My son, who is in elementary school, is having to read Pilgrim’s Progress. I remember having to read it at a young age too. Quite honestly I think it should be required reading for every Christian adult because there is so much depth to it. In it, Christian Pilgrim reads about Heaven and begins his journey to find Christ. On the way he meets people like Evangelist and Helper who guide him toward the Celestial City. He also encounters people like Worldly Wiseman, Despair and Formalist who try to persuade him to get off the straight and narrow path. Each person warms him not to listen to the others and he has to decide who is right and suffer the consequences when he listens to the wrong voices.
In Numbers 13, God told Moses to send out one person from each tribe to go throughout the Promised Land to scout it. They saw how fertile the land was, checked out the terrain and saw the cities. They noticed that there were several nations living in the land as well. They all agreed that it was a good land as God promised, but they also saw that there were giants and fortified cities that would be difficult to go to war with. The people began to murmur and to doubt God’s promise to give them the land. Then in verse 30 it says, “Caleb interrupted, called for silence before Moses and said, ‘Let’s go up and take the land—now. We can do it’” (MSG). You know the story. The people listened to the 10 spies with a negative report and faced the consequences.
What has God promises you? What voices are causing you to doubt Him? We often forget that there is a process to receiving His promises. There are battles that must be won, faith steps to be taken and moments where you push past what your eyes see. If God has promised something to you, there will be giants and people who try to persuade you away from going after it. There comes a point where you either trust God or you don’t. Receiving His promises is never easy. It takes faith and it takes courage to move towards it because others can’t see it or feel the passion God placed in you. Who’s voice will you listen to? There are consequences for listening to the wrong ones, but there’s also forgiveness. Ask God to give you wisdom in who you listen to and courage to proceed. Go take your land. You can do it!
Several years ago I was in charge of a fundraiser for a mission trip at our church. We had someone volunteer to make brisket for us, so we sold tickets ahead of the event. After we got the final number of tickets in, the man cooking the brisket gave me the shopping list including how much brisket. As I was buying the brisket, I believed we would sell more brisket than we had sold tickets for. When I got to the counter to order the briskets, I asked for an additional case. If you’re unfamiliar with that, it’s about 60 lbs of more meat that we would need to sell. Many people who bought tickets failed to show up for their meat though. We had a ton left over so I asked the pastor if we could sell after church. My wife looked at all the meat and said, “I hope God honors your faith because I don’t see how we can sell all of this.”
As Christians, we must daily choose whether we’re going to let fear hold us back or let faith guide us. There are so many decisions we have to make, some with long lasting effects. We can shrink back in fear of the unknown or we can step out in trust of what God will do. Hebrews 10:38 says that God is not happy with those who let fear hold them back. I don’t want to live a life that doesn’t make my Heavenly Father happy so I choose to live and walk by faith even though it isn’t easy. When you live by faith, you never know for certain if or when God will jump in to help. There are a lot of “God, where are you? Now would be a good time to show up” moments. But, as the psalmist said, “I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging for bread (Psalm 37:25).”
I like how Hebrews 10:39 describes the life we’re to live. It says, “But we are certainly not those who are held back by fear and perish; we are among those who have faith and experience true life!” (TPT) You and I cannot be people who are held back by fear. We are people who advance by faith. Either we believe what we say or we don’t. Our actions will always be consistent with what we truly believe. I’ve chosen to move forward despite fear. Living by faith doesn’t mean you’re not afraid. It means you chose not to let it hold you back from your God given purpose. Faith takes a deep breath and makes the decision to go forward in spite of the fear in your belly, and God honors that kind of faith.
By the way, all that brisket sold out in a matter of minutes after church and doubled what we had raised through ticket sales.
