Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
All people can pretty much be placed in one of two general categories: Those who trust in the Lord and those who do not.
Unfortunately, many more Christians attest to their faith in his love and sovereign power than those who live their faith on a daily basis regardless of their circumstances. In fact, most of us who profess to be Christians follow the same meandering path that took the children of Israel on a generational tour of the Sinai wilderness.
We too often fluctuate between belief and unbelief, sometimes trusting God, sometimes leaning on our own (mis)understanding. When we try to figure out life for ourselves without faith in him, we end up in a spiritual wilderness, a dry and lonely existence where fear and discouragement hold us in their cruel power. We could have instead, been in the Promised Land enjoying God’s total provision for us.
Chapters 13 and 14 in the Book of Numbers tell the interesting story of how Moses sent spies into Canaan. One from each tribe was told to check out the land and report back to him their assessment. None of them could deny that the land was awesomely beautiful and fruitful.
The ten unbelieving spies, however, allowed the presence of giants to dissuade them from moving into Canaan and taking up residence in their rightful God-given inheritance.
Furthermore, their bad report discouraged the Israelites so utterly that all the people rebelled against Moses. Bad reports tend to create contagious fear and discouragement. Faith in God and his promises always seems to get lost in the process of sorting out and dealing with the obstacles that stand in the way of spiritual goals.
The giants were a real clear and present danger, obstacles that stood between the promise and its actualization. Joshua and Caleb, the believing spies, agreed that the giants were there, that they were in fact mighty and would have to be confronted in order to secure the land.
But they also understood that those giants were part of God’s provision for Israel’s survival. They were there to be overcome … by faith. Without “giants” to overcome in our pursuit of God’s promises in our lives we will never grow in faith. Indeed, the battle is the Lord’s, and yet he tells us the victory is ours. Nevertheless, the Lord seems to require us to stand strong in faith amid potential destruction and simply believe him more than we fear our difficult circumstances. That is much easier to do in the theological abstract than in “real” life.
No, Christians are not spared from having to face giants. They are, however, equipped to deal effectively with them. Indeed, bad stuff does happen to good people. Intellectual assent to correct doctrine does not insulate us from life’s messy circumstances.
The sad but bare fact is that Satan wants to destroy all of us and will do so if we allow our fears to separate us from the love and power of God. Satan uses our “giants” to scare us away from trusting God’s perfect provision and back into the wilderness of doubt where he can pick us off one by one at his leisure.
The biblical key to spiritual survival has to do with our trust in the Lord. In fact, trust is the main theme of redemptive history. From Adam and Eve’s situation to whatever you are personally facing today, the issue remains the same. Do you trust him, or are you going to fall back on your own understanding? Will your faith in his word overcome your personal fear and doubt, or will you retreat to that uncertain place where you “ought to believe” because it’s the “Christian” thing to do, but in fact your natural reactions betray you?
That question faces us in every moment of our lives. Yet, as we choose to believe God despite adverse circumstances, we grow, thrive and bear fruit. Consider Jeremiah 17:7-8:
“But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
In Jeremiah’s metaphor we are the tree, and the stream of water is God’s living word. Our faith is the spiritual roots which absorb life from the Word and continue to spread out. In spite of the heat and difficult times of drought, we will thrive and never fail to bear fruit. Yes, blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord and whose confidence is in him!
In these days of increasing human uncertainty, let us believe and trust God, provoking and encouraging one another to “send out our roots” and fully absorb God’s life-sustaining word. Let us faithfully cover each other with intercessory prayer, asking God to invade every circumstance with his mercy and matchless grace.
In everything let us together give thanks to him, knowing that he causes everything to work together for our good, according to his sovereign purposes (Romans 8:28). We shall reap the blessings of God’s promises if we do not give up.
In closing, I want to thank you for your faithful, unwavering support, without which we could do nothing. We are grateful for your tangible love that enables us to do our part to extend God’s Word throughout the world. I will have the honor and blessing this month to return to Chiapas, Mexico to teach at IBI again after the yearlong Covid-19 related shutdown that has hampered pastoral training in every corner of the world. Needless to say, I am excited. Your prayers for a safe and productive visit are most appreciated.
God bless you.
[LeRoy Curtis is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Asbury Theological Seminary. He served four years as a U.S. Naval Officer after which he became a pastor, Bible professor, educator, author, and missionary living in E. Africa for eight years where he and his wife developed a curriculum of biblical studies for untrained pastors in rural Kenya. His passion for training young church leaders takes him to various parts of the U.S., Latin America, and Africa. He and Judy are currently residing in Carrollton, Georgia.]