When it comes to our lives, there are places where we are faced with the long way home, places where there is no shortcut. Whether that’s recovery, healing, broken relationships, building or rebuilding of relationships, physical health, or simply getting through a rough season of life, the reality is sometimes the only way out is through.
And when followers of Jesus encounter obstacles in our lives, we instinctively look for a God we must reckon with, the God of the shortcut. We pray prayers about it, well-meaning prayers. Jesus, rescue me. Jesus, do the thing now.
Because we live in a shortcut world. Nobody wants to do things slower or be forced to put in more effort.
- Fast food
- Fad diets
- Credit cards
- ChatGPT paper writing
But why do we look for shortcuts?
- Because we’re impatient
- Because we’re too focused on our version of results
- Because we think we have to do things by ourselves
When we feel like we’ve hit a wall in life or are in a battle, our first inclination is to try and figure out a way around or over it. It’s what our culture teaches us.
Sometimes, you have to take the long way home.
And God promises something much greater in that path than just a fix. He promises Himself. Sometimes, in search of a solution, we follow the God of shortcut and miss God. Don’t miss what God wants to do on the long way home.
1 Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel: 2 “I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The Lord has said to me, ‘You shall not cross the Jordan.’ 3 The Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the Lord said. 4 And the Lord will do to them what he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, whom he destroyed along with their land. 5 The Lord will deliver them to you, and you must do to them all that I have commanded you. 6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” 7 Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. 8 The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
This is an incredible promise. It was for them, but it’s for us too. But it’s helpful for us to understand what has happened and what is happening.
- Their leader, Moses, led the people out of Egyptian slavery and across the Red Sea through the wilderness. He’s at the end of his life. His goal had been to lead the people to the Promised Land, where they would settle down as a people. Because of a shortcut he took earlier in his life where he disobeyed God, he can’t go with them. So, he’s speaking to them. They’re at the band of the Jordan River, which marks the boundary between where they have been and where they’re going.
- Because Moses is not going with them, a leadership change is happening. Have you endured a change of leadership in your job? What about the presidency? Or even within the church? The people were uncertain. Joshua was uncertain. We know what that feels like.
- We often think of the Promised Land as the endpoint, the destination, or the payoff. That’s how we use that phrase. But what waits for them in the promised land? More battles, more obstacles.
We can relate to this. We’re trying to follow God through battle after battle. And even the thing that’s supposed to be the payoff – why it was all worth it – feels like a battle.
This leads us to wonder if it’s all worth it or if God really led us there. But we learn some critically important things about God and how He works.
- Some things will cause us to be afraid or become discouraged. Something that we would be perfectly justified if we did.
- There are battles. There will be places beyond battles where we feel trapped and where the enemies seem too strong or the obstacles too much.
- God goes ahead of us and fights those battles. We only need to stand and keep going.
- Moses uses a past example to remind people that God did it before. He’ll do it again.
- God fights the battles, but we have to possess the land. It’s the difference between having a house deeded to you and actually moving into and living in it. That’s harder. It takes faithfulness, commitment, and work.
- God doesn’t promise payoffs. He promises His presence.
- We CAN be strong and courageous because of God, not because of something innately in us.
In verses 7 and 8, God speaks through Moses to the people, but then God speaks through Moses to a specific person: Joshua.
There’s a message for us in this. Sometimes we feel like we get lost in a crowd, but then God provides a specific message. He says you MUST go. The word must implies a weight or seriousness. But must also implies uncertainty and trepidation. Even the fear we all feel when facing what we thought was the promised land but just looks like more hills to climb.
There’s a place we are in our lives, but also a place we MUST go. A place where you must keep going, where what’s ahead often doesn’t look as different as we would like than what’s behind.
There’s a place God is calling us to step up into, to keep stepping into. Because when we do, it unlocks something that God has been up to for a long time – He’s been planning.
What’s your MUST? Where’s the place you don’t necessarily want to go, keep going, or step into where the payoff doesn’t yet seem worth the price tag?
So, turn to the long road home, knowing it’s the one God is on, not the God of the shortcut. It’s a place we MUST go, a step we MUST take, and MUST continue to take. There were battles behind, there will be battles ahead, and we will fall short along the way, AND God is still faithful.
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