I have always had difficulty understanding this story: The children of Israel had survived 400 years of Egyptian bondage and then watched the mighty hand of God deliver them from Pharaoh’s pursuing armies. They had been fed miraculously by God’s hand and seen his glory cloud. You’d think they would have been able to rest in God’s presence. But when they were just a few miles from the Promised Land, they became frightened by a few measly giants and warrior tribes. They were about to walk into their inheritance, yet they let an outside force keep them from the blessings of God.
Have you ever experienced something similar in your life? I must confess I have done the same thing at times; I’ve looked at the giants and missed the move of God. While I am amazed by the response of the Israelites, I can also sympathize with them.
In this confusing culture, it is easy to become fearful and doubtful regarding the promises of God. For example, these questions tend to roll around always in our minds.
• Is this God’s will for my life?
• Has the Lord given me a direct answer?
• Why aren’t things going in the direction I expected?
• Why am I alone in this world?
These are all valid questions, and we should take our requests to the Lord so His peace can rule in our hearts. Yet I am sure you will ask these questions, look at the “giants,” and doubt God’s abilities. After all, it is only natural—but we are called to be supernatural. You have been called to serve the Lord in a culture that is anti-Christ. We must recognize the cultural giants that prevent us from the best life we can life for the Lord. We are on the threshold of a great move of God. He has promised to restore what the enemy has taken and prepare His people for a great revival, but this won’t happen if we keep looking at the giants instead of the Lord of Hosts!
When the children of Israel saw the giants, they were afraid. So much had happened over the last few years—frogs, lice, darkness, bloody water, and then of course, death. Their heads were probably spinning with both delight and confusion. They had witnessed the ultimate miracle: the opening of the Red Sea and the end of the pursuing Egyptian army. They had endured battles with marauding bands of Amalekites, and let’s face it, they were tired.
Living by faith is not easy, even for those of us with a complete Bible. Imagine what it was like to exercise faith in the middle of a hot, steamy desert. I can sympathize with the Israelites as they finally wandered into the Promised Land, only to find it inhabited by giants, warrior nations, and people who were bent on stopping their advance. Let’s not judge them too harshly as we evaluate the situation. However, as a result of these obstacles, they decided they could not enter the land that was theirs. They simply could not get past the giants.
As we move toward the Lord’s goal for our lives, we face giants as well. The giants that plague our culture are just as frightening as the Amalekites. Our adversary—Satan—uses the giants of our culture to destroy us, and often we are blind to his assaults. We can become just as tired as the children of Israel became in the wilderness because we must also process many things during our walk with the Lord. Just as they faced particular enemies, we must identify our enemies and the things that keep us in a state of doubt. Let’s examine some of the most significant giants of our culture and how we can overcome them.
Giant 1: Sexual Compromise
When the prophet Balaam could not curse Israel, he suggested to the King of Moab that the people of God would curse themselves by interacting with the Moabite women—and he was right! By joining with the daughters of Moab, the children of Israel committed sexual immorality with the people of Baal-Peor. This is always the way of our enemy. He tries to bring the people to a place of immoral satisfaction, and then he causes them to bow down; as a result, they incur God’s wrath.
Like the children of Israel, we have engaged in a lascivious lifestyle, and we have lost our ability to affect change in the world. This culture is a breeding ground for illicit sex. Hiding behind a misinterpretation of the First Amendment, pornographers distribute their smut freely. I recall the days when raunchy magazines were kept behind the counter and the people who bought them hid them in paper bags. That all began to change in the 1960s.
The church spoke against these changes and challenged Christians to abstain from this behavior. We put up a good fight for a while, but then the things people had to stand in line to see became available in our homes. As a result, the church began to lose this cultural battle. Pastors preached holiness, but then many of our congregants—and many of our pastors!—went home and engaged the cultural giant of pornography on television and the Internet.
The individuality of the 1970s brought a new attitude to the church. Christians lost their desire for holiness and began to look for Scriptural loopholes. Many seemed to bend as many of God’s rules as they could. The result was a lessening of real intimacy with the Lord.
