Little and large

I thought that Selwyn’s introduction was a good summary of the issue he has been addressing over the last few days.

” … when the spies who were sent out to reconnoitre the land of Canaan saw ‘the giants, the sons of Anak’, they were overcome with fear. And when this fear gave rise to unbelief, it led to the children of Israel having to forfeit entering the land for a whole generation. It is worth noting that Caleb and Joshua, the two who did not fear the giants, were the only ones of their generation to enter the promised land, and were used by God to overcome Israel’s enemies.”

I think the same pattern can be seen in our lives – when we belief and trust that God works for our good, even when we are experiencing difficulties, then we see God’s power overcoming our ‘giant’ fears.

It’s when we realise that we can do nothing and we turn to God for everything, that we grow and produce good fruit, nourished by God’s love. While Selwyn might be right that large problems are resolved quickly and smaller issues may take longer to overcome; I think that God always works to resolve any sort of problem – at the ‘right’ time.

Giant-sized problems

Selwyn continues to look at the issue that God sometimes acts quickly to address our problems; and, at other times, He may allow a long time to pass before the difficult areas are resolved. In a very real sense, God created this universe and everything in it, in an ordered and planned way; there, is a confidence born out of our faith – that God acts in a perfect and holy way – at the right time – meaning that nothing, which affects our spiritual lives, is left to chance.

In today’s study, Selwyn points to two sections of the book of Joshua – where we see the above issue demonstrated.  In Joshua 11:1-20, we read that Joshua waged war against some of the kings in Canaan for a long time. Compare this to Joshua 15:13-15 (NIV): “In accordance with the Lord’s command to him, Joshua gave to Caleb son of Jephunneh a portion in Judah – Kiriath Arba, that is, Hebron. (Arba was the forefather of Anak.) From Hebron Caleb drove out the three Anakites – Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai, the sons of Anak. From there he marched against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher).” It appears that Caleb had completed these conquests in a relatively short space of time.

Now, Selwyn raises an interesting point; by referring to Numbers 13:27-33a, NIV: ‘They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). … ‘

The people who doubted God’s word did not understand that it was God’s plan for them to take possession of the land; and the very people who frightened the spies the most – by their power and size, were the same ones Caleb quickly defeated. Just as he predicted, before they had even entered the promised land. I think that God was demonstrating that there is nothing He can’t overcome – even if it appears impossible to us. Secondly, those who have confidence in God’s Word, will see His promises fulfilled.

The main fact to keep hold of – is that Jesus loves you – He will address your problems in a perfect and holy way; and, sometimes that means waiting a very, long time for a solution to unfold. We need to have the confidence that because of His love – He will act in a way that transforms and grows our ‘spiritual’ character into the image of Christ.

‘Instant solutions’

Selwyn continues to discuss the issue that ‘some of our problems are overcome quickly, while others seem to take a considerable length of time to resolve’.

God has the power to immediately resolve all our problems – but He does not – therefore we must come to the conclusion that it is not in our best interests for God to provide ‘instant solutions’, all the time.

In addition, to the example I gave yesterday – here is another from Paul’s letter to the Romans 1:12-14 (NIV): “I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.”

From a human perspective, it would seem a good thing for Paul to visit Rome as early as possible – and, I’m sure he would have prayed for opportunities to undertake such a trip. Yet, God did not provide an instant solution for Paul. Paul had to wait for God’s timing – he ended up going to Rome but perhaps not in the way he earlier intended.

The ways of Jesus are beyond our understanding – faith soars over the intellectual difficulties we experience in expecting God to instantly smooth out the path that we want to follow – right now!

‘Slow growth’

In today’s study, Selwyn introduces us to the important fact that sometimes God will resolve some of our problems very quickly; while others will take a considerable length of time.

He uses an example found in Scripture: Exodus 23:30, ‘Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased … ‘. Compared to, Deuteronomy 9:3, ‘ You shall drive them out and destroy them quickly.’ Selwyn states: “Is this a divine contradiction? No, for further exploration or reading shows that some enemies would be overcome slowly, taking years, while others would fall quickly and be conquered in a day.”

It’s normal for us to want our problems to be fixed quickly; for the thorns in our lives to be immediately removed. Yet, God in His wisdom, does not always provide an instant resolution to the troubles we often face.

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (12:7b-10, NIV), we read: ” … I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I’m sure that one of the main reasons why God allows some problems to persist in our lives is to develop our trust in His plan for our spiritual development, that He always works for our long-term good.

Look at it another way; if all our problems were instantly resolved the moment we turned to God for help – what sort of person would we become?

God’s sowing – our harvest

I had to smile when I read Selwyn’s words – while I agree with his introduction – I find that living through a time when major aspects of my life are going ‘wrong’, is hard to do – without feeling down, now and then (even though we know that Jesus is with us, at all times).

Selwyn writes: “We spend one more day meditating on the fact that one of God’s ways is sometimes to lead us into situations where everything seems to go wrong. He does this, as we have said, because He knows that this is one of the ways in which He can bring about the development of our character – so we can move into His plans and purposes. …. Troubles plough the field for God’s sowing, and our harvest – the harvest of character (the character of Jesus).”

For me, my current troubles have sharpened my focus on being with God – at home, in heaven. I’m developing a keener sense of what’s important in a spiritual sense; and, spending less time on the trivial aspects of living in a busy, consumer orientated, western culture. I’m feeling more an ‘alien’ in a strange world, and spending more time looking for the shortest path, the most productive way, to arrive at my eternal destination.

Don’t sink – soar!

To those who often read my posts – I’m sorry I have not been active over the past few weeks – my illness has been a bit of an anchor, regarding my motivation to write.

Perhaps, today’s study is an appropriate one to write on!

Do you agree with Selwyn’s introduction?

“I have often wondered why it is two Christians can go through the exact same set of difficult circumstances and yet react quite differently.

One takes the difficult circumstances and sharpens his soul on them, thereby making himself more spiritually alert and responsive, while the other allows them to bring him down into defeat and discouragement.

… The biggest single reason (in my opinion) is that one knows and understands the way God works, while the other does not.”

From, my point of view – it has a lot to do with faith – how much we trust God during difficult times. We can state, in an intellectual sense, that we have faith in God’s word; but, it’s not until  this knowledge passes into out heart and becomes part of our being – that we are able to live by faith.

I also liked Selwyn’s conclusion: ” (If we can live by faith) … then instead of being dashed to the ground in bitterness and confusion, we will soar into the heavens with Christ and come out into quiet peace and greater usefulness.”

‘Will you make me whole?’

Selwyn starts this study by saying: “We ended yesterday by saying that some are living strained lives because they do not understand God’s ways. … Jesus, of course, is our example of what it means to live in the knowledge and understanding of the Father’s ways.”

The rest of what Selwyn writes about – I don’t fully understand;  so, I’m unable to add my views. [Or, expressed another way – perhaps, I don’t fully agree with his view.]

However, what I can say is – that often people who have ‘strained’ spiritual lives – are those people who have not fully surrender their lives to Jesus,. There is a constant tension, between living according to the world’s standards; and at the same time, trying to follow Jesus – it just can’t be done. Either their relationship with the world is severed; or,  their relationship with Jesus is seen to be a fabrication.