If you want to grow an apple tree, you have to plant an apple seed.
You might think that’s obvious. But, if we’re honest, we all have those moments when we want to throw a blackberry bush at the fenceline, let it grow wild, and then get upset when we can’t make applesauce. We’re so . . . human. The problem gets even more upsetting when we take the time to realize that God’s been telling us all along to plant apple seeds.
Okay, so maybe you’re scratching your heads wondering why I’m talking about plants and trees and such. Truthfully, I’ve killed both aloe plants and ferns, so I’m not using an example directly out of my experience. But, I can tell you that sometimes I thought God was leading me to do one thing and I ignored Him, purposely choosing to do something else instead. It’s like I heard Him say, “Plant an apple tree,” and when I recognize the work or discipline involved in His instructions, I turned toward the easier route, throwing a blackberry bush into the yard where it would sprout all on its own. And then I whined when it didn’t produce apples.
Can you relate to that? Let me tell you a story . . .
ON THE BRINK OF A PROMISE
Our enemy wants to do us harm, but God always has a better plan. ~Carrie Daws, Romancing Melody
After forty years of wandering the desert, the Israelites are poised to enter the Promised Land. Almost 700 years had gone by since God first uttered his covenant with Abraham, seven hundred years of family dysfunction, slavery, and questioning God’s plan. Now Moses is dead, and Joshua stands ready.
The Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. Joshua 1:1-4
Sounds good, right? But the messenger of God continues.
A Step below the Surface
No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Joshua 1:5-7
To the quick reader, this still sounds like a good thing. Who wouldn’t want to hear the Lord promise that no one will be able to stand against you? But, can you feel the weight of expectation? If no one can stand against you, doesn’t that infer that people will be ready to try?
If it’s going to be so easy, why does the Lord say, “Be strong and courageous”?
And the Lord keeps talking to Joshua.
Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Joshua 1:7-8
Now, responsibility enters the picture. Joshua must do something. God’s promise of success comes with a requirement: learn God’s laws and follow them.
And still, the Lord isn’t finished.
One Final Instruction
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
Again, the Lord reminds Joshua to tamp down fear. He warns him to fight discouragement. The promise to Abraham is being fulfilled, but the handoff will not be easy. A sea has to be crossed, a wall around Jericho has to come down, dozens of kings have to be faced.
The promise lays before them, but Joshua still has work to do.
God offers us many blessings in our life: family, marriage, children, friends. The list could turn to material possessions like homes and vehicles and furniture. Or it could turn to the future and include the legacy that lasts beyond us on this earth.
With each blessing comes a responsibility. With each promised fulfilled comes more work. Not because we should fall into a legalistic trap of following the letter of God’s law or because we need to wear ourselves out taking care of everyone around us.
Just as more awaited Joshua—more land, more prosperity, more success—more awaits each of us. And his example is one we should take careful note of.
First, Joshua listened to God.
Disciplines like reading the Bible, memorizing Scripture, and praying are vital to keeping ourselves on God’s path. These things give you a better chance of recognizing your enemy’s voice and maintaining a godly perspective.
Then, he got ready.
Joshua immediately gave himself and those traveling with him a deadline so they would not procrastinate. Once he knew what God asked of him, he got busy obeying.
Joshua also sought more information.
As part of preparing, Joshua sent spies to Jericho to find out more about what was coming. Today, we are surrounded by information through books, blog posts, podcasts, and more. In addition to weekly worship services, we should also seek out small groups of Christians that can walk this life with us, offering specific encouragement and correction where needed.
Finally, Joshua kept listening.
Nothing about the crossing of the Jordan in Joshua 3 or the destruction of Jericho in Joshua 6 is normal or common. Joshua had to learn new battle techniques that God was waiting to share with him. Joshua returned to the Lord and kept listening to his instruction.
Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. ~Theodore Roosevelt
While it’s true that God has already given all of us many blessings, it’s also true that He waits to give us even more. I was blessed on my wedding day to be united with my husband, but I had to allow God to heal some hurts in my heart and I had to learn new ways to love my man better. Same thing with my children and my friends and my extended family. The relationships I enjoy today with each of them wouldn’t be what they are if I hadn’t done what God asked—if I had kept planting blackberry bushes when God was handing me apple seeds.
Be strong and courageous. Step forward and do what God is asking you to do, no matter how silly or uncomfortable it may seem, no matter how much work or discipline it will require. And you too will look back across your life and see the godly success of Joshua.
[Joshua said,] “The Lord has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised. Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” ~Joshua 23:9-10, 14
Does God romance us? What exactly is romance anyway? Melody is about to find out. And it’s FREE on Kindle from FEBRUARY 13-15, 2018.
Romancing Melody: A Crossing Journey
Melody married her Prince Charming and journeyed with him across the country to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. As much as she hates being 3,000 miles away from her family on the west coast, she wants to adjust to life as a soldier’s wife.
Shortly after the birth of their baby Cole, David deploys with the War on Terror and Melody settles into motherhood. She quiets her doubts and determines to make the best of Army life. But when the unthinkable happens, where will Melody turn? Could God really be seeking her in the midst of tragedy?