Summary: People and churches can settle down and forget where they came from and lose sight of where they could be going. Now is the time for the church to venture forward, or lose its place in God’s plan.
There are two problems with settling down: one of them is that you forget about where you came from. The other is that you lose sight of where you could be going.
Here is a young couple. They start out married life in just a small place, with room for themselves and maybe that first child. They know when they move there that it will only be temporary. It’s not the Kind of place someone lives in for a long time. The real estate agent called it a "starter house", or maybe it’s an apartment carved out of somebody else’s basement.
They live there two years, three years, until a better job comes along and a little more money. The second child is also on the way; more room is needed. Out they go to acquire a bigger place, and they go into debt for it, quite a bit of debt, maybe even get a second mortgage in order to get started. But now here is a place they can live in for a while. Here they can stay for a few years. Oh, maybe not forever, not the best of neighborhoods, not quite all that some of their yuppie friends have. But they’re proud of this house. This house will do very nicely for at least several years.
Well, the day comes when the children are older, and maybe there are one or two more; the job has matured, the income has improved. This couple, not quite young and yet not at all old either, makes the plunge to get THE house, their house. Maybe they even build it themselves, that ideal location, that perfectly beautiful spot, a house with all the amenities, all the space, all they want. Isn’t that expensive? Yes, but not impossible. With work and with the passage of the years, it is possible.
What happens after that? What do we call it? We call it settling down. They get settled. Very settled. So settled, in fact, that other opportunities become invisible. Other possibilities are not even seen. There is the offer of a job a hundred miles away; but he dismisses that notion, because they feel settled in this place. There was a moment when she felt it would be good to move back to the old home town to take care of her elderly, widowed mother; but no, moving looks like a huge chore. That would mean leaving this house, THE house, our house. No, we’re settled, thank you. Not interested in moving; not interested in changing.
But, I say, there are two problems with settling down: one of them is that you forget about where you came from. The other is that you lose sight of where you could be going in the future. For the Christian, that is spiritually dangerous. It is spiritually dangerous because you have left the will of God out of the equation. If in our eagerness to stay with and keep what we have, we lose sight of what we could do or where we could go, we have not thought enough about the will of God. And we have therefore made a great mistake.
Settling down, I say, creates two spiritual problems. Forgetting about where we came from. And, at the same time, losing sight of where we could be going, having no vision for what God wants us to do.
Ancient Israel had been a wandering people. From the days of their enslavement in Egypt they had been led into the wilderness for a generation of wandering. Forty years they had moved about, living in tents, herding their flocks, seeking their destiny. The hallmark of that wandering had been dependence on the will of God. They did it by obeying the leadership of the Lord. A great cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night had gone before them to show them where they should go. Materially they had very little; they possessed nothing. But they did possess their own souls, because they followed the leadership of God and made their way, slowly but surely, toward the land of promise. They had a vision of their destiny and they followed it.
You know the story. You know that under Moses they struggled to the edge of the land toward which God had led them. And then you remember that under the leadership of Joshua they fought their way through a thousand obstacles: through hostile tribes and bitter disappointments, against overwhelming odds, finally to win the battle and settle down in the land. From being nobody’s nothing, the people of Israel came to settle down and prosper, all from doing what God had led them to do. No other way to explain it. Seeing the leadership of the Lord and following it. Very simple.