Are You Missing Your Next Step?

1sam-16v7The Lord said to Samuel, “How long are you going to mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem because I have selected a king from his sons.”

Samuel asked, “How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me!” (1 Samuel 16:1-2)

There is always a “next step” of obedience. God wants us to move onward. We carry much of the past with us, because it prepares us, it has consequences, and it requires us to continue to wrestle and deal with things. Yet we still move on in  obedience. God invites and instructs us into our next step.

And we will often be able to find something that could hold us back, some reason we should stay where we are just a little longer: some excuse, diversion, or concern.

We may like the familiar, even if we aren’t completely content there, because it’s comfortable, even in it’s familiar pain and struggles. The next step isn’t quite as certain. It could be better; it could be worse. We just don’t know.

But will we only choose based on our own perspective of better or worse? If so, we’ll miss out on some uncomfortable, trying experiences and relationships that help us grow. We’ll stay put instead of taking some amazing journeys, even as they are wrought with complications and obstacles.

The Trust of Companionship

12407209_790916824388193_18117472_nHis armor-bearer responded, “Do what is in your heart. You choose. I’m right here with you whatever you decide.”

“All right,” Jonathan replied, “we’ll cross over to the men and then let them see us. If they say, ‘Wait until we reach you,’ then we will stay where we are and not go up to them. But if they say, ‘Come on up,’ then we’ll go up, because the Lord has handed them over to us—that will be our sign.”

They let themselves be seen by the Philistine garrison, and the Philistines said, “Look, the Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they’ve been hiding!” The men of the garrison called to Jonathan and his armor-bearer. “Come on up, and we’ll teach you a lesson!” they said.

“Follow me,” Jonathan told his armor-bearer, “for the Lord has handed them over to Israel.” (1 Samuel 14:7-12)

Having trust is important, affirming, and challenging. Jonathan’s armor-bearer supported him and committed to stand by his side, trusting that “what is in (Jonathan’s) heart” would be trustworthy. We don’t follow people because we simply want to be by their side, as if we get some sort of affirmation or recognition out of being someone’s sidekick. We remind them to follow God’s leading. We trust we can follow them well, because they are following well. Ultimately, God is the trustworthy one.

He gifts us companionship, teamwork, and trust. He gifts us relationships. We simply have to follow Him into and through them. Each day and each relationship is full of choices.

Fleeting Foolishness

GUWG-FoolishnessSamuel said to Saul, “You have been foolish. You have not kept the command which the Lord your God gave you. It was at this time that the Lord would have permanently established your reign over Israel, but now your reign will not endure. The Lord has found a man loyal to Him, and the Lord has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not done what the Lord commanded.” Then Samuel went from Gilgal to Gibeah in Benjamin. Saul registered the troops who were with him, about 600 men. (1 Samuel 13:13-15)

At some point, we are foolish. Not just once. At multiple times or seasons.

God accepts us despite where we’ve been and what we’ve done, but our foolishness still has consequences. He shifts things as a response. Our foolishness always involves shifts, from God and within ourselves. Of course, God is not surprised. But sometimes we are.

Are we surprised at our own foolishness, that it was discovered, or that there is a consequence to it? We’re not all that surprised at our response to someone else’s foolishness. We feel justified that there are consequences. After all, why would we let someone’s foolishness continue without consequences?

Exactly.

Connections Over Time and Distance

1-Samuel-22--e1420912619919.jpgEach year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. (1 Samuel 2:19)

Hannah dedicated her son to God and followed through by placing Samuel in Eli the priest’s care and training. The separation must have been difficult. She and her husband when to see Samuel each year, and Eli would bless them. They would return home.

It’s as if Hannah continued to give over and over. She continued to sacrifice over and over. She chose to keep her commitment to God over and over. Yet it must have been tough.

We often have to let go of people in some ways, yet we can also provide for and connect with them even as we let go. We connect via memories and promises. We continue to move forward with a string that connects us to the past, not to keep us there but to also connect us to the future. We don’t camp under; we persevere through. We don’t stay in the moment but proceed into more.

How do you need to stay connected to your commitment to God despite (or because of) time and distance?

Anything’s Possible

d3bfa5a91d148369ed18666b858bb361People may say, “You can’t be in this position because of…,” but God can elevate any of us despite what we (or our parents) have done.

Jephthah the Gileadite was a great warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute, and Gilead was his father. Gilead’s wife bore him sons, and when they grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You will have no inheritance in our father’s house, because you are the son of another woman.” So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. Then some lawless men joined Jephthah and traveled with him.

Some time later, the Ammonites fought against Israel. When the Ammonites made war with Israel, the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob.  They said to him, “Come, be our commander, and let’s fight against the Ammonites.”

Jephthah replied to the elders of Gilead, “Didn’t you hate me and drive me from my father’s house? Why then have you come to me now when you’re in trouble?”

They answered Jephthah, “Since that’s true, we now turn to you. Come with us, fight the Ammonites, and you will become leader of all the inhabitants of Gilead.”

So Jephthah said to them, “If you are bringing me back to fight the Ammonites and the Lord gives them to me, I will be your leader.”

The elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The Lord is our witness if we don’t do as you say.” So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead. The people put him over themselves as leader and commander, and Jephthah repeated all his terms in the presence of the Lord at Mizpah.
(Judges 11:1-11)

Conditional Trust

c3695664ee0db4631a9f35105041a02b“Deal with us as You see fit; only deliver us today!” (Judges 10:15)

We make deals with God. We go to Him with what we think is trust, giving Him permission to do what He wants, yet there are often conditions. We basically say, “I trust that you will _____, God. Go ahead and do what you do best. But can’t you just _____ now? That’s how I’ll know you’re really there and working in my life.”

We want immediacy. We’re often willing to delay receiving what He wants to give us because immediate results are more important to us. We’re willing to pay a little more interest in the long run because we get what we want in the short term.

But God doesn’t work like a bank or credit card loan. If we tell Him to “deal with us as You see fit,” there will be short-term and long-term consequences, lessons, and preparation. Placing conditions on His provision and timing don’t limit Him at all, but it limits our connection to Him.

The only condition we need to put on the trust we have in Him is that He will continue to be who He is, not the image of what we’ve created Him to be. That’s a condition He will always meet.