Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Occupying the Life God Intended

"So Joshua said to the sons of Israel, 'How long will you put off entering to take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?'" Joshua 18:3 nasb

The children of Israel had made the decades-long journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. They lived in tents and traveled on foot. They were accustomed to the nomadic life, but it wasn't the life God had intended for them. He had fields, cities, and houses they hadn't built just waiting for His people to occupy them.

They reached the Promised Land and hesitated. They stayed in their tents rather than take the cities God had for them.

There were sturdy houses with stone walls. No more wandering. No more carrying possessions as they traveled. 

They would have stability. Prosperity. 

With all the abundant blessings God had promised just a few battles away, the people pitched camp and stayed in their tents. 

It took prodding from Joshua to get them to what God had intended.

It seems like a foolish decision to stop short of the blessings they'd spent years pursuing, but I wonder if we do the same thing. 

When I look at the first century church, I see something vastly different from most churches to which I've belonged. There was unity, community, connection. There was the presence of the Holy Spirit, miracles, powerful prayer, strong, godly leadership. 

People in the community who were not believers called the believers Christian, or "little Christ", because they acted so much like Jesus. That tells me the first-century believers lived the kind of God-loving, neighbor-loving life to which they were called by Our Lord.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; 
and greater works than these he will do, because I go to the Father. 
If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.
John 14:12-13 nasb

If those verses are true, and they are, why don't we see that kind of power in the church today? Maybe it's because of the verse that comes next. 

"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." John 14:15 nasb

I am confident we could have a more vibrant faith, a deeper prayer life, a more Christ-like church if we did what Joshua called the children of Israel to do. 

Occupy that which God has promised.

I look at my own life and wonder why I don't see what Peter, John, Paul, and Silas saw God do. I want to experience the miraculous workings of God they experienced. 

But... I stop short at the imprisonment they endured, the beatings that threatened their lives, the martyrdom they accepted. 

The disciples were "all in", all the way to their deaths. 

I don't know if I could do that or not. A part of me wants to be that committed. A part of me wants to be faithful to the end. An equally strong part of me recoils from danger, embraces safety and comfort.

Just like the children of Israel.

But what if we decided to embrace our faith with everything in our being? What if we decided to occupy the promises God has given us?

Our circumstances might change. Life would be different, but, according to Paul, it would be infinitely better.  

"But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, 
and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.
Philippians 3:8-9 nasb

If I want what God has promised, I must make a choice. Occupy the promises.

If we, as the corporate body of Christ, want all God has promised for His bride, the church, we, too, must occupy His promises. The land of Israel wasn't gained in day, but it wasn't gained at all until they made a start and began occupy it. 

May this day be the one in which we make a start and do more than claim the Promises of God. May this be the day we take possession and occupy them.
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