Have you ever experienced the frustration of knowing the truth but no one believed you? Joshua did’and he had to live with the consequences of this for almost forty years.
Joshua was one of the twelve Israelites chosen to spy out the land of Canaan. Their report on what they saw would help and entire nation of people make a decision about entering the Promised Land. When the twelve spies gave their report, ten said it’d be impossible to conquer the land. Joshua and Caleb agreed that the task would be difficult, but they urged the people to trust God to help them. They saw God as loving, powerful, and able to lead them safely into the Promised Land.
The people, however, rebelled and sided with the majority report. They ran from the responsibility of surrendering their lives to God. The result of their irresponsibility was tragic. A whole generation’with the exception of Joshua and Caleb’died in the desert.
Many of us think we can escape pain by avoiding responsibility and its demands. What we fail to realize is that we often experience a much deeper pain when we run away from responsibility than we do when we accept it. Joshua experienced significant pain in his life despite putting God first in his life. But that pain was used by God to develop him into one of the most effective leaders in all of history.
When you experience unfairness in life, the examples of the prophet Daniel and his three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego will give you encouragement and direction. Despite their lives of obedience, Daniel and his friends weren’t protected from God’s judgment on their nation, Judah. Innocence doesn’t automatically protect you from tragedy. But you do have the assurance that God is concerned about what you’re doing, and He will honor your faithfulness and obedience.
Daniel and his friends sought to live according to God’s plan, but they found that others opposed their efforts. This led initially to great danger, but ultimately a great victory. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had to walk through a fiery furnace because they obeyed God. Only the ropes that bound them were burned by the fire.
Then when he was 80 years old, Daniel was thrown into a den of lions because he was faithful to God, but he walked out unscathed. God used these trials to bring blessings to his servants and glory to himself. As you seek to be obedient to God, he may lead you into some difficult situations. But more often than not God uses such trails to strengthen your character and bless you.
If Daniel and his friends hadn’t believed that God was sovereign, they might have decided that compromise was better than risking their lives. But then they wouldn’t have experienced the glorious victories God gave them. What an affirmation of God’s faithfulness!
Spiritual growth is a fragile process. Without vigilance and encouragement from others, you live with the prospect of slipping back into sin. In the face of this, you need help from others who have courage and sensitivity toward your situation. Harsh condemnation will not help you, but neither will friends who flatter you with falsely positive words. Working with faithful support is what you need.
Consider John’s short letter in the book second John. In this letter, John balances condemnation and encouragement, proving himself to be a wise counselor and a great example to us. Recognize the past successes of others and affirm your brothers and sisters in Christ. At the same time, be willing to point out hazards ahead when you see them. Share your hard-won wisdom with warnings when necessary. Pointing out the obstacles ahead and encouraging others to be careful is the loving thing to do.
Loving one another is the most basic act of obedience to God. It’s also an essential element in your spiritual growth. At times, you may tend to focus inward and become self-centered. We live in a dog-eat-dog, every man for himself world. But that’s not Christianity. Remembering to be loving toward others will not only please God, but it will also help you to think of others and build good relationships.