Several years ago I decided I was ready for the next step in my career. I wanted to be the General Manager of a retail store. I put on my suit, rehearsed answers of my achievements, thought of people I had helped get promoted and confidently walked into the interview. The District Manager followed the script for a little while then said, “I hate these questions. They don’t really tell me anything. Tell me about a time when you failed.” I sat there with a blank face. My heart was pounding. I thought, “A failure? Why does he want to know about my failures? Is he trying to keep me from the job?” As I searched for a good failure, I asked him to repeat the question. I gave him a failure when everything turned out good, but he wasn’t satisfied. He wanted one where I crashed and burned because he wanted to see how I responded to it.
Our past failures are something that so many of us try to hide. In fact, we are so afraid of failure that we typically won’t ever put ourselves in a position to fail at doing something. We try to stick with what we know so we’re always succeeding. What I’ve learned, and the point my District Manager was trying to find out if I knew is that failure is the greatest teacher. It is also the path to grace. If we never fail, we have no need for grace. If we never try to do something beyond our abilities, we also keep our faith small by never trusting God to do something through us. God rarely calls us to do things that we can do in our own strength and abilities because He knows pride is always knocking on our door waiting to take credit for our successes. But, when we do things beyond our abilities, it forces us to seek and rely on Him.
James 1:5 says, “And if anyone longs to be wise, ask God for wisdom and he will give it! He won’t see your lack of wisdom as an opportunity to scold you over your failures but he will overwhelm your failures with his generous grace” (TPT). God doesn’t ridicule our failures. He’s not waiting to strike us down when we fail either. He sees them as opportunities to grow us and to lavish His grace on us. When we’re called to something greater than our abilities, seek His wisdom first, then step out in faith and do it. If you fail, it doesn’t mean you didn’t hear God or that He didn’t come through for you. It quite often means you and God have two different definitions of failure and success. Don’t let what you think is a failure keep you down. Get back up, trust His grace and keep walking in faith because to keep playing things safe is truly a failure.
One of the most common Christian myths many of us believe is that when I do what God asks me to, there won’t be any issues and things will go smoothly. For me, it seems like when I step out in faith and do what God asks, things often start going wrong. There are times it feels like I’ve jumped out of an airplane, but I’m not the one who gets to pull the cord on the parachute. The ground starts getting closer and I start to panic. I cry out, “God, where are you? Did you tell me to do this? Why haven’t you worked on my behalf yet? Don’t you care about my reputation? My family? I thought you were going to work out everything for my good.” At that point, it’s easy to start questioning if I really heard God or if I’m really in His will because I’m looking at external factors and I’m believing the myth that everything should be smooth sailing when I’m in His will through obedience.
In Mark 4, after a long day of teaching, night was falling and Jesus said, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake” (TPT). They all piled in a boat, and several people from the crowd got in boats to follow them across the lake. Being tired from teaching, Jesus decided to call it a night. He laid down and fell asleep. That’s when a ferocious storm came rolling in with violent winds that were rocking the boat and causing it to take on so much water that they were afraid of sinking. In verse 39, they had a similar prayer to mine. They woke Jesus up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re all about to die?” Jesus, once He was fully awake, steps out, rebukes the wind and calms the sea. I’m sure He gave them a disappointed look as He said, “Why are you so afraid? Haven’t you learned to trust yet?”
Those words are ringing in my ears today as I shift my focus from my circumstances to who He is. When things don’t go the way we thought they should after our obedience, fear creeps in. Fear of failure. Fear of being embarrassed. Fear of going broke. Fear of our own ship going down. The storm you’re in may be great, but He is greater. It may feel like He’s asleep, but He knows what you’re going through. Push through the fear and panic, and trust that if He’s called you to it, He’ll get you through it. A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor, and easy times never stretch our faith. Yes, it might have been a big leap you took, but your faith has so much more room to grow. Now is not the time for panic. It’s the time for prayer and faith. He hasn’t ever failed you, and He won’t start failing you today.
One of my favorite quotes says, “I don’t measure my day by the harvest I bring in. I measure it by the Seeds I plant. For in planting seeds, I’m assuring a future harvest.” There are so many applications for this quote, but the common question it begs is, “What am I doing today to make sure I have enough tomorrow?” We all love it when we reap the rewards for things we’ve done in the past, but we can’t measure our successes by that. We must always be doing something that is going to make sure we have another harvest, but too many of us hesitate because we’re waiting for everything to be just right before we act.
