Over the past year, my wife and I both started living healthier lifestyles, which has resulted in our both losing a large amount of weight. Actually, between the both of us we have lost more than the weight of an average person. One thing that both of us noticed during our journey towards better health is that as you are losing weight, you can’t really see the changes by looking at yourself on a day to day basis. I cannot tell you the number of times people have walked up to us and told us that they can tell we lost a lot of weight. Yet, my wife and I can’t really tell without actually weighing ourselves or seeing the actual size difference in the clothing we wear.
The truth is, as we started to live healthier, both of us would get discouraged because we couldn’t really see how much we were losing. So, we started to make it a habit to step on our scale each morning so that we had a measurable method of monitoring our progress. We found that as long as we were able to make note of each pound lost, we no longer got discouraged.
This week, as I was reading through the book of Numbers, I realized that G-D in His infinite wisdom established this same type of measurable way for the Children of Israel to monitor their progress while they journeyed through the wilderness. I believe that He established this system not only to keep the Children of Israel from becoming discouraged, but this same system can be used today by believers to also keep from getting discouraged.
We read the verses found in Numbers 33:5-11:
5 Bnei-Yisrael left Rameses and encamped at Succoth. 6 They departed from Succoth and camped at Etham on the edge of the wilderness. 7 They left from Etham and turned back toward Pi-Hahiroth, east of Baal-Zephon, and camped before Migdol. 8 They left from before Pi-Hahiroth and passed through the sea into the wilderness. They traveled three days journey into the wilderness of Etham and camped at Marah. 9 They departed from Marah and went to Elim. There were twelve water springs and 70 palm trees in Elim, so they camped there. 10 They left Elim and camped by the Sea of Reeds. 11 They set out from the Sea of Reeds and camped in the wilderness of Sin.
We see a detailed record the Bible provides for each starting point and ending point as the Israelites moved from place to place on their trip to the Promised Land. With each leg of their journey, they documented the place where they began and the place where they stopped. This record of their progress didn’t only provide a written history for us to read today; It provided a means for the Israelites to measure their progress.
Without such measurements, just as with our weight loss, it would have been easy for the Children of Israel to become discouraged because, unless you can measure your progress in some way, it doesn’t appear as if you are getting anywhere. But, when there is a regular record of every starting point and ending point, progress becomes discernible, and discernible progress allows us to replace discouragement with encouragement.
Numbers 33 could have just said, “The Israelites left Egypt and traveled to The Promised Land.” But, it didn’t. It lists each of the many short journeys that Israel took within the larger journey on which G-D was taking them. Like the Israelites, you and I, as believers in Messiah, are on a journey from our Egypt - our life in the slavery of sin - to our Promised Land, eternity with G-D. And just like the Israelites, if we don’t have a method to measure our progress and spiritual growth, we could easily fall into discouragement. We might look at ourselves where we are in our spiritual journey and think we haven’t grown at all. But, if we stop for a moment and look back at who we used to be, and look at the record of our journey, we can also replace our discouragement with encouragement.
One last thing to remember when comparing our spiritual journey with the physical journey of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land: always remember that the Israelites didn’t determine when or how far they would travel on each step of their journey. They were following the lead of the Cloud of G-D’s Spirit. G-D knew their strength, stamina, and abilities, and He led them one step at a time as they were ready to go. This is the same with our spiritual journey. If G-D is leading us, and if we are following His lead, then we have to recognize that we are in our journey exactly where we are supposed to be.
With all of the above in mind, I encourage you to do the same thing that G-D had Moses do and make a written journal of your spiritual journey. Make notes of every step forward, no matter how small or insignificant it may appear to you. Every step forward is a step forward, and as long as you are moving forward, you are getting closer step by step to your Promised Land.