Living by Faith: Completing the Conquest

When we were preparing to purchase our new home, we were required to have a roof inspection. At first look, the roof appeared to be in great condition. Of course, my assessment wasn’t sufficient to appease the mortgage lender, so we hired a certified roof inspector to inspect the roof. He took great care as he walked the roof, used special instruments, and inspected nuanced areas. When he was done, he wrote up his report and informed me that there were minor holes in various spots in my roof. He explained to me that right now the holes were not big enough to cause any kind of damage, but over time they would continue to grow and could cause major damage. I actually had the choice of whether to repair them or not. For me, the choice was obvious – fix them now! Even though the majority of the roof was fine and the holes weren’t posing any immediate threat, the last thing I wanted was major damage to take place in the future. Would you want a roof with no leaks or with minor leaks? I think you’d agree with me that a strong roof with no leaks is the best thing to have protecting your home.

In the Christian life, this is a great illustration of the inspection that needs to take place in our own walk with God. We need to search our lives and check for those “holes in our roof.” The little holes are areas of sin that can develop without our noticing or that can be overlooked purposefully because there doesn’t appear to be an immediate threat. However, over time those sins will cause major damage to your life as your sin is exposed to your loved ones.

This dilemma was familiar to the children of Israel as they prepared to settle the Promised Land. The nation of Israel had previously spent 40 years in the wilderness and 7 years in war with the inhabitants of the land. At this point in the history as recorded in Joshua 17:14-18, they were beginning the 7 year process of dividing the land amongst the twelve tribes of Israel:

And the children of Joseph spake unto Joshua, saying, Why hast thou given me but one lot and one portion to inherit, seeing I am a great people, forasmuch as the LORD hath blessed me hitherto? And Joshua answered them, If thou be a great people, then get thee up to the wood country, and cut down for thyself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the giants, if mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee. And the children of Joseph said, The hill is not enough for us: and all the Canaanites that dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, both they who are of Bethshean and her towns, and they who are of the valley of Jezreel. And Joshua spake unto the house of Joseph, even to Ephraim and to Manasseh, saying, Thou art a great people, and hast great power: thou shalt not have one lot only: But the mountain shall be thine; for it is a wood, and thou shalt cut it down: and the outgoings of it shall be thine: for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong.

In this text, the tribe of Joseph needed more room for all the people of their tribe. Joshua, their leader since the death of Moses, exhorted them to destroy the Perizzites and to take more land. The tribe balked at this as they stated that the tribe was no match for the Perizzites’ strength. Joshua, trusting the promises of God that assured the inheritance of the land (hence why it was called the “Promised” Land; Joshua 1:6-7; Genesis 26:3), encouraged the tribe to live by faith in God’s ability to give them the victory. Ultimately, this tribe did not drive out the Perrizites, and other tribes also struggled with lack of faith and permitted other ungodly Canaanites to live on their land (Joshua 15:63, 16:10).
Just likes those holes in the roof, the Canaanites give us a picture of sin in our lives. Because the Canaanites were permitted to dwell in the land, terrible harm came upon the children of Israel.

“Shame on them,” you might say. Let’s be honest. As we read this story about Israel’s lack of faith, we have disgust for them and their weakness that kept them from possessing the land. We feel a sense of dissatisfaction that they would deny the power of God, lack faith, and refuse to conquer their foes. Similarly, if I hadn’t repaired the holes in my roof, you would think I was a complete fool. Yet somehow we do not retain this same dissatisfaction when the spotlight is shining on our faith. Sin has a presence in our life, yet we are not dissatisfied with it. We are content to “give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:27) and to allow him to capture our attention. Moreover, we look at all the areas where we’ve had victory and think it is sufficient. The nation of Israel did indeed rejoice in many victories such as Jericho and Ai, but they became comfortable with sin and let the Canaanites dwell in their land. We, too, can celebrate spiritual victories and rejoice that we have overcome trials and temptation, but we cannot become lethargic and comfortable when other sins attempt to dwell in our life.

How did Israel lose faith? In the lives of those in the tribes of Joseph, we see symptoms of a larger spiritual problem. Let’s examine these verses to see the heart of the problem.

First, the tribe began complaining which resulted in fear – Joshua 17:16-17

And the children of Joseph said, The hill is not enough for us: and all the Canaanites that dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, both they who are of Bethshean and her towns, and they who are of the valley of Jezreel. And Joshua spake unto the house of Joseph, even to Ephraim and to Manasseh, saying, Thou art a great people, and hast great power: thou shalt not have one lot only:

The tribe takes their complaint to their pastor, Joshua. The tribe was first stricken with fear as seen in their complaint that the Canaanites seemed bigger and stronger than themselves. Despite Joshua telling them that victory is available through faith in God’s promises, the tribe did not apply that truth to their lives. They walked by sight rather than by faith.

