Daring To Believe God

In our last article on this topic of “Follow Where God Leads“, our author, Mark Atteberry, advised us to think and pray through the opportunities that present themselves to us.  If we have been wrestling through a difficult period in our lives, and then an amazing answer to our problems shows up, we still need to read God’s Word, pray to receive peace from the Holy Spirit, and listen to the advice of godly people to be sure this is what we should do next.

Now if the answer is “Yes”, then by all means, go forward and enter into the blessings that God has put in front of you.  It is at this point that we must exercise both faith and courage to believe that this “present” is from God.  Unfortunately, some people can become paralyzed at this crossroad and not move forward.  Either the person believes that the gift is too good to be true, or they believe that they are not worthy of the gift, and they decide to punish themselves for some reason and don’t take the gift that God is offering.

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On the other hand, the very opposite can happen for some people when they see what looks like their “promised land” flowing with rich opportunities and bright futures.  A person can be so captivated by the wonder of what lies ahead, that he or she throws caution to the wind and dives into the new experience without taking any precautions against heartaches or disappointments.

What Atteberry says is that we need to “cross our Jordan” and enter into our “Promised Land” with care, still paying attention to the details of the people and the events that we are encountering on the other side. Realistically, we may have come out of a difficult period of our lives, but that does not mean all of our troubles are suddenly over.  He goes on to say:

You can never let your guard down, even after you’ve left the wilderness.  You may feel as though you’ve stepped into a utopian paradise and left your troubles far behind, but that will never be completely true this side of heaven.                (pg. 163)

This is good advice to follow.  And I wish I had paid more attention to this principle before our family headed over to Africa in 2006-07.  Prior to this, our son had developed cancer, which meant leaving our mission work in Papua New Guinea.  We all experienced the hardships and heartaches of the three-year-long cancer journey.  I felt lost in what I was supposed to be doing in ministry.  We weren’t even sure if we would be able to return to doing overseas mission work. (You can read about this is my “Who Am I?” series.)

Then we were approached with the idea that we could go over to one of our Branches in Africa and help out.  Great!  Wonderful!  An opportunity to return to the mission field.  Now I would be helping out in the administration of the Branch, instead of doing translation work.  And Jill would be doing a lot of work in the Finance Office, instead of being involved in literacy or Scripture Impact or home schooling our high school boys.  But hey, we would be back in mission work.

Perhaps one of the greatest oversights I made was to think that we could recapture what we had as a family living in Papua New Guinea.  But living in an African city of a 1/4 million people, with nationals paid to be your house guards, and thinking we could learn Swahili in just a few weeks, was nothing like living in a small, rural PNG village where we at least knew the trade language. All of this and more led to great disappointments and pain instead of the Mission Paradise we had expected.

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But does that mean that because we had a terrible experience when we tried to return to a life overseas that we should just forget about ever trying again?  Not at all.  Atteberry himself gives us one more important piece of advice when we are emerging out of our wilderness experience and are on the edge of entering into a new “Promised Land” experience.

Atteberry says we are still to be characterized as people of hope.  It doesn’t really matter if we have had one, or two, or a hundred bad experiences in the past.  We know from Scripture that God is a God of love, and that He is a giver of all good things.  Just as God went before the Israelites as a cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of light by night to lead them all the way to their promised land, so God will go before us and lead us too into a better life.

Now does that mean that things will suddenly get better for you tomorrow, or next week, or next year?  I don’t know what God has in store for you.  But even if it is not fully realized in this life that our troubles and trials will be overcome, we do know that in our life to come with Christ in eternity that we will see the end of every hardship and heartache.

Just like Paul, we hold on to these promises from Romans chapter 8:

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? …. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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