1) Because God said so.
Moses had to lead the people because God called Him to accomplish this task. Exodus 3 and 4 we see Moses making excuse after excuse about this mission. He went, though, because God commanded that he go.
The same is true with the spies. God was telling them to go into the Promised Land.
Let us see, has God been trying to tell us to move on through the years?
a) The last two campaigns have failed. Why?
God in His grace has been saving us from disaster.
b) Former pastors . . .
I found some notes from Mike Dawson after we had voted to move. To my surprise, Mike had attempted to do the exact same thing in 1984. This was not God’s timing, you even paid Ron Lewis, a friend of my family, to advise you. This was obviously not God’s timing, but He was beginning to plant the seeds of what He had in store for Central.
-Bob Carpenter and another influential man in Central at this time drove around looking for possible sites to relocate Central Baptist Church. Brother Carpenter developed cancer and never continued in his quest to relocate Central Baptist. Again, it was not God’s timing.
– Dr. Roy Edgman and Barry Sneed, both interim pastors at Central, both thought that it was essential for Central to relocate. Dr. Edgeman was willing to write a letter to support this move. At the time, it was felt by some in leadership wisely that he would not get involved at that early stage. Barry Sneed did get involved.
-I have not talked with Mark Tolbert, but several people told me that he thought the church should relocate.
-After fasting and prayer.
-Persons such as Bill Simerell, Pat Brock, Eva Nell after praying
-Deacons more united than ever before (we wanted 80%, received 79%)
-People of God such as T.W. Hunt and Paul Washer both feel this is right for Central. Paul, before I talked with him, said that he had never seen a church with this type of opportunity . . . it is a choice between greatness and mediocrity.
2) Because of the signs He has given.
He gave them signs upon signs. Yet the people did not listen to Caleb, (which means follows God like a dog), and Joshua. Interestingly, God’s people were afraid of the people and the people were afraid of them. Look with me at Joshua 2:9.
a) Was told the deacons would never agree.
Herman Sr. said, “We have seen the first miracle.”
b) Was told that the church was not strong enough to even talk of this.
The majority, we were told, would reject this out right.
c) We were told we would never find suitable land (25 plus acres).
We couldn’t, even the corner of 67 and 31 was not favorable with many people. But, look what God did in opening up something more beautiful than we could have ever imagined.
d) We were told that we would never get the money back from the people who we put an option on the other land.
I have been here all my life, I was heard, and know this gentleman. We will not get our money back. Well, we did without even asking them for the money.
e) We were told by some people that we would never sell some of our property downtown.
Someone wants our sanctuary and people are looking at the rest of the property.
f) Now, we are told over and over again we cannot raise the money to move.
One man said it would be twenty years before we could raise this money. Another man said he was sticking around to watch us fail. Let me tell you, God doesn’t fail!
3) Because of the consequences.
It takes 11 days to make the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. The problem was the people would not obey and therefore wandered for forty years. There were consequences to their disobedience. With the exception of Joshua and Caleb, they were not allowed to see the glory of the Promised Land .
Signs that you or your church is wandering through the wilderness:
a) Spiritual Boredom, (Numbers 14:1-4).
Anytime people are depending upon the flesh they turn to “worst case scenarios.” There is punishment for allowing fears to block out our trust in God. God still loved the Israelites, He still took care of them, their clothes still did not wear out, but they lost their purpose. They wandered around aimlessly until they all died. They still saw miracles and God still defeated their enemies, it just didn’t amount to much. Much like a bulldog can whip a skunk every time, but it is not worth the fight. To me, one of the saddest things in the Bible. God brought them out of Egypt with signs and wonders. He parted the Red Sea, He drowned their enemies, He gave them manna to eat in the desert, yet, when He called on them to trust Him entering the Promised Land, they said, “No thank you, God. We don’t want to do this.” Therefore, they kept wandering around and around in circles through the desert for forty years. What happened in this wilderness? Boredom. Manna comes from the Hebrew word manhu which literally means “what is this?” At first the Manna tasted great. But, day in and day out don’t you know they got sick of it. They didn’t have to eat this until they went into the Promised Land. They missed out on the grapes and milk and honey in the Promised Land to eat manna, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year for forty years. The same is true for people who are in the wilderness spiritually, they are bored and complacent. Worship no longer thrills your soul. Sermons no longer touch you. Tears no longer will moisten our eyes when we see people saved or baptized. Instead, we make comments about the length of the service to our friends. Spiritual boredom.
b) Constant Grumbling.
