Chapter 9 - Following the Ark
You Have Never Been This Way Before
The first thing you need to realize is that you have not been this way before. It is comfortable in the wilderness and you have come to rely on your own strengths. Whether those strengths are natural, spiritual or social, you have come to lean heavily on them.
However, this is a new road that needs new skills. You can no longer rely on what you had before. This is going to take a whole new level of dependence on the Lord.
Everything is about to become unfamiliar. Even though this is a vision that you have been trusting God for, the way is new to you. I can imagine that the Israelites must have lain in bed at night picturing what the Promised Land must look like.
However, the only one who had seen it before was Abraham and he did not paint a picture of what it was like there. And so they might have imagined what it would be like, but they had never seen, touched or tasted it. All they had was a promise.
Death of a Vision
Unfortunately, we humans can get a bit bold and arrogant. You think that you have the entire vision in hand and you just want God to open the way so that you can make it happen with your own will.
Sure, you can bring this vision to pass, but only if you watch the Ark. Only if you follow God’s direction - in His time and in His way. Now perhaps you have come this way before. For the Israelites this was not the first time that they faced the opportunity of going into the Promised Land.
Do you remember what happened the time before? The Lord brought them to the land and instead of watching the Ark - they watched their circumstances and said, “Lord we cannot do this! No way.”
So the Lord said, “Ok, no way it is then. We will put the Ark on hold and wait a little while for you guys to die off so I can work with people who really mean business.”
Instant death of a vision!
If that was not bad enough, they decided to take things into their own hands after they realized they had missed God. Suddenly they realized that God was right and they tried to run ahead and take the land.
It did not work out so well though. They fell flat on their faces. They messed it up badly, because they did not follow God’s lead. First they dragged their feet and then they tried to run ahead of the ark and try to do it themselves.
Now perhaps you have faced a few of these situations in your own life. Sure your vision is real. God did tell you that you would be going this way, but do not forget that it is on His terms, because you have not been this way before.
It is not on your terms. This means that when the Ark goes two paces, you go two paces. When the Ark stops, you stop. Now if you can watch and follow the Ark, taking it a step at a time, then you will accomplish the vision God gave to you.
Perhaps you have had your ministry and vision die one death after the other. Over time you can get bitter and angry at God. It is not God’s fault that you did not watch the Ark or follow in His perfect time.
By His grace you are getting another opportunity from the Lord. And so you stand as Joshua stood - ready, eager and excited about the hope that God has given.
How Will You Follow?
Now how will you follow the Ark? How will you get it right this time, where you messed it up before? How will you make sure that you can make it along this journey where others before you have failed?
Well, by the end of this chapter you will know what exactly it is going to take.
Do Not Run Ahead of the Ark
You see this is what the Israelites did when they tried to take the land without God. It goes back to my illustration where you have cars in a convoy with the lead car setting the pace.
The car behind him thinks that he is going too slowly for his liking, so he puts his foot on the gas and overtakes.
So you are going double the speed. But double the speed to where? You are going double the speed to nowhere! You see that is what happens when you become overconfident in yourself.
“Oh yes! I know what God wanted. Of course! I can think five steps ahead of the Lord.”
So you just jump ahead and in you go. Being an expressive I find myself in that boat a lot of the time. As Craig is driving, he will notice that the traffic is a bit congested, so he thinks to himself, “I am going to take a different route today.”
Sitting alongside him I am watching and thinking five steps ahead of him (of course) saying, “Craig you need to take that lane over there.”
“Love, I have this under control.”
“But? if you do not take this lane you will miss your turnoff!”
“I am not going that way today. If you were quiet and waited for five minutes, you would have noticed that!”
How many times do you treat God that way?
“God, I know that you said the Promised Land was over there, but I think you missed the turnoff. Lord, I think you need to open this particular door. This is looking so good for me right now. I really need you to open this door!”
“I’ve got it under control.”
“Lord, do you need some help with the door? I can see you are busy - let me help. You know what, I can see you are tied up, let me just take care of that door for you?”
And so you try to shove and push that door open. Then you turn around and discover that the Lord is no longer there. Suddenly the opportunity falls around your feet.
You would think that you would learn your lesson after the first time, but instead you try to push against the closed door. All you do is end up hitting your head against that closed door.
