“Oh Lord, You have examined my heart and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I am far away.
You see me when I travel and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.” Psalm 139:1-3
Like many of us, some of the earliest images I formed about God, sprung from my parent’s beliefs.
My mum would pray with me nightly, to a loving protector God while my father spoke about a fearsome judge with the power over heaven and hell.
If you are good, Dad said, you will go to heaven and if you are bad, you will go down into hell.
My mind was full of frightening visions of licking flames and burning flesh.
I remember thinking to myself:
‘How will I know if I have been good enough?’
What is the grade of goodness that I needed to have, to reach heaven?
It all seemed way too ambiguous to even my childish reasoning.
And it hardly seemed fair of God to leave this question hanging over my head for the rest of my life, only to find out on Judgment day, that I hadn’t made the goodness grade.
And of course He didn’t.
He turned my life around by showing me that Jesus had passed the goodness grade for me.
It was all done.
He is good and I am not. I can never be good enough without Jesus.
There was no more fear of judgment for me.
Instead, it had been replaced by the fear of the Lord.
No, I wasn’t frightened of Him.
I was fearless for Him.
A fearless love and reverence and respect for the living God who is always good.
That was, until one day I played the fool.
We had travelled to New Zealand for my husband’s new job.
In fact, the Lord had told him to resign from his job in Australia only 6 months before hand.
I was not keen to go.
But at the same time, I was excited that God had spoken so clearly to my husband.
Our situation in Australia needed some changes and we all hoped that maybe this was going to be the way forward.
It was a difficult transition for everyone. No church or family for support, an angry teenager who didn’t want to come and two other grown children that we left behind.
And then the situation we had been dealing with in Australia, followed us all the way to New Zealand.
No, geography does not change things.
But it can reveal the real issues.
In New Zealand, I felt very alone & overwhelmed without my trusted Christian friends and a husband very busy with a new job.
And so I gave up.
I played the fool. I thought that I knew better than God.
Maybe I was good after all?
So good, that I could be wise without Him.
As I let loose my anchor in God, my fear of His holiness, His perfection, His goodness, slowly drifted away into the sea of unbelief. His tiny nudges in my spirit were ignored and pushed away by a hardened heart.
I was a fool trying to live by my own wits.
But I am still a believer, I reassured myself.
I never doubted God’s existence or His truth.
I had just let my circumstances dictate to me that my faith in God was worthless.
He had left me in this mess.
Now, it was up to me and my wisdom, to get me out of it.
But I missed Him.
I missed His presence. I missed His voice.
I missed His wise counsel and direction.
I missed my Father.
Until one day, I finally realized that I had committed the same sin as the Hebrew slaves who had just escaped from Egypt.
The Lord God had just rescued them from Egyptian slavery by an amazing display of miracles.
They were now free to worship Him in the wilderness.
He even fed them food straight from heaven!
But when life in the desert became tough or challenging, the Hebrews longingly looked back to Egypt, thinking that slavery was so much better than being in the backside of the desert in a relationship with the living God.
A change in geography revealed their hearts.
They complained, moaned, denied God’s love and provision, and turned against Him.
They even went so far, as to create a new ‘god’, styled in the Egyptian tradition, which would bow to their grievances and give them what they wanted.
In their great wisdom, they gave the Lord a whole new identity because it suited their new world view.
A golden calf, they now claimed, had rescued them from slavery.
Where was their fear of the Lord?
Where was mine?
So one night, while trying to sleep, I repented heartily of my unbelief:
For trying to be wise in my own eyes;
For thinking that I knew better than God;
For thinking, that I was good.
And because He is my good Father, full of mercy and grace and because His Son Jesus had paid the price for my lack of goodness, He forgave me and took me in His arms and welcomed me home.
No, things did not become perfect overnight.
My circumstances remained the same and even worsened.
But now God had my hand and was wisely guiding me through.
After all, He knows so much better than me.
Which is why the Lord God chose a wise, God fearing leader called Joshua to lead those same grumbling ex Hebrew slaves into a new land of Promise.
And which is why God has led me to also choose Joshua as the next Faith Hero in the curriculum.
God knew that after Moses had died, His people would need a man who feared the Lord: a mighty warrior, military and spiritual leader, who would know who God is and faithfully obey Him whatever the challenge or circumstance.
But Joshua’s training for this role came much earlier before he was anointed the leader of the Israelites. He was one of the 12 chosen spies sent on a mission to scope out the Promised Land.
Ten of the returning spies chose not to believe God and His promises of victory and judged in their own wisdom that the land was too dangerous for them to take.
Joshua and Caleb told a different story. They only saw God’s promises in a land of plenty: of milk and honey.
They spoke up for God; believed His word and feared Him above all.
Theirs were the lone voices against the fearful cries of foolish men.
God replied with judgment.
Joshua and Caleb were the only men of their generation permitted to enter the Promised Land.
The rest perished in the wilderness.
And so in each of our own stories, just like Joshua, we may face constant challenges, come to a crisis in faith, a dark moment when we struggle to see God’s plan or purpose; when the rest of the world seems to be against us or seemingly right.
When all the circumstances, people’s opinions and worldly wisdom can drag you towards a precipice of fear and unbelief.
Which way will you turn?
Which way do we want to teach our children to turn?
Let us run with all that we have, to the feet of our Lord and throw our selves upon His never failing goodness and wisdom.
Our God who is the all knowing, all seeing good and righteous creator and judge of all.
He knows better than all of us.
He is good.
Not you. Not me.
And for us to recognize that, my dear friends: that is the beginning of wisdom.