But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land. (Exodus 23:29-30)
After Exodus, the book of Joshua begins by showing how God granted Israel major victories to defeat the main military powers in the promised land of Canaan. But next, each tribe was supposed to complete the mission by removing the remaining pockets of resistance in their territories. Unfortunately, they never finished that assignment.
When I first believed, God gave quick change to many deep rooted negative attitudes and habits. With so many weaknesses rapidly wiped away it felt like I would now have a life filled with unending joy.
Ha! I was unsuspecting of remaining pockets of resistance in my life, how much work still had to be done and how much I still needed to change! So when I encountered some serious major obstacles, I was stunned and then overwhelmed when they did not get quickly cleared away. I then backslid and made many stupid choices.
Did that make a shipwreck of my Christianity? No —-I never did lose sight of how I was a new creation in Christ. But I had a poor understanding of what it takes to learn to grow in wisdom, making wise choices and growing in love.
Now it’s decades later. Am I free from all sin? Not quite! True, I have traded gross or obviously stupid sins for what Jerry Bridges called respectable sins . As if a little bit of resentment, jealousy, envy, and secret anger is not a problem at all! That’s why I cannot say I have arrived. There are still pockets of resistance. I still have more land to possess. Yet there is good reason to keep pressing on.
Whether you have been at this for a long time or are more of a beginner, this remains great advice:
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. (James 4:7–8a)
There’s an amazing interplay here between what I need to do and what God promises to do.
I must submit, resist, and come near. And then: God will come near. Is this for one time only? A one and done deal? Nope, it’s daily. Seek such an encounter with the presence of God today. And tomorrow. Renew it each day for the rest of your time on earth!