Wide open spaces seem to keep filling my life in this season. Spaces that don’t make sense, in a really good way, and they bring me to the humbling reality that wherever I follow God, He has already given me the territory. It’s the reality that wherever I stay surrendered to His will and His ways, wherever I stay close to the River and close to His heart, walking in gratefulness instead of entitlement, walking in grace instead of judgement, living to give instead of get, living to be instead of do, and simply just saying “yes” to Him, then He seems to just opens up more space.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the 12 spies that were sent to scout out The Promised Land in Numbers 13. Thinking about their choices, their perspectives and what I would have done in their shoes. A couple weeks ago I had something happen that sent my heart into a panic. Racing waves of anxiety and shear fear swept over me as I read a horribly evil blog article that a hacked friend’s account on Facebook had sent me. I glanced at it just long enough to realize its content and that this blog was evil, intended to bring fear. As much as I tried over the next couple days to erase it from my mind, it had me thinking and quite honestly, backpedaling. It felt like I’d been hit by an arrow straight to the chest. The enemy had me in his sights and was out to steal, kill and destroy, and it was very personal. I felt small. I felt weak. I felt incredibly fearful.
But then God reminded me of Joshua and Caleb. I started reading the passage in Numbers over and over again. Fixing my thoughts on things above, things that are good and noble and true. It never dawned on me that Joshua and Caleb ever felt fear like I currently was. It never occurred to me that they were anything but super-human, strong, warrior men, who were crazy enough to believe God would help them defeat the giants. It never occurred to me that they might have felt small and weak like I did and had to make a decision and a choice to declare in agreement with what God said instead of their own overwhelming feelings of fear. And here’s what they chose to declare,
“The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.”
I think Joshua and Caleb declared this in faith, out of their weakness, speaking to their own hearts as much as anyone else’s in the crowd. They were choosing to believe, to trust, and to obey. They were choosing to rest in the Lord’s faithfulness and what He had said, instead of what they saw with their physical eyes.
In Hebrews 4:6 it refers to a promised “rest” for the people of God. It says, “God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God.” The Israelites were actually choosing disobedience to not take the land as God had directed them. They chose not to follow, not to obey and it kept them from the rest (contentment, peace, joy, etc.) God had for them. It actually works both ways. If you obey, you receive rest. If you rest in God, you can easily obey.
Somehow in our own lives we see our feelings of fear, inadequacy, etc., as valid points to our concerns. We don’t usually see them as disobedience. “God understands our weakness,” we remind ourselves. We see our feelings steering our choices as an option, like, “God, when you give me the feelings of courage and strength, then I’ll know it’s time to move forward.” Forgetting that feelings are from our flesh that are meant to be wielded and submitted first to our spirit.
God’s longing was to bring the Israelites into a wide open space (Exodus 3). He wanted to get them away from Egypt (their past) and give them the territory of their enemies (areas that bring us pain/heartache and restore to God’s Kingdom purposes) – to give them a good land, overflowing with milk and honey (nourishment and sweetness). A ‘promised land’ that would belong to them and the generations after them (inheritance), and He wants to do the same for you and I.
Wide open spaces don’t come by standing back passively. They come by taking down strongholds one day at a time. Strongholds in our minds and emotions. More often than not our giants aren’t 9 ft tall men like those facing the Israelites, but they are just as real living in our minds. They are areas of resistance to what God says is ours as His children. They are enemies that come to steal, kill and destroy. So we take them by declaring as Joshua and Caleb did – “They are our bread and God is for us!”
Romans 5:1-2 says it best,
By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with Him, make us fit for Him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that He has already thrown open His door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.