Yesterday I had the opportunity to preach, and I spent some time reflecting on Numbers 13 and 14, where the Israelites had reached the Promised Land for the first time, but were too fearful to enter. They asked for spies to be sent in first and God granted that request.
One of the amazing things about God is that he doesn’t force us to do his will. He gives us free choice. But free choice comes with a price. There are consequences to our decisions. When God calls us to do something, he often allows us to count the cost, to investigate the benefits. And each task may be different. It may be easy or difficult. It may be immediate or take a long time. It may be profitable or not. It may be a simple task or require complicated preparations. But the biggest question is, are the rewards worth it. And the answer is always YES!
Matt 6:20 – But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.
Most of the spies came back, telling of how difficult it would be to take the land. The inhabitants were strong…the cities fortified. It was overwhelming. Often God’s will is just that…overwhelming. That’s because the task is not supposed to be something you can accomplish on your own, otherwise you’d be tempted to take pride in it. Scripture testifies to this over and over. Eph 2:9
Two of the spies disagreed. That made the argument that they COULD take the land. If God wanted it done, then they should be afraid. We can trust in God. If he says it, it will be. His promises are certain. How often do we forget God’s promises when something gets difficult? The task isn’t the problem…our focus is. Do you focus on God? Or Self? It’s so difficult not to focus on self, but every sin at its root is selfishness. We sin, because we want to please self. We become holy when we strive to please God. To be in the center of God’s will, you have to take the focus off of self and put it on God. Take the focus off this brief life, and put it on eternity.
The Israelites began to grumble and look back to their captivity in Egypt. They wanted a new leader to take them back. Isn’t it funny how the past is always remembered better than it was? I guess it’s easier to fall back on what you know, than to experience something new.
In the end, they made their choice. And the choice wasn’t task specific. When you boil it down, it was a simple matter of obedience or disobedience to God. What exactly is your choice? When you’re faced with following God’s will, you’re faced with the choice to obey or disobey God. You’re faced with choosing self over what is right and holy.
When God bends over to provide for you, as he did the Israelites during their journey, your disobedience is insulting. And most people reading this have everything they NEED and lots of things they WANT. How dare we insult God?
When you know you are trustworthy and you work hard to build trust with someone, yet still they don’t believe you…isn’t that insulting to you? How do you think God feels?
Moses tries to convince God to spare the people. He pleads for them. And Moses is a pretty good guy to go to bat for you. Even though God agrees to spare their lives in that moment, he refuses to let them into the Promised Land. Obedience to God is a personal responsibility. You can’t depend on others to accomplish God’s will for you. Your husband or wife can’t do it. Your parents can’t do it. Your pastor can’t do it. Your salvation…your obedience…is an act of personal responsibility. You can’t depend on others. And the pleas of the righteous cannot change God’s judgment for disobedience. YOU have to do it.
There’s a dire warning that comes next. God says that none of these people will enter the Promised Land…but their children WILL. When you insult God too many times, are disobedient once too often…if you continue to insult God, fail to trust him, fail to follow him…God will take your blessing and give it to someone else.
And just like the Israelites, when God takes your blessing away you’ll be miserable for the rest of your life wondering where it all went wrong. Do you know anyone like that? Someone on fire for God, but at some point they made a selfish choice of disobedience…they insulted God one too many times. And now they’ve settled for mediocre, while their blessing is given to someone else. If you could ask them what they’d change, they’d give you a list of things that trace back to one important moment…being obedient to God when it counted.
The Israelites thought they had another chance. They thought they could take the Promised Land on their own. They were wrong and were sorely defeated. Without God, your self-efforts at happiness are useless. When God removes himself and his blessing, there is nothing YOU can do to get it for yourself. You can do nothing apart from God. But through Jesus you can do anything. Philip. 4:1
Have you counted the cost? Have you looked into the promised land and seen what God has promised for you? Is it worth it? Have you faced your choice? Does the past look better than the future? Would you rather continue in mediocrity than to experience the fullness of God’s blessing? Has your disobedience insulted God? Are you watching your blessings being given to others? Are you profoundly sorrowful in life and you don’t know why? Are all your efforts to be successful and happy useless?
Maybe you have an obedience problem. You can make the right choice…it’s easier than you think. If God tells you to do something DO IT! Don’t wait. Don’t argue. Don’t look to the past. Don’t dwell on the overwhelming circumstances. If God is for you, who can be against you? Right now, this moment…you know what God’s will is for you. You may not know anything beyond the next minute or second. But what you know… DO. Don’t be disobedient any longer.
To quote Yoda…Do or do not. There is no try.