Take the leap of faith, and the stepping stones will appear. The Lord is with you.
In the film Raiders of the Lost Ark, the hero, Indiana Jones, must complete a series of trials in his pursuit of the Holy Grail. One of these tests requires him to cross a deep chasm that to the naked eye offers no safe passage. There is no visible bridge, just an abyss.
It is an ultimate Leap of Faith: Only when Indy puts a foot forward do the stepping stones appear, pointing the way and saving him from certain death.
Have you ever made a leap of faith? (Hopefully, not a life-or-death one!) Has God called you to do something new, something that you perhaps feared, something you have never done before?
I am at that place right now. Previously, I wrote about being called to a new type of ministry and how that both excites and scares me.
As I contemplate this next leap in my life, I can’t help but wonder what the Israelites must have been thinking as they stood at the banks of the River Jordan, the Promised Land just yards away.
It had been a transformative journey. The Israelites who left Egypt were not the ones who now stood ready to enter Canaan. An entire generation had passed away. Those who survived the 40-year trek would tell their grandchildren incredible, faith-building tales of God’s power and provision.
As I studied this story from the book of Joshua, I discovered five distinct lessons that I believe God wants us to learn about faith. But before I go further, I ask that you stop for a minute and again consider your current circumstances:
Where are you in life? Has God brought you through a difficult trial? Are you still in the midst of one? Perhaps life is all groovy and you’re in a season of favor. Maybe God has set before you incredible opportunity — your own Canaan — that is there for the taking.
As you read these five points, ask God what it is he’s wanting you to learn and apply to your present situation.
1. GOD WANTS UNITY
God said to Joshua,
“Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.” (Joshua 1:2 ESV)
At first glance, that verse may not seem significant — until you consider the context around what God is saying.
Some of the Israelites (two full tribes and one mini-tribe) didn’t want to settle on the west side of the river. They wanted to stay on the east side, where the land was flatter and more conducive to keeping livestock.
Prior to his death, Moses had agreed that these tribes could stay put and not settle across the Jordan, provided they pledged to help their brethren fight any enemies on the other side.
God’s words to Joshua were a reminder that he wanted everyone to cross together, even if some would later choose to come back. There was great symbolism in the “crossing over” as a whole into what God had promised, and he wanted unity in his people.
So, as you consider your next opportunity — whether it be a new job, business opportunity or maybe something really radical like switching careers — are you moving forward in unity? Are you considering your family and the impact this will have on them? Are you giving them a voice in the decision? Have you considered the impact on your employees, congregation or volunteers?
Whenever God puts opportunity in front of us, it is always with holistic intent: he wants it to be good not for just us but for everyone who is impacted.
2. GOD IS THE LEADER
It is no small feat for two million people to cross a river. God told the people to prepare themselves, and gave detailed instructions for the timing and order:
“As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.” (Joshua 3:3-4 ESV)
The ark of the covenant was the symbolic presence of God. God wanted it to be clear that he would go first. And, he didn’t desire to be simply in front — 2,000 cubits is about 1,000 yards — he wanted to be WAY in front. My sense is that God not only wanted the Israelites to know that he is the leader, he wanted them to have the best possible view of the miracle that was about to unfold in their presence.
Keep in mind that the Israelites are just a few hundred yards from the Promised Land. It’s right in front of them. Yes, the river is at flood stage, but let’s also remember that these are a people that endured multiple epidemics, attacking armies and 40 years of wandering. Is high water really that big a deal when you are at the door of prosperity?!
I can imagine them saying, “Hey, God, thanks but we can take it from here!”
It’s tempting when we are on the cusp of something new and exciting to want to get ahead of God. As you consider your next steps, even the final ones, ask yourself if you are letting God lead or trying to lead him.
There is potentially great danger in running ahead of God. As he said to the people, “You have not passed this way before.”
3. GOD REQUIRES FAITH
“And when the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap.” (Joshua 3:8 ESV)
Crossing the Jordan during flood season was risky; the water was higher and the current stronger. The priests were not permitted to let go of the ark under any circumstances, yet holding onto it would have made it much easier for them to be swept away.
And, isn’t it interesting that the waters did not part until after the priests first set foot in the river? Think back to the exodus from Egypt, when Pharaoh had the Israelites hemmed in against the Red Sea. God first held back the waters and then they walked across.
This time, God required more faith. They had to take the initial step before the miracle took place.
I’ve heard many a Christian say, “God will never give us more than we can handle.” While this sentiment is well intended, it is not biblical. God will absolutely give us more than we can handle; he wants it that way! There is no way you or I can “handle” a several hundred pound ark in rushing water that is already at flood stage. If God doesn’t show up, we’re dead.
God wants us to rely on him completely, and that includes situations that require nothing short of a miracle.
As you think and pray about where God is leading you next, understand that he desires to draw us into deeper relationship with him, and to do this he will seek to increase our reliance on him. Don’t be surprised if each step requires a larger leap of faith.
It may get difficult, extremely so. But, trust that he will do what he says he will do. Just as he had 40 years previously, God parted the waters and the Israelites crossed on dry ground.
4. GOD GETS THE GLORY
When God brings us through a difficult time, we are initially simply thankful to be on the other side of it, to have merely survived. Likewise, when God moves and brings some kind of opportunity, we are in awe of him.
But, as time goes by we often begin to think that it was really us who was responsible. We start to credit our ability and not the giver of ability. Success results from our prowess rather than God’s providence.
The day before the Israelites crossed the Jordan, God foretold what they were about to experience:
Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” (Joshua 3:5 ESV)
Later, after the Israelites had settled the Promised Land and God had driven out the occupants, he reminded them of this:
“I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.” (Joshua 24:13-14 ESV)
Don’t forget to give all glory to God. Remember that we owe it all to him, always and forever.
5. GREATER TESTS LIE AHEAD
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Three times, God told Joshua to be strong and courageous. Just because God delivers on a promise doesn’t mean things will be rosy now and ever after. There will always be battles ahead.
Crossing the Jordan was not the last test. To take the Promised Land, the Israelites would need to drive out the people living there. God was stating his power, that he would be with them in each of these battles.
God will likewise ask us to prove our faith. But these tests are alway for our benefit. God wants us to completely rely on him and his strength, and he wants us to be victorious. He is on our side!
If you are in a season of trial, you will not have all of the answers. But, you can trust in the one who does. If you are embracing opportunity, know you will face obstacles. Believe in the one who will always make a way where there is no way.
Take the leap of faith, and the stepping stones will appear. The Lord is with you.