Often we think of the forty years which Israel spent wandering in the wilderness as nothing but punishment for their sin of doubt and disobedience when they failed to cross the Jordan into the promised land, preferring to accept the negative reports of ten spies than the faith statements of the two. However, some very important things for the nation took place during those years, not the least of which was that they were forced to a place of total dependance upon God. Removed from any means by which they could provide for themselves, they had no choice but to look to God for everything they needed.
More than that, in their looking to God they had to be where He was. Day by day they had His visible presence with them in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, reminding them that His provision and His protection could never be had apart from His presence. If any of them was silly enough to go charging off on his own, venturing out without the visible presence of God, he would very quickly find himself also removed from all the blessing that God’s presence brought, and struggling to fend for himself. Likewise, if someone decided that he was comfortable where he was, and didn’t want to move when the cloud began to move, he also would soon find that God’s provision and protection were no longer with him. He could try as hard as he liked to take hold “by faith” of all that God was, and all that God wanted to be for him, but if he had removed himself from God’s presence it simply was not going to happen.
We too need to learn to remain where the cloud is. Too often we want God’s “presents” without His “presence”. We forget that faith only works when it is pointed in the right direction. Faith in faith will get us nowhere, and often faith in people will not get us much further. That doesn’t me that we should not trust people, but people are not our source and never can be. Only God is our source (that’s part of what it means for Him to be God) and only faith in God is effective faith. Faith, however, is a very immediate thing. It is not good at travelling long distances. If we are far from God’s presence, faith simply doesn’t work. We can strive and struggle and twist ourselves into all kinds of shapes trying to believe and to take hold of God’s promises, but if we have removed ourselves from His presence, our faith has nothing to take hold of, and we find ourselves wondering what went wrong.
Our life with God is never static. It is always about moving, about growth, not about getting comfortable in one place (spiritually, and sometimes physically) and settling down. It is a “walk”, not a “sit”. (Yes, we are seated with Christ in heavenly places, but that is a different dimension.) Like the ancient Israelites, we need to learn to watch the cloud. We need to move when God moves, and to stand still when He stands still. We need to change our focus, so that the most important thing is not where we are, but where He is. When we focus on where we are, we start looking at our surroundings. Either they are very nice and we want to stay put – which becomes a problem when God wants to move – or they are anything but nice and we want to get out of there – which becomes a problem when God wants to stay put! When we focus on where He is, then that is where we want to be, regardless of what the circumstances surrounding us may be.
Are you finding that faith is a struggle and the blessing of God seems to have moved? Could it be that you have removed yourself from God’s presence? Have you perhaps run ahead, eager to get on with the next thing, when God wants to linger where you have been, maybe to deal with some issues in your life, maybe to build deeper relationships, maybe simply to wait for His timing? Stop, step back, get back into God’s presence. His timing will surely come, and when it does it will be perfect. More importantly, you will walk into His timing in His presence.
Others maybe have lingered behind when God was moving on. You have wanted to cling to what has been, to live in the old anointing. A friend of mine used to say, “God moves. Then man turns it into a movement, then he turns it into a monument, and finally he turns it into a mausoleum.” Yesterday’s anointing was wonderful – for yesterday. It was not made for tomorrow. That which is easy and comfortable may seem very nice, but it can lull us to sleep and desensitise us to both the presence of God and the danger of sin. If God has moved, then no matter how good yesterday was, you need to get up and leave it behind, and follow that cloud!