Change is Hard
As soon as . . . the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water . . . the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap . . .Joshua 3:15-16
A true change in habitual behavior is tremendously difficult, which is why so many of those addicted to drugs, pornography, food, money or pride, struggle to give those things up. We may change for a week, but if the appetite remains, the habit often returns. This is why so many of us have begged God to take away our destructive appetites.
How does God change us? I have heard those, who wish to maintain God’s sovereignty teach that we have nothing to do with transformation. They believe that change can only be done by the Holy Spirit and that we have no role in obedience or transformation. This of course, is not what the Bible teaches.
In today’s passage, the Israelites were commanded to cross the Jordan River, into the promised land. Though they had been told they would cross on dry land, they did not see the waters stop flowing until they stepped foot into the Jordan river. Their feet had to get wet before God moved. Had the priests refused, the waters would not have parted. Obedience preceded the miracle.
This is what God often asks of us. Though He first had to move towards us, He desires that we take that step towards Him. When we beg for His divine intervention with our addictions, defects and miseries, He often insists that we abandon self and follow Him.
We would prefer just to be magically transformed. God, remove my destructive appetites. Make me perfect now! To this, God asks that we daily deny self and follow Him. God has been working, but we must often step into the Jordan before we see that work. We want to be instantly transported to the other side, but God insists on our obedience and participation in the process. When we obey, God works His miracle of change in us.
Author’s Correction: In this entry, I wrote that we must often get our feet wet, like the Israelites, stepping into the Jordan, before we see God move. In my attempt to insist that we must sometimes obey before God works, I may have seemed to suggest that God is dependent on our obedience or that He always works this way.
God of course, is sovereign and is not dependent on us. When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, God parted the waters without asking the Israelites to step in the water first. In the case of the Jordan River though, God asked for obedience first. God is always working, but often, from our perspective, He requires our obedience first.