Struggling Christians: On the Road to the Promised Land
To the Israelites, the Promised Land was a physical place, “a land flowing with milk and honey.” Spiritually, the Promised Land was a place of peace and rest and joy, a place where God’s richest blessings would flow in abundance.
To one caught up in the addiction of sexual sin or some other life-dominating sin, such a place may seem like a mirage, or perhaps even a delusion. But because of the work Jesus did for us on the Cross, this same spiritual place is promised to us and is available to us.
We are all familiar with the biblical account. God’s chosen people, the “apple of his eye,” are enslaved for generations. But God reveals his heart to Moses, saying, “I have surely seen the oppression of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry,” (Exodus 3:7) and intervenes in a mighty and decisive way to rescue them from the bondage of their captors. He leads them into the wilderness to prepare them, and then sets them out on their journey to the Promised Land.
So it is with the men and women who seek deliverance from the bondage of sexual sin. God sees the oppression of His people, those “having been taken captive by the enemy do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:26) Because of His great love, He intervenes in their lives and leads them into the “wilderness” to prepare them for their personal journey to the Promised Land.
The comparison becomes even more striking when one studies the many lessons the Lord had to teach the Israelites along the way, critically important lessons for any believer who sets out for the Promised Land.
Let the Lord Choose the Road
“Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, ‘Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. And the children of Israel went up in orderly ranks out of the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 13:17-18)
The Lord went as far as providing a “pillar of cloud” to move by day, leading them in their journey literally every step of the way. What a beautiful picture of the Lord’s care for His people! I assure you, He still wants to guide your every step in the same way.
Furthermore, the Lord understands what we can handle. “For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14) Paul assures us, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
It is for our own good that God will often take us on a much longer route to bring us somewhere spiritually. In our impatience, we invariably try to find a different, faster route. Many men have balked at the Lord’s choice of coming to the Pure Life Ministries Residential program to deal with their sexual sin. Spending 9 months at the campus in Kentucky seems impossibly long and unnecessarily drastic. “Surely, Lord, there is a shorter road for me,” they insist. I only wish you could hear their testimonies later when they chide themselves, “Why did I wait so long? Why did I try so many dead-end roads before trusting the Lord to choose for me?”
Steve Gallagher warns in At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry:
“In today’s microwave society, in which people get cured of their ailments quickly, we have become accustomed to expecting immediate results for everything we desire. As a result, people get impatient with God’s timetable.”
“On the fifteenth day of the second month after they departed from the land of Egypt, then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness” (Exodus 16:1-2). Suddenly, the now-hungry Israelites forgot the miracle of their rescue and longed for the times in Egypt “when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full!” (Exodus 16:3)
Nearly all the men who come to Pure Life Ministries for help are in anguish and despair. Many are overwhelmed by guilt, and some are dealing with thoughts of suicide. Not too long into the program, however, they begin to experience hope and see a new life on the horizon. Their past starts to fade. The Lord immerses them in the process of building and testing their faith. But then, when the going gets tough, they start to long for the pleasures of their past life. It’s amazing how easy it is to forget the misery that haunted them there.
The Lord repeatedly had to admonish the Israelites to remember the oppression of their slavery and His mighty works to rescue them. “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this thing today.” (Deuteronomy 15:15)
It is so with all of us, that tendency to forget what the Lord has done for us and to look back, longingly and unrealistically to our past lives.
Only One Day of Manna at a Time
The Lord responded sympathetically to the murmuring of His people: “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.” (Exodus 16:4)
The road to the Promised Land often seems impossibly long and arduous to anyone trying to recover from a life-controlling sin. Such a person often prays for immediate deliverance, but a miraculous, instantaneous deliverance is rarely the Lord’s way.
Early on in my own journey, I remember going to a staff member at the Ministry for encouragement to keep going. I will never forget his response, “The Lord only gives us one day of grace at a time. Don’t worry about tomorrow.”
Jesus said the same thing, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34)
Daily, quality time in God’s Word and in communion and prayer with Him is essential to appropriating this daily grace. This is what we teach the men and women in our counseling programs and this is what we pass on to all who are serious about making it to the Promised Land.
The Lord Provides the Victory
“And Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.’ So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek. And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.” (Exodus 17:9-12)
Over and over again, the Lord proved faithful to His people in battle. Yet, the Israelites had a tough time walking in that faith against their enemies—so much so that at Jericho, the very entrance into the Promised Land, an entire generation lost their chance to go in because of weak faith. It cost an entire nation forty more years in the wilderness.
There is only one road to the Promised Land, and it takes us through enemy territory. It takes us through trials and sufferings and testings of our faith, so that He can be glorified and we “may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:3) I think of the faith of David when he confronted the giant Goliath, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” (1 Samuel 17:45)
We all face our own giants on the way to the Promised Land, whether they appear as a besetting sin, problems in our marriages and families, or seemingly insurmountable obstacles to ministry. We must understand that the roots of all the obstacles we face are spiritual: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) Only the Lord of hosts can win these battles.
Friend, are you on the Road to the Promised Land? Are the fruits of repentance visible in your life? Are you cultivating the fruit of the Spirit so that others may “taste and see that the Lord is good”?
The sad fact is, most of us are barely getting by, and the Promised Land is not even in view. Some of you have been on that road but have lost your way. The Lord so wanted to bless the Israelites, and He ardently desires to bless you. Will you let Him? Simply believe—and watch the incredible journey unfold right before your eyes!
Tom Blangiardo is a former business executive and successful entrepreneur. He has held various positions with Pure Life Ministries since 2003 including Business Manager and Outreach Director. He currently serves as Director of Prison Ministries.
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