I love the book of Joshua. It is the end of one really long chapter in the story of the Israelites wandering through the wilderness and the beginning of a fresh new chapter of conquering and settling into the land of promise. For Joshua, the leader, it must have been a surreal moment. He had already seen the Promised Land as a young spy when the Israelites came out of Egypt. Now he was 40 years older and had been tabbed the new leader after Moses had died. It is hard to fathom what might’ve been going on in Joshua’s mind as they crossed the Jordan river and stepped foot into the Promised Land for the second time. This time around, he would stay for good. He had many battles to face, but he was home. Ultimately, Joshua had to feel a giant sense of relief and he could breath deeply for the first time in a long time.
For some, it is hard to imagine trusting God for that long wondering if you will ever make it to where you think you ought to be!
Forty years is a long time to wander and keep trusting a God you can’t see; yet they kept going and kept trusting God along the way. This last Sunday, was a walking into the land of promise moment for me. Thankfully it wasn’t 40 years of wandering and trusting, it was only 4. Still, there were days and weeks where I struggled to trust God. I hope this encourages you as walk with Him.
Roughly four years ago, God placed a dream and passion inside my heart for life groups and disciple making. To be clear, my heart has always gravitated toward discipleship and helping people learn to walk with Jesus. That is how I always ran my student ministries. But this dream was different. This dream that God gave me was a church-wide and community/area-wide kind of dream. I believe God wanted us to open our home for life groups, but that God also wanted us to help begin life groups all over town and in the surrounding areas. This dream that was amazing, scary, beyond my scope of knowledge and influence. This was a God-sized dream. The only thing I could muster was trust and small, simple steps of obedience.
This dream was exciting and I could really see how God would use our family to make a huge kingdom impact. This is what I had been praying about for awhile at this point. About the same time, I heard a sermon talking about God giving you a dream but discerning whether to promote or ponder your dream. The message resonated with me, but I was soon going to find out what that truly meant for me over the next few years.
I started floating (promoting) the idea of small groups to a few people in our circle and it went over with mixed reviews. We had one emphatic yes, several no’s and some half-hearted maybes. I was confused. I was thinking this is God’s dream, not something I was conjuring in my head. It continued on that way for a while. All the while I was wrestling with doubt, fear, being misunderstood, and clinging to my trust in God when His dream for me didn’t match up with my current reality. Over and over again I tried move the dream forward where we were at and the success was much smaller than I had envisioned it to be. I thought this was going to impact a whole area? “God what are you doing, this doesn’t make any sense” was a common prayer that I prayed often. I was in the wilderness, wandering and trusting.
I learned something important during that time, God had given me a secret ingredient that I knew was there but I hadn’t tapped into it very often. It is the desire to “not do nothing, but instead learn and grow.” I realized the brick walls I kept running into where signs from God that I needed to spend a ton of time to ponder the dream that God gave me; for it was not time yet to promote my dream. So that’s what I did. I took myself to school. It would have been real easy to do nothing and sour to the dream (which felt more like a burden at this point). But that is not how God built me. I started reading everything I could get my hands on about discipleship ministries, connections ministries, training, life groups, and leadership. If nothing else, it was at least interesting stuff even if it didn’t pay off in the long run. At least I tried, I did something.
God knew what he was doing, for there was a time coming to promote!!!
God is faithful, I know that much. Since that time of pondering, God opened a door to become a discipleship pastor. All the reading and pondering is now being fleshed out in my day-to-day tasks of life groups and life group leader training, which leads me back to where we started. Taking those first steps in the land of promise. This last Sunday, I started life group leader training with 7 couples. To be clear, they all have been doing discipleship to some extent before, but they are gracious enough to journey together as we move the mission forward. In our church, we currently have 11 life groups going. Two couples going through the training live in Broken Bow, the other 5 couples, you guessed it, are from the surrounding communities. All I can say is that it was worth the wait to walk into the land of promise.
Four years ago, the dream seemed a million miles away. Yesterday, I felt like Joshua walking into the Promised Land for the second time. This was exactly like the vision God gave me years ago and now it is faith becoming sight. It was worth all the doubt, fears, wandering, and trusting God even when it didn’t make sense.
I would love to hear your story of how you either trusted God or are trusting God right now. I’d also like to be able to encourage you along the way as well.
Grace and peace to you as you wander and trust God right into the Promised Land. Don’t stop now, you’re closer than you think.