Before going forward chronologically in the story of our encounters with Christ, I must first go backward and share some things that are necessary in order to understand that which follows.
While I was still in my twenties, and fellowshipping at the church where I first learned the message of grace, the Spirit began to reveal a truth that was to profoundly affect my future walk with the Lord. He showed me through the types of the Old Testament that His salvation is a free gift, and even as Moses (who is a type of Christ) delivered the children of Israel from their cruel bondage and servitude in Egypt without their having to do anything other than place the blood of a lamb on the doorposts and lintels of their homes, so too God provided salvation to us as a free gift that we cannot earn, but which we merely receive.
Under Moses, the Israelites were set free from their taskmasters, and through Christ, those who believe on His name are set free from the bondage of sin. The faith of many of the Israelites was very weak, for they had been slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years. The faith of many saints is also very weak, for they have known only bondage to sin. Because of this slave mentality, many feel that they should not dare think themselves to be truly free of sin’s hold upon them. Thus we see that when the Egyptians pursued Israel in the wilderness, that many among the Israelites doubted. They thought that the Egyptians would re-capture them, killing great numbers of them in the process. Even so, many Christians upon being freed from sin’s bondage then doubt their freedom and begin to think that sin will once more gain dominion over them.
The Christian life is by necessity a life of faith. We not only begin in faith, but we must continue in faith. In the beginning of our life in Christ God seemingly tolerates doubting much more than He does later on. The ideal of God is that our faith should grow, and never stop increasing. Yet this ideal is not always met. The Israelites, having seen God perform wonder after wonder in Egypt, culminating in the death of the firstborn of all Egypt, both of men and cattle, still doubted that God would bring them to a fulness of salvation, and a complete deliverance from Egypt. When they stood before the waters of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army behind them and mountains to the left and right, they murmured against God. They said, “Did Yahweh bring us out here to kill us because there were not enough graves in Egypt?”
God was neither glorified, nor pleased with this faithless response. Nevertheless, He delivered the people in spite of their murmurings. Moses spoke to the people, commanding them to be quiet, to “stand still and see the salvation of your God.” Moses then stretched forth his staff and the waters of the Red Sea parted and all Israel crossed over on dry land. We see that God was willing at this point in His relationship with Israel to manifest His provision for them before they demonstrated an attitude of faith. The people crossed through the Sea after they saw it part. Thus God manifested His provision without first requiring faith in the hearts of those He was saving.
We must keep in mind that Israel did not enter into the land of promise at this time. They only crossed over into the wilderness of Sin. So too God will bring many of His doubting children out of Egypt and into a wilderness of testing and trials, but He will not allow them to depart this wilderness while still filled with doubts and unbelief. Many Christians spend their entire lives in the wilderness, and perish there just as an entire generation of unbelieving Israelites did.
God does require faith from those who would enter into their promised inheritance. We see then, that when the people under Joshua entered the land God promised to Abraham, that God did not part the waters of the Jordan and then invite them to pass through as He had done at the Red Sea. No! He required that they take the first step, demonstrating faith before He would manifest His provision.
"It shall come about when the soles of the feet of the priests who carry the ark of Yahweh, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan will be cut off, and the waters which are flowing down from above will stand in one heap."
God may allow murmuring Christians, filled with doubts and unbelief, to go as far as the wilderness where their hearts are proven, but He will not allow these same doubters to enter into the land of promise. Only those who walk by faith, and who demonstrate confidence in their Savior, can enter there. God will only reveal His way into the land to those who step forth in faith. In the wilderness the saints learn to no longer live by sight, and to no longer lean on the arm of the flesh. Here they learn to receive their daily provision from God’s hand, and they learn to lean completely upon Him. When they learn the lessons of trusting God well enough, then they are led up out of the wilderness and into their inheritance.
Song of Solomon 8:5
"Who is this coming up from the wilderness leaning on her beloved?"
All those who come up out of the wilderness must be leaning solidly upon Christ. This knowledge that faith was necessary in order to go on with the Lord began to dawn on me while I was a member of this Southern Baptist church where the message of grace was preached so vigorously. I observed many profound things while there. I saw many who grasped a message of salvation by grace through faith who became confident that they were saved from wrath and were children of God. Continuing the type from Egypt, they applied the blood of the Lamb to their lives, and felt secure from the death angel. Yet few demonstrated a practical faith that would have an observable impact upon their daily lives. They trusted God with their eternal salvation, but they did not trust God for their present needs. They were wilderness wanderers, and they were all dying in this land of unbelief.
