors and spiritual leaders, while still in the midst of training and development, set the boundaries of their hope by the ministry they visualize. For many the apex of success is to become the senior pastor of any congregation. When that ambition is realized they spend the remainder of their days guarding their achievement. In the church new believers are discipled into corners by the lines drawn by those they respect. Theology and ministry becomes defined by what is known and what is safe. We are taught that the highest order of Christian life is to be a tithing regular church attendee. ‘If you are faithful enough you might one day get on the board’. All of these become demarcation points for our zeal and limitations to our faith. In the midst of this great company of people exist others still who once envisioned the impossible and ventured. Prayer warriors heard the cry, believed and advanced. Great things happened and the fulfillment of still greater things appeared on the horizon. But in the midst of promise came the disappointment. Leaders fell, friends were wounded, churches were divided and movements became still stagnant waters. In the wake of disappointment we settle for something less, inoculated against a greater vision. Not unlike those Hebrews who once believed and lost hope. “…but they could not heed Moses, because of anguish of spirit and cruel bondage." (Exodus 6:9) Even so the Spirit of the Lord calls to those who once believed to awaken to a fresh hope. The challenge of the Lord is to lift up our eyes to Him who calls those things which are not as though they are. He is calling us to repentance over the lines we have drawn in the sand, and urging us to look to the greater promise. As He said to Moses when they would not enter the land, “I have pardoned according to your word; But truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.” (Numbers 14:20-21) This is the one line to which all others must yield. For in as much as every knee shall bow, ultimately, every line will yield.

©2005 Watchman on the Wall Ministries. All Rights Reserved

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