Your Promised Land
Is it working? Your belief system, that is. Is it really working?
God's intention all along has been for the believer's
life to work. From divine perspective toward terrestrial turf, God
meant for His children to succeed. God stared unapologetically in
Joshua 1:8 that conditions exist under which "then you will make
your way prosperous, and then you will have success" (NASB). Are
our Christian lives successful? Are they achieving and experiencing
what Scripture said they would? In a recent sermon my son-in-law
preached, Curt told us the only way we were going to
impact the world and the next generation is to prove that our
faith in Christ is real and that it works. For countless Christians
I'm convinced it's real. My concern is whether or nor we have the
fruit to suggest it works.
I fear the reality of most Christians differs dramatically from
our theology. We bear little resemblance to a church causing the
gates of hell to tremble. I squirm as I suggest that the gap between
our theology and our reality is so wide we've set ourselves up for
ridicule. The sad part of it is that some of us are working pretty
hard at something that is hardly working. Why do we spend so
much time and energy on spiritual exercises with few effects while
the rest of the world sleeps in on Sundays? Why are some of us
getting up before dawn to have a quiet time with effects drained
to the dregs by noon? Why are we running out of ink in our highlighters
marking Scriptures that rarely jump off the page and onto
our pavement? Why are we doing everything we can to convince
others to do something that hasn't worked terrifically well for us?
Why won't some of us admit that for all practical purposes the
present belief system of most Christians isn't working?
Certainly those of us who have accepted Christ as our Savior
have received the automatic and glorious result of eternal salvation.
However, the primary reason God left us on earth after our
salvation was for our Christianity to "succeed" right here on this
turf. We're getting by but getting by, was never our destiny. We
were meant to be profoundly effective. Why have we accepted
average? Are the few effects most of us see and experience all
Christianity has to offer? Is this it? All we can expect? If so, someone
out there needs to feel sorry for us.
I'd volunteer except that I no longer buy it. Our status-quo system
of contemporary Christianity isn't working, and I'm bucking it.
Thankfully, so are a number of others. Some of us no longer want
to play like the emperor has new clothes when he's walking around,
as my grandmother would say, as naked as a jaybird. The church,
comprised of all believers in Jesus Christ, is generally pretending she's
cloaked with kingdom power and effectiveness while in reality she
has exposed herself in powerlessness to the ridicule of the world. We
can't blame the devil. For the most part we've dumbed-down New
Testament Christianity and accepted our reality as theology rather
than biblical theology as our reality. We've reversed the standard,
walking by sight and not by faith. We want to be the best of what
we see, but frankly what we see is far removed from God's best.
A few months ago I was taking my usual route on my morning
walk when I came upon a simple scene with telling application.
Four ducks were splashing in a mud puddle in the sidewalk
while a large, pristine pond was just over a small hill. I stopped
in my tracks and stared. I felt like God was saying to me, "Beth,
that's my church. My blood-bought, Spirit-promised church
splashing in a mud puddle with a sea of living waters within her
reach. Just on the other side."
Trust me. No one has been covered with more mud from
puddles-settled-for than I. Forgive me if my zeal is too easily interpreted
as condemnation or criticism. What a hypocrite I'd be! If a
mistake can be made, I suppose I've made it. In fact, my past
record of failure, defeat, and pitiful mediocrity is exactly why
I'm heaven-bent on sharing this message with you. If God can
empower me to move from the mud puddle to the pond with
such broken wings, wobbling legs, and webbed feet, I can assure
you He can move you.
Beloved, God has made us promises. Real ones. Numerous
ones. Promises of things like all-surpassing power, productivity,
peace, and joy while still occupying these jars of clay. Few of us
will argue the theory, but why aren't more of us living the reality?
Like the children of Israel, I believe many of us are wandering in
the wilderness with the Promised Land just on the other side of
the river. This book has one primary goal: to encourage any
Christian who will listen to move to his or her personalized place
of divine promise and to flourish.
God not only approves of New Testament believers applying
the concept of a Promised Land, He insists on it in the third and
fourth chapters of the book of Hebrews. Our Promised Land
and Sabbath rest culminate in heaven, but I'd like to suggest that
an earthly Promised Land exists for you and an earthly Promised
Land exists for me. How might we define our land of promise?
Your Promised Land is the place where God's personalized
promises over your life become a living reality rather than a theological
Need a few examples? The parallels and subsequent applications
we can draw from the children of Israel and their land of
promise are numerous, but just for starters .
1. God promised us a place of blessing. God's willingness and
unwavering desire to bless His people is one of the most repetitive
concepts in both testaments of His Word. He is the Giver of all
good gifts and greatly exults when a child cooperates enough to
receive some. New Testament believers were promised blessing for
obedience as surely as the children of God in the Old Testament.
The Promised Land was a place of promised blessing to those who
followed the precepts of God. When you and I find our places in
Christ where God can freely fulfill His promises to us, we will also
experience immeasurable blessing. Blessing is defined by neither
ease nor worldly possessions nor stock-market successes. Blessing
is bowing down to receive the expressions of divine favor that in
the inner recesses of the human heart and mind make life worth
2. God promised us a place we could live. God didn't promise
the children of Israel a place they could visit. He promised them
a place they could settle and dwell in blessing. A land they could
possess. A place they could find Sabbath rest. According to
John 15, New Testament believers have likewise been called to a
place of abiding. Living. Dwelling. I finally came to a point in
my Christian walk where I grew bone weary of inconsistency
being my only constant. Occasional wisps of authentic spiritual
living only multiplied my frustrations. I then knew a place of
fullness and effectiveness in Christ existed, but at best I was a
drop-in. My soul needed a place it could live. I longed for my
defeats to be infrequent visitations, not my victories. Beloved,
our personalized lands of earthly promise are places we're invited
by God to dwell in Christ. It's high time we stopped dropping in
and started taking up residency.
