“By faith Abraham…obeyed and went.” (Heb. 11:8) I’ve come back to this verse many a time in the past nine months. This was one of the great transitions in Old Testament lives that once again, played an incredible role in the faith we share today. It’s also something that strikes a deep chord in my spirit as about a year ago God began to order a new direction in our lives, and in retrospect, took us to the crossroads of obedience.
For years I’ve enjoyed a personal theology developed especially in my early adult years. For most of my teen years, I believed the “good, perfect and pleasing will of God” (Romans 12:2) was this tight, demanding – if you miss it you will suffer greatly – kind of thing. I almost lived in an abiding fear of missing it at every turn of my young life. I awakened then, to realize that instead the will of God for us is not only quite ‘open’ and filled with ‘options’, but something much less fearful, as any father would want for his children! I found the key to be first, living in His moral will (learned through His Word), second, trusting His sovereign will (totally out of our control) and then, by faith seeking to follow ‘His personal will’ by often making wise choices along life’s many twists and turns. After all, if we never had to make a choice in our lives, why would He put such a premium upon wisdom (Proverbs, James 1)? I lived quite comfortable in this, seeking to follow His will every day; believing it was indeed good, pleasing and perfect for me and His purposes in my life.
Then, came the winter/spring of 2010. We were motivated, enthused, comfortable, fulfilled and expectant of what God was doing in our lives in a wonderful congregation in a locale we loved. Being one prone to contemplation, many a time I had thought my life and ministry would end right there – someday to raise up a younger man to lead the church, bury these old bones out on the Apache Trail and leave behind thirty-some years of pastoring people we had loved so deeply. Going on eighteen of those years, we had given our best and were enjoying God’s blessing in what seemed His will and plan for our lives. Suddenly, from seemingly all kinds of directions, God began to ‘speak’ a transition into our hearts. The volume of words needed to describe this experience cannot fit on this page. Suffice to say, my theology of ‘wise choices’ was forced to submit to Abraham’s ‘obedience and going’. It was and continues at times, to be a challenging obedience.
Oh, the new world for us has been incredibly warm and welcoming – the people that is! The winter has been, well, not the warmth we were accustomed to. But, we have known from day one we had ‘obeyed and went’. Such knowledge is an anchor, a oft needed resting place that will always abide deep within our spirits. With the transition there are all kinds of adjustments: letting go of the past (painful), living in that interesting, ‘middle zone’ of change (uncomfortable) and settling into what is the new assignment (challenging); all of it filled with a range of emotions, but again, all of it anchored in the reality of God’s will.
Just the other day I looked at a statement I had scribbled in the front of my bible several years ago, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for a man to direct his steps.” I don’t know why I had taken the prophet Jeremiah’s words (10:23) and put them there then, but it just might have been for the spring of 2011. Resting in God’s will is a good thing.