How many times have we lost a glorious opportunity because the road to achievement just seemed to be too hard? Mankind has a lot of company in this area. One historical example is the nation of Israel, led by Moses out of Egyptian captivity, only to falter in taking possession of the Promised Land. At that point, Moses admonished them: “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. 30 The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, 31 and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.”
32 “In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord your God, 33 who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.” (Deuteronomy 1:29-33)
In the first couple of years after leaving Egypt, God proved Himself to be their Savior, Deliverer, Healer, Provider, Wisdom, and Guide. The majority of the miracles that took place were solo acts of God. Only during their first confrontation with the Amalekites did the Israelites have to participate with God by physically engaging in the battle. Hand-to-hand combat is scary and physically exhausting, but God was the guarantor of the outcome. He gave them strong assurance in His instruction, “See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the Lord swore he would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to their descendants after them,” (v.8) So why did they succumb to the fear of strong people, fortified cities, and giants?
I believe what infected the Israelites is the same thing that infects us. While we know and believe – possibly from first-hand experience – in God’s miraculous power, we place no trust in ourselves to be up to the task. The volume of evidence of our lives corroborates this position, and we don’t believe God can do something through us that we’re incapable of doing. That self-doubt is our weak explanation of believing that God is able, but adding us to the equation makes success at the least suspect, and at the most unattainable. That is why we stay in oppressive jobs after the Lord has told us to leave. That is why we are literally scared to death by a cancer diagnosis, even when the Lord has given us personal instruction regarding our future. That is why we become so despondent in seemingly unending difficulties, when God has always been faithful.
While the act of elevating God and denigrating ourselves might give the appearance of humility, it is in reality, pride. The confession we are making is that the One who spoke Creation into being is not powerful enough to overcome our inadequacies and failures; that our particular brand of ineptitude trumps God’s wisdom and authority. (Ouch!) Moreover, we are saying that God’s work in meticulously and uniquely creating us is not good, or is at least lacking.
The writer of Hebrews knew that God will “equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (13:21) In light of Who God is in all truth, power and authority, all wisdom and knowledge, all love and grace, is anything He instructs us to do really too hard? We must all refuse fear, adopt the anti-fear position of trusting God, and go take possession of the particular land He is giving us.