They grumbled against Moses. Let us elect our own leaders and go back to Egypt. One way you can tell if you are wandering in the wilderness as a Christian if you always want to return to the “good ole days.” If you come to church to find something to grumble about, I promise you that you will not find one thing . . . you will find a dozen. But, if you come to church to find God, I promise you will find Him. A tell tale sign that you are wandering in the wilderness is a grumbling spirit.
c) Relational Conflicts.
When we don’t obey God, people turn on one another. I remember playing football. Toward the end of the season, the coaches began to disagree on the practice field. Parents began to argue with the coaches and behind the scene. What happened to a season that began with a lot of promise? We began to lose like crazy. We gave up. Fighting among the ranks. Infighting is a byproduct of wilderness living.
d) Fruitless labor.
They wandered around the desert forty years. When people wander in the wilderness, they go in circles and do not accomplish much. Likewise, churches who refuse to step out in faith wander around aimlessly. They might do some good things, but they are not making a significant difference in this world. For this reason, we have the majority of churches in the US plateaued or declining.
e) A Passing over.
It says that they died in the wilderness. Everyone 20 and over died and God used someone else to accomplish His purpose. One of the saddest things to me is what could have been. One funeral after another after another. An antique store downtown has a sign on any piece of furniture and it says, “this sold while you were thinking about it.”
4) Because God moves through the obedience of His children. What should I do?
1) Put aside your fears.
Fears immobilize us. Focusing upon the fears will only lead to more fear. Fears feed off of each other.
2) Trust in the power of God
You need to learn God’s Word and keep on growing? Are you someone who has been a Believer for many years, but you’re still wandering the wilderness? You need to make the leap of faith into the Promised Land. How can you tell if you living in Canaan? You may think because you’re having problems that you aren’t there. But Canaan is a place of constant battles–but also a place of victory. When you cross over into the promised land of fullness, the enemy throws his worst at you. It is a place of constant battle, but it is also a place where you can have victory in Jesus! The life of victory in Jesus is your spiritual heritage. All you have to do is to follow Jesus over into the promised land of victory. I leave you with this question: Have you claimed your inheritance? Actually, the book of Joshua is a companion book with the New Testament book of Ephesians. For instance, when you compare Joshua 1:3 and Ephesians 1:3, you see they are talking about the same thing: our spiritual inheritance. The word “inheritance” appears 55 times in Joshua. InJoshua 1:3, God said, “I will give you EVERY PLACE where you set your foot…you will lead these people to INHERIT the land I swore to their forefathers to give to them.” (Joshua 1:3, Joshua 1:6) Compare that to Ephesians 1:3 which says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING in Christ…that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his GLORIOUS INHERITANCE in the saints.” (Ephesians 1:3,Ephesians1:18).
J. Vernon McGee writes about a certain Englishman who moved to America years ago. Soon after he arrived he dropped out of sight and his family in England lost contact with him. Not long after he arrived, his uncle in England died and left him about $5 million. Scotland Yard set out trying to find the heir. They searched for him but never found him. Later the man was found frozen to death in a doorway of a cheap hotel in Chicago. He couldn’t afford the few bucks for a room, although he was the heir of millions. He never laid hold of what was his. Many Christians today are living the same way. They are struggling in spiritual poverty and die like bums in a doorway, never claiming the blessings to which are available to them.
3) Be willing to sacrifice everything for God.
A British missionary society wrote to David Livingstone when he was in Africa. They asked him, “Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we will send other men to join you. ”Livingstone wrote back, “If you have men who will come only if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all.” That’s courage.
Rob has been pastor of Central Baptist since December 2003. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy from Samford University, a Master of Divinity from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, and a Ph.D. also from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also attended Beeson Divinity School and Wheaton College.
He has served as Pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Double Springs, AL, Associate Pastor at Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY, Evangelism Associate for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, and an Adjunct Professor for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
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