Study Guide: So Close

Sunday July 28, 2002 | Efrem Smith

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

So often we come inches away from fulfilling our dreams but never quite reach them. This morning Efrem delivered a powerful message to us at Woodland Hills entitled “So Close.”

Extended Summary:

Often times in our lives we come inches away from fulfilling our dreams but never quite reach them. This morning Efrem delivered a powerful message to us at Woodland Hills entitled “So Close.” He began by acknowledging this reality – the fact that sometimes in our lives we are so close to seeing our desires become a reality, but we never experience those blissful moments. Efrem noted that this predicament was the reality of the Reubenites and the Gadites in Numbers 32:1-7. Yet it wasn’t an external force that was keeping these two tribes from fulfilling their dream of crossing the Jordan. They weren’t being discriminated against because of the color of their skin, their gender, or their economic status. The reason their dream did not become a reality was because they didn’t want to go. Although they were included in God’s promise of the promise land, they decided they didn’t care to pass over the river. They thought they were all right where they were and instead urged the other tribes on. Yet before we criticize them, we must each look at our own lives. Are there things in your life that are distracting you from living in the fullness of what God has for you? God has promises and mighty plans for each and every one of us. Are there areas of your life in which you haven’t let God in? What is keeping you from God’s promises? From the text we can find three principles which help us answer these questions.

First, in verse one of chapter 32 we read that the Reubenites and the Gadites had very large flocks, which in that time meant they had much wealth. The reason they wanted to stay where they were was because of their cows! In the same way, because of our possessions we may be fine staying where we are. Material possessions can be a blockade for the promises and blessings God has for us. When a possession becomes more than a possession it starts to own us. Don’t let your material possessions distract you from worshiping and following God. Don’t bow down to your house, your clothes, your job or anything else like the Israelites did with the golden calf (Exodus 32:1-10).

Second, the Reubenites and the Gadites were comfortable and satisfied with where they were. The text says that theses two tribes saw that the land was “suitable.” If you are ok with where you are, you aren’t going to want to go higher. Yet why settle for suitable when you can have supernatural? Why settle for ok when you can have something out of this world? You are a royal priesthood, a temple of the Holy Spirit, and God’s beloved child! God is looking at you and seeing more in you than you see in yourself. Don’t sell yourself short!

Third, the Reubenites and the Gadites did not see the act of crossing the Jordan River in the context of their relationship with God. In speaking to Moses, Eleazar, and the leaders of the congregation, the two tribes asked them not to make their people cross the river (vs. 5). Today, some people stay away from God’s promises for their lives because somewhere they learned that Christianity was a religion, not a relationship. They have been conditioned to believe that they do “religious things” to stay out of hell. They think they are sinful and terrible people. Yet God doesn’t want to beat you over the head with guilt and shame. Instead God wants to love you into the promise and whisper into your soul, “I love you.”

These three principles drawn out of Numbers 32 are incredibly important for us as we live in a society that is heavily focused on material possessions and often sees the church as merely a legalistic institution. God desires to bless us in ways that this culture cannot even fathom. This does not mean that there will never be storms, pain, and trials in your life. God will see you through those hard times and have the victory over evil. The blessings the Lord has for you will ultimately outrun the curses of the devil.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Efrem gave an analogy of often roller-skating as a child but never having a winning ticket. Are there times in your life when you have had a dream fade away right before your eyes? How did you respond in those situations?
  2. Read Matthew 14:22-33. How do the attitude and actions of Peter differ from the attitudes and actions of the Reubenites and the Gadites in Numbers 32:1-7? In your own life, are you more like Peter or the Reubenites and the Gadites?
  3. The Israelites had a history of letting material possessions get in the way of their relationship with God (see Exodus 32:1-10). What got in the way for the Reubenites and the Gadites? What are some contemporary examples of things that can take our focus off of God?