Under Moses’s leadership, the Israelites left the painful but familiar setting of Egypt. With the yoke of slavery broken from their necks, God’s people followed Him into an uncharted, unpredictable, unexpected wilderness. Their destination? Canaan. They had struck out on a journey none of them had ever dreamed possible…and right away they faced trials that tested their faith.
Dropping Your Guard: The Value of Open Relationships
Email. Internet. Video. Texting. Tablets. Smartphones. The list never ends, does it? As technology advances, real human connection becomes harder and harder. If we’re not careful, each new gadget can draw us further away from the family of believers God designed us to be.
If you want to experience a close community with other Christians, this series by Chuck Swindoll will challenge you to escape the trap of superficiality and to develop tight bonds that will feed your soul and mature your spiritual family. Keep your relationships connected…by dropping your guard.
After the Hebrews’ exodus from Egyptian slavery, they crossed the Red Sea and began the journey to Canaan. But in Numbers 11:1-6, we find the Hebrews growing increasingly discontent and determined to go back to the familiarity, security, and safety of Egypt—even if it meant personal slavery and direct disobedience to God.
Sufficiently prepared by Moses before his death, the people committed themselves to the tough task of conquering Canaan, which they accomplished with the sovereign assistance of Jehovah. Divided, they could never have done it. Unified, they were strong. The same is true for churches today.
In this message, we’ll focus on the problems of “spectatorism” and how we as members of the church body can overcome congregational apathy. The ancient Hebrews were forced to work together and get involved in taking the land of Canaan. In their example, we find some practical direction for our own lives.
Being together in unity is indeed good, “like precious oil,” as David put it in his psalm. Not just being together, but being together in unity. As we shall learn from the ancient account in Joshua, when God is in the midst of His unified people, they are invincible.
In God’s family, whenever there is a breakdown in the fellowship, regardless of the reason, it impacts others. We see this vividly portrayed in Joshua 7, one of the least victorious chapters in the book. Even though these times were painful for the Hebrews, they are useful to Christians today. They teach us that we must not be idealistic in the matter of growing closer together.
The highest form of love is charity—the type of devotion that seeks the highest good of another. This love serves unconditionally, regardless the cost. The Bible talks about this kind of sacrificial love in 1 Corinthians 13. This is the kind of love that we need most of all, and it finds its fullest expression in God’s relationship to us.
Where can Christians turn when we’ve been pushed around, misunderstood, and bruised with adversity? The answer for us today is not unlike the answer for the ancient Hebrews. Following God’s Law, they set up “cities of refuge”—pockets of security and protection, where healing could happen. Places of spiritual refuge are just as needed today.
Centuries ago, as God led the ancient Hebrews into the Promised Land, He specifically instructed them to clear the territory of the foreign tribes and to rid themselves of the influence of Canaanite civilization. From this example, we can draw an analogy for today. If we truly desire to grow deeper, pull together, and go further than skin-deep superficiality in our relationships, we must remove those things that hinder true community.
Joshua's final speech can be summarized in three words: “choose for yourselves” (Joshua 24:15). These three words apply so perfectly to us today as we consider how to build congregational relationships. In the final analysis, we either will or will not pull together, grow deeper, and become a caring body of believers. It’s really up to each of us to choose whether or not to bond with other believers.
Christians are unwise when they remain out of touch and live in secrecy. Being responsible includes being accountable, not just to God but also to one another. If carried out in the power and under the control of the Holy Spirit, accountability can be one of the most secure and reassuring facets of our Christian experience.
How would you define hope? In what way would your definition apply to a local church? What if hope were missing from a congregation? Would anybody notice? We’ll think about these and other things as we allow Peter’s words to guide us into the truth about hope. These passages of Scripture suggest several ingredients that must be present if hope is to remain a vital part of a church’s life.