The Deadliest Enemy
is the One You
Don't Know . . .
CHRISTIAN, as we anxiously await the return of our Lord, a question
is often asked: Why no revival? No doubt, you have heard many
sermons addressing revival. Many Old Testament accounts have been
preached to illustrate why we don't experience a genuine outpouring of God's
saving power. One common illustration comes from the book of Joshua:
You know the story. The children of Israel had been victorious at Jericho.
They felt they were on a roll--perhaps a bit too over-confident. For when they
went to conquer the next city, Ai, they gathered together and said, "Let not
all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite
Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few" (Josh.
7:3). However, unknown to them, sin had found its way into the camp. A
man named Achan, "Took of the accursed thing..." He violated God's
command, and therefore, "The anger of the LORD was kindled against the
children of Israel." Josh. 7:1
The Bible describes the tragic consequence of Achan's sin: "And the men
of Ai SMOTE OF THEM ABOUT THIRTY AND SIX MEN: for they chased
them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and SMOTE THEM in the
going down: wherefore THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE MELTED, and
became as water." Josh. 7:5
Often, this story is preached as a lesson to God's people. During Israel's
dismal encounter with Ai, God's admonishment was: "Behold, the LORD'S
hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot
hear: (2)But your iniquities have separated between you and
your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that
he will not hear." Isa. 59:1-2
The same warning applies to us today. If we want to see great spiritual
victories as a local church body, then sin cannot be allowed "in the camp."
Holiness is a key ingredient to seeing revival.
However, there is something just as detrimental to revival as willful sin in the
camp--it's a certain attitude that has crept into our churches, an attitude so
subtle, so unnoticed, so commonplace, that even saved, born again, Bible
believing Christians, unwittingly practice it! We can identify this attitude from
the Biblical account we've been reading, not by studying what Israel did wrong,
but, ironically, by examining . . .
. . . THE ONLY THING THEY DID RIGHT!
Notice Joshua's reaction when he heard that only 36 men had lost their lives: "And
Joshua RENT HIS CLOTHES, AND FELL TO THE EARTH UPON HIS FACE before
the ark of the LORD UNTlL THE EVENTIDE, he and the elders of Israel, and put
dust upon their heads." Josh. 7:6
He took it hard; his expectations were high. His attitude was "God can do anything,
and anything short of anything is nothing." He had the right attitude. God loves to see
His people expect a lot from Him. He loves to see His own get disappointed when they
experience anything short of a miracle. At least that's the attitude we often find in the
Bible. Do we find it today? What kind of expectations do modern day Christians have
of God and His mighty power? Let's answer these questions through an illustration.
Suppose . . .
"Joe Christian" traded places with Joshua!
It's 1410 B.C. : Joe Christian, a member of your average modern-day New Testament,
Bible-believing, Baptist church, sits in a tent, as the children of Israel return from Ai.
"JOE . . . JOE! . . . Something terrible has happened!"
"Calm down, Caleb . . . Have a seat . . . What's the problem?"
"We've lost 36 men! The Lord wasn't there! Somehow He didn't--"
"WOE! Slow down--"
"But Joe, don't you know what this means?"
"Of course I do." Joe leans back and smiles. "Praise God!"
"HUH?" Caleb says. "I DON'T UNDERSTAND."
"Here, I'll show you." Joe pulls out his calculator. "Now follow me . . . We sent out
3,000 men, right? But we only lost 36." Joe's fingers dance across the keypad. "That
means a percentage loss of 1.2%. AMEN!"
Caleb stares at Joe.
"Don't you get it?" Joe says. "IT COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE--much worse! Praise
God it wasn't."
"But, it could have been much better!" Caleb says. "Why did we have to lose anyone?
God is surely able to--"
"Look, Caleb," Joe puts his hand on Caleb's shoulder. "Don't expect the Moon. Where I
come from, this is a blessing. And remember, there's always next time. I say we get real
about this whole thing--put it behind us. And order about 200 large Dominos. I could eat a
horse . . . Don't look at me like that; it's just an expression!"
Meanwhile, back in the 20th century: Joshua has become a celebrity at Joe Christian's home
church. The deacons, having come up with a scheme to get a new record attendance,
"persuade" the pastor to let Joshua preach. So, on this day, we find Joshua in the pastor's
office, on his face before God, when the pastor runs in, trying to catch his breath.
"Joshua, I just took a peek in the auditorium-- now don't get nervous-- but there must be
3,000 PEOPLE in there! That's by far the biggest crowd we've ever had."