When confronting sin in your own strength, the difficultly will always seem too great; the odds will always seem insurmountable; and the opposition will always seem overwhelming. Even though Joshua trusted the Lord, the people of the tribe had to believe for themselves. You cannot ride on the coattails of the faith of others to secure your own victory; you must apply the truth if you want to experience victory.

Secondly, the tribe became complacent which resulted in failure – Judges 3:1-8

As the conquest lingered on, the faith of the tribes continued to wane. They already hindered their faith by allowing the ungodly to dwell in their land, and the decision to do so would only make life worse. Their lack of spiritual endurance resulted in the destruction of their homes and ruin of their families.

Complacency is usually a result of our misperception that we can control our circumstances. In many cases, the tribes of Israel forced the Canaanites to pay “tribute,” which were laws designed to implement restrictions, disciplines, and extra taxes on them. The tribes thought this gave them the upper hand, but they disregarded the cultural influence that the Canaanites would bear against them. Similarly, our human nature seeks to achieve control. If something goes wrong, we immediately begin formulating plans to regain control and achieve success. We tell ourselves, “I can handle this sin on my own,” “No one will ever know about this so I can still keep my reputation,” or many other deceptive lines. Like the tribes of Israel, we forget that warfare is required in order to achieve victory. The “enemy” that is sin will continue to strike against you in order to weaken your resolve, to deplete your vital resources, and to continue to advance the fight. In spiritual terms, sin will weaken your heart and love for God, will deplete and drain your faith, and continue to find other targets prime for destruction such as morals, boundaries, faithfulness, and church attendance just to name a few.

These statements are not merely the conjecture of a preacher; they are hard facts realized by too many Christian families. In Judges 3:5-8, we see the devastating results of Israel’s decision to allow the sinful Canaanites to dwell with them:

And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites: And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves. Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushanrishathaim eight years.

What can you lose? You can lose your family, your fellowship with God, and your very freedom.

First, the choice to allow the ungodly to dwell within their land resulted in the loss of their families. Notice that the families of Israel gave their daughters to become the wives of the ungodly. In turn, these children went on to serve their gods (notice the “little g” indicating a false god and idol). They forsook the God who delivered them from the bondage of Egypt, who gave them a land flowing with milk and honey, and who promised them the eternal blessings of heaven. Instead, they chose to worship pieces of wood and stone, carved from the hands of men, which could not hear their prayers or speak to their hearts.

This strikes a chord with me. As the father of three daughters, I desire for them to be saved, to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and to marry godly men who will continue to encourage their walk with God. I would hope that my grandchildren would also know the Lord and walk with Him, but that will only happen if my children and their future husbands decide to follow the Lord and to live a life that is separated from the ungodliness of this world. Yet this begs the question, “How will my children know what it means to live a godly life and recognize a godly man if they don’t see their father behaving as a godly man?” If my family is going to grow in godliness, then I must be the first to decide to make godliness a top priority in my own life.

God is directing us to value the things of eternal significance rather than the cheap and temporary pleasures this wicked world has to offer (II Corinthians 4:18; I John 2:15-17). Is it so much to ask? After all, the Lord is the One who delivers us from the bondage of sin, who leads us to a land of blessing, who assures us of the blessings of heaven.

Next, the children of Israel lost their fellowship with the Lord. Notice that they “did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves.” Their choice included not only their departure from the Lord, but also the acceptance of the false god Baalim and the groves (fields of trees with images of idols carved into their trunks).
Perhaps you are wondering what they really gave up when they turned their back on the Lord. When you forsake the Lord, you forfeit the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), the fullness of joy from His presence (Psalm 16:11), the light that illuminates your path (I John 1:7), the knowledge that your life pleases Him (Hebrews 11:6), and the assurance that our prayers are answered (Psalm 66:18; James 1:6-7).

What do you have to gain from such a decision? You will gain a way which seems right, but the end thereof is the way of death (Proverbs 14:12); you will gain the false and stubborn perspective that you’re always right (Proverbs 12:15); you will think that your way is the “pure” way, but your life is really filled with filth (Proverbs 30:12). Do you want your life to be described in these terms? Is the sin in which you are indulging worth that kind of turmoil?

