Living On The Borderline: Part 1 Choosing What Seems Good
Have you ever tried to have the best of both worlds only to discover that you lost both?
Sometimes as Christians we want the heavenly and the worldly at the same time.
Sometimes as Christians we want the heavenly and the worldly at the same time. We want to be in the Kingdom of God yet be so close to the border to the Kingdom of the world. Because we still want to taste the worldly allure. We want to live in the thin border between both worlds. Living on the borderline is a rather dangerous spot to be. Because we can easily tip over to the wrong side. Further, it can end up being a rather uncomfortable place to be. Ever tried to sit on a thin wooden fence?
In this series of 3 articles, I will share on 3 key areas that we can live in the grey, on the border. Areas that we need to watch our hearts and be alert about. In this series, we will examine the story of Joshua 13:8-33.
CHOOSING GOOD BUT NOT GOD
When we look at the story of how the Israelites divided up the Promised Land, we can see some of these attitudes. God had promised the Israelites land basically on the western side of the Jordan River. Yet we find in Joshua 13:8 (NIV84) The other half of Manasseh, the Reubenites and the Gadites had received the inheritance that Moses had given them east of the Jordan, as he, the servant of the Lord, had assigned it to them.
The Reubenites and Gadites had seen that the land was suitable for their livestock and requested Moses to let them have it. Num 32:1, 4-5 (NIV84) 1The Reubenites and Gadites, who had very large herds and flocks, saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were suitable for livestock… 4the land the LORD subdued before the people of Israel—are suitable for livestock, and your servants have livestock. 5If we have found favor in your eyes,” they said, “let this land be given to your servants as our possession. Do not make us cross the Jordan.”
Notice the last sentence where they pleaded with Moses. Basically, they did not want to enter into the Promised Land which was on the western side. Instead, they wanted the eastern side of the Jordan River. In the end Moses gave in to their requests.
Sometimes, the "good" can be the enemy of the "best". Sometimes what we define as good is actually "second best". Or worse, it conflicts with God's choice!
On the surface it might seem like a reasonable choice and request. Yet what may seem good is not always so. Sometimes, the "good" can be the enemy of the "best". Sometimes what we define as good is actually "second best". Or worse, it conflicts with God's choice! Was the choice of these 2.5 tribes good? When we examine their motivations for the decision, it begins to look very similar to Lot's choice (Gen 13:10-13). Let me point out the characteristics of their choices.
SENSE-DRIVEN RATHER THAN SPIRITUALLY-DISCERNED.
In Num 32:1, they "saw that the lands…were suitable for livestock". Similarly, in Gen 13:10, "Lot looked up and saw…" Lot feasted his eyes on the well-watered plains of Jordan. And he thought to himself. “This is it! It looks beautiful! Everything that I need for my flocks! It feels right, it must be right!” And so he made his choice. Similarly, the 2.5 tribes made their decision.
Hollywood keeps telling us, “If it feels right, it must be right! Don’t think, let your heart guide you!”
How many of us do exactly just that? We let our hearts guide us! But at the expense of our heads! If we were only deciding which flavour of ice-cream – that would be fine! But too often major decisions of our life are driven by our hearts. It is absolutely unbiblical to let significant decisions be driven by our hearts. The Scriptures never teaches us to make decisions that way. Prov 19:2 (NIV84) "It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way."
The wise will stop and analyse the situation and its consequences, before deciding. I am not saying we ignore our heart. It has a place, but a secondary role. The wisest will think things through and more. They will seek God. Prov 3:6 (NIV84) "in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."
Lot failed in his choice because he was driven by his senses. The 2.5 tribes made the same mistake. On the other hand, Abraham was blessed because his choices were spiritually discerning. He sought not earthly attractions but heavenly promises. In Gen 13:15-16, it showed Abraham’s focus was on the promise of God. The writer of Hebrews explained Abraham’s perspective. Heb 11:10 (NIV84) "For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God."
When we make spiritually discerning choices, it lifts us to a higher level. We can begin to live for a higher purpose.
When we make spiritually discerning choices, it lifts us to a higher level. We can begin to live for a higher purpose. Instead of living for the moment, we begin to live for the eternal. I know Ps Mark Edwards who leads CityHope Church, a significant church in Ipswich, a town adjacent to Brisbane on the west. His father was Sir Llewellyn Edwards (deceased), a famous and influential Queenslander. Sir Llew was once Deputy Premier of Queensland, Chancellor of the University of Queensland and was director on many public listed companies. Mark was a successful lawyer and could have followed his father’s footsteps or worked in their large family business RT Edwards. Instead, he gave it all up and chose God's business. Because he saw its greater value.
Will you be guided by your good senses or God-sense? Will you be guided by your feelings or spiritual discernment? Is there more excitement in your senses than in the Spirit?
SELF-CENTRED RATHER THAN GOD-CENTRED.
In Num 32:4-5 the concern was for their livestock. Their greater concern was to feed their own flocks than to take the Promised Land. It was more self-centred than God-centred. They sacrificed God's allocation for their own choice!
Similarly, when Lot made his choice, he did not put in any consideration for his uncle Abraham. Out of respect for his uncle, he could have given the better option to his uncle. Instead, he chose it all for himself. Lot was greedy. Grabbed what he wanted first. The irony is he thought he got the best. But in the end he got nothing, and even worse, lost almost everything in the process.
It iswhen we trust God enough to make Him central in our decisions, that we can be in the centre of His will. It is then that we are at the centre of His blessings.
On the other hand, Abraham was so generous in his graciousness. He did not get excited about the lovely plains but trusted God. His attitude was, “Whatever Lot chooses, I will trust God for the His best.” It was only after God revealed His choice of land, that Abraham made his choice. For Abraham was more concerned about choices that pleased God. It iswhen we trust God enough to make Him central in our decisions, that we can be in the centre of His will. It is then that we are at the centre of His blessings.
What are some characteristics of self-centred choices? Haste more than prayer. There are much more "I" concerns than "God" concerns. "I" tend to benefit quite a bit more than "God's Kingdom". Not saying that we will never benefit, we could. But not significantly, at least not obviously to ourselves.
How do we know that the decision of the 2.5 tribes was not so good? These tribes were the first to be conquered and carried off into exile because of their unfaithfulness, as recorded in 1 Chr 5:25-26 (NIV84)25But they were unfaithful to the God of their fathers and prostituted themselves to the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them. 26So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria (that is, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria), who took the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh into exile...
They were in the wrong place that exposed them to greater influences of idolatry. You may ask, then why did Moses or God allow them to occupy those land? Because they wanted it so bad! When Israel wanted their own king so bad - God finally let them have their own king but warned them of the dangers. At times, God allows it because He knows they will force their own way anyway. Better that He at least set some parameters rather than them rebelliously making their own, even worst choices. Sometimes God allows us to get what we want, not because it is best for us. But because we throw a tantrum about it! So He lets us get it in order that we may learn our lesson.
Are we choosing what we view as good? Above God? In our haste we may fail to discern what God’s preference is. In our self-centredness we may run towards what seems good and ignore what is of God, which may not look as good initially.
Let’s determine to look to God like Abraham did and trust Him for the best. Let’s live squarely in God’s will. Don't live on the borderline!
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