If you could write a note to your younger self using only 3 words, what would you say? Prioritize retirement funds. Why? Because you cannot out-give later in life what you gave earlier in life. The more time your money has to add compound interest, the better. Little by little, it makes a bundle. This works with other habits as well. Making small changes to your diet has a long-term effect. Lifting small weights now builds your muscles over time to lift heavier weights.
Investments gain interest…but so do debts. You can’t undo the compounded interest your bad habits, investments, and compromises accumulate over time. We see this in the history documented in the book of Judges.
“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” – Edmund Burke
Therefore, the Lord was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it as their ancestors did.” The Lord had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.” Judges 2:20-23
God holds true to His plan. The investments of obedience over time were to compound into the blessings God had planned for them. God is testing his people. He is more concerned about formation than destination. He was concerned about who they would be in the land rather than the fact that they were in the land. God is more concerned about who you are becoming.
These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan. He did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience. Judges 3:1-2
God is playing the long game. He is not only concerned about their time settling the land, but He is intentional about the coming generations and their ability to face obstacles.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
The compounding effect of obedience strengthens your faith. Without the testing and trial, you will be lacking. There is opportunity in times when your resolve to trust the Lord is tested.
After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, “Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Canaanites?” The Lord answered, “Judah shall go up; I have given the land into their hands.” The men of Judah then said to the Simeonites their fellow Israelites, “Come up with us into the territory allotted to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours.” So the Simeonites went with them. When Judah attacked, the Lord gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands, and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek. Judges 1:1-4
Judah, out of all twelve tribes, is chosen to go into the land to conquer and claim it. Judah so subtly disobeys by inviting Simeon. It’s not an all-out rebellion, but it is a compromise. It looked like it worked. There were many victories and apparent successes, but as this continues, there are diminishing returns on Israel. They begin to feel the effects of their disobedience. This goes on and on with Judah, Simeon, Benjamin, Manassa, and all of the tribes failing to obey God.
God does not abandon them through this. He stays faithful and committed, but He pulls back as a form of judgment. For a thousand years, the people of Israel pay a price because of the compromises they made in their relationship with God.
What we rationalize can become our demise. What we make the exception for, compromise on, or take the shortcut through, can and will become our downfall. The good news is that we are not doomed to repeat history. We can see this pattern and its effects.
How do we chart a better course?
Let’s evaluate who “we” refers to. Currently, there are two we’s in America who rise to the surface: Christian and American. Despite our best efforts, it is difficult not to confuse the two. If you are a Christian in America, it’s like being born onto third base. It wasn’t like the first church in the Roman Empire. In America, we have a Christian moral framework. Be absolutely clear that the Christian We wants as many people as possible to know and love Jesus Christ. If that is not on our hearts, there is a problem. We have dual citizenship as Christians in the Kingdom of God and on the earth, but every single country and the earth itself will end. The Christian We unites on the basis that we are saved by grace through faith and will inherit the Kingdom of God.
Those who have conflated the Christian We and American We tend to work from the outside in. They often see the source of problems coming from outside and, lastly, evaluate themselves. The distinctly Christian We starts from the inside. The first battlefield is not out in the world; it is in my heart. Then, we can move into the lives of the people closest to us. This inside-out movement is how the church has influence and how the early church even began. It was Jesus, then Jesus with three, then Jesus with twelve, and so on.
“We are not in a fight to maintain Judeo-Christian cultural norms. Instead, the war is about making disciples among all people and loving the Lord with all our being and loving our neighbors as ourselves.” -Eric C. Redmond
What do you need to entrust to God in order to be fully obedient to Him?
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:11-12