Two Responses to Challenge
God knew that after 400 years of slavery, the Israelites were not ready to enter their Promised Land. They needed to have a new perspective of who they were and of the God who had delivered them. In His mercy, with the cloud by day and the fire by night, He led them along an alternate route, rather than a direct one.
After a time, they grew discouraged in the wilderness because of the way. (Num 21:4) Their trek was longer and more challenging than they had expected. They fell into ingratitude and grumbling towards the man they had once praised for his vision and leadership. Mutinous plans to return to Egypt were formed, but God squashed the rebellion. He intended that they move forward into their inheritance as a sovereign nation.
Centuries later, a mighty warrior was ridiculing and intimidating the army of Israel, day after day. When the boy David arrived from home with provisions for his brothers at the battleground, he grew indignant at what he heard and stood up to answer Goliath’s challenge.
Rather than shrink back, he ran to engage in mortal combat, and with God’s help, made an easy victory. Confronting this prominent enemy directly was moving towards his ultimate destiny as king of Israel. It was David’s destiny to repeatedly lead Israel into victorious battle over their enemies.
These stories were written down for our instruction and as warnings, to help us with the challenges we face in life. (1 Cor 10:11)
Which Way to Run?
There are times when we have all wanted to run away from difficult challenges, and there is a legitimate time to step aside for rest and reflection. But too often, a compromise is made because of weariness or fear. Such a compromise does not foster growth or maturity, but rather settles for less. For the Israelites to have given up and returned to Egypt would be to insure a life of oppression, at the very least. Their example also demonstrates that running away often involves blame.
The question to consider is,
“Are you running away from something or towards something?” or,
“Are you moving towards your destiny or away from it?”
When you are being stretched, it is an uncomfortable time to grow. Growth may come in your identity, to break off false and limiting perceptions, or to expose pride, foolishness, or lack of faith. Growth may come in clarifying your life purpose, or in your understanding of the nature, character, and love of God. It may be time for repentance, to make some adjustments in practices. Your theology may be challenged and your doctrine changed to a more accurate one. Whatever the determination, it also requires faith to move forward, on to new challenges.
You are destined to be an overcomer! (1 John 5:4) David’s victory over Goliath was swift, because he acted boldly, in faith, and immediately. He did not allow his confidence to be worn down by being subjected to days of taunts. He ran to the battle! (1 Sam 17:48)
Led by the Spirit
Where are you being challenged to grow right now? Have you become discouraged because of “the way”? What do you think God wants from you in this season?
We do not have the cloud by day or the fire by night to lead us, but we have been given the Scriptures, Holy Spirit, and godly leaders. Often Holy Spirit leads us through the inward witness which gauges the level of peace deep within. Like an internal traffic light, we may perceive a green “yes”, or a red “no”, or even a yellow “proceed with caution”. I often tell people, “Never disobey your gut feeling!”
Sometimes people confuse peace with a feeling of relief at having chosen the easier way. True peace is accompanied by the other fruit of the Spirit. (Gal 5:22-23)
Having peace does not mean a life free of challenges. It means internal rest while facing them.
“for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
(Rom 14:17 NAS)
God’s intention for you is also that you fulfill His dream for you. He will lead you into wilderness experiences and to face giants, all with the purpose of showing you His love and mercy while you walk out your calling.
Trust that He is good and that He does nothing on a whim. Surely He will lead you with peace. Take courage. The Lord is committed to your growth and maturity.
“For you will go out with joy and be led forth with peace…”