Sometimes I crave a really good story, but I can’t find a book I want to settle down with. It’s dreadfully provoking.
When that happened a few weeks ago, I picked up the Bible and started reading Joshua, just for the story. I wanted adventure. Spies, battles, miracles, noble hero—adventure doesn’t get much better than that, yes?
And I ran across a verse I’m sure you’ve heard preached on or written about sometime or other:
Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And the LORD said to him: “You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much land yet to be possessed.
-Joshua 13:1 NKJV
The Lord goes on to name the places the children of Israel still need to take possession of. Having just read about all the cities and kings Joshua had conquered, I thought, “Wow. So much done. Yet so much left to do.”
If you go on to read Judges, you discover just how much land Israel left unconquered after Joshua died—and all the trouble that caused them.
I think we still do that kind of thing.
Joshua gave the Israelites a great start during his lifetime. He hit the big cities, the important fortresses. He took out the most powerful kings. But still much land remained.
When we give our lives to Jesus (“get saved” in Christianese), we almost instantly surrender the important fortresses. We depart from some of our most glaring sins. We attend church faithfully. We pause to pray three times a day. We get a Bible, start reading it, learn the order of the books. We wear Christian T-shirts, listen to Christian music.
You know. We hit the highlights. Big things change, little things change. And that’s wonderful! That’s the power of God to transform a person immediately.
But then it’s easy to stagnate.
I mean, we’re saved. We’re different. We’re getting on top of this livin’-for-Jesus thing.
Yet there remains much land yet to be possessed.
Does Jesus have all our love? Is there nothing competing with Him for our affections and energy?
Do we yet comprehend the width and length and depth and height—do we know the love of Christ?
Do we walk in step with God’s Spirit every day?
Does God’s peace rule in our hearts?
Has Jesus so thoroughly overtaken us that He is not merely our faith of choice, but also our source of identity?
Do we rely on the Lord instead of on ourselves during tribulation?
Do we gladly obey God’s commandments because we know only our Creator and Redeemer has the wisdom and the right to control us?
Does thankfulness to God permeate our lives?
Do we love others like He loves them?
Does His Word shape everything about the way we view life?
Is He really, truly, wholly the One we worship?
That’s what I want. But I am so far from being there yet. I know there remains very much land in my heart to be fully surrendered to Christ. To be fully possessed by Him.
The war to win full surrender of our hearts is the fight of a lifetime. I don’t want to be satisfied with being a good Christian. I want Jesus to truly be my everything.
So let us fight on, warriors. Let us set ourselves against the Lord’s enemy and our own selfish desires. Let us be faithful.
Not that our own strength is sufficient. But God’s grace will make good what we lack.