In the Way

When the twelve spies returned to camp following their exploration of the Promised Land (Numbers 13) they gave a report of what they found. It was a land of incredible plenty and, given that God was on their side, Caleb and Joshua urged the Children of Israel to go in and receive what God had promised. But while affirming the plenty of the land, the other ten spies could only see the obstacles which to them seemed too much for even God to handle. The Israelites listened to the voice of fear, rebelled against God and refused to enter the land. As a result, God pronounced judgment that none who were over 20 years old would enter the Promised Land. This sentence kept the Children of Israel in the wilderness for 40 years.

            I have often wondered what it was like to be one of those who wandered from place to place knowing he would never enter the Promised Land. And as the years rolled by and the people trudged through a trackless wilderness, what was it like for one of these men to see the younger ones look at him and know that their wanderings were because of what he did? As the numbers thinned and there were fewer and fewer of the old rebellious generation, how was it for the last remaining one whose death everyone waited for? Until he was gone the land was just a place beyond the river. What was it like to be the one who was in the way? What was it like to be the hindrance to God’s promise being fulfilled?

            We believe that all people can “be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).  It is God’s plan and will that His grace should do even more than save us but that His grace would work in us and through us to bring us to maturity and conform us to the image of Christ. Sadly, this Promised Land of God’s will is not evident in all who claim to be His.       

            There are people who stubbornly refuse or are too lazy to seek to become what they were meant to be in Christ. They become tares among the wheat, the mixed multitude that wandered with the Children of Israel, the ones who frustrate the work of God like Diotrophes (3 John 9). God would bless this corps, God would move among this people but there are those whose lives are so out of synch with Him that they stand in the way of the promise.

            When I was a teenager there was a very prominent family in a neighboring corps. I am not sure what happened but they suddenly quit the corps. The rumor circulated that they burned their uniforms and vowed never to enter the Army corps again. It seemed devastating when we all heard it. But a strange thing happened. The corps began to grow. It not only grew, it filled to beyond capacity. Souls were saved, soldiers enrolled, local officers commissioned and cadets were sent to training. Was it because these who we thought were so important were really standing in the way of blessing?

            In our desire to include everyone we sometimes tolerate behavior or attitudes that are destructive to the Kingdom. No one seems to want to confront the rebels for fear of their wrath or of having someone angry or of losing them to the corps. In the meantime they continue to destroy and hamper the moving of God’s Spirit.

            In my time as an officer I have had to confront a lot of people. Sometimes the offender got mad and quit the Army. But most often after the initial blowup, they thought about it and God used that to move in their hearts. They repented and sought forgiveness from the Lord and people they offended. The result was that the corps was blessed by their changed life and the evidence of God’s Spirit was seen.

             Many times I have wondered if I might be in the way. Sometimes when the altar call is being given I ask the Lord if there is anything about me that displeases Him. I ask Him to bless the people despite what I know are my shortcomings. I pray, “God, please don’t let me be in the way of you blessing others. Show me if there is anything that I need to lay before you in repentance. Don’t deny Your blessing because I have failed.”   

            The question for you now is simple. Are you on the way or in the way?