The problem with planting is that there are no immediate results for your work. We live in a world where we are conditioned to instant gratification, but many times the things you plant are hidden beneath the surface germinating where you can’t see. However, the longer you wait to start planting, the further away the harvest will be. Conditions will never be just right to plant for the future, but don’t let that stop you from doing what God has called you to do. Fear will lead to hesitation, and hesitation will lead to procrastination. After you procrastinate, you begin to make excuses as to why you can’t do it.
Ecclesiastes 11:4 says, “If you wait until the wind and the weather are just right, you will never plant anything and never harvest anything” (GNT). Today’s the day to quit your excuses, to stop your hesitation and to put fear behind you. The longer you procrastinate, the less impact you’re going to have. When you step out in faith and do what God has called you to do, you’re trusting Him to bless it. When you wait for perfect conditions, you take faith out of the equation. Whatever it is that’s on your heart to do, find one thing you can do today to begin planting the seeds. Those seeds, no matter how few, will always produce a greater harvest than the ones that never get planted. Stop procrastinating and start planting.
Gideon is one of those stories in the Bible that I go back to over and over again. He was scared of his enemies, so he was hiding when the angel appeared to him. The angel then greets him with, “Mighty Hero! The Lord is with you” (NLT). I’m sure Gideon had a confused look on his face and then looked around for the hero. He then asked a great question any of us would have asked. If the Lord is with me, why are things so bad? He didn’t get an answer though. Instead, the angel calls on him to save Israel from the very enemy he’s hiding from.
In Judges 6:14, the angel of the Lord said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” I love this response because it is a great picture of who God is. He calls us to do things in our own strength and giftings. When we see ourselves in the mirror, we think who we are and what we have is not enough. God sees beyond our fears and insecurities though. He sees who we can become if we would trust that He’s with us and will pick up the slack for the things we lack if we will simply step out with what we have already been given.
I believe every one of us are called to do something. There is a purpose and a plan that God has for each of our lives. It’s up to us to trust Him to be with us, and to walk in that calling. It’s time for us to quit looking at ourselves with these human eyes so we can trust what God sees in us with His eyes. It’s in our weaknesses and inabilities that His strength is made perfect. He only asks that we trust Him enough to do the things He called us to. If God has confidence in you, I think it’s time you had it too. Through Jesus, you are more than a conqueror. You are a mighty, valiant hero ready and equipped to do what He called you to.
What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail? What dream would you go after? So many times fear of failure or being defeated is what holds us back from chasing after the things God put in our heart. Back in the early 2000’s, I started writing devotionals. There were no blogs really, and social media was yet to come. I figured I would just email them out to friends and whoever wanted them. I asked about five people if they’d be interested. One person replied, “Please don’t put me on any list. I get enough junk mail as it is.” I didn’t write for 10 years after that. I quit chasing after something God put in me because of something someone else said.
After the Israelites left Egypt, God reminded them that He had promised them land. It was a good, beautiful, fertile land, but they would have to fight to take possession of it. They were guaranteed victory if they were willing to fight for it. Instead 10 of the 12 spies came back confirming what God said about the land, but they were afraid of the giants and walked cities in the land. It took forty years before they had an opportunity again. This time, the spies were told how fearful everyone was of them, and it boosted their confidence. In Joshua 2:24, they reported back, “The Lord has given us the whole land for all the people in the land are terrified of us” (NLT).
The only thing that changed was that they quit listening to fear and started listening to God. That’s exactly what you and I need to do. No, it won’t be easy. Yes, there will be some struggles and battles ahead when you chase after what God has put in you, but you are guaranteed victory in the long run. God is ready to act on your behalf, but you have to be the one to step out in faith to chase after what He called you to. As my friend says, it’s time for you to smash fear in the face! The enemy is afraid of you doing what God told you to do so he uses fear to hold you back. The Lord has given you victory. You just have to step out and claim it.