Joshua quietly nods, as he continues to meditate on his message.
"Now remember, try to keep it between 45 minutes and an hour. That last guy, S_____,
got the deacons bent out of shape. They still bring it up during their mens' meeting--"
Joshua gets up, and heads for the auditorium, oblivious to anyone else in the room. An
hour later, the sermon is over. Joshua calls an extra long invitation. 36 people walk forward
to accept Christ as Lord and Saviour.
The pastor rushes up to Joshua, ecstatically reaching for his hand. "JOSHUA,
CONGRATULATIONS! PRAISE GOD! He sure used you tonight! Man! 36! I Can't
remember the last time . . . Joshua? . . . you all right?"
Joshua rents his Giorgio Armani (the $uit loaned to him by one of the deacons) and falls
to the floor upon his face. "OH GOD! Why has thou forsaken thy servant?"
"Joshua! Get up! My wife's waiting in the car . . . we gotta go eat--"
"EAT?" Joshua says. "WE MUST FAST, and seek God's face. Perhaps next time, in His
mercy, He'll send His Spirit upon the service."
"Joshua, are you kidding? 36 PEOPLE GOT SAVED! If that's not the power of God, I
don't know what--"
"But there were 3,000 souls present," Joshua cries, "God could have saved them all!"
"ALL 3,000?" The pastor shakes his head as he bends down next to Joshua. He lays his
hand on Joshua's back. "Look, Josh, don't expect the Moon. Around here, 36 is a blessing.
And remember, it could have been worse. I say you should get real about this whole thing
and join us for supper. I could eat a horse . . . Don't look at me like that; it's just an
Christian, the previous illustration drives home a sobering thought. You and I have
become very COMPLACENT when it comes to expecting great things from God. We
view the miracles in the Old Testament as past tense. We assume that God is no
longer interested in flexing His spiritual muscle. But consider these facts:
1. The first century CHURCHES experienced the power of God. They saw thousands
come to a saving knowledge of Christ (In fact, in Acts Two, 3,000 were saved in one
Spirit-filled blow! Does that number sound familiar?) Why do we, in the 2Oth century,
assume that anything has changed? Has God grown weak?
2. God is still in the soul-saving business. Don't you think He wants to save lost souls
in large numbers? Has Hell cooled down? Has Heaven lost its luster?
3. Finally, referring back to our illustration, the most sobering, and deplorable, fact
of all is: Joe Christian has the indwelling Spirit of God, while Joshua never did! So,
what's our excuse? If anyone should have a high expectation level, it should be those
of us, who are truly BORN AGAIN!
Now, I realize that "Men's hearts are increasingly waxing cold." Times are harder
today, as in the days of Noah. But that's not a valid excuse; that's all the more reason
to expect God's saving power! We can't ignore the sin of complacency any longer.
We can clean up our act all we want, pray all we want, personally seek God's face
all we want. We can even please God all we want. But if our expectation level
demonstrates we really don't believe God can and will do it, will He do what we want?
"But without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please him." Heb. 11:6
Christian, please read the back [below] to learn what needs to be done . . .
FIRST OF ALL, get the mind of Christ.
Learn from the Lord, Himself. Remember,
when He walked among us, He depended
on God for everything. Therefore, His
expectation level included everything! He
said, "I can of mine own self do nothing"
(John 5:30). He couldn't afford to be
complacent, and we surely can't either.
SECONDLY, find and READ every
instance in the Gospels where Jesus
rebuked His disciples for displaying a low
expectation level--Instances where Christ
said, "Ye of little faith." (Matt. 6:30; Matt.
8:26; Matt. 16:8; Luke 12:28). Learn
from their mistakes; don't sell God short!
THIRDLY, the disbelief that leads to
complacency is a SIN. Unfortunately, we
don't think of it as a sin. We've quietly
allowed the world's philosophy to quench
the very childlike expectations that God
desires of us: "Don't get your hopes up too
high." "Don't chew more than you can
swallow." (As if God will let us choke!)
"Expect less, and be less disappointed."
"When it doesn't turn out the way you
planned, look at the bright side."
These sayings all have their place, but
don't let them keep you from trying great
things for God. REPENT! Realize that
COMPLACENCY IS A SIN. God hates it
so much that He threatened to spue the
church at Laodicea out of His mouth (Rev.
SEND THE LIGHT
P.O. Box 815 Fargo, ND 58107
[Christian Helps Ministry (USA)] [Christian Home Bible Course]