That is the question I have been asking myself recently. Maybe it is coming off our conversations about trying to discern the will of God, or maybe it is because God is really moving, and trying to get me to be open to His direction in my life.
Ultimately, I believe that God is constantly speaking to us, but we tend to tune Him out most of the time, because what He is asking us to do, does not fit our idea, or our model, or our plan of what we have for our life.
What if God is asking you go quit your job, and to step out in faith, into a new line of work. Would you be open?
What if God was telling you that you would remain in your town for the next ten years because He has work for you, and things He wants you to accomplish. Would you be open?
What if God was telling you that this relationship you were in was not the right one, for whatever reason. Would you be open?
What if God was telling you that there was some place He wanted you to go, and some job to take, but it meant less money, and it meant a new start away from family and friends. Would you be open?
I am going to go ahead and answer no for most of you. Because I think that when it comes down to it, most of us our scared to death that the ideal that we have set up for our life may not come true. And so we would rather tune out God, and plot and plan for our life to look like we have always wanted it to, rather than listening to the direction of God. We would rather settle for just plain life, than life abundantly which Christ has brought us (John 10:10). C. S. Lewis puts it this way:
“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at sea.”
It may not be sex, or drink, or ambition for you, but I think the principle is the same. We are basically half-hearted creatures who are really afraid to step out into faith, so we would rather settle for the humdrum of the life that we have created for ourself. I think that it is no coincidence that Lewis’s character for God in the Chronicles of Narnia series is a lion. A lion who time and time again can not promise the creature he comes across that he will not hurt them, or scare them, or devour them. Rather when asked if he is safe by a trembling Lucy, she only gets the response, “Safe! Of course he’s not safe. But he’s good!”
We worship and live for a God who is not safe. A God who asks us daily to pick up our crosses, die to ourselves, our dreams, our plans, our ideas…and simply, to follow Him (Luke 9:23-27). In fact, look at the exchange between Jesus and those who want to take care of their plans, their things before they follow Him: Luke 9:57-62:
57As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, âI will follow you wherever you go.â
58Jesus replied, âFoxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.â
59He said to another man, âFollow me.â But the man replied, âLord, first let me go and bury my father.â
60Jesus said to him, âLet the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.â
61Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good bye to my family.”
62Jesus replied, âNo one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.â
What plans do you have, or what plans have you made for your life that are keeping you from following God?
Why does this topic interest me? Because I believe that God is always speaking to us, and that the Holy Spirit is trying to do a new thing in our lives. But most of us don’t listen to this leading of the Holy Spirit because we have no prior experience of this new thing…it is completely new…it has never been done before in your life. We are unique people, each with different stories, and we have all come to Christ in unique and different ways. We worship a good and creative God who wants to work in your life, and bring about change, and redemption and transformation, but that requires Him doing something new. Somthing that you have no prior understanding, or mental construct for. What you do have is something similar to the respose that was given to Lucy regarding Aslan. “Safe! Of course he’s not safe. But he’s good!”
This has been something that I have been thinking about ever since I saw the movie, “What The Bleep Do We Know?” (Yes, that’s what it is really called). The movie is about quantem physics, and how research in that field is giving us greater understanding of how we perceive the world around us. Researchers in this field tell us that we do not always perceive things because we have no prior construct for them happening. We have no experience that gives us knowledge of what we are seeing. They give the example of a story relating to the landing of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria on North America. Apparently, according to the movie, one of the Indians who was the leader, was not able to actually see, or perceive the ships approaching land. He could see the affects of the ships causing waves on the shore, but he could not see the ships, because he had no prior understanding, or prior experience of what ships looked like. It wasn’t until days later, that the ships finally came into view, though they had been there for days. Now, who knows if this is exact fact, but it does raise a valid point:
What if God is trying to do a new thing in your life right now, but you are unable to see, or discern it, because you have no experience, or construct for what that would look like? Or what if God is wanting to do something new in the future, but you have no prior knowledge, or any concept of what that would look like? Would you be open? Or is your mind, and your life, so mapped out already, that even God wanting to do something new in your life would not move you from your position and ideas?
