Saturday, August 23, 2014

Abraham: It's All About the Journey

            I love Genesis 12.  Notice in the first verse that God says “Leave your country . . . and go to the land I will show you.”  He basically tells Abram to step out in blind faith.  First he is to leave his home and then, eventually, God will show him the land he is to go to.  But for me, so often in my life, I want to see the map ahead of time, the exact route I am supposed to take and the place I’ll end up, the rewards that I’ll get for the effort, before I decide if I want to go or not.  But that’s not how God works.
            God’s way is to call us to go before we have any idea where we are going, to give us trials before we have any idea what He wants us to learn through them.  And we learn as we go, as we rely on Him and draw closer to Him during the journey.  He does not tell us His plans ahead of time.  But our faith deepens and grows as we walk the twist and turns, the hills and valleys, the dead-ends and turn-arounds with Him.  We may not know where He is taking us, but He does.  Our job is not to know ahead of time, it’s just to walk with Him.  And eventually, we’ll find ourselves in the place that He wants us to be.  If we are obedient and listen to Him.

            I am one who likes control and knowledge up front.  I like to see the plan ahead of time.  And so “blind walking” scares and frustrates me.  But I am trying to remember that I don’t need to know the end or the path through the dark journey ahead of time.  I just need to keep following the Light, and then I’ll get there.  Wherever “there” is - which God doesn’t tell me ahead of time. 

            It’s not easy, learning to walk by faith.  In fact, it’s a life-long journey and one that I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand or do perfectly.  But I keep trying, learning through each failure and trial and stumble and victory.
            One thing that we need to remember on this journey of faith is that God has His own timetable.  And things usually take a lot longer than we want them to.  Look at the blessing that God promises Abram in verses 2-3.  Very early on (well, when Abram was seventy-five years old) God gave the promise of a son to Abram, but Isaac wasn’t born for 25 years, not until Abram was about a hundred.  Twenty-five years of waiting for what God said He was going to do.  I don’t know if I’d be able to hang in there for more than a few months.  I can begin to lose faith pretty quickly if things don’t happen as I thought they were going to.  But to wait 25 years, hearing over and over that the blessing was going to come?  I don’t know . . . I think I’d begin to wonder.  To doubt.
            But waiting, I think, is one of the greatest testers and refiners of our faith.  It’s during these times that all sorts of things come to the surface: sins, fears, doubts, walls, self-sufficient ways, less-than-godly characteristics. Long waits are when we exhaust our own wisdom and our own attempts to make things work.  Long waits purify our desires and priorities.  Long waits cause us to fall down at the Lord’s feet in humility and say, “I need You, Lord.  I can’t do this on my own anymore.  No matter what happens, I just need You and I want to glorify You.  Not my will, but Yours be done.”  And I think this is why God lets us wait sometimes, way longer than we are comfortable with.
            When we panic during the long waits – when we fear and doubt and try to take matters into our own hands - we create consequences for ourselves and others that God never intended.  And when we are tempted to do this, we should seek comfort from godly friends, hit our knees in prayer, and open the Word, seeking the wisdom and comfort and strength that God is so willing to provide.  He may expect us to wait a long time for His promise to be fulfilled, but He doesn’t expect us to wait alone.  We can wait with Him in faith and learn the painful, wonderful lessons that we can only learn on the journey. 
            If there is one thing that I am learning as I get older, it’s that “It’s all about the journey.  It’s not about the destination.”  Now, of course, ultimately it really is all about the destination – our eternal destination.  But the journey that we take in this life is what builds up our eternal destination, our eternal home.  God’s kingdom.  Everything we do should be with the purpose of glorifying God and building His kingdom. 
            And to do this, we don’t need to always know the “next step” or “the outcome” or where God is leading us or why He wants us to do something.  We just need to walk with Him, follow Him as He leads, grow as we go, and glorify Him along the way.  And the longer we walk with Him in faith, the easier it gets to step out when He calls us to do something, even when we don’t know why or where He’s leading us.  That is where the true “living” happens, where our faith matures.  And I think God is more about maturing our faith on the journey than He is about getting us quickly to the destination. 
            As God says to Abram, “I will show you.”  Not “I am showing you first so you can decide” or “Here’s the path, all written up so you know all the steps.”  It’s “I will show you, as you go forward on your journey.  But you have to step out in trust.  I will reveal the next turn when it is time.  Just keep walking with Me, one step at a time.”
            God basically asked Abram, “Will you trust Me enough to go forward into the unknown?”  And this is what He asks us, too.  Regularly.  Not knowing is part of the journey.  Not knowing is what builds our godly character, humility, and faith.  Whether God says “Go” or “Stop,” we need to decide if we trust Him enough to do it, if we are willing to leave the unknown up to Him.  And we shouldn’t wait until our faith grows before we do this . . . because it’s by doing this that our faith grows.