26 Jun Crossing into the Land of Immeasurably More
In 2006, the state of Michigan launched a national ad campaign to make travelers see past its crime, economic despair and rising unemployment. The award-winning “Pure Michigan” ads were instantly recognizable with images of lavish golf courses, pristine beaches, regal lighthouses and horse-drawn carriages set against tranquil background music and a voiceover from one of America’s most beloved actors. After watching one of these commercials, we are immediately aware of our less-than-ideal everyday surroundings and we’re tempted to book a trip.
The results exceeded expectations. Tourists flocked to the state, generating $40 in revenue for every $1 spent. The success of this advertising campaign can be attributed to the longing inside every human being to find a place where beauty, peace, joy and contentment harmoniously combine.
In the Bible, the Israelites were given an opportunity to fulfill this same longing. After rescuing them from Egyptian slavery, God parted the Red Sea and led them through to the river Jordan. Just across the river was the Promised Land—a gift from the Lord that would be the Israelites’ home and inheritance.
Deuteronomy 28 describes what life would be like for His people in this new land. Set high above all other nations, they would be blessed in both the city and the country. They would be blessed with many children. Food would be plentiful. Their enemies would be defeated. God promised them abundant prosperity (v.11). They only needed to trust and obey God.
They didn’t. Giving in to fear and insecurity, they chose to stay in the desert for 40 years, in a life so miserable that they longed to return to slavery. It wasn’t until Joshua took the reins that the Israelites would finally trust God and cross the river.
In the book of Ephesians, Paul takes on a similar task. The Christians in Ephesus were still living lives indistinguishable from unbelievers. Paul was concerned. They had the theology but they had yet to develop a life of obedience and love. They had yet to “cross the river.” They were wandering in a desert as opposed to living a life worthy of the calling they had received (Ephesians 4:1). While he may not have used idyllic images and tranquil music, Paul reminded Christians what a life built on the freedom of Christ could look like. He spurred them on to trust in God’s faithfulness, lean on the redeeming death and resurrection of Jesus, and accept that free gift that God had lavished on those who love him (Eph. 1:6-8).
What does such a life look like? It is a life led by the Holy Spirit (v. 1:13) which gives us access to God’s “incomparably great power” (v. 1:19) and the “full armor of God” (vv. 6:10-17) to help us fulfill our purpose in life. It is a life abundantly filled with the “incomparable riches of his grace” (v. 2:7). It is a life “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (vv. 3:16-19). It is a life powered by the God who is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (v. 3:20).
It is a life where we no longer look longingly at the life we wish we had because we finally had the courage to obediently cross the river into that new life. It may difficult for us to understand how the Israelites could spend 40 years in misery, but it’s not quite as difficult to imagine someone spending 40 years in bitterness towards a family member, battling a particular sin, or waiting to fulfill their God-given purpose in life.
In a recent visit to my parents, I was reminded of one way that I have wandered the desert. The realization was triggered as I ate one dessert after another, helpless to stop after an amount most people would find satisfying. I was reminded of the time I got my finger stuck in a Hershey syrup can, desperate to get to the remaining bit of chocolate. I was three then. Thirty-two years later, I still struggle with the same eating disorder. It may not be a full forty years, but it is a long enough time wandering helplessly.
It is time I start believing that the same God who raised his Son from dead is at work within me. It is time I understand that he wants me to live a life free from the captivity of sin. It is time I accept the freedom that Christ’s death on the cross assured me.
What would it look like for you to cross the river into the land of “immeasurably more?”
Referencing Ephesians 4:1-16, Pastor Ben reminded us that every person has been apportioned a different gift and a different purpose. Together as a church these different talents and gifts unite to form a complete body to fulfill the will of God. Your “immeasurably more” will look different than your neighbor’s or your spouse’s. Perhaps it means writing the book, leading the class, forgiving a family member, starting the ministry, confronting the addiction, conquering the fear, or saying the apology.
Likewise, the river that separates us from the Promised Land will look different for each person. Satan is a master manipulator and he will use our unique fears and insecurities to keep us from living the life that God has for us. We must not give in to the fear and timidity.
The land is waiting. Don’t wait another 40 years. Take what you have learned and cross that river.