Unstuck

Have you ever felt stuck in life?

You’re discontent with where you are at, you know that there’s no way to go backwards in life, and yet you’re unsure of where to go from here.  Uncertain about your future, you’re very hesitant to take the next step.  However, you’re certain that you can’t stay where you are for much longer. 

Why not move forward and take the next step?  Usually, it’s because we’re afraid.

Maybe afraid that you might fail.

Maybe afraid that you might choose the wrong path.

Maybe afraid to get hurt again.

Maybe afraid to venture into new and unfamiliar things.

Maybe afraid that you might end up walking that path alone.

These are natural and ordinary responses.  However, we are more than just natural and ordinary people!  Followers of Christ are supernatural and extraordinary people!  Yes, we still live in this flesh and still have those same thoughts and feelings, but we are new creations who walk by faith and not by sight!

We may feel afraid, but we know that:

2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

…God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

We may feel afraid, but fear no longer has control of our lives!  Fear has lost its grip!  We have the Spirit of the Living God within us that enables us to overcome all fear and timidity.  We have the raw power of God within us so that nothing can stand against us.  We have within us a perfect love that drives out all fear.  We have been fully equipped to discipline ourselves to no longer bow down to the lies that our fears are shouting at us!

We don’t have to walk in uncertainty, either.  The same Spirit that baptized Jesus and empowered Him to do all of the miraculous works that He did, that same Spirit that rose Jesus from the grave lives in us!  Listen to just some of what Isaiah prophesied that the Spirit of God within us is like:

Isaiah 11:2-3 (NLT)

2 …the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and might,

    the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

Isaiah continued prophesying about Jesus and what the Spirit of God would enable Him, and now us, to do:

3 He will delight in obeying the Lord.

    He will not judge by appearance

    nor make a decision based on hearsay.

We no longer make decisions or judgments based on what looks like the right thing to do or on hearsay of what people say is the right thing for us to do.  We are empowered and emboldened to do what the Lord calls us to do; whether it makes sense or looks right or not by human standards.

When we feel stuck in life, we’re usually not in a good place.  However, that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have a purpose for it and that doesn’t mean that God is finished with us and that doesn’t mean that He isn’t going to do something good through it!  Listen to what the word of the Lord declares about you in that place:

Isaiah 30:20-21

20 Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. 21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

What confidence we have when we walk by faith in hearing the Holy Spirit!  He will clearly guide us down the path of the Lord.  Even if we start to stray to the right or to the left, He will redirect us saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Here is the key.  Here is the hard part.  Here is where we miss it.  Here is where we get stuck.

We have to take the next step.  We have to move forward.  We have to start walking.

There are way, way, way too many examples of this in the scriptures.  So many times, God’s people just literally needed to take the next step forward in faith to where God met them and did the miraculous to lead them into the fulfillment of His promises to them.

This morning, we’re going to look one to give us the boldness and the courage and the faith that we need to take our next step. 

Remember as we read that under the Old Covenant, the Presence of God rested in the ark of the covenant.  Today, He fills our lives.  Here, God’s people were stuck.  They were being lead into new places that they have never been before.  Those places were inhabited by strong people who were enemies to them, but whom they had never met before. 

The only reason that God allowed them to dwell in those lands was to preserve the land for Israel.

God was now leading His people to evict their enemies and to take what was rightfully theirs.  It was God’s promised land for them.  God is also leading you into your promised land.  He’s also leading you into unknown territory and to defeat enemies that you have never encountered before.  The victory is yours, the promise is yours, the battle is the Lord’s, but it will only be accomplished if we obediently take the next step.

Here, they were about to enter Jericho after just spying it out.  Remember, the Rahab story from last week?

Joshua 3

1 Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. 2 After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3 giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it.

Pursue the Presence of God, follow His lead, keep in step with the Spirit of God.

4 Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about three thousand feet between you and the ark; do not go near it.”

Now, we no longer need to keep a distance because Jesus fulfilled the law, forgave our sin, and poured His Spirit into our lives.  Even at a distance, the safest place for God’s people was to follow the Spirit wherever He went; even right into the enemy’s camp.

5 Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”

Often when we face uncertainty, the enemy brings fear into the very place where hope is supposed to be.  Hope fills us with eager anticipation that something good is about to happen; that God is going to do amazing things among us.  Fear fills us with anxiety and the anticipation that something bad is going to happen that God can’t do anything about.  It’s time for God’s people to cast our fear and fill that place with HOPE!

Consecrate yourself, literally prepare yourself, to experience a mighty move of God who will do amazing things for you!

6 Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them.

7 And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. 8 Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’”

9 Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. 10 This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. 11 See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. 12 Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.”

