Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Pressing for a Victory, Part Four

I watched some of the NCAA Elite Eight playoffs the other night. One thing I noticed in some of the games that I saw was that the winners seemed to have a higher level of concentration than the losers. They kept their eye on the goal when they shot, on the ball while it was being dribbled or passed--by either team. They concentrated and they won. That was the culmination of their efforts and training.

The Culmination of Israel's 40 years was their entrance into The Promised Land. It was a glorious morning. Forty long years had passed. The only original Hebrews in this group where Caleb and Joshua, the two God-fearing spies who had tried to convince Israel to go in and take the land 38 years earlier. But, as often happens, the majority prevailed. And as often happens, the majority was wrong.

Joshua 3:7 - 17 tells us the culmination of their wilderness time:

7 And the LORD said to Joshua, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. 8 You shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, saying, ‘When you have come to the edge of the water of the Jordan, you shall stand in the Jordan.’” 9 So Joshua said to the children of Israel, “Come here, and hear the words of the LORD your God.” 10 And Joshua said, “By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Perizzites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jebusites: 11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over before you into the Jordan. 12 Now therefore, take for yourselves twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man from every tribe. 13 And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.” 14 So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), 16 that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan.

I need to point out a couple of things the experts tell us. One, it's flood time. Harvest time is flood time along the Jordan. In the rest of the year, the Jordan River is about 100 yards wide. But in harvest time, the Jordan swells to as much as a mile wide, according to these experts. And it was time for a flood.

Why is that important? I think it shows that God brought these people to where they were at such a time that they could not possibly take the slightest credit for it. They were going to have to give God all the glory. Joshua told them, "By this you will know that the Living God is among you." (v10) The "this" is the fact they have to cross this swollen river at the least convenient time for them. It was very convenient for God. Anytime is the right time for Him!

You may be struggling for a victory over something in your life, and you may be trying to set aside a specific time to deal with it; but you may be discovering that, as soon as you set the day or the time, something comes up. Why do you think that is? One, the devil likes having you bound up and defeated. The other is that God needs this to be something that glorifies Him and Him alone.

The priests marched into the water; they were some thousand yards ahead of the rest of the group. There they stood, water rushing across their feet. I don't know how much time passed, but after awhile the water began to slow down. Slowly, but surely, the waters receded and dried up, the priests standing firm all the while.

Forty years earlier Moses stood by another body of water: the Red Sea. He stretched forth the rod God had told him to carry and God caused a strong wind to blow and part the waters. He did it in front of them.

This time God chose to do a different thing. He parted the waters, but did it a different way. He stopped the waters some 20 miles upstream.

My point is this: don't expect your victories to come the same way every time. God is God. He does things in a way that brings him the glory. Not only that, but when God does things differently it keeps our relationship fresher.

It was finally done. Israel had finally crossed over. They were finally in the land. The Promised Land. Canaan. A place where they were going to experience victory after victory.

Press on! The victory awaits you!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pressing on for a Victory, part three

In the last post, I urged the readers to consider the importance of consecration as a key part of victory in the Christian life. Our lives are consecrated--sanctified--positionally before the Lord. Christ's holiness is our holiness. He was made to be sin so that we may be made the righteousness of God in [Christ]. We are in Christ, seated at the right hand of God.

But practically speaking, I don't feel all that consecrated; not every day, anyway. So I must make a conscious decision to separate myself from the ways of the world, from the practices that would not be seen as "holy" before God. I must wash myself in the water of the Word of God. I must repent of evil that may be in my life.

Consecration is only the first part of pressing on for a victory. The second word I need to share is concentration. We need to learn the fine art of concentrating on Christ. Joshua had told Israel to let the priests bearing the ark on their shoulders to proceed on before them. Then he told them something important: "Watch the ark (paraphrased). Keep your eyes on the ark."

That ark represented the presence of God, among other things. It is a symbol of Christ for us. You will find some important truths in the New Testament about walking with the Lord. You have to keep your eyes on him. Jesus, speaking of his relationship with the Father, said, "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does." Now he can only do what the Father does if he has his eyes on the Father. You can't see what you aren't looking at. You have to keep your eyes on Jesus.

You can't go forward if you are looking backward. Now some of you are about to say, "Yes you can!" You try to walk on a sidewalk while you are looking over your shoulder. See how far you get before you walk into something, or walk off the sidewalk. See how straight of a line you walk. Farmers will tell you that, in order to plow a straight furrow, you need to fix your eyes on a target ahead of you and keep them fixed there. Otherwise, your furrows will be crooked.

You can't go up if you are looking down. Colossians 3 tells us to keep our eyes fixed on things above, not on earthly things. Your job is a good thing; but it's not the greatest thing. Your home is a good thing, but not the greatest thing. Fix your eyes on things of the kingdom, not on things of this life.

If you want a victory, learn to concentrate on Christ and on the things of Christ.