Thursday, February 05, 2009

A Step of Faith

May we play a quick game of pretend? Imagine that you are a Israelite priest on the banks of the Jordan River. For forty years your people have wandered in the wilderness and now it is time to cross the Jordan. Imagine your sense of joy when you find out that you have been selected to carry the ark of God and lead the nation across the Jordan into the Promised Land.

There is only one problem. The usually sleepy little Jordan is now at flood stage. Most of the time wading the Jordan is no big deal, but at flood stage it is impossible; near certain death.

You grab the pole that extends out of the front of the ark. You carry the ark with its divine treasures through the Israelite camp amidst the cheers of the people. Everyone is excited but you. You have a lump in your throat and a knot in your stomach.

Joshua assures you that God has commanded this. “As soon as the priests set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.” God promised. Easy for Joshua; he’s not the one who has to step in the river.

Suddenly, you have come to the moment of decision. Your next step is a big one. Do you trust what God has said to be true and risk your life by walking into the Jordan? Why can’t God just stop the river a second or two earlier? Is it sane to step into a river at flood stage? Talk about God closing the doors. That swollen river looks like a closed door to you, right?

What would you do? God said step in the river and I will stop the flow. That is the way God usually works. God calls us to tasks that are beyond our ability, our knowledge, our reason, or our strength. He promises to be there and to accomplish his work in us and through us.

But in God’s work there is almost always a moment in which you stand at the Jordan deciding whether to take that first step into the flood. Abraham had to leave home and family before God showed him the Promised Land. David had to pick up a slingshot and walk out to face the giant. Elijah had to face the false prophets on Mt. Carmel. Moses had to head to Egypt to face Pharaoh with only the promise of God. Biblical faith is always risky. If God does not work, you will fail, even die.

That’s what it means to walk by faith and not by sight. We say to the Lord, “Stop the river and I will step in.” That’s walking by sight. We look at our abilities, our resources, our wisdom and we do “the best we can” for God. God calls us to rely on his resources, his wisdom, and his ability so he can accomplish “God-sized” tasks through us. God calls us to walk by faith; to step into the river before he stops the flow.

The walk of faith is exciting, awesome and beautiful. But it is also scary. Faith calls us to risk it all in obedience to him. If God does not work, disaster awaits.

But remember our game of pretend? Imagine the wonder in your heart as you take that literal step of faith, as you place your foot in the flooding Jordan – and there before your eyes it begins to pile up to the north. You carry the ark through on dry ground and all Israel follows. What rejoicing there must have been that day!

Those who walk by faith get to rejoice at the power of God.

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