We must return to biblical purity and holiness. We do not hear much preaching about holiness anymore, but I am convinced that holiness is still the right thing to pursue. David wanted to praise the Lord with a clean heart. Do you desire the same type of heart? Then we must defeat this giant of sexual compromise that has infested the church of the living God. How do we do it? Simple: Return to the Lord and practice the doctrine of holiness.
• Keep your mind on the things of God. Since the principle battle is for control of the mind, we can defeat Satan when we think of God and His Word. Never surrender your thoughts to the evil one. Victory will come when we discipline our minds.
• Flee sexual immorality. Your body is the temple of God. Just as we would not live in a dirty, roach-infested house, neither will the Lord.
Giant 2: Love of Money
We live in a culture that practically worships money. The body of Christ has fallen into this trap, and we need to re-evaluate the effect of money in our lives. Even our leaders have given themselves over to the pursuit of money. We live in a capitalistic culture, and we judge the success of others by the size of their bank account and the abundance of their possessions. Unfortunately, we also tend to measure God’s anointing by the size of the crowds and the size of our church buildings.
(But Isaiah 61 shows us) there is not one shred of proof that the result of the anointing will be a large church with many people. It does suggest, however, that lives will be touched and people will be delivered if we are truly walking with Christ.
With the anointing working through us, we should be able to reproduce the supernatural power of God. We cannot put a price tag on this power. He has left us here to engage in His business until He returns. The Body of Christ should be healthy and prosperous, yet I also agree with the Apostle Paul as he tells us we should avoid the trappings of this life and lay hold of those things that will enhance the church.
Joseph told Pharaoh that he should put aside a part of the provision of God and save it for the time when the famine comes. This is a sound principle; teaching others to save during years of plenty so they may have supply during the lean years is an essential discipline for success in life. Believers need to understand this concept and strive to master it. Our culture stresses the idea that we must have more money than the Lord says we need. We should trust the Lord and allow Him to handle our finances instead. The Word of God provides clear instructions on how we should slay this giant:
• Live moderately.
• Do not chase riches.
• Seek the Kingdom of God first.
• Live within your means.
• Give regularly to others.
Giant 3: Works Without Love for God
Our third giant is somewhat of a paradox for the modern Christian. Often, we are told to “do” ministry, yet it seems that we have become more interested in doing the work of the Lord more than spending time with Him.
Recall the Ephesian encounter with the Apostle Paul in Acts. Paul taught them the importance of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. While they had experienced the new birth and repentance, they had not moved beyond legalism. Paul prayed for them, and the Ephesians received the Holy Spirit. By the time Timothy became the leader of this once-great church, he was confronted with many things that are the direct opposite of the Pauline instructions shared in the letter to the Ephesians.
By the time we get to the book of Revelation, we see the church of Ephesus was confused once again about its position, only now the enemy was not a new doctrine or Satan, but ministry work. When Jesus sent His message to this church, He called them back to an intimate relationship with Him. King Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun, and I believe we are seeing a revived move of our enemy to bring us into the same form of bondage in which the Ephesians were ensnared—ministry work and the things we do for the Lord.
I believe we should be about our Father’s business, but like the Ephesians, we have forgotten the thing God wants from us more than ministry—intimacy with Him! The most frightening development in the church of Ephesus was that they were involved in the works of the Lord, but they had forgotten for Whom they were working.
We work so hard that others think we are busy for Christ when we are not really connected to Him at all. We must be joined to Christ more than anything else in our lives. If we spend a considerable amount of time connecting with Christ, we will see the true work of the Kingdom is to love the Lord with all of our being. It is easier for us to connect technologically (e.g., through Facebook and Twitter) than to Christ Jesus because it doesn’t involve opening up our hearts or being our true selves. But unless we get connected to Jesus, everything we are working so hard to build will fall.
Jesus emphasized the most important thing, which is to love the Lord with all of your heart, indeed, your entire being. This humble carpenter announced that love of the Father was the most important law of all. Then, right on the heels of that revelation, He said (His listeners) must love their neighbor as themselves.
Performing good works does not define the Christian life. The real walk of the believer is surrounded by love. Let us work to slay this third and very deadly giant.
Excerpted from: The Christian and the Culture: A Study of the Challenges Faced by the Twenty-First Century Christian (Westbow Press, 2015). Used with permission.
Originally published in the August 2016 issue of Citizen magazine.