Do you ever feel like you are facing obstacles with walls so tall and strong you cannot get past them? In spite of the oft-quoted promise that, “God will never give you more than you can handle,” the truth is that we frequently face things that are greater than we can handle on our own, but not bigger than the God who loves us, and wants to lead us to victory.
Many of us grew up believing that we were supposed to be self-made, and that life was about giving it our all. If things got really bad, we asked God for help, but then went on to do our best to overcome our circumstances. Apparently, God’s help was to make us better at what we were already trying to do.
What if God’s plan in those difficult moments was not to make us a little better or stronger than we were before? What if the bigger agenda was to invite us deeper in our relationship with him and to lean into God more? What if God’s goal was to move us away from our efforts to be independent and instead, allow us to be more dependent on him?
Yesterday’s sermon was based on the story of Joshua, and the victory at Jericho, found in Joshua 6 (listen to the message here http://cortlandumc.net/January_12-_2014.mp3). As I worked through the preparation for the message, I couldn’t help but think of how difficult it must have been to accept God’s plan for victory. Marching around the city with priests and trumpets is not much of a military strategy. Faced with an imposing obstacle, God did not ask Joshua to try harder, nor was the answer in better military planning. God’s divine solution was to march around the city in worship for a week, and then shout for victory on the last day. Unexpected, but as it turns out, quite effective.
In the book of Isaiah, God tells us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.” (55:8) God’s perspective is not our perspective. There is no trembling in heaven as God confers with the angelic host to come up with a response to the problem we are facing. There is no question in the heavenly throne room of who is, and will remain, victorious. God does not lose, and never plays to tie. God is the victor, and shares that victory with us.
Rather than trying harder, or focusing on our weaknesses, we are encouraged to press into the love of God and to trust him for the plans for victory. Instead of focusing on the walls before us, we worship the One who can break down the walls in a moment, and send us on to victory. The triumph at Jericho did not come from weapons, it came from worship. The answer can be found there in our circumstances as well.
This is not a passive response, where we sit back and wait for God to do something. Instead, we actively worship God and we activate our faith. We seek God for wisdom and insight, stretching our faith to meet that divine direction. Then, when it is time, we put feet to our faith, doing what God asks us to do, even if it means seven days of walking around a city.
As we trust in the Lord, leaning not on our own understanding, and as we put our faith into action, we discover that, by the grace of God, we are more than conquerors.