Step Right Up!
It is hard to imagine you haven't seen something after you have. Let me explain: I saw The Ten Commandments so I know what Moses looked like and what the parting of the Red Sea was all about. Kind of. Had I been there, though, and seen it firsthand without the benefit of 48 years of movies, special effects, flannelgraph figures, sheet sermons and VBS programs I am not at all sure I would have stepped between those walls of water. Yes, the army of Pharoah was coming, but if I were an Israelite I would have seen armies and slavery before... but not a sea opened up. What kind of faith does it take to turn away from one in a million odds to none in a million and trust God to make it work anyway?
I think of my son at this point. He and I have a strange hobby for a minister and his boy. We are shooters. I compete in combat pistol and tactical rifle matches and have for over 20 years. My son is a long range rifle shooter (think 600+ meters with open sights). While that might not be normal for a minister, I have found that it keeps elders' meetings a bit shorter and a tad less contentious, but that might just be a coincidence.
Anyway -- Duncan slides himself down into prone position and sights his Springfield M1A downrange, resting it on his backpack. He has to allow for wind, mirage, elevation changes, air density, humidity and the peculiarities of the particular bullet and powder making up his .308 load. Once all of those are factored in he has to time the swing of the barrel. No one can hold a barrel rock solid. True long range shooters learn to move the barrel in an inperceptible figure 8, timing the pressure on the trigger to break at the right point. They then hold their breath and wait until the swing of the barrel and the pressure on the trigger coincide with that micro-second when their heart is between beats. When it all comes together -- they have to take the shot.
Beginners at long range shooting find that to be the most difficult part; not the math involved in bullet path vs. atmospheric pressure vs. timing their breath and heartbeat -- but the actual committal of the self to the shot. Only real shooters can make themselves take the shot regardless of the pressure around them.
Which reminds me of Joshua. God promised him the land -- as He had years before. Earlier, a whole generation was afraid to commit, to take the shot, so to speak. Joshua wasn't them. God would split the Jordan as they marched through... but not before. You couldn't wait for Him to open it up this time, as He did with the Red Sea. This time you had to commit before He acted. You had to trust Him. Step right up, step right in, and take the shot.
Too often I freeze on the target line. No, not on the real range, but in life. God calls us to act in faith, trusting Him to do His part. But we have to step up and step in first. God calls us to love our wives before they are perfect, before they love us back, before anything. Step right up and trust God. God calls us to go into all the world before we see how the funding will work out, before we see how the nation will receive us, before anything. Step right up. God calls us to give as we have been prospered before we see if we get that big commission, before we see if our insurance is going up, before anything else. Step right up.
We say we trust Him, but do we trust Him enough to step right up, step right in -- to take the shot? Once that bullet has left the barrel -- as my son and I both attest -- there ain't nothin' in the world you can do to change where it is going. That is why it is so hard to finally say -- enough! -- and pull the trigger. I wonder if that is the problem with us: we lose control when we act in faith and trust God with the consequences. We wait to "do the right thing" until everything else is already perfect. We want more control, more guarantee of perfection, than faith offers us.
Which is, of course, the problem with baptism. Follow me on this one: I think I know why many churches just won't accept baptism as a necessary part of our obedience to Christ. You see, I can believe in my bedroom and no one may know. I can repent of my sins, truly, deeply, sincerely and still be alone in my backyard. I can even confess to God that I believe in Him and in His Son... and only be overheard by the fish in the aquarium. But if I am baptized, I lose control. Someone else is in control of my body. I can't breathe. I can't stop it. I take the shot and who knows where it will go?
Just like the Israelites. Just like Joshua. Just like the new believer headed into the baptistry. Just like Duncan on the firing line. There comes a time to trust, to let it happen, to give it over -- to step up, step in, and take the shot.