On Sunday, Pastor Luke kicked off our new sermon series on the Book of Joshua titled “God Keeps His Promises.” This series will run through Nov. 19. Together, we’ll be looking at the profound promises God makes to Joshua and consider how they apply to us today. Throughout this series we have invited a host of guest writers to reflect on each sermon, share further insights, personal reflections and what has stuck with them the most since Sunday morning. So stay tuned!
This week, we looked at Joshua 1:1–17 where the Lord commissions Joshua as the man who, following Moses’ death, will lead His people into the Promised Land. Pastor Luke talked about four different types of land that we see in the Old Testament and what each signifies for the people in them: Egypt (enslavement and false worship), the wilderness (wandering and stuck), Canaan (where the battle is fought) and Babylon (brokenness).
In all honesty, it took me a while to identify strongly with one of these four types of land. I was pretty sure that I’m in Canaan, but a little voice in the back of my mind whispered, Are you sure?
Land battles are kind of an odd thing for Americans of my generation to relate to. I didn’t grow up during a war where several of my loved ones went off to fight foreign enemies. I did live through 9/11, but I was so young that I didn’t have much of a concept of what it meant for me as an American.
Cats and Canaan
However, I have been involved in one recent land battle…That battle was against my cat, Banjo. All pet owners can likely relate to the kind of territory warfare I’m describing here. Once you bring a four-legged creature into your home you find yourself in dozens of battles a day as you attempt to keep it “off” things. Off the bed, off the couch, off the table, off the counters—off off off. And if they ever get the slightest, momentary taste of victory, they plant their territorial cat flag and claim that spot forever.
Banjo is a white cat with lots of white fur. For someone with a dark green couch, several pairs of black leggings and clean-freak tendencies…it was a “hairy” situation (pun intended). I remember talking to my husband after one especially exasperating effort trying to get Banjo off our kitchen table. “Do you think we can train him?” I asked. “I don’t think you can really train cats,” he said. “I think you just…manage them.”
But, in all seriousness, I identified 3 major blindspots causing me to question my residency in Canaan:
- I often confuse Canaan with Heaven.
- I assume my enemies and battles must be physical ones.
- I assume my battles must be history-making battles.
Canaan is not Heaven
Unlike our entry to the heavenly and eternal Promised Land guaranteed by Christ, the Israelites’ entry to Canaan and their earthly promised land was conditional upon their obedience and faithfulness to God. The eternal Promised Land is one of rest, ease and comfort because the battle has been won by Christ. The earthly promised land is a place where battles are fought, and where we need to stay ready and engaged.
I think one of the greatest tactics of the enemy is deceiving Christians, through comfort and ease, that this is all there is. While we ought to experience peace, joy and contentment in our daily walks with Christ, we should also be experiencing things like heartbreak, grief and tension as we continue to live in a broken and fallen world.
I believe the Spirit prompts us hundreds of times a day to step out of our comfort and ease and walk closer with Christ. Are we listening? Are we responding? It could be a prompting as small as stopping to pray for someone in a public place or going out of your way to check on a neighbor. Or it could be something big like changing careers to enter the mission field or opening your home to a child in need.
I think it’s also worth considering other possibilities for a sense of ease in our Canaan. Are we experiencing a brief period of rest between battles? Are we experiencing ease because we are well prepared for our current battle and simply able to fight well in our current circumstances?
Not Against Flesh and Blood
On Sunday, Pastor Luke also taught us that our battles are not against flesh and blood (or even cat hair); they are against powers and principalities of darkness. Distracting us from spiritual, mental and emotional battles is a powerful tactic of the enemy that gives him the chance to lead enemies like fear, anxiety, selfishness and bitterness into our land. These enemies are far more threatening than any physical enemy because they get into our heart, mind and soul. And once they’re in, they’re nearly impossible to get out (like cat hair on my green couch).
These intangible enemies can even come disguised as our allies. Think about it—how often do we allow bitterness and anger to set up camp in our Canaan under the guise of justice? How often do we allow fear and anxiety among us disguised as wisdom? For me, the answer is far too often.
When thinking about fighting battles with God in the Promised Land, it seems like they would be life-and-death, earth-shattering, exhausting, history-book-making battles—right? But that’s not always the case. As Pastor Luke pointed out, the first time we see Joshua in the Bible is in Exodus 17 during a small battle with the Amalekites. If you’re going to fight big battles for God, he reminded us, then you need to fight little battles with Him, too.
As I reflected on the battles going on in my Canaan, I started to recognize all the little battles I fight on a daily basis. Choosing to respond to my daughter with love and patience. Choosing to be generous and honest with our finances. Choosing to take a few moments to read my Bible and pray every day. Choosing to remain faithful in my marriage. Choosing to practice hospitality. Choosing to forgive Banjo the cat when he does annoying cat things. The list goes on.
Taking time to recognize all the little battles I’m fighting (and by the grace of the Holy Spirit, winning) is empowering, strengthening and makes me want to stay the course with God no matter what the future holds.
My biggest takeaway from this first week in the book of Joshua is that I am in Canaan and I am fighting battles each and every day with God by my side. Sometimes they are small battles, over and done with in a few minutes. Other times they are lengthy battles, getting at the core of my sinful nature in this sinful world. Whatever kind of battle you find yourself in today, the most important thing is to recognize it for what it is—a battle—and ask God to lead you through it.
I don’t want to be like Banjo the cat in Canaan, who endures unnecessary squirts from a plastic water bottle because he doesn’t remember the lesson he learned in battle the day before (hint: stay off the table). I want to be a soldier that grows in strength, wisdom and maturity the more I fight.
My hope is that God sees me as a faithful daughter, soldier and servant growing in and defending Canaan…
…not a furry little white cat he’s trying to “manage.”