God is going to drive out the enemy; the battle is His!  The spoils of the victory is ours; He is freely giving it to us.  However, we have to take the next step in faith.  We have to cooperate with Him to see His will accomplished.

14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

Now it’s easy to read this and to miss something.  Now us country folk who grew up playing in creeks might understand this.  When the priests’ feet touched the water’s edge, the water upstream stopped flowing and dammed up into a heap a great distance away.  So, the priests didn’t step into a flooded river and immediately continue their walk on dry ground.

The priests took a step into the flooded river and they felt the power of the flow of water.  They felt the pressure that could easily sweep them off of their feet and take their lives from them.  They had to continue to take step-by-step in faith that they were doing what God told Joshua to do.  They had to have faith in God and also that their leader was accurately hearing from God. 

Step by step they had less and less control and each step required a greater and greater amount of faith to take.

Even when they could not see it, God was working.  Even when they could not feel it, God was working.

God had already performed a miracle a great distance away, but they wouldn’t experience it for a period of time.  It was finished, dry ground had been prepared and was on its way.  However, the flood waters were still rushing for them.

However, the reality of that miracle reached them at just the right time.  When they reached the middle of the flooded Jordan river, they were found themselves standing on dry ground.  As they continued to stand in the middle of the Jordan river in faith that the dammed up flood waters would not come rushing in a tsunami wall of water to overcome them, they made a way for the entire nation of people to cross the Jordan on dry ground as well.

God then instructed twelve men to place on their shoulder a stone.  They carried them to their camp and built a memorial from them as a reminder to the generations to follow of the miracle that God had done for them on that day.

We too easily forget the miraculous ways that God moves in our lives.  In some way, whether keeping a journal or blog or Pinterest or Instagram, or by some other physical means, it would be wise for us to memorialize what God has done.  It will serve to build our faith and to give us hope when we get stuck in life again.  It will also serve as a reminder to generations to come of what God can and will do for them.  It shares our testimony that will help others to overcome their impossibilities.

Yes, God loves us more than we could ever know, but He often does the miraculous in our lives not just for our good and benefit, but so that the world can get to know Him better.  That’s what Joshua shared with the people as well:

Joshua 4:23-24

23 For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.

Then, the day came when they had to take another step of faith.

Joshua 6:1-5

1 Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.

2 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.

Let’s just repeat these two verses and pretend like we don’t know how the story ends…

God sees what we do not see.  It required a great deal of faith to look at the securely barred gates and the impenetrable walls of Jericho to see that the city had been delivered into his hands along with its king and fighting men.  That’s why we absolutely must walk by faith and not by sight. 

God invited Joshua to see as He sees.  God was not stupid or foolish.  He saw where His people were and the impossibility from human standards of what He just spoke.  However, God doesn’t see things from just a human perspective, He sees also from His perspective.  Those gates and walls were nothing for His great power.  There is nothing too hard for our God! 

We are to be a supernatural people who expect extraordinary impossibilities as our reality.  Like Joshua, God has invited us to see as He sees by faith.

What was it going to take to release the power of God to make the impossible their reality?  It required God’s people to take the next step.  Much like the priests, it wasn’t just a single step, but many, many, literal steps in faith.

3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”

God’s people obeyed.  They took each step in faith.  Even though it made no earthly sense, they trusted God.  It didn’t just take one day or two days, it took seven days for their breakthrough to come.  What happened as a result of their obedience to walk by faith?

Joshua 6:20

When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city.

Even after all of the amazing miracles that were experienced firsthand by God’s people, they still got stuck in life.  God’s Kingdom is always moving, always advancing, always calling His people to take the next step of faith where He is beckoning them to.  However, those places are often unfamiliar and the opposition is often unknown and the way doesn’t always make sense and it is often filled with uncertainties and even impossibilities.

Even in the same generation, Joshua had to call the people together with this message:

Joshua 24:12-15

12 I drove them out before you. You did not do it with your own sword and bow. 13 So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.’

14 “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Elijah brought together God’s people several hundred years later with essentially the same message:

1 Kings 18:20-21

20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”  But the people said nothing.

God revealed the end times to the prophet Joel and this is what he saw:

Joel 3:14

Multitudes, multitudes

    in the valley of decision!

For the day of the Lord is near

    in the valley of decision.

Being stuck in the valley of decision is no place to be.  God is calling us up higher!  God is calling us to ascend up to His mountain that we might see through His eyes by faith.

It’s time once again for the Joshua generation to rise up and step out.  It’s time for God’s people to stand firmly on His promises once again and to courageously and boldly follow His lead to drive out whatever enemy might be possessing them until we rise up to take them. 

So, what’s your next step?