All awhile the Lord is standing 200 paces up ahead of you saying, “Can we please move forward now? Because when you have finished hitting your head against this closed door, I have a paved, wide open road for you here.”
Yet you keep insisting on the doors you must go through instead of letting God lead. The more you push and run ahead the worse it gets and you think to yourself,
“Wow! The call of leadership is so stressful. This fivefold ministry call is so tough! It is just one death after the other.”
Well no surprise there! It is stressful because you are being stupid. God did not want you to go through that door that is why it did not open. It is quite logical actually. So let it go.
Perhaps there is a door that He wants to open, but something else needs to happen first. Joshua could not defeat Jericho before crossing the Jordan. The reason is obvious: Jericho was on the other side. The Jordan came first.
There is a natural order of things for your life too. Perhaps that door is for another time. Watch the Ark for His timing and in His way.
It is miraculous what happens when you do that. The Ark moves forward into the middle of the Jordan and the waters just stop. This should be an easy walk.
Do you know what happens if you try and jump across the Jordan before the Ark gets there? The Scripture says that the river was in high flood. You try taking a leap like that and you are going down!
“Whoops. There goes old Bob into the water again. See ya later buddy? we’re crossing the Jordan.”
You will get swept away because you did not wait for God to stop the waters. Then you cry out to God, “Lord why am I drowning here?”
“Well look, I just do not know how to make this any easier for you. Watch the Ark! Wait for me to stop the water. Wait for me to open the doors.”
You see there is a time for action. I am getting to that point next, but I do not think that is the main problem most folks have.
Most people have this problem of jumping ahead of God. They are so busy diving into the Jordan that they forget to wait for the Ark to stop the water.
So if you feel like you are drowning and the enemy is destroying you, perhaps you are wondering where you missed it. Actually, it’s only if someone is mature do they wonder where they have missed it.
Most people say, “God really missed it.”
God’s Way Is Easy
If you take time to wait for the opportunities to present themselves, when you do walk through them, it is such a rest. You do not need to bang doors down.
You do not need to cry out to God all of the time and “shake the gates of heaven.” You do not need to throw a tantrum and intercede for hours at a time.
You do not need to even push through on your own, because the Word says that the Lord puts before us an open door that no man can shut.
God will present the opportunities before you as you walk along, if only you are walking in step with Him. Your eyes will be opened to see the circumstances around you. You will feel the clear leading of the Lord in a specific direction.
Even though you might have the natural tendency to go in one direction, you will see activity in a different direction. Then you will know that this is the direction the Ark is going. The water stopped and only then could the people walk.
The Lord did not say, “Alright everyone, I have a swimming lesson for you today. I need you to learn some backstroke. Then just dive in and push, push, push!
Don’t worry if you lose men along the way. I know it is in high flood and most of you will die - but hey - at least some of you will make it through!”
No, God is not in the business of leading you to an open door only to drown you. God made it easy for them. He stopped the water. And so here you are psyching yourself up to face the Jordan that is ahead of you, thinking you must face death, travail, wilderness and pain.
Listen, there does not need to be any pain! When you do things God’s way, there is no pain. Perhaps the reason you have had so much pain on the way is because you did not watch the Ark.
The scripture says that the Lord’s burden is easy and His yoke is light. When you do things God’s way, then it is an easy walk. There will always be death to the flesh. There will always be circumstances that will feel like Jericho in front of you.
However, when you do it God’s way, those walls will come crumbling down without you so much as having to set your hand to one brick! That’s God’s way.
When things are done in His power, He moves and you follow. When you follow like this, you release such a power into this earth. You give God license in your life to do things that are unimaginable.
Who could have imagined the power that God used to bring Jericho down? Here they were - all ready to take the land by force, but the first thing that God told them to do was rest.
He started them off with a simple fitness routine, doing a few laps around the walls of Jericho. They took a nice Sunday stroll, and God took care of the walls.
God sent the Ark around Jericho and all they had to do was follow it. God brought the walls down then and He will also bring the walls down in your circumstances.
He will bring about miracles and will tear down the enemy and build you up. He will open doors on your behalf and give you the land that He has promised you!
Excerpt from How to Get People to Follow You by Colette Toach