Updated: Apr 10, 2020
We see and perceive the world from millions of perspectives, yet there is ultimately One who sees. Our God sees beyond the barriers of time and beyond our physical frames into the depths and motives of our hearts. He not only sees perfectly, but loves perfectly, constantly providing for and guiding us who cannot fully see.
He sees you today. He sees me.
Timberline Lodge is a Bible School and gathering place for youth groups, family reunions, and the like, in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado. My husband and I (and our three precious kiddos) have been privileged to live and serve here for about 13 years now. Throughout the last decade, the Lord has been growing in our hearts an ache and desire to guide this ministry (focused on helping others understand and live out the Christian life) to a place of greater health. We have watched the Lord, in His grace, use our staff, programming, and facilities to touch and transform hundreds of lives despite the obvious, mounting needs of the ministry.
It’s only been in the last few years that some of the issues (lack of staff housing nearby, inadequate buildings, no space to expand, etc.) have become urgent, which has catapulted us into a large project we are calling “Roots and Branches: Growth Rings.” Glaring needs bring with them many benefits: humility, reliance on the Lord, and in our case, an opportunity to plan well for the future of Timberline. The project we are now facing is exciting, necessary, and way WAY too big for us… but isn’t that JUST like the Christian life?
Remember when God asked Joshua to lead the Israelites in conquering the city of Jericho? God defeats the odds more times than I can remember throughout Scripture, but this story stands out to me. Joshua hears the voice of God, no doubt while LOOKING at the fortified walls of Jericho that stood almost 50 feet tall in front of him. God says (oh, how I would LOVE to hear His audible voice sometimes!), “See, I have given Jericho into your hand.” (Joshua 6:2)
Israel didn’t have the size or position to even consider overtaking this city. They had every reason to throw their hands up and walk away. Every reason except for one; God told them to conquer it! They didn’t have the manpower or the resources, but they DID have the living God!
It’s so interesting to me that God starts His admonition to Joshua, before any battle strategy has begun, with the word “SEE.”
“See, I have given Jericho into your hand.”
“See what?” I may have wanted to say, “Are you looking at what I’m looking at? (staring up at that huge wall) This is surely an impossibility!”
I wonder if just hearing the voice of God, Who is unbound by time, asking Joshua to SEE the completion of a work that had not even begun, would have made what to Joshua may have at first seemed impossible and unimaginable, as good as completed. Maybe the command for Joshua to “see” was actually a call to see in faith what the Almighty could do through weak people who trusted and obeyed Him. But HOW? Joshua and his people didn’t have what it would take!
One of the most startling and incredible paradoxes of the Christian life is one that is supported in Paul’s statement of mission in Colossians 1:28-29. He says, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ (which is what God asked Paul to do!). For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.”
Paul, in order to accomplish the task God gave him to do, says he LABORS, STRIVING… according to GOD’S POWER, which mightily works within him.
If you are unfamiliar with the story of the defeat of Jericho in Joshua 6, God instructs his people to arm themselves and walk around the walls of the city one time (about a mile around) each day for six days. God’s presence, represented by the arc of the covenant, went with them, and trumpets were to be continually blown. On the seventh day, the group was to march not one time around, but seven times around. Then, with the blowing of trumpets, they were to give a victory SHOUT, which is when the huge, impenetrable walls of the city would fall down flat… and when the Israelites did what they were told, that’s exactly what happened!!
If you were to approach one of the soldiers or priests who “rose early” (vs. 15) and walked around that city, asking him if he did any work during this endeavor, he would enthusiastically say, “YES!” The trumpet blowers’ lips were no doubt tired after all that blowing! Those who were carrying the arc with its gold-covered poles most likely had a few cramps in their arms, or raw places on their hands. I’m guessing whoever had the duty of waking everyone up at first light to get ready was well aware of how much it takes to gather a bunch of people for a big hike. (I think it’s a lot to wrangle 3 kids!)
When those walls fell down flat at the prompting of the Israelites’ victory screams, you can be sure they all stood dumbfounded in wonder and amazement. If you were to ask any one of them if THEY caused the walls to fall down, they would tell you, emphatically, “NO WAY!”
Except that they obeyed! They did exactly what they heard God tell them to do, and were in this small way used to accomplish His purposes.
The Christian life is not about waiting around to watch God move. He intentionally involves us in His work, for His wise reasons and our great pleasure. There is always work to be done, and we are to be available to labor and strive, as the apostle Paul did, to complete it. But we have to remember and trust that it is God’s power that “mightily works within us” that will ultimately accomplish His purposes.
The key, of course, is to listen to Him. Where He may not speak in an audible voice very often, He communicates clearly through His Word, His Spirit, and His creation. Sometimes He makes our paths clear through circumstances, and we can trust His shepherd’s staff to guide us away from danger, and onto the path He has chosen for us. But we need to be asking and listening. His sheep know His voice.
For my family this summer: listening, obeying, and laboring in His strength looks like raising awareness and funding to provide for the first step in a large campaign for Timberline Lodge. For you, it is probably something entirely different.
Maybe it’s the task of being a light to your roommates or coworkers by LABORING to show them the selfless love of Christ. HE will mightily work within you to do just that if He has asked it of you (and I believe He has).
Maybe the Lord is asking you to care for your children and their millions of needs while your spouse is away at work, in the military, or absent in parenting. Labor and strive to obey Him in that, but remember Whose strength in you will ultimately accomplish it.
Maybe you are called to bring the Gospel to the far reaches of the world, to stay the course in translation, or in building relationships with hurting people; maybe in the midst of persecution or ongoing discomfort. Honor Him by offering your efforts and labor, but rely on His strength within you to accomplish what He wants to do through you each day.
What is He asking you to do? (Taking steps to accomplish God-given goals is discussed here) Are you listening to Him, and trusting His power that mightily works within you, to do what may seem like an impossibility in your own strength?
As my husband and I approach this summer, striving to obey the Lord, I feel like the Israelites hanging out outside the walls of Jericho. I look up at the armed guard keeping watch on the top. He stares down at my little family with a smirk on his face. He doesn’t need to worry. There’s no way that little family can take down this monster of a city. Not a chance.
Then I hear the Lord sweetly say, as He did to Joshua a long time ago, “SEE what I’ve called you to that looks impossible, and trust that I WILL DO IT.”
He will accomplish through us what He calls us to, my friends. Our part is to listen and obey, to fight to foresee what He is doing, and to walk where He leads, and then stand in wonder at what He decides to do through us.