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There have been times in my faith walk when I believed something so much, that when it didn’t happen like I believed it was supposed to, I questioned God. It wasn’t so much of “WOW God, you let me down” as it was confusion and wondering what went wrong. Did I not hear correctly or was I reading too much into things? Was I trying to do it all under my own power or was I leaning on the power of God?
One of those times was around a job that I thought I was supposed to get. Everyone said I would be perfect for it! I was told things were going to happen for me. I started to think of myself at that job, even thinking about how I could improve the position and what I would do to let those who hired me know they made the right decision. Well, time passed and nothing happened. The job would get pushed back and I would get assured not to worry that it was happening…I would often think, “God is teaching me patience.” I was patient alright! I’m still waiting! 😉
I can look back now and say that I was listening more to people around me than to the voice and leading of the Lord. I was assuming what God wanted for me and not truly seeking Him in prayer. There were times during that period when God should have put the smack down on me… I mean, I never turned from God or questioned my salvation, but I wasn’t walking in faith. I wasn’t believing and trusting that God has something great for me, something better than I could imagine. He always does!
I’m sure many who are reading this have gone through something similar. Maybe it was a job. Maybe it was an important relationship. Maybe it was something dealing with finances or even something spiritual. Whatever it is, when we don’t believe God comes through like WE think HE should, we start the “Why Me God!” prayers. Our walk is interrupted with trying to find answers from anyone who would listen to us: our parents, “wise elders” (because the Bible says we should seek wise counsel), our pastor, the internet, Facebook, you name it! We look for some relief and comfort as to why God overlooked our situation when instead, God should put the smack down on us!
But, if you can identify with what I’m saying, then you’re in good company! Some of God’s most faithful servants had similar questions and times. One that I would like to point out is Joshua.
Joshua had the privilege of serving under Moses for years. He, along with Caleb, were two of the only men who originally left Egypt for the Promised Land. He saw the splitting of the Red Sea. He saw the cloud by day and the fire by night above the tabernacle and that led them in the desert. He saw and heard God’s voice on the mountain when God gave Moses the 10 commandments. He saw God move in all the plagues of Egypt. He was 1 of only 2 who came back from spying the land and had the faith that God would help them defeat the inhabitants so that the Children of Israel could inherit the land. He experienced God move more than anyone else alive at his time. But even with all that, Joshua still had a whambulance moment!
Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and told them, “Go up and scout the land.” So the men went up and scouted Ai.
3 After returning to Joshua they reported to him, “Don’t send all the people, but send about 2,000 or 3,000 men to attack Ai. Since the people of Ai are so few, don’t wear out all our people there.” 4 So about 3,000 men went up there, but they fled from the men of Ai. 5 The men of Ai struck down about 36 of them and chased them from outside the gate to the quarries, striking them down on the descent. As a result, the people’s hearts melted and became like water.
6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell before the ark of the Lord with his face to the ground until evening, as did the elders of Israel; they all put dust on their heads. 7 “Oh, Lord God,” Joshua said, “why did You ever bring these people across the Jordan to hand us over to the Amorites for our destruction? If only we had been content to remain on the other side of the Jordan! 8 What can I say, Lord, now that Israel has turned its back and run from its enemies?9 When the Canaanites and all who live in the land hear about this, they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. Then what will You do about Your great name?”
Joshua 7:2-9 (HCSB)
Ai was supposed to be easy! The Israelites didn’t even send a full force. God was fighting for Israel, so using some RECON and knowing that God was with them, meant this battle was supposed to be light work. It wasn’t! The Israelites experienced their first defeat after crossing the Jordan. Friends and family died! The Bible says in verse 5 that “the people’s hearts melted and became like water.”
I can only imagine what was going through Joshua’s mind. On one hand, he had to weigh all the experiences and what he knew about God vs what he was experiencing in that moment. He heard and saw the despair in the Children of Israel. He knew this was going to be a reflection on his leadership and his faith. So, it is understandable that he turned to God in prayer for guidance.
The issue is in what Joshua prayed. He prayed the “why us God” prayer. He suggested that they would have been content on the other side of the Jordan, experiencing half of what God wanted to do for His people instead of experiencing EVERYTHING God wanted. He worried about what other nations were going to think. Joshua was riding the whambulance of faith and was going full speed ahead!
So how did God respond to Joshua? God sent an angel to Joshua to hold him, rub his back and comfort him in his time of sorrow. He counseled him to know that everything was going to be ok, that this was a little setback, but not to worry because tomorrow will be better! Uh… I don’t think so! Check this out…
10 The Lord then said to Joshua, “Stand up! Why are you on the ground? 11 Israel has sinned. They have violated My covenant that I appointed for them. They have taken some of what was set apart. They have stolen, deceived, and put the things with their own belongings. 12 This is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies. They will turn their backs and run from their enemies, because they have been set apart for destruction. I will no longer be with you unless you remove from you what is set apart.
