I listened to an interesting sermon today by Dr. Larry Crabb entitled, “Slow Growth.” He takes the listener on a journey with the children of Israel in Exodus 23 and then following on in the book of Deuteronomy, Numbers and Joshua. Dr. Crabb points out the things we can learn about our walk with God through the lessons God taught the children of Israel.
In Exodus 23, God says through His writer, 20 “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared… 23 My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out…29 But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.”
Then in Deuteronomy 9:3 “But be assured today that the Lord your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as the Lord has promised you. God says in another situation that He is going to drive out the enemy quickly.”
So the question arises, which is it God, are you going to drive the enemies out slowly or quickly? Dr. Crabb goes on to finish both stories in Numbers and Joshua to show that God did both! Some battles were instant and others took years. Then he dissected these passages to discover ways this impacts our spiritual journey. He points out three things:
The enemies were different.
The enemies in the land referred to in Exodus 23 were the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites. These are the ones God said he would drive out little by little. These were hard battles and took time. Little by little. The other enemy described in Deut 9 were the Sons of Anak, the giants. God said would be driven out quickly.
We need to discern the various enemies in our lives and how God is leading us to face them.
The quick victory came after the seven years of smaller victories
The sons of Anak were not defeated when Joshua first came into the land, but rather after several years. You may not have victory in the big battle until you have persisted and are having victories in the smaller ones.
The enemy of God is smart in this tactic. If he can get you to focus and pay all your attention to the big battles, you will not spend your energy on things you can be doing. We can see this illustrated in so many areas. For instance, you may feel your marriage is over, that there is no love left and you feel overwhelmed with discouragement. But at the same time, there are smaller things that God has prodded you to do. These are things within your control such as getting in the habit of a consistent quiet time or watching your words and attitudes. These things are still a battle and they need to be fought for. We are partnering with God, He is still involved and leading, but it is little by little.
There is a definite reason why the lesser enemies were defeated slowly.
In Exodus 23: 29 But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land. If all your problems were solved right away you wouldn’t be able to maintain. There were not enough people yet, there was not enough strength. God is saying to us, if we have all our little problems solved we would lose our dependence on Him. It would all go to our head.
Struggle makes muscles. Faith grows like a muscle, it needs to be exercised. Little by little.
What are your smaller battles? Are they laziness, half hearted commitment or perhaps the other side of striving and self sufficiency?
So what do I do?
Let’s look how Jesus responded to the disciples in
John 6:28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
Believe that Jesus has everything you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) and cooperate with Him as Apostle Paul did with the grace of God.
1 Cor 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
Take a piece of paper right now and make a list of the things God has nudged you to do that you are not doing yet. These may be the smaller struggles. Partner with God’s grace and ask Him to lead you in victory.