The Longer Way

“God did not lead them by the land of the Philistines, although that was nearest”

Exodus 13:17

Having such a great task ahead, one would expect that the shortest route would be the best. Moses had the task of moving more than two million people with their belongings and livestock from Egypt to the land given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob by its Owner. The shortest route would not have taken very long. If God’s objective was solely to get the people of Israel into the land, that is what He may have done but He had a greater objective. It is an objective He has for us as well. The people who would enter the Promised Land must be people who believed and trusted God and who would therefore obey Him.

The shortest way into the presence of the Lord for us is to die but God has a greater objective and for that there will be detours. Throughout the Bible we see that professed faith in God and Jesus Christ will be tested. The tests will either prove our faith genuine or false. If proven false it gives opportunity to have a change of heart to a genuine faith in the Lord. If proven genuine it is strengthened in readiness for the next test.

Do our tests cause us to draw near to God or turn us away from Him? When many of Jesus’ disciples were turning away from following Him, Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:67-69). Like Peter, those who know Jesus for who He is and what He has done will not turn away from following Him when tested. They know there is no other way to experience eternal life except through Jesus Christ.

We may sometimes be a little displeased with God for the testing and the longer way, but the testing is so that we will know Him more and be more sure of our faith in Him. Relationships grow stronger when tested. God is preparing us to enter His presence. The longer routes of life are for the purpose of proving and growing our faith in Him. We know that everything we experience is for our good and God’s glory (Romans 8:28). Can you confidently say with John that you know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:11-13) and that your joy is full (John 15:11; 16:24; 1 John 1:4)?

Enter His Rest

“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” Philippians 1:6

There are times when we wonder how the Lord Jesus is ever going to be able to complete His work in us. When young in the Lord it seems quite reasonable that He will do it but as time passes we realise that the greatest enemy to this completion is ourselves and we seem further behind than ever.

A spiritual war ensues when our will comes into conflict with the will of God. He never pressures us into conforming to His will or obedience. We will either respond willingly or not at all. Grudging obedience is still rebellion. We find many ways of convincing ourselves that we are obedient to the will of God when in fact we are resisting, grieving or quenching the Holy Spirit and hence God’s will for us.

How often have we gotten ourselves into a mess and then asked Him for help to extricate ourselves from it. There are two great errors in this. Firstly, that we are usually in a mess because we didn’t first seek counsel or direction from the Lord. Joshua made the mistake of presuming that the Lord was with him when he went against Ai but he didn’t check. He was soon in a mess and people died. Secondly, in our pride and arrogance we ask the Lord to help us. Think about this. Do we make the agenda or does the Lord? It may be that when we ask the Lord for help we are asking Him to enable us to complete our plans and goals rather than His.

Jesus Christ has His plans for His church and each living stone in it. He is the One who sets the agenda. He knows what He is aiming at and He alone is able to achieve it. When we take the lead it shows that He is not Lord to us. It reveals that we think we know better and can, with a little help from Him when we get in a mess, achieve the goal. Can you see the abomination of this; of the clay dictating to the potter?

As we grow in Christ we know that we have resisted, grieved and quenched the Holy Spirit but now we have come to the place of absolute surrender. As the writer of Hebrews puts it, we enter God’s rest.

“Lord, You lead, You direct, I will follow. Not by my hands and will but by Your hands and might. Show me when I am resisting You and I shall surrender. Show me when I have grieved You and I shall ask forgiveness and mourn over that sin. Show me when I am quenching Your Spirit and I will immediately repent and serve You.”

“Not as I will but as You will”