Johsua 7:10-12 (HCSB)
Let me use another translation, the New Todd Translation…
“Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Get up you little cry baby! There is a good reason why this has happened. I am a Holy God and the people of Israel haven’t respected that! Someone has sinned! And until you deal with this, I’m not going to help you against your enemies! Get up and deal with it!'”
I know some of you Bible scholars out there won’t agree with my phrase for phrase translation. But I’m sure it is something like that! 😉
Now to be fair, we have the ability to look back on this event in the life of the Israelites. It’s easy to say, how could Joshua have freaked out? But if we are real, it is easy to freak. Like I said before, even the most faith filled believer can go through this. We are human. We live in this constant tension of the spiritual and the flesh. We need to trust and believe and at the same time touch the ground we walk on and breath the air that surrounds us.
So are we doomed to live our lives calling the whamblance from time to time? If you do, God still loves you. Jesus still loves you. But one of the things that could have helped Joshua here is asking the right questions.
Joshua asked God “why.” “Why did you bring these people across the Jordan…” Instead, Joshua should have been asking What and How. And, he didn’t necessarily need to ask God those questions. He just needed to stop and think it through. I know at this point, some of you might be saying, “thinking it through means relying on your own understanding Todd!” No, not really.
God already told the Children of Israel that they would inherit the Promised Land. He proved His Word with signs and miracles. The Israelites saw it! They just walked across the Jordan on dry land! They just finished walking around Jericho and saw the walls come tumbling down. As far as God was concerned, conquering the Promised Land was a done deal. It was the sin of Achan that caused the Israelites defeat! It wasn’t a question of “why,” but a question of obedience!
So Joshua’s thinking should have been, “I know God is with us. I know God has said that we would inherit the Promised Land. I have seen God move on our behalf. I know that God will do what He said. What happened and How should I respond? What happened is we were defeated. Something is wrong on our side, because I know that God is true and right and will never let us down. How do I need to respond to our problem?”
Of course, Joshua might have needed to ask the Lord how to find the problem in the Israelite camp. And God does tell Joshua how to do that in verses 13-15.
As you read Joshua, you don’t see this lack of faith, or why again. Joshua experienced this issue, learned from it and never had a whambulance moment again.
I know this might seem a little simple and an easy way to approach this big issue…I mean people died!. But I do believe that faith and obedience plays a big part in our walk with God. And living the life for God is not that difficult. You don’t need an advanced degree to live for God!
1. Choose to walk in obedience! Is there something that you feel you should be doing for the Lord and have waited for that “perfect time?” You might have felt the Lord ask you to serve in your local church, give to a ministry, help a widow or do a special deed. Don’t put it off! Do it now! Obedience is powerful. You might find that the Lord is waiting for you to do that one thing before you receive “the next step” in your life. Go back and take a look at verse 12 again.
2. Remember God’s faithfulness. In times of despair or uncertainty, it is good to remember those times that God has moved in your life. I recently wrote about this in Every Point Speaks.
3. Use times of uncertainty to prayerfully think through the situation. Ask yourself the “What” and “How.” To do this, you have to be settled on God’s promises for you…. which leads to…
4. Read your Bible. Study and memorize Scriptures. I wrote about this in Where is Your Confidence? Where is your EDC? I tried using a Bible APP on my tablet, but I recently went back to an old school Bible. 😉 I started using the Bible log in the resource section again. There is something about holding the Word in your hand. I don’t know if I can explain it.
When the poop hits the fan, many Christians are going to pray the whambulance prayer. “Why has my 401K dropped to nothing Lord? Why is the government so oppressive God? Why am I going through this as a child of the Most High God?”
Those of us who live in “Spiritual” Preparedness, as well as “Physical” Preparedness (or just plain common sense living like our great grandparents did) will be able to point them to the “What” and “How.”
I feel like our churches will need us there as an example of faith AND people who can show the practicality of self-reliant living. Be ready and willing!
One Last Thing
One last thing… As an educator, we usually want to ask our students “why” questions because they are considered higher level questions that cause critical thinking. Critical thinking is different than just asking “why” when we complain to God.
I recently listened to a podcast on Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership, where they featured John Miller, the author of the book QBQ, The Question Behind the Question. It is an easy read, but worth it I think. John discusses the importance of not asking why, but instead what and how.