To Follow God Fully {DWITW 365}

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It’s still winter. All over my Instagram, people are being taken down by the flu. Moms hold their breath as they check the school closing lists, and groan as they find out that school is closed, yet again. Things are kind of just blah in this season. I’ve noticed it in my own spirit, and in the spirits of those around me - a pattern of grumbling and complaining. This cranky vibe has vomited all over my kids, my social media, my husband, and my church. There is always something to grumble about, someone to vent to, and something to be bitter over. It is so commonplace, like a verbal filler. It quickly becomes our go-to subject during small talk. Is there anyone not complaining? And how’s it going in my own heart? Well, it could certainly win the ‘winter-blues-grumpy-pants’ award.

There is no in-between. . .
everything means everything

In the midst of this season, I have been teaching my three-year old son, Titus, Bible verses with ABC Scripture cards. The “D” verse is “do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14). The Holy Spirit has been bringing this to my mind often and using it to convict my heart. In my study, God has also been emphasizing to me every time He says words like “all,” “none,” “everything” or “nothing.” There is no in-between when God uses this language. When He inspired Paul to write these words “Do everything without complaining or arguing” to the church in Philippi, he picked the word “everything” on purpose. Everything means everything. Do everything without complaining or arguing. Paul did not write “Do some things without complaining or arguing” or “Do churchy things without complaining or arguing”; no, God says everything.

Now don’t get me wrong. I want the real, raw truth from you when I ask you how you are doing. And nowhere in the Bible does it say, “don’t have feelings” or “don’t be authentic,” but I’m learning through these Biblical narratives that there is a way to express these things and still proclaim trust in the Lord and dare I say, even worship Him. Remember Job? He hit the nail on the head when he said, “Though He slay me, I will trust in Him!” Job 13:15.

On the contrary, the Israelites in the account of Numbers 14 were not on the same wavelength - we find them complaining. They don’t like their food. They don’t like their living situation. They are downright scared of those giants living in the land God promised to them. And it is shocking to us, after all God has done for them, that they are still grumbling! At this point in the story, we have followed the Israelites’ incredible journey - saved from famine, saved from slavery, saved from disaster and saved from the tyrant pharaoh - and here, God makes a point of extending mercy to them yet again, but this time to save them from themselves.

And of the Israelites in this time, I ask: Is there anyone not complaining?

There are four outliers who choose another way: Aaron, Moses, Joshua and Caleb. These four leaders respond in a way that is completely refreshing. In Numbers 14:5-11, they take some drastic measures in the face of the Israelites complaints. Moses and Aaron fall on their faces. Joshua and Caleb tear their clothes and plead with the people. Moses then intercedes for his people before the Lord, despite their unworthiness, and as Moses prays, He reminds God of who He has shown Himself to be:

“The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation. Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now.”
— Numbers 14:18-19

After this intercession, God shows mercy and pardon yet again. Because of Moses’ prayer, the people are spared; but sin still has consequences. So, what happens to the people who grumbled and complained? The people who had forgotten who their God was and what He had done for them? They have to face the fact that they will not see the Promised Land - that land which God promised overflows with milk and honey.

What made the outliers different? They remembered who God was! They believed in His promises and trusted Him! They used their tongues to intercede, to worship, and to proclaim God’s faithfulness! In fact, this is what God says about one of those outliers, Caleb: “But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it” (Num. 14:24).

You see, we can’t simply stop complaining, stop sinning by ourselves. No, we need a different spirit, and when He gives us His Spirit, God will replace that sinful way with righteous living, with behaviors that exemplify what it means follow God fully. He will change our hearts, minds, souls, everything in us, even and especially what we do with our tongues. His Spirit initiates (and will complete!) a change from the inside out. From the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).

This brings us back to Philippians, where Paul pleads with the church of Philippi, in Philippians 2:12-18:

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.  Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.”

We will become the outliers, like Caleb and Paul, who chose to proclaim God’s faithfulness

He will change us. We will speak life! Why? Because we will hold fast to the word of life - which is Christ Himself. And that life will make us stand out, making us shine as lights in the world, in a crooked and twisted generation. We will become the outliers, like Caleb and Paul, who chose to proclaim God’s faithfulness! So now, we can use our new hearts to rejoice, to lift up the name of our faithful God, and to intercede for others who do not. 

Therefore, as we see in Numbers, yes, there are lasting consequences of sin. The Israelites who complained and who did not trust the Lord did not get to see the Promised Land -- just like there are felt consequences to our own sin of complaining. Yet, God in his mercy, through Jesus, freed us from paying the wages of sin, the ultimate consequence, death itself. The beauty of life in Christ is that just as there are lasting consequences of sin, there are also lasting consequences to living by the Spirit. Like Caleb, we will see God’s goodness in the Promised Land.

So my prayer today for myself and for you, is that God would help us to follow the Holy Spirit inside of us, who is always helping us to follow God fully, and when faced with the giants in our lives, we will immediately use our tongues to worship the Lord, rejoice, and proclaim that He is faithful and good.

Epilogue:

In Numbers, Caleb was forty years old when he was identified as a man who follows God fully because he trusted in God’s promises and feared the Lord over men. We will see on day 85 in our reading plan, in Joshua 14, that Caleb follows God fully for the rest of his life. At 85 years old, Caleb is still fighting battles for the Lord

How can you follow God fully today? I have such hope that if God’s spirit gave Caleb the ability to follow him fully for the rest of his days, that the Holy Spirit will give us the ability as well, with our tongues, with our hearts, with our relationships, with our jobs, with our choices, with our everything.

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Jillian Vincent loves Jesus. She's a wife, mother of two boys and a Dayton enthusiast. Jillian currently is a stay at home mama and spends nap times jotting on her blog and discipling other women. She would (almost) die for an avocado, a cup of coffee made by her husband, a novel that makes her cry, and a bouquet of sunflowers.