Don't Stop on Six, Part 3: Fix Your Focus
Progress isn't always obvious. Can I get an amen?
I have been trying to write this post for, um, longer than I want to admit here. Because every time I come to sit down and talk about circling... still... again, I want to throw up my hands and cry. I want to bang my head up against a wall. I want to give up. I want to negotiate with God. I don't want to believe that I am still circling certain things that I wanted torn down a long time ago. I want to do anything other than keep walking this same freaking circuit around this same freaking "city." I wanted to be able to write a post wherein I share how you can keep walking and trusting that the miracle of breakthrough is just around the next lap and you could follow my example because I had done it and was now living beyond "Jericho" and already onto the next city of victory.
Instead, I'm taking another.freaking.lap.
So I'm right there with any of you who find yourselves going in circles. Been here, done that, got the t-shirt.
What's your "city?" I'm thinking of a few friends this morning who are circling burdens of their own: a job loss, again. A bad health diagnosis, again. A rebellious & broken adult child overdosed, again. How do you keep walking without feeling defeated or abandoned? I have another friend who is in a court battle with an ex who is maliciously trying to take her kids away and move them out of state, again. I have another friend who writes to his kids to let them know he loves them despite what their mom tells them about him and he is rejected by his kids, again.
Is your city an external force, or is yours perhaps an internal struggle? You are the one that keeps making decisions that cause you to circle the same consequence, or the same temptation yet again. You lost your temper and raged at your kids, again. You spent money when you didn't have it and are more in debt and pressured, again. You said yes to That Thing God has been telling you to say no to, again.
The Israelites were obedient and trusting God as they walked around the wall of Jericho, but they were still walking, again... and reflecting, I believe. Remembering the past laps in the wilderness when another family member died. Reaping the consequences of parent's sins and feeling like they would never recover. The pain and regret of knowing they could have entered Canaan forty years prior and instead all that time was lost due to their failures and distrust. They could have walked Jericho with shame and bitterness, complaining, fearing or despairing.
But as I said before, this time was different. In the wilderness, they didn't have much of a choice. That walking was bred out of discipline - you can get off that circuit and head back to slavery in Egypt. You can get off the path by dying. Neither very hopeful options. They were pretty much forced to circle and reap the consequences, and over time, as godly discipline works, it humbled the people. And their humility produced new respect and trust in God. Their focus changed - away from their immediate gratifying desires and towards God and His desires. They learned their ways hadn't brought life after all. Did it mean more walking? Sure, but the walking became voluntary and for God's purposes this time. And as they walked the wilderness, their original, foolish cries of "we would be better off in Egypt" morphed into a respect and desire for God's Plan of Canaan instead.
Those promises He's given you, that Abundant Living you are wanting... is that your focus right now? I'll get real with you - I'm asking myself that too - has that been the object and pinnacle of my own focus while I've been taking laps? Have I been too focused on myself and receiving the promise than on the One who authored that promise?
I've been looking backwards and feeling like a failure because I haven't received some of His promises yet. But if the ultimate desire of my heart is the Promiser, well, I have received Him in abundance this past year. All my circling brought me closer and deeper with Him with each round.
Did the Israelites realize this with each lap Joshua commanded them to take? Lap one, they remembered God was their Deliverer. Lap two, God was their Rescuer. Lap three, God was their Provider. Lap four, God was their Security. Lap five, God was their Shelter. Lap six, God was their Guide. This God empowered them through laws with more dignity and freedom than any other culture of that time. With each lap they meditated on God's character, they were strengthened in their faith, strengthened in their resolve to obey, strengthened in their focus - it was all about Him with each lap.
Who has He been to you in your circling? I'm experiencing lots of trials, again. And I have to remember too - He's been For Me every time. He's been my Sustenance. He's been my miracle Provider. He's been my Comforter. He's been my Way. He's been my Joy. He's been my Worth. He's been my Merciful Judge. He's been my Perfect Love that drives away all the fear.
You and I, we just can't underestimate the value of God and the internal heart progress while taking another lap around the same old stuff. Not one little brick of Jericho's walls was even rumbling or cracking while the Israelites were circling. There were no signs, no indication their circling was producing anything. Each day the prognosis was the same: Jericho still well fortified, the wall solid and strong, the enemy present and armed.
But that wasn't their focus. And if we want a breakthrough, it can't be our focus either. Our focus and our value need to be on Him and what He's doing within us. That's the initial key to victory.
And when the Israelites did this and made it to lap seven? God was their Conqueror, their Victor, the Fulfiller of Promises and New Life.
So let's take another lap, friends, and set our entire focus on our God who is For Us.