The book of Genesis tells the account of God giving Abraham the charge to leave his country and start a journey to possess a land “flowing with milk and honey” — the Promised Land. On the 15th chapter of Genesis, the borders of that land were proximately defined as extending “from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, Euphrates.”
The Euphrates River originates in eastern Turkey and it flows through Syria and Iraq, joining the Tigris in the Shatt al-Arab River, which empties in the Persian Gulf. Cairo, Egypt, is about 375 miles from Jerusalem and the Euphrates about 800 miles away. Current Israel’s borders extend only 263 miles from north to south, and its width ranges from 71 miles to, at its narrowest point, 9.3 miles. Needless to say, what we today call the Jewish Promised Land is much smaller than the territory God promised Israel’s patriarch.
Centuries later, the book of Joshua tells the account of the Jewish conquest of the Promise Land. After fleeing from 400 years of Egyptian slavery, and wandering in the wilderness for another 40, the Israelites gathered by the Jordan River, under Joshua’s leadership, waiting to move into the territory God promised Abraham and his descendants.
God’s message was clear: The land was theirs to take. However, they had to do their part and actually set their foot on the entire territory. There would be work. There would be war. Their promise would never be fulfilled, unless they did their part.
The result of their fearful reluctance is well known in Judeo-Christian settings, and widely explored in sermons and writings: The actual territory conquered was but a fraction of what they would have received, had they trusted God and done their part.
The same concept is repeated throughout Scriptures: Many of God’s promises are conditional, requiring initiation from our part. Abraham would not have received his promises, had he refused to leave Chaldea. Later on in the Gospels, 10 lepers would not have been healed, had they not obeyed Jesus’ instructions to show themselves to the priest. They left the master’s presence with bodies still covered in wounds. As they obeyed and trusted Jesus’ command, healing took place.
There is a time to pray, a time to plan, and a time for action. Like the Israelites, many of us will never receive our full promises, because we overload our lives with words of faith, only to show our skepticism with hesitation or inaction. Late author and pastor J.R. Miller called it “the overwaiting of unbelief.”There is a time to pray, a time to plan, and a time for action. Overwaiting shows our lack of faith in what God can do. Click To Tweet
While writing down some thoughts for the new year several weeks ago, a somber thought crossed my mind. I don’t want to reach the end of my life and wonder what it could had been, had I stepped out in faith, obeying God’s every direction, regardless of how frightening or illogical they might be.
Indeed, sometimes God’s directions do not make sense at all. Sometimes he commands us to move from comfortable, familiar places. Sometimes he leads us into territories filled with giants and unknown languages, with nothing but the promise that he would guide our steps and give us a new, better land.
In those moments, like the Israelites, we often hesitate because our eyes do not see the full scope of God’s dream for us.
But we must remind ourselves that faith without action is no faith at all. True faith steps out of our songs of worship and our listening to the preacher and plunges into action. True faith heads out of Chaldea, understanding that the promise will only be fulfilled if we walk the length and the breadth of the land. True faith believes that God has already begun to deliver. All we need it to conquer and possess.
This article was published in Patricia’s column for the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Saturday February 4, 2017.