Circles in the Sand

Today’s Truth
“The Israelites had moved about in the desert forty years until all the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died, since they had not obeyed the LORD. For the LORD had sworn to them that they would not see the land that he had solemnly promised their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Joshua 5:6 NIV).

Friend To Friend
One night, I was sitting on my sofa doing some paperwork when I noticed a large red fire ant crawling across my sand colored carpet.  Being that I was comfortably molded into the seat cushion, I didn’t want to get up.  So I waited until the ant was within striking distance before I reached for my shoe to put an abrupt end to his journey.  The carpet was just a few months old and I didn’t want Mr. Ant’s remains to leave a permanent mark, so I just banged on him softly.  Just in case he wasn’t “all the way dead,” I left my shoe lying on top of him until I was ready to get up.

 

To my surprise, a few minutes later, a shaken ant eased his way out from underneath his leather prison and began to limp away.  I guess his vision, equilibrium, or left side was impaired, because instead of making a mad dash toward the door, he began to totter, making a series of left turns and going in circles.

Thirty minutes later, my husband, Steve, walked into the room.  “There’s a big ant crawling on the floor.”

“Yeah, I know,” I nonchalantly replied.

“Why don’t you get a tissue and get rid of him?” he asked.

“I will when I get up,” I answered.

“Aren’t you afraid he’ll crawl away by that time?”

“Nope,” I responded confidently.  “He’s been going around in circles for thirty minutes.  I’ll get rid of him when I get up.”

Sure enough, forty minutes after the ant’s trip to nowhere began; I finished my work, got a tissue, and sent him on a trip to visit the city’s water treatment plant.

This scenario made me think about another creature that traveled in circles.  Well, a lot of creatures in fact: about two millions Israelites – and not for forty minutes, but for forty years.

The Israelites had been under the Egyptians’ shoe for 400 years.  Then God called Moses to convince the Pharaoh that their brick making days were over and it was time for them to move on.  Moses was to lead this band of slaves to freedom – to a land flowing with milk and honey. With plagues that would excite any professional exterminator, God convinced the Pharaoh that letting the Israelite go would be a good idea.  He yelled, “Get those Israelites out of here!”

So they gathered up their belongings (not to mention a few belongings that weren’t theirs) and left.  Led by a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day, they moved forward.  After marching between the towering walls of the parted waters of the Red Sea, they sang for joy. “Hip, hip hooray!  Now we’re on our way!”  Or so it seemed.

But they didn’t joyously parade on to the land flowing with milk and honey.  They didn’t continue in reverence and awe of a God who had already performed more miracles in their presence than most people see in a thousand lifetimes.  Instead they started to grumble and complain. “We’re sick of this food.”  They started to doubt God. “Did He bring us out here to die?”  They started to question Moses’ leadership.  “What are we going to drink?”  They bickered among themselves, argued with Moses, and disobeyed God.  And each time they stiffened their necks, God told them to take a left turn.

For forty years, they wandered in circles in the sand, like my little friend the ant crawling in circles on my sand colored carpet.  An entire generation died out and a new generation was born.  One day the stiff necks’ prodigy had a light bulb moment.  “Hey, we’ve got an idea,” they reasoned, “let’s try obeying God and see where that leads us.”

Of course, we know where it led them, where obedience to God always leads, on a straight path to the Promised Land.

As I studied the Israelites’ journey, I noticed a strange phenomenon.  As long as they were going in circles in the dessert, bickering among themselves, they didn’t encounter many outside enemies.  They didn’t fight many battles.  There was only one.

But as soon as they crossed over the Jordan and headed in the path called obedience, they were under attack left and right.  And so it is with us today.  Many have been led out of Egypt (saved from the bondage of sin) and passed through the Red Sea (Jesus’ blood) only to continue their Christian walk going in circles going nowhere. And amazingly, in the circular walk, there are very few battles.  It’s safe – not much action.  Satan doesn’t need to spend his energy attacking this bunch because they’re absolutely no threat to him.  But let God’s children start walking in obedience and moving toward the Promised Land of spiritual maturity, and the battle’s on.

