My whole camp dorm was shouting words of encouragement to one member (let's call her "Meg") as she slowly made her way to the top of the zip line. I'm sure the cries of encouragement could be heard from quite a distance as they were rather exuberant!
Anyway, Meg made it to the top—no small feat for her, as she was scared of heights—but now she had to turn around on the tiny little platform … and jump off! She "knew" that the equipment would hold her and that she was completely safe, yet her senses were telling her something entirely different! Her heart was pounding as she stood there, hesitant to jump.
If you're unfamiliar with the zip line, take a look at the accompanying pictures to get a better idea, because we can learn many lessons from the zip line! I'll get back to what happened with Meg in a little bit. In the meantime let's check out the spiritual parallels.
Just as Meg "knew" she was perfectly safe, do we "know" that God will take care of us, and yet hesitate to take Him up on His promise? Do we stand in fear, waiting around because we're too afraid to act?
Faith is an essential ingredient in a Christian's life. The book of Hebrews says that "without faith it is impossible to please Him" (11:6). It doesn't just say that it's "hard" to please God. It says it's "impossible"! So faith is definitely a big deal!
Let's look at an example in Joshua 3:13: "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."
Israel was about to cross over the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land, but notice what had to happen before the waters would part—the priests had to step into the water. They had to get their feet wet. They had to step in and trust that God was going to do as He said. God could have very easily cut off the waters as soon as the priests reached the edge of the Jordan, but He required them to take that first step into the water in faith.
Just as the zip line will hold us up, God will also hold us. But we must first surrender all of our weight—our whole being—and then trust Him. The zip line can't hold us up until we let go and put our weight on it. God can't carry us through until we let go and put our faith completely in Him. We must jump off the platform in faith.
Let's look at another example, this time in Numbers 13 and 14, which I'll summarize. This describes the occasion of the 12 spies being sent into Canaan to check out the land God had promised to Israel. Ten of the spies came back and reported that, yes, the land "truly flows with milk and honey" (13:27) but that it "is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature … we were like grasshoppers in our own sight" (13:32-33).
They saw the amazing land God was offering them, but they were shaking in their sandals because of the people who lived in the land. They were scared of the enemies and said, "No way!"
Who or what are our enemies? Are we afraid of anyone? Scared to try something new, step outside our comfort zone or make a change? Do we look at the promises God holds out to us and see only the enemies standing in our way?
The two other spies brought back a different report. Caleb said, "Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it" (13:30). Joshua said, "If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us … Do not … fear the people of the land" (14:8-9). So these two essentially said, "Yes, the enemy is big and scary, but we have God on our side! Let's go!"
What do we say when God tells us to step out in faith to receive His blessings? Do we say to Him, "No way!" or do we say, "Let's go!"?
The story continues as the 10 spies stir up all of Israel to the point that everyone wants to go back to Egypt! They said, "Let us select a leader and return to Egypt" (14:4). Do you remember the story of the Israelites in Egypt? They didn't have an easy life there. They were beaten and misused and in slavery! And yet the Israelites longed to go back because that seemed easier than facing their enemy.
In Luke 14:25-33 God tells us not to look back. He tells us to count the cost and then move forward without glancing back over our shoulder at what we've left behind. Israel looked back. The 10 spies who doubted looked back. The result for the 10 spies was death by a plague. They never saw the Promised Land. The result for Israel was 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. They could've taken possession of Canaan starting right then, but they hesitated and let fear hinder them. Do we let fear hinder us?
The Israelites regretted their decision, and the next morning a number of them decided to go up and take the land. Except now God wasn't with them (He even told them not to go), and they failed miserably.
What's the lesson for us? We must proceed on God's timetable, not our own. If we wait to act, we may lose our window of opportunity. God may give us another chance to act, but it may be a long time in the future. The Israelites had to wait 40 years! When God says, "Go," we had better be ready to jump!
The window of opportunity is small, and the time to act is now! God is offering us an incredible gift—a mind-boggling future—but He won'tmake us accept His gift. In 1 Thessalonians 5:21 we are told to "test all things; hold fast what is good." Have you proven to yourself that God exists? That the Bible is His Word? Do you believe Him? Do you believe His promises to you? The time to prove these things is now! Now is the time to act!
Timing can be everything
When you get into a sticky situation or have to make a difficult decision, these are not the best times to decide what you believe. When a cute guy or girl wants you to do something against God's law, that is not the time to try to figure out what to do. When you receive a tempting invitation to do something on the Sabbath that would break it, that isn't the time to decide how important keeping the Sabbath is to you.
Why is it not the best time? Because then your emotions are involved, and Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?" (emphasis added).
Our heart tells us one thing, and God tells us another. Which one will we listen to? Our emotions are extremely powerful, but they are not reliable standards on which to base important decisions. Like the Israelites, it's easy to get caught up in the moment and think of consequences for not boldly following God only when it's too late. They were caught up in fear. The next day they regretted it and were ready to act, but their opportunity had passed.
We must prove what we believe now so that when it's time to make a decision and act, the decision is already made. When an invitation comes to do something on the Sabbath that would violate it, you don't have to think about it. You've already thought it through, proved what you believe and can simply act. We cannot always rely on our senses and emotions! God tells us that the just live by faith. We are to live by faith, not by fear.
Meanwhile, back to the zip line …
Meg was hesitating at the top of the platform, so the rest of us decided to help her out and keep her from thinking fearful thoughts. We told her we'd count her off and then she'd jump. So we all yelled, "1, 2, 3 … GO!" Meg closed her eyes and jumped off the platform! Success! Meg overcame her fear that day, and you, too, can succeed and overcome the obstacles in your way if you will choose to totally depend on God and take a leap of faith!
God says we are to be faithful in that which is least. By doing so we will build the character to be "faithful also in much." If we begin building the habit of actively trusting and obeying God now (with daily prayer and Bible study), we will be able to stand in the future when tough times come!
If you haven't had the opportunity to hear the sermon on the United Church of God Web site titled "The Future Is Now," by Jim Franks, then I would really encourage you to listen to it online (www.ucg.org/sermons/index2006.htm, scroll down to Aug. 12). It speaks directly to the concept of acting and living now.
Don't wait. Don't hesitate. Obey today! Think first, but then act without thinking.VT