When Israel had the opportunity to enter Canaan the first time, they encountered some problems that set them back and caused them to wander in the wilderness for forty years. Then when they finally made it into the land, they encountered a couple more problems that caused them unnecessary grief in the land. These problems that they encountered are typical of the problems that Christians face when they decide to gain the higher ground of their spiritual walk with God. By studying what happened to Israel, perhaps we can avoid the consequences they faced. Israel’s failure in Canaan was the result of:
Disobedience – Num 13:2; 32:10-12 – God told them to go in and inhabit the land. They refused. And all of the adults died in the wilderness. They went in and Achan stole the cursed stuff. Israel lost the first battle at Ai. They fought battles and defeated nations for almost five years. But then they left many inhabitants in the land. They fell to idolatry. They never fully followed what the Lord told them to do. And so they faced failure, repeatedly.
You will never gain the spiritual ground the Lord has for you unless you follow him completely and faithfully. Many Christians try to live the Christian life half way. And then they complain that it doesn’t work. You must fully obey the Lord.
Discouragement – Num 13:20; 32:7-9 – the spies went in and saw the strength of the people, the walled cities, and the giants and they were afraid to fight [Num 13:28]. The abundant fruit of the land was not enough to convince them to go in [Num 13:26-27, 23]. They were too discouraged to fight. They were so discouraged that they even thought the terrible conditions in Egypt were better than the milk and honey of Canaan [Num 14:1-4].
When you get discouraged in your Christian life, you quit trying to gain more ground in your Christian growth. Instead, you head back to the familiar territory of your old worldly life. You know it’s not good, but at least you know how to function in the world. It’s not scary to you. That is a tragic mistake.
Dissension – Num 13:30-33; 14:6-10 – Joshua and Caleb were ready to go in and fight to conquer the land and take possession of it. The other ten spies were not for going in. They were afraid and they were very vocal in their opposition. They finally persuaded everyone else to give up on the idea of entering Canaan.
Often, in a family, one spouse wants to gain more spiritual ground in their walk with the Lord and the other doesn’t. The one who doesn’t tries to persuade the other one to give up. Or the parents want to start serving God and the children pitch a fit. Or the children come back from youth camp fired up to serve the Lord and the parents throw cold water on their zeal. Those who dissent seem to be the ones who win. Yet, in fact, they are the ones who lose. The whole family loses.
Distrust – Jos 7:6-8 – at the first problem in Canaan [the defeat at Ai], Joshua was ready to leave the land and go back to the other side of Jordan. He didn’t fully trust the Lord. Even after all of those years of ministering to Moses and seeing God intervene on their behalf, Joshua’s faith cratered.
Often, your problems in life result from failing to trust the Lord. You say that you trust him just like Israel said that they would serve and obey the Lord [Jos 24:17-24]. But at the first sign of a problem, rather than trust the Lord to get you through it, you start making an excuse to quit. This is such a common scenario. How often we have seen individuals “sell out for God,” only to retreat as soon as the first major trial comes. God is faithful. You can trust him.
Distress – Jos 9-11 – Israel had to deal with adversity in Canaan. There were many battles to fight. They had to follow the Lord’s instruction to defeat Ai. They had to defend the Gibeonites from the five kings that attacked them after they made a league with Israel. They had to defeat the kings of several individual cities and they had to fight against the confederacy of kings under Jabin, king of Hazor. After a while they got tired of fighting and left the inhabitants of the land. They either feared their strength or put them under tribute.
The Christian life is a life of warfare. That’s why we have been given the whole armor of God. If you want to gain the higher ground of your spiritual life then you have to be willing to fight. Otherwise, you will be complacent to let your spiritual enemies dwell among you. They will steal your strength and joy and peace, but at least you won’t have to fight. What a terrible way to live.
Conclusion: if you want to get the most out of your spiritual life with Christ, then you will have to obey God, stay encouraged, be united in your marriage and family, trust the Lord through all problems, and deal with adversity when it comes up. If you are willing to do these things, then you will enjoy your Christian life the way God intended for it to be lived.