Why didn’t I get up from my comfy seat and dispose of the ant?  Because I knew he wasn’t going anywhere, so why bother.  But if he had started heading for the door, I’d have taken care of him immediately.

Are you experiencing spiritual warfare in your life … Jebusites, Amalekites, Hittites, Gossip-ites, Mocker-ites, In-law-ites, Neighbor-ites?  Well, praise the Lord!  It must mean you’re headed in the right direction and someone’s not happy about it.  Just keep obeying God and marching forward.  The Promised Land is just ahead.

Let’s Pray
Dear Lord, I don’t want to be like the Israelites who wandered around in the desert, going in circles for forty years.  My heart’s desire is to hear Your voice and obey Your bidding. Lord, I let go of the things that keep me in a holding pattern, circling over the runway of life.  Lord, anything that keeps me from spiritual maturity, I give to You.  Like the obedient second generation Israelites, I step forward with the anticipation of someone headed toward her personal Promised Land.

In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn
Draw a picture of your spiritual journey over the past few years.

Are you going uphill, downhill, or in circles?

Which way do you want to go?

Write out a plan to get there.

19 Responses to Circles in the Sand

  1. Lesley Huff July 22, 2009 at 2:44 pm #

    WOW! I just had an amazing moment…..when i read back entries of my journals I found that I have been in many circle moments and it is true ..every time I try and walk straight I get sidetracked and go round again. I am making progress BUT I have never laid out a plan. This is my goal today but I am going to get some help from a christian friend to help keep me accountable..strength in numbers. Thankyou for your daily encouragement.

  2. Jennifer July 22, 2009 at 3:23 pm #

    Thank you so much for the wonderful devotional! It really gets me thinking about my spiritual life and were I am headed. I think sometime I am so stubborn and want things my way! It is the hardest thing steping out in obedience. I want to be obedient to God but there is a part of me that is afraid of getting hurt. Thanks so much for the reminder of how to get to that land of milk and honey!

  3. Anita July 22, 2009 at 8:30 pm #

    Ouch!!! I too have been wandering in that dreaded circle. It is very telling when I answer the question: “Are you going uphill, downhill, or in circles?” I choose the path of obedience and victory in and to God! I truly want all that God has for me! and all that God wants and expects of me. To get there again; to get back on track is what I desire. But where does one start?

  4. Stacy Williams July 22, 2009 at 9:27 pm #

    My wife snt this article to me today. We had just talked last night about this very thing in reference to the church I serve as senior pastor. We have spent too long travelling in the comfort of programs and calendars, all the while moving in circles. I am beginning the painful process in our church, of bringing us back to a focus on what God wants, not us. I’m sure we as a church, and I personally will be attacked, but God is moving here, and we can’t afford to miss it.

    I’m reminded of the movie European Vacation, where Chevy Chase and his family drive around in the traffic circle until it is night, because they can’t find a way out of the inside lane. They wind up tired, frustrated and angry because they want out, but can’t seem to make it happen.

    Too many churches are in this same rut. Thank you for reinforcing what I belive God is showing me!

  5. Dafflyn Campbell July 22, 2009 at 10:20 pm #

    Your devotionals are always very encouraging but for some reason today’s is just beautiful. I have been so encouraged. There are times when my spiritual life goes around in circle. It is good to have reflection and evaluation from time to time, I am surely doing that with a view to becoming more proactive. May God continue to bless and use you.

  6. Ranay Villafuentes July 23, 2009 at 4:04 am #

    I really enjoyed your bog I am sending it to all my girlfriend!
    my friends and I are in our early twenties and we are married and so times we and our husbands feel like we are going in giant circles except this circle has really high mountains and really deep valleys but just recently I have decided to listen to God and let him lead me out of this circle and hopefully like Joshua leading the Israelites the others will Follow. Thanks for this it encouraged me all the more.

  7. Victoria Oluwaniyi July 23, 2009 at 6:53 am #

    This devotion is really encouraging. You made me see the other “…..ites present in this day and age.Its like you can see me and God just used you to speak to my situation. This has fired a new thinking to change my mindset about different situations.

