Realizing the Kingdom (9)
By faith people crossed the Red Sea as if on dry land…By faith the walls of Jericho fell down…By faith Rahab the prostitute…[gave] a friendly welcome to the spies. Hebrews 11.29-31
One step at a time
As we’ve seen, realizing the Kingdom of God is matter of daily steps of faith, moving us in the direction of God’s promises as we trust in Him and listen for the Spirit’s leading in our lives.
The more clearly we envision those precious and very great promises (2 Pt. 1.4), as we expect to see them coming to expression in our own lives, in ways unique to our circumstances and opportunities, the easier it will be to plan the daily steps of faith needed to keep us moving toward our high calling to be in Christ Jesus, to partake of Him, in every area of our lives (Phil. 3:14).
The writer of Hebrews insisted that Christians must not allow themselves to be knocked off course or cowed off the path of God’s promises by the temper of the times or the intimidations of the lost. His readers were beginning to suffer some persecution, and some of them were starting to “lay low” about their faith in Christ.
But he would have none of it. In chapter 11 he reminded his readers that they are but the latest links in a long chain of people who have lived by faith, men and women who took the next steps toward the promised City to Come every day of their lives. We are their spiritual descendants, and we must learn from them, and emulate them, in running our own race for the Lord.
In the process of exhorting his readers, the writer mentions three particular types of faith steps that we are likely to be called to undertake. We need to understand each of these so that we can recognize them and keep moving forward toward God’s promises, however He may choose to lead us.
Not gonna happen
The first of these is represented in the crossing of the Red Sea. The children of Israel, following Moses and Aaron, crossed that sea “by faith.” However, I can imagine that, as they considered that sea and Moses’ instructions to get ready to cross it, some of them might have said, “That ain’t gonna happen.”
God calls us sometimes to take what seem to us as impossible steps of faith. You may not be asked to walk through a churning sea, but there are doubtless many aspects of the faith life that seem impossible to you today.
For example: You begin to feel God tugging on your heart and populating your thinking with the idea that you really should speak a word of witness to the people in your neighborhood or at your job.
“Ain’t gonna happen,” you say to yourself, simply because it has not happened so far, and you – being who you are – are not likely to take up such a risky venture any time soon.
But still God tugs and prompts and points you to the task. Do you take the step of faith toward such an “impossible” act of obedience (Acts 1.8)? Do you begin praying for these people, getting to know them, looking for ways to love and serve them, so that you can bear credible witness to them in due course? (Need some help on this? Sign up for the course, PT 3 Taking Up the Challenge of Evangelism – free and online at The Ailbe Seminary.)
Or perhaps God is inclining your heart to start tithing? Or to offer to teach Sunday school for the kids? Or go on a mission trip? Whatever “impossible” thing God has begun to lay on your heart, envision yourself doing it, lay out the steps of faith to get you moving in that direction, and watch how the Spirit begins to fill the sails of your soul and help you realize greater growth or service than you’ve ever known before.
I can’t see it
The second kind of faith step is represented by the walls of Jericho. Surely some of those people, upon hearing the explanation of what they were going to do in order to capture the city of Jericho, must have said to themselves, “That’s not likely; I just can’t see that working, you know?”
We may be called to such steps of faith as well. The way to the promises of God may lie along what we consider to be an unlikely path. “How,” we may ask, “is more time in prayer going to make my Christian life more real and powerful?” “How can working on my spiritual vision – whatever that is – bring more power to my Christian life?” “I don’t see how – fill in the blank – is going to help me – fill in the blank.”
These things aren’t impossible. They just strike us as unlikely, perhaps because we can’t see how that activity can produce the kind of results or fruit we’re hoping to realize. Or maybe we tried that already and it “didn’t work.”
God calls us to unlikely steps of faith sometimes, and the sooner we recognize ourselves responding to His promptings with that kind of hesitancy, the sooner we’ll be able to start charting a path of obedience through those unlikely channels toward the promises of God.
The final faith step is like what Rahab did: a simple gesture of compassion and love, motivated by a desire to find favor with God. Hers might appear to be a small, even an insignificant gesture, but it was just what she needed to land smack dab in the middle of the promises of God.
This is everyday stuff, beloved. These are the most common faith steps we’re all called to walk each day of our lives. We may not see how these everyday gestures or words are going to further the Kingdom of God and secure us more deeply in His favor, but they do, and they will. We simply need to take them every day, with all the people around us, in the belief that by thus working out our salvation in fear and trembling, we will engage the power of God to do in and through us whatever is pleasing to Him (Phil 2.12, 13).
I can’t support this Biblically – at least, not entirely – but I have a sense that faithfulness in the everyday steps, those “What, this can make a difference?” steps of faith, will lead us to the more unlikely and even impossible steps of faith as we journey steadily on toward the promises of God.
Faithfulness in the small things will enable us to master the greater challenges, and, since every day presents numerous opportunities for reaching out for the promises of God, we should be ready for whatever Jericho wall or Red Sea the Lord chooses to place before us, whenever it appears.
For a fuller treatment of this theme, order a copy of T. M.’s book, I Will Be Your God, from our online store.
For more insight to the character of the Kingdom of God and its impact on our lives, enroll in the course, PT 1 Spiritual Maturity 1: Revival. This free online course will help you to realize more of the presence and power of the Kingdom of God in your everyday life.