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Pain that precedes progress leads to praise

God designed our relationship with him through Jesus Christ to be a series of spiritual progressions and advances. Since we live in a fallen world and have a fleshly nature competing with our spirit man, those advances which lead to greater spiritual responsibility may at times be preceded by a period that causes us some pain and trouble.

What Joshua and the children of Israel faced physically as they began to take possession of the Promised Land parallels what we as Christians encounter when God wants to move us to the next level in what he calls us to do, so we can learn a lot from their example in Joshua 5–

1And it came to pass, when all the kings…heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel,…their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more…

2At that time the LORD said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time.

 3And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. …

 8And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people, that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole.

 9And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day.

 10And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho.

Just like the Israelites, when we as Christians are about to be led by God into a place of greater spiritual responsibility than where we presently are, there must be a period of circumcision. There may be some fleshly stuff in our lives that the Lord requires us to cut off. It could be a bad habit that’s hindering us, a relationship that is holding us back, or a negative environment that is keeping us down. Whatever it may be, it has to be sacrificed for us to experience the higher blessing from the Lord.

This is what Christ alluded to when he commanded us in Matthew 5:30 to cut off what leads us to offend, since it is profitable to lose what WE consider important to gain what God deems important. If our focus in our life of ministry is sincerely to glorify God, we will do whatever is necessary to cut those things off, even if it causes our fleshly, selfish nature to experience pain like the Israelite men did in their circumcision.

In the same way the men of Israel were allowed a period of healing, God also allows us the same after we go through our own period of painful self-sacrifice. We find that we have entered our place of Gilgal, a place where God has rolled away the reproach of withholding from us the rewards and benefits he would have shared with us in the past if it had not been for us clinging to a worldly, carnal, “Egyptian” mindset. Our painful circumcision of the fleshly nature unleashes God’s rewards.

At the end of our circumcision of the flesh, our re-dedication period, while we are healing, it is also a time of reflection of what the Lord has done for us. This is when the Israelites celebrated passover. We can do the same by rejoicing and praising Jehovah for his excellent mercy, grace, and patience for giving us time to repent instead of pouring out his judgment. We can praise Jehovah for coming in the flesh as the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God, who shed his blood to make our deliverance possible and who makes it worth our while to go through the pain that precedes our progress, leading us to praise him even more.

–Harry A. Gaylord–

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