If you look back at the previous post, you'll remember that I was thinking through what holds us back from the kind of victory that the Israelites experienced in Joshua 6. It boils down to a lack of obedience to God, for many reasons. But no matter what is at the root, the effect of it is that we are not moved to act on the things God requests or requires of us.
The result of all of this is mind-blowing to me. It's amazing to me to realize what we are willing to give up in exchange for having our own way / doing our own thing. Thinking through this, I envisioned a literal what-if situation where the Israelites chose NOT to do what God asked of them. Had they not obeyed, they would have remained on the outer edge of Jericho, on the outside looking in, unable to overcome their circumstances, and unable to take hold of all that God had promised to them. What's more, if they did not move forward to the place that God had called them to, then their enemy would remain wholly unaffected by their presence, and they (the Israelites) would, by default, either sit idly by, or wander into the wilderness to a place they were not supposed to be.
The same is true for us. When we are disobedient, we remain on the outskirts of God's will. We never really tap into God's power to move in a situation and to alter circumstances. If we do not do our part, He cannot - or will not - do His. If we do not trust Him, and have faith enough to act on account of His Word, He will not move on our behalf. He is not moved by a lack of faith. Only faith brings about the reward of God's presence and power working in and through our lives. When we fail to act on His Word, we are failing to demonstrate faith in Him.
If God doesn't pour out His presence and power on our circumstances, then our circumstances remain unchanged. Without God we are powerless to crumble walls and tear down strongholds. No amount of effort on our part will allow us to accomplish something that only He is capable of doing.
But without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him...
If our circumstances remain unchanged, then our enemy remains unaffected by our presence. The people of Jericho wouldn't have cared if the Israelites sat outside until the end of time, as long as they weren't being bothered. The same is true for our enemy. As long as we are not invading his territory or shaking his walls, he doesn't care whether or not we are sitting right outside. Unless we are in the will of God, being obedient to all that He asks and requires of us, we are not in a position to upset our enemy.
When we live lives of disobedience, we live lives without purpose. If we are not in the will of God, following where He leads, and going where He has asked us to go, then we are doing one of two things. Either we are sitting still, being idle and doing nothing, or we are moving in the wrong direction, headed to places we were not intended to be. Neither is good. Both lack purpose, and both have the potential to create disastrous complications and troubles in our lives. I do not want to live a life without purpose, and I surely do not want to complicate my life with trouble that I could have, and should have, avoided.
Ultimately, though, without obedience, there is no victory. As Christians, it seems we really like to focus in on the verses in the Bible that talk about being more than conquerors, victors, kings in life, the vast blessings of God. But we miss the notion that in front of many of His promises, He says, 'If' or 'For whosoever will.' The promises are available...IF. If we are willing to submit to His guidance. If we are willing to obey Him. If we are willing to dedicate our lives to knowing and loving and serving Him only. IF. If we are not living in obedience and submission to God's will and plan, then we are not in line with the ONE plan that will work to bring about victory in our lives. Victory comes through obedience.
So back to the original question...what holds us back? What keeps us from impacting our communities and our culture for God? What prevents us from breaking through in circumstances where our friends and neighbors are outside of the kingdom? When they need healing? When they need hope? What keeps us from making a difference in their lives? What holds us back from experiencing victory and peace in our own lives?
Is it indifference to others' circumstances? If we were truly being obedient to the Word of God, spending time in His presence, abiding in Him, reading and meditating on His Word, and LOVING one another, HOW could indifference even be a possibility?
Is it selfishness that holds us back? Pride? Insecurity? Lack of Faith? Lack of reverence? All of these things are erased as we let go of them and surrender to Him. Spending time in His presence in prayer and in reading the Bible has the power to transform our lives, replacing pride with humility, selfishness with generosity, insecurity with a firm foundation, and irreverence with a deeper awe and appreciation for all that He is. If we are being obedient to Him at the most basic level - giving Him our time, our attention, and ultimately our hearts - then the other things that hold us back will begin to fade away. As we take the time to get to know Him and to fall in love with Him, we are left with the ability to do nothing BUT be obedient. It becomes our very nature because He becomes a part of us. We obey Him because we love Him. We obey Him because He has become such a part of who we are that we can do nothing else.
Jesus answered, If a person really loves Me, he will keep My word [obey My teaching]; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. (John 14:23)
So maybe the real problem is that we, the Church, need to take time to fall in love with Him. Maybe we've gotten so caught up in doing church that we've lost sight of the One thing that matters most. Maybe we need to seek HIM, not His STUFF. Not the victory. Not the blessings. Not the healing and miracle-working power. Those things are great, and I believe they are a vital part of His plan. But Jesus makes it very simple and clear when He says 'Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and all these things will be given to you besides.' (Matthew 6:33) When we put first things first, we get right results. We get peace. We get joy. We get victory, power, and blessings that we could not imagine. But our motive must always be to know Him more, and to serve Him and obey Him out of a heart of love for Him. Nothing else will do.