I began to understand that God would test all of His children in the wilderness, to know what was in their hearts. Those who had faith in their hearts would be brought into their inheritance, while those who did not would perish in the wilderness. What is the means of this testing? It is the same as that experienced by the Israelites in the wilderness. God will test us in the physical circumstances of our lives. We can confess loudly and fervently that we trust God for our salvation, and for eternal life in heaven, but God wants to know if we will trust Him now by placing our lives firmly into His care.
It was while we were among these Christians that God first began to challenge our family to trust Him for things that men often look to others to provide. One early challenge He gave us was to trust Him for our security. We moved to a town near the church. My wife had told me she would never move to this town, for she had heard that there was much crime there. There was a security system in the house, and when we moved in my wife asked me if she could get it activated by taking out a contract with a security company. I neglected to pray about this situation, and wishing to please my wife, who did agree to move to this town with me, I gave her my consent.
In our bedroom was a panel with lights that monitored all of the zones in the house. They were green when all was okay, and red when an alarm had been tripped. I did not know that my wife was lying awake night after night staring at the panel in fear that one of the lights would change from green to red. About a month after moving in, my wife and I were alone in the house, having sent our children to stay with some neighbors for the night. About 3 AM one of the alarm sensors tripped and a light went from green to red. Right outside our bedroom, on the outside of the house, was an alarm, and I had never heard it before. It was like a claxon siren that might announce a bombing raid, or the approach of a tornado. It was horrendously loud; loud enough to wake the entire neighborhood. It began blaring, and being awakened to such a noise from a sound sleep sent both my wife and I into a panic. The noise was so overwhelming that all I could think of was turning off the alarm. I ran to the panel and keyed in the security code to turn it off.
My wife was greatly frightened, suspecting that we had an intruder in the house. She went to our closet and took out a pellet gun that I had purchased as a play thing, and she handed it to me. I told her that I would have to shoot the intruder in the eyeball with it to do any good, so I handed it back to her and I grabbed a can of pepper spray, which is similar to mace. I did a search of the house while my wife called the police and went to the front door to wait for them. There was no intruder in the house, and after a thorough examination we found that a sensor on a front window had tripped. The children had been playing there earlier in the day and must have bumped it. Since the house was close to the road, it was probably just the vibration from a car going by that had set the alarm off.
My wife and I were very keyed up after all of this excitement, and had difficulty going back to sleep. I realized that God had gone before us in having our children stay with friends that night. This was something God wanted my wife and I to deal with. In the morning I spoke to my wife about the alarm system. I told her that it was not providing security. Rather it was producing fear. She then confessed to me that she had been lying awake for hours every night staring at the panel in fear that it would go off.
I shared my heart with Tony, telling her that the Spirit was indicating to me that we needed to entrust the security of our home and family to Him, and to cancel our security contract. Tony agreed, and we called that day and canceled it. I also threw away our pepper spray. I was convinced that God wished us to lean completely upon Him in this matter of our security and safety, and that anything else we leaned on to fulfill this same function would keep us from knowing God’s provision. Eventually some opportunity would present itself where that which we trusted in would be tested. Therefore, I did not want to keep a gun in the house, or the pepper spray, or even the security system. I wanted to lean entirely upon God and look to Him to be our shelter and strong tower.
I had never owned an actual gun, just having had BB guns and pellet guns for my own entertainment to do target shooting. However, I considered at this time what it would be like to have a gun in the house. I kept coming back to the thought that if I trusted in a gun for the protection of my family, eventually God would lead me to a time when I had to prove the value of this thing I was trusting in. Every scenario I could think of, in which I would have to pick up a gun and point it at another person for defense of myself or my family, left me recoiling at the visions of the aftermath of such an event. I decided that I would much rather place our security in God’s hands, and trust Him to spare us from ever having to wound, or kill, another person. The Scripture, “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword” was much in my mind.
This was the beginning of many more steps of faith to come, where I would be led to trust in the love, kindness, mercy, wisdom and strength of God, while turning my back upon my own abilities, or the abilities of other men, to provide security, health and provision.
After canceling our security contract and disabling our home alarm system, as a family we went around the house and anointed the corners with oil. We then prayed together, asking the Father to be our security and to give us peace. That night was the first night my wife slept soundly in the house, and she was never disturbed again. We were to be at this house for three years, and even when some other people in the neighborhood had bicycles and other objects stolen, we never had anything of ours to be bothered with. This was the beginning of God leading our family to trust Him in matters of this life.
From the Book:
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