Endure hardship as discipline: God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? . . . They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we might share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Heb. 12:7; 10-11)
“Christians are like tea bags — we are not much good until we have been in hot water.” – (Rev. Selwyn Hughes)
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
When the Israelites were delivered from slavery in Egypt, God parted the Red Sea for them and they were saved from the army that pursued them. Despite all the miracles God had done to bring this about, the overwhelming majority of the people had not yet learned to trust God and follow His lead. They were still looking through the lens of their own weaknesses and fears, instead of through faith in God’s strength and assurances. They had so much to learn.
The lesson had been a long and painful one. The price of tuition totaled up to 40 years in the wilderness, and the death of a whole generation of faint-hearted followers.
Now, following the death of Moses and under Joshua’s leadership, they were again on the verge of the land God had promised. Again, God parted water for them: this time not so they could escape being pursued, but so they could pursue the promise. With the parting of the Jordan River, the Israelites crossed over in faith, instead of fear.
This time, the 12 men Joshua had chosen from each tribe took up a stone from the dry riverbed and put them together as memorial stones at their camp. God had ordered this to be a reminder to the current generation, and a lesson for future ones.
The long-term effect of the original demonstration of God’s power was still ongoing. Although it had occurred decades earlier, the Red Sea miracle was well known in Jericho. So when Joshua sent a reconnaissance team to that city, they were aided by Rehab the innkeeper. The Red Sea miracle had long ago convinced her of God’s supremacy. The Red Sea deliverance was still effective as a rescue vehicle for the Israelite advance team. It also provided the valuable information that Rehab was not alone in her belief; the citizens of Jericho were quaking in their boots. This was a great encouragement to the Israelites.
Life is replete with tough lessons. Some take a long time to learn. I can choose to be trained by them, or be snagged into repeating them to my own cost. I can use the hot water to good purpose, or I can just get burned dry. My education is ongoing; in effect, I choose my own tuition fees.
The greatest lesson, the most important one I will ever learn, is right in front of my eyes, repeated over and over in Scripture. Joshua put it succinctly:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Jesus echoed it:
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Father, I ask You to help me learn this lesson thoroughly, so that all the training that follows will be valuable, and not merely costly. In Jesus’ name I ask it all. Amen.