Faith Moves Forward

If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.
Hebrews 11:15 ESV

Where there’s a will there’s a way. This common expression usually describes an individual whose tenacity propels them forward regardless of the hardships or seemingly impossible odds. Sometimes it’s a determined child getting into that secret stash of candy. Other times it’s an adult who beats the odds to overcome​ poverty, addiction, or abuse. In essence, the concept of this saying is if we’re determined to do something, we will find a way to do it.

Yet it was as I read the above verse in Hebrews the other day that I saw the latter saying applied to a lack of faith. The verse basically states, “Where there’s a will to go back, there’s a way to go back.”

Think about it. Hebrews 11 is often referred to as the faith hall of fame. We read of Abel, of Noah, of Abraham. We read about how each one trusted God even when he did not understand or he could not see the promise. We read that when God told them something, they moved forward into that promise​ and didn’t look back. Abel didn’t give God a haphazard, thoughtless offering. Noah didn’t long for the days when he​ wasn’t being​ ridiculed for building an ark in the blazing sun. Abraham didn’t continually look upon on his homeland longingly and pray God would send him back to his family.  He didn’t wish Isaac had never been born as he walked up the hill of sacrifice. No. Each man of faith moved forward with their eyes fixed on the Promise Keeper.  Each knew that if God called him out of the boat, then who was he to keep looking back in? Who were they to question the why, the when, and the how when they knew the who? They knew to look back was to go back.

And that’s the message I read in Hebrews 11:15. If we continually look back to where we came from, we’ll find a way to return there. When we doubt what God has promised us, or when we doubt the way He is leading us, we will also find the excuses not to go forward and the path that leads us back to where we came from. We will find the way back to the familiar, to the old, and to the past if we look for it.

Yet we must remember what once was is not where we are going. We must remember God doesn’t call us back; He calls us forward.

Before I moved to where I am now, I lived in another area for almost 20 years. I went to college there. I got my first full time job there. I had deep, personal relationships with many there. God transformed me there. It truly was my community–a place I felt safe and secure.

Then God called me out. He called me away from the familiar. He called me out of my comfort zone. He called me to where I am now. Of course, I confess, the move wasn’t easy. I wasn’t actively seeking a way to stay, but if my husband had suddenly come to me and said he’d found a better job that enabled us to remain in the comfort of familiarity, I would have jumped for joy. But he didn’t. So we moved.

And I am glad we did. I’m glad we moved forward. I’m glad we didn’t keep looking back. And I don’t want to go back. Because God’s promises for us are here, not there.  Sure, I miss the closeness of those I love in Lynchburg​, but I wouldn’t trade the closeness of man for the closeness​ of God. For you see, by moving away from home, I moved closer to God.

Of course, don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying you need to move out of town to find God. But I am saying you need to go where he calls you when he calls you and do what he calls you when he calls you.

And don’t​ look back.

Keep looking forward, my friend. Keep looking up. Keep looking at the author and finisher of your faith. For when your eyes are fixed on Him, you will not only see Him, but also your faith in Him will move you forward–forward into the promises of God.

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.
2 Corinthians 1:20 ESV

Swift to Hear

The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.
Psalms 37:23 NLT

Today as I left school, I asked God where I should go first. In my mind I was considering the store or Starbucks. One would nourish the body, the other my soul. Yet instead of hearing one of those, I heard “home.” Home didn’t really make sense to me. I was currently going in the opposite direction from home and couldn’t think of a good reason to go there. I had no purpose at home that I could think of, but I knew I needed to get groceries at the very least. It seemed like a waste of gas and of time to turn around. So thinking I must have been hearing wrong (after all, no one is perfect, right?), I proceeded to go in the direction of both the store and Starbucks assuming I would figure it out as I got closer.

Yet no sooner had I gotten on the highway then my phone rang. It was my daughter calling from school in tears because she missed me. Oh how my momma heart melted! I immediately offered to return to school to see her. Yet I also explained it would be a little bit because I had to turn around and drive back to school. Doing so was not the easiest or quickest for me because I am still new enough to the area to not be completely familiar with the best way to turn around. I did, however, eventually make it back and spend a few moments comforting her.

As I left my daughter and headed out again on my errands, I again asked God where to. This time I didn’t hear home, though. I actually felt like Starbucks was a decent choice (Hallelujah!).  This seemed odd to me, however, so I began contemplating what had changed. Why did I no longer feel pulled to go home? Was I right in thinking I must have misheard the initial instructions? Was my desire for caffeine stronger than my willingness to go home? Was I being like Jonah and running away?

It was as I began asking these questions that I heard God speak to me the lesson in all this. I had heard His voice. Home was the direction He had wanted me to go; I had just misunderstood the purpose. If I had turned around to go home when He had asked me to turn around, I would have been even closer to school and would have been to Emma sooner. I would have saved myself that time and that gas I had originally used as an excuse not to go home. If I had turned around when it didn’t make sense, it would  have made total sense when Emma had called. God hadn’t wanted me to go home. He had wanted me to head that way so I’d be close when Emma needed me.

Wow. This really hit home with me (no pun intended). Sure, this incident was not a life-or-death decision. Lives were not forever altered because I was 15 minutes away instead of five. But I did find it quite an important lesson to learn.

Whether our lives are busy and full or more open and laid back, God is always speaking to us if we are willing to listen. He speaks to us in the big things as well as in the small. Even the seemingly insignificant moments are important to God. And if we get in the habit of and train ourselves to listen for God’s voice in the smallest of details, we will also learn to recognize His voice in the big.

So listen for God’s voice today. Listen in the little; listen in the large.  Listen. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. (Isaiah 30:21 ESV)

Acceptable May Not Be Accepted

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord , my rock and my redeemer.
Psalms 19:14 ESV

Remember this today: acceptable may not always be accepted.  Doing what is right does not guarantee love and acceptance from those around us. What is good in God’s eyes does not necessarily equate to good in the sight of man. Oftentimes it means the opposite. Look at Jesus. He walked this earth in perfect submission to His Father. Both the words of His mouth and the meditations of His heart were acceptable to God. Yet He was despised. He was rejected. He was crucified.

Jesus did what was right and died for it.

And so could we.

I know this may not sound encouraging at first, but it is. For we must remember that we do not serve man. Nor should our aim be to please man. The thoughts we think, the words we say, and the things we do should be for one purpose: to glorify God. Doing so may not make man happy; and in some cases this will make man downright livid. (Afterall, the wisdom of God often appears foolish to man.) But even the angriest man alive does not have the power to affect our eternal destiny.

Did you get that? Even the angriest man alive does not have the power to send you to hell. People may hate you, hurt you, torment you, ridicule you. They could even go as far as to take your life. Yet no one–no one–could ever steal your soul. If God has your heart, then your future is secure. Or as Paul–a man of God greatly persecuted–declared, “If God is for us, who can be against us? No one!” (Romans 8:31)

Therefore today, be not afraid of what man may think about​ you. Be not afraid of what man could do to you. Be not discouraged if the good things you say and do are met with rage and rejection. Be not dismayed when the circumstances of your life do not coincide with the meditations of your heart. Bad things do happen to good people.

Yet regardless of what your eyes may see and your ears may hear right now–regardless of whether or not you understand the reasons behind your current situation–determine to set your sights on God. Do all that you do for His glory and for His praise.  Let the words of your mouth and the meditations of your heart be acceptable in His sight. For He–He alone–is your Rock and your Redeemer. He alone is with you wherever you go.