“Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” (Romans 4:20-21)
Establish my goings. Send me when and where you will, and manifest to all that you are my guide. -Jim Elliot
Several years ago, I was traveling up a very steep mountain on my way to a church staff retreat. I had traveled the road to Big Bear many times. It was a winding road that was carved out of the side of the mountain. If you took your eyes off the road and looked over the edge, it could get pretty scary. We were traveling after dark so that was not a problem, until we went into a cloud bank. Then it got real scary! I could not see twenty feet ahead of me.
My fears were heightened by recent news reports of cars going over the side in similar conditions. The most recent one was a multiple tragedy when one car followed the lights of another over the edge. My only hope was to follow the white lines that the road workers had placed in the middle of the road. The fog was so dense that I literally had to hang my head out of the window so I could see the lines immediately in front of me. We nervously edged our way to the top, never going more than five miles an hour. Eventually we made it to the top and above the cloud, grateful and relieved that someone had the insight to lay down those lines.
I was reminded of that incident as I was reflecting upon our newest faith venture. We have been asked to return to Malawi for our eight visit to that beautiful country. But, this time it is different. Our dear missionary friends, who had hosted us had to return to the States. We would be there, on our own for three months! So, we were faced with many daunting challenges; the most obvious was money! It wasn’t the only challenge, but it was the biggest! We had to buy tickets, pack for three months, buy insurance, get shots, configure our schedule of activities, communicate with our Malawian friends, arrange for ground transportation, determine how to purchase supplies and cook in that culture, gather all of the incidentals needed to stay alive in another culture, prepare teaching materials, and a gaggle of other things to do. We were facing a huge mountain of preparations. All the while, we knew that the lack of necessary finances could derail the whole project.
Although I believed that it was the Lord that called us to this mission, I had times of doubt. The cloudbank rolled in whenever I considered the shortness of time and the many details that were not yet worked out. In the natural, I could not see from where all the resources were going to come. Then, I heard God speak through a sermon.
The pastor was preaching from the book of Ruth. He was showing how Ruth, a widow and a woman in a strange land, apparently without someone to take care of her, did what she needed to do. She went out to the fields to glean food to provide for each day’s provision. The story relates how Boaz “happens” to take note of her, and “happens” to make special provision for her, and “happens” to be a distant relative of hers and “happens” to eventually marry her. On the surface it seems to be a wonderful love story of “happenings” where a needy lady finds the man of her dreams. But, that is not why the story of Ruth was included in the Bible. Behind and above the happenings of one lady, was a sovereign God working out the details of His plan to not only bless her, but to bring blessing to the whole world. Through lineage of Ruth and Boaz, Jesus Christ, Son of God would be born.
The pastor pointed out that Ruth did not know that. She only knew that she and Naomi needed food and she simply got up and did what she needed to do that day to stay alive. Then, the pastor made this application. When you are going through a dark and dangerous time, and you cannot see how God is going to work out all of the details that must be met in your situation, “just do the next thing.”
It was a powerful and personal word from the Lord to me. It was another evidence that God’s Word has powerful truth to change lives and give incredible insight when the Scriptures are carefully and confidently proclaimed from the pulpit. The same truth that I had the privilege of declaring from the pulpit for forty years was now being proclaimed to me.
I was reminded of the goodness and greatness of God. The One who called me to climb to the top of the mountain would also guide my