3. God promised us a place where He brings forth a great harvest.
As much as any characteristic of the Promised Land, God
promised that it would be fruitful. Many of us have heard it characterized
as a land of "milk and honey," but additional Scriptures
are far more descriptive. For instance, Deuteronomy 8:7-9 says:
"For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land-a
land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the
valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees,
pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be
scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron
and you can dig copper out of the hills."
John 15 again supplies us with a New Testament Promised
Land parallel for every follower of Jesus Christ. The eighth verse
says, "This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing
yourselves to be my disciples." Not some fruit. Much fruit.
Beloved, can you accept the truth that your heavenly Father wants
to show His glory through using your life to bear tremendous fruit?
Your personalized Promised Land is the abiding place where you get
to see God keep the promise of a great harvest through your life.
God has far more in mind than bringing forth one kind of
fruit from your life. The harvest God desires to produce has the
potential of abounding variety. I believe the promises God made
to the Israelites for their Promised Land in the tangible realm parallel
ours in the spiritual realm. You and I weren't called to become
machines of mass-but-monotonous production. Just when we
decide our lives are all about figs, God starts mixing up the soil
underneath our feet to bring forth some pomegranates. Have you
too quickly decided that what you have done or what you are
doing is all you'll ever do? Ah, God's far too creative for that. May
God use our present journey to shake up some soil.
Perhaps my favorite part of Deuteronomy 8:7-9 is that the
Promised Land was an abiding place where God's people would
lack nothing. Need a New Testament parallel? Second Peter 1:3-4
tells us that "his divine power has given us everything we need for
life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by
his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his
very great and precious promises, so that through them you may
participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the
world caused by evil desires." Our personal Promised Lands are
the places we accept those "very great and precious promises" and
appropriate "everything we need for life."
If you can't imagine God ever delivering you from the corruption
of evil desires and bringing forth a great harvest through your
life, you've bought into the lie that God's promises don't apply to
you. The Amplified version of Ephesians 2:10 says that you and
I are "God's [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in
Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which
God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths
which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them
living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us
God knew you before you were formed in your mother's
womb and planned good works for you that would bring forth
much fruit. According to Acts 17:26, God even determined the
times and places set for us to live on planet Earth most conducive
to our personalized harvests. Too much predestination for you?
Here's the catch: we don't have to cooperate. We can live our
entire lives as Christians and never fulfill the glorious plan God
tailored for us in advance.
Ephesians 1:18 says, "I pray also that the eyes of your heart
may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to
which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in
the saints." Our glorious inheritance in Christ is not meant for
heaven alone. The primary context of Ephesians 1 is the impact
of our heavenly inheritance on our earthly existence. God knows
the plans He has for us, Dear One, but He will not force them
on us. Don't miss the word hope. Nothing about your calling or
mine is compulsory. God is going to accomplish His agenda
regarding heaven and earth no matter what you and I do, but we
get to decide whether we're going to be part of His process in our
generation. Our callings remain a hope until we allow the eyes of
our hearts to be enlightened and choose to accept them.
4. God promised us an abiding place of great victory over our
enemy. From the moment God first issued the promise of land
to Abram, He described its occupants as quickly as its perimeters:
"To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to
the great river, the Euphrates-the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites,
Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites,
Girgashites and Jebusites" (Gen. 15:18-21). Our Promised Lands
are characterized by the presence of victory, not the absence of
Earlier I asked you if your present belief system was working.
One way we can measure our belief system's effectiveness is to
examine how consistently our biblical position as "more than conquerors"
(Rom. 8:37) is fleshed out in our reality. The children of
Israel showed they were God's conquerors on earth by conquering.
Victory always assumes a counterpart defeat. We will never
take our places as "more than overcomers" with nothing to overcome.
We will never be victors without opponents. As we will
continue to see in our journey, God gave the Israelites the
Promised Land but told them they'd have to take what was theirs
in fierce battle. Why? Probably one reason was so they'd develop
the strength to keep it once they conquered it. Surely another was
to let them experience the thrill of victory that only a battle hard
fought can bring. In God's economy, much of what is worth having
is proved worth fighting for.
Like the Israelites, you and I have been promised spiritual
ground for great and abiding victory on a turf where our enemy
stands in defiance. If you're not presently occupying your
Promised Land, rest assured the devil is. Are you going to stand
by and let him get away with that? God has given you land,
Beloved, but He's calling you to go forth and take it. Your enemy
is standing on your God-given ground daring you to take possession
of it. Are you going to let him have it? Or are you going to
claim your inheritance? Possession is the law of the Promised
Land. Red Rover, go over.
The Creator of heaven and earth-the One with the entire
universe and its riches at His disposal-knows you by name, has
planned a Promised Land for you, and longs to bless you. He
wisely reserves the right to require your cooperation. Many
promises of God are unconditional, but His promises of full-throttle
blessing, abiding, fruit-bearing, and conquering are not.
Nothing in your life or mine is worth forfeiting the places of
promise where our own 1 Corinthian 2:9's are fulfilled. What
God has prepared for you is more than your ears have heard, your
eyes have seen, and your mind has ever conceived. Promised Land
theology becomes an earthbound reality only to those who cash
in their fear and complacency for the one ticket out of their long-inhabited