Week 7 is a very important week in our study of Experiencing God. It is the turning point not only in our study, but in many ways, our relationship with God. It is entitled – “The Crisis of Belief.”
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is found in Joshua 3 and it involves the children of Israel crossing over the Jordan River and entering into the Promise Land. Moses is now dead and Joshua is the new leader. For forty years the children of Israel have been wandering in the wilderness and a whole generation has died off, not because of old age, but because of unbelief.
Before we cross the Jordan River, let’s go back to Numbers 13 and do a quick survey concerning the Seriousness of the Sin of Unbelief.
Numbers 13:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them.
Twelve men, one from each tribe, sent ahead to spy out the Promise Land and bring back a report concerning it. Why did the Lord send the spies into the land? For two reasons:
- To reassure them of His promises.
- To reveal their hearts. It was a test of their faith. Brethren, God often sets before us impossible situations, or as Henry Blackaby calls them – “Crisis of Belief’, to reveal what it is that we really believe about God.
23 And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs.
25 And they returned from searching of the land after forty days.
* (40 – the number in the Bible that represents some form of ‘testing’)
27 And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. 28 Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.
Beware of interjecting words like “nevertheless” or “but” into your relationship with God and your obedience to His Word.
30 And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. 31 But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.
Numbers 14:1 And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. 2 And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!
5 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.
6 And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes:
8 If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. 9 Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not.
10 But all the congregation bade stone them with stones…
When the twelve spies returned, there was a division among them as to whether or not they should obey God and march into the Promise Land. All twelve agreed that it was a land flowing with milk and honey; however, ten of the twelve spies focused more on the problems than on the promises. They couldn’t get past the giants and so they discouraged the people from obeying God. Only Joshua and Caleb believed that God would be faithful to do all that He had promised and help them conquer the land. The result of the disagreement was that the people turned against Joshua and Caleb, as well as Moses and Aaron and even the Lord.
Finally God had enough.
10 …And the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel.
As you continue to read the passage, you will see that it was not a friendly visit. God was ready to wipe out the entire nation and start from scratch. He did that once before with Noah but it didn’t do any good, nor would it do any good for God to do so again. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Moses cried out to God and begged Him to not destroy the people. Finally God said -
27 How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me. 28 Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: 29 Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me, 30 Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. 31 But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised. 32 But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness.
Twenty was the age that a man became eligible for the army and so, except for Joshua and Caleb, every man in the nation of Israel who was twenty years old and older, died over the next forty years while wandering in the wilderness.
Now it’s forty years later. They had failed the first ‘Crisis of Belief.’ What would they do this time?
Joshua 3:1 And Joshua rose early in the morning; and they removed from Shittim, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. 2 And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host; 3 And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it. 4 Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore. 5 And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the LORD will do wonders among you.
Henry Blackaby writes in his study (pg 134)
“When God invites you to join Him in His word, He has a God-sized assignment for you. You will quickly realize you cannot do what He is asking on your own. If God doesn’t help you, you will fail. This is the crisis of belief when you must decide whether to believe God for what He wants to do through you.
At this point many people decide not to follow what they sense God is leading them to do. Then they wonder why they do not experience God’s presence and activity the way other Christians do.” (pg 134)
“The way you respond at this turning point will determine whether you become involved with God in something God-sized that only He can do or whether you will continue to go your own way and miss what He has purposed for your life.” (pg 134)
The way you and I respond to such a moment reveals what we truly believe about God. It also determines whether or not we will ‘Experience God.’
Joshua 3:8 And thou shalt command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, ye shall stand still in Jordan. 9 And Joshua said unto the children of Israel,Come hither, and hear the words of the LORD your God. 10 And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites. 11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan.
14 And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan, and the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people; 15 And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,) 16 That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan: and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, failed, and were cut off: and the people passed over right against Jericho. 17 And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.
I have personally faced moments in my ministry that might be called a – Crisis of Belief. Like the children of Israel, I have failed some of the tests and as a result I have wandered in the wilderness. If God will help me I’m not going to do it again. If you and I fail to obey God and serve Him because we are ‘afraid of something’, then you and I will not experience God and we may wander in the wilderness.
Praise God that He is the God of a second chance. The nation Israel is an example of this and so is Jonah, Simon Peter and myself. What is your current Crisis of Belief? What is it that God is setting before you to do and you need to take a step of faith and walk on the water? If you don’t know, keep seeking Him in His Word and wait upon Him to reveal Himself to you. If you do know, let me encourage you to trust and obey.
In closing, let me share with you another quote from Henry Blackaby on pg 140 in our workbook-
“We forget that when God speaks, He always reveals what He is going to do – not what He wants us to do for Him. We join Him so He can do His work through us. We don’t have to be able to accomplish the task with our limited ability or resources. With faith we can confidently proceed to obey Him becase we know He is going to bring to pass what He purposes. Jesus indicated that what is impossible with man is possible with God. The Scriptures continually bear witness that this is true.”