    God bless you and may the words you speak not stand against you too. He will supply the grace for you to do too.

    Thanks a lot.

  8. Thandi July 23, 2009 at 7:00 am #

    God has just answered my prayers with devotional.Before I read it I had prayed for God to show me why I am under such attack when I have been making strides lately in my spiritual maturity.God has taught me another lesson today ,that it is because I am becoming a bother to the devil.
    I am now so encouraged to obey God and let Him transform my life,focus onto Christ who is the author and finisher of my faith.I cannot wait to get into the PROMISED LAND after this race is won.
    Thank you my sister for your encouragement and your obedience to the Lord.

  9. Mary Adeyemi July 23, 2009 at 8:48 am #

    Whao!!! I really enjoyed this piece and was blessed by it.It really touched my heart so much.More grace to you!

  10. adele July 23, 2009 at 10:39 am #

    Wow. Every devotion I read is meant to be. And for some reason obeying God is coming up lately. It makes me double check myself to really see “am I obeying God”? Thank you for helping me stay on track!

  11. Theresa July 23, 2009 at 12:52 pm #

    How true! I felt like I wandered in the desert for 40 years (just turned 41), and have finally figured things out. The war has just begun!!
    Thanks for the great word!
    Theresa

  12. Thanks for posting about this, I would like to read more about this topic.

  13. Marie July 24, 2009 at 1:21 pm #

    Wow!!! This devotional was a big eye opener. It makes so much sense yet I never came to such a realization before. I have been frustrated with how I face what seems to be an unfair number of trials compared to some of my Christian friends, yet now I see how greater devotion and increasing faith requires greater work against Satan – but I’m not giving up, now I’m even more ready and willing to fight the battle!!!

  14. Laura July 26, 2009 at 12:17 am #

    I didn’t even read all of this and began to cry, Was it that I am in circles,,, actually I feel like I’m in a fog. I am listening for God, making my way on the path, but yea a fog.

    Then the guilt… I don’t have a journal. A couple years ago God was clear “wait! & HE would guide me, quit pushing”. And things were clear and I let God’s river take me ….. but now. Did I miss his voice over the past few months?-Year?

    Maybe I need to set aside more time with HIM.. and quietly listen. Maybe then I will hear His warming words and the fog will lift.

    Great story!

  15. Tasha September 16, 2009 at 3:14 pm #

    This devotional hit me in more ways then one. As a child I was verbally attacted everyday. As a Parent I have made it my mission to make things better for my kids. Now my 15 year old is being verbally harrassed and abused by children in the school and my thoughts and even some of what is spoken has been less then nice about these kids. My child could use prayer from the readers. If you don’t mind she is on the verge of suicide and I am a frighten single mother that needs gods help and guidence this spoke to me in so many ways. Thank you if you are willing to put in a prayer for my Daughter Desiree she is 15 and needs god right now.
    May god bless all your days.. Thank you Tasha

  16. Lisa October 6, 2009 at 11:31 am #

    wow i so needed this today thank you so much sharon for sening this i really needed to here this it just hit me i am going tthrough so much right now in my life and reading this just mad me cry you the best sharon thank for what you do,Amen

  17. Nancy October 12, 2009 at 12:35 pm #

    Ouch! My words can be dripping with sarcasm. Thanks for stating that gentleness does not mean weakness. Let me keep praying that the Holy Spirit will help me with my words.

  18. Nancy October 12, 2009 at 12:35 pm #

    Ouch! My words can be dripping with sarcasm. Thanks for stating that gentleness does not mean weakness. Let me keep praying that the Holy Spirit will help me with my words.

  19. Tesa October 12, 2009 at 11:59 pm #

    Recently, I had someone say something pretty mean to me. However, I didn’t respond with the old words of yesterday. I was pretty upset until after much prayer and a almost a week later, the holy spirit reminded me that I responded in love. This was not too easy for me because for years I always had something to say in return. Yet, I have found myself thinking before I speak and respond to anyone no matter what is said to me! I don’t want to hurt anyone with my words or sarcasm. God bless you for sharing all of you ups and downs with us!!!!

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