Lastly, the children of Israel lost their freedom. Though many of them knew of the bondage experienced in Egypt, they went right back into bondage under new masters. Notice that the Lord “sold them into the hands” of the king of Mesopotamia, and they served him for eight years. This was the beginning of decades of spiritual vacillation which spanned multiple generations.

It is very possible for Christians to experience the bondage of sin by allowing it to form strongholds in their lives. It is true that once you are saved you will never lose your salvation, but you can return to the bondage of sin in this life by making the decision to dwell with sin. Many Christians have been ruined by sinful addictions and afflictions. Our societies are filled with opportunities to “pick your poison” – it can be alcohol, drugs, pornography, adultery, and many other horrific vices. While many of us are aghast at such a list, we must consider how all of these habits are started. They all begin as a “little hole in your roof.” Alcoholics start with one drink; addicts begin with one snort; carnality begins with one peek; infidelity begins with one flirtatious encounter.

Just like those holes in the roof, grave danger can result over time if you do not take action to repair the problems.

Simply put, the heart of the problem was the problem of the heart.

Their heart was filled with fear, not faith. Yet, God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (II Timothy 1:7). Living by faith is the only way to please God (Hebrews 11:6), and our heart is the seat of our decision to do so (Hebrews 10:22). We must trust God when we cannot see what the future will hold and trust Him for the results (Hebrews 11:1). If we can trust the Lord to save our soul, shouldn’t we trust Him to deliver us from all other evils?

Their heart was filled with complacency, not courage. Unlike the tribes, we must learn that confidence in God will assure us of victory (Proverbs 3:26). Therefore, we can have the courage to take on the biggest of giants, the highest of mountains, and the strongest of foes. The children of Israel heard the message early in their conquest: “Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them (Joshua 1:6). The problem wasn’t that they didn’t hear the message; it’s that they didn’t mix the word with faith and become a doer of the message’s admonition (Hebrews 4:2, James 1:22). Likewise, when we do not become doers of the word, we will miss our opportunity to claim victory and will sink into the mire of sin.

Is victory possible? Joshua could have used many excuses, but he didn’t do so. He was 96 years old when he took over as the “shepherd” of Israel after Moses died; He began his life as a slave in Egypt, spent many years as Moses’s personal minister, spied out the dangerous land of Canaan, and engaged in years of battle as a soldier before arriving at this point. Not only didn’t he make excuses, but he set the standard for righteous living when he declared, “…as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15). Physical weariness did not hinder his resolve to be a faithful man nor did he allow the past to fuel skepticism. Unlike many of his brethren, he was a man of faith until the end.

Like Joshua, we must keep fighting the good fight of faith. The children of Israel could have looked back to victories like Jericho for encouragement, but they lost faith when faced with additional challenges. Think of those times when you have experienced victory in previous battles against sin. God delivered you then, and He wants to deliver you now (I Corinthians 10:13)! Would you rather give up your sinful activities and possessions or would you rather sacrifice your family, fellowship, and freedom? Our shortsightedness makes us think it is asking too much of ourselves to be faithful to church, to conduct family devotions, and to give yourself in ministry to others. Yet these are the types of investments that pay dividends both now and into eternity.

How long will you wait before completing the conquest? The faithless tribes of Israel struggled with the consequences of their sin for many years. Just how long? The tribe of Benjamin didn’t drive out the Jebusites in Joshua’s day, and the sinful influence remained until the time of David – over 300 years later – before they were finally driven out. The tribe of Ephraim didn’t drive out the Canaanites, and it took until the reign of Solomon, David’s son, for them to be cast out (though even then it happened as an “act of diplomacy” in an agreement between Israel and Egypt when the Pharoah agreed to drive them out as a “gift” – see I Kings 9:16). Lastly, the tribe of Manasseh never got victory over out the Perrizites (See also Judges 1:5, 21, 29).

Think of the generations of families that were marred by the sinful influence of those ungodly Canaanites. Now think of the generations of your family which could be destroyed by the sin you permit to linger in your life. Think of the devastation that can result as you model a lifestyle that is accommodating to sin rather than modeling a life of separation from ungodliness. Through Christ, we can be more than conquerors! We can overcome fear and failure through faith! If you have been born again, your faith can overcome the ways of the world:

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. – I John 5:4

There is a beautiful song that seeks to rouse all Christians to a life of faith, and it is based on the powerful verse for victory in I John 5:4. Perhaps it will become your anthem of faith leads you on to victory!

One thought on “Living by Faith: Completing the Conquest

  1. Pingback: Looking Through the I’s of Paul | Learning the Way of Wisdom

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