Why is this an interesting topic to me, and relevant to us as Christians? Because we belong to a history of people whom God has stepped into their lives and asked them to step out in faith, as He did something new, something they had never experienced.
What about Abram? Or who we know better as Abraham. Listen to these words: “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you'” (Genesis 12:1). I’m sure that is not the news that Abram wanted for his life, especially at his old age. But the LORD came to him and asked him to leave his relatives, and his home, and to move out, and follow the LORD wherever he led. That is not something we can truly appreciate or respect in hindsight. What a radical moving of the LORD to come to Abram, asking him to leave everything. We love the story, but we have the luxury of history to view it from. What if the LORD asked this of you?
What about the disciples, and those who followed Christ? The fascinating thing that I find about these early followers is how critical we are of them sometimes, and how we think we would do things differently if we were in their position. That only if we had the opportunity to be with Christ in the flesh, then life would make sense, and we would follow Him. Oh, really? The word “anastasis” is the Greek word for resurrection in the New Testament. It is a word that is given new meaning in the New Testament. Outside of the New Testament, the word can be attested to in some of the early writings of the Greeks, but it is never used in context of someone actually rising from the dead. Rather, it is used as more of a statement that one cannot rise from the dead. But in the New Testament, we have this new concept, this new experience of reality in the event of the resurrection. “Anastasis” is given new meaning in the New Testament. That of someone actually rising from the dead. Something that never happened. It is something that we take for granted for sure. How easy it is for us to ridicule the disciples for their unbelief, or to criticize Thomas because he wanted actual proof of Christ’s resurrection. But how else were they to perceive something that had never been done before. The resurrection is the breaking in of God into history, and giving us a completely new way to live, a new path to follow. John 20:1-30 is a beautiful story of what follows when Christ does something new. Disciples run and hide, and lock themselves into a room. Mary is astounded and confused and heartbroken. Thomas wants more evidence. They are like us. When God comes into our lives, and wants to do something new, asking us to step out into faith, and possibly leave those things behind that keep us from following Him, we have the same reactions. We run and hide, and lock ourselves away. Maybe we even pout and kick and scream like a child. Maybe we don’t understand, but we have the faith of Mary who knew something was going on beyond what she could see, or perceive. Maybe we are like Thomas, wanting more proof.
So my question to you is: Are you really willing to follow God wherever he may take you? Or have you mapped out your life so much, that any change in that plan will freak you out, and cause you to not want to listen to Christ? Are you open to the leading of the Holy Spirit?
Our God is a God of renewal, transformation, redemption, and much more. But to truly follow Him, we must be open to the new ways that He wants to act in our lives. We must be open to His leading. We must be willing to be obedient, though we may not understand, nor know where He is taking us. Following God is not an easy task, nor was it ever meant to be. In the closing chapter of John 21, Jesus has some strong words and instructions for Peter. “‘Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said, ‘Follow me'” (John 21:18-19). Following God is letting go of our plans and our life, and letting Him lead us…often to places where we do not want to go. This is a life long task.
The theologian and missionary Leslie Newbigin in his book, Truth to Tell, says this about the resurrection:
âThe resurrection cannot be fitted into any
view of the world except one of which it is
itself a total starting point, because the
resurrection is a validation of a protest
against everything that there is…The cross
is the ultimate protest against things as they
are, in the name of what ought to be…the
world as it is is not Godâs last word.â
God wants to do something in your life, and He went as far as sending His Son to die on the cross, so that that work could be accomplished. For us as Christians, the resurrection is our orienting point in life. It is in that event that we oriented to the work of Christ, and it is out of that event that we also too, lay down our dreams, plans, ideas, and maybe even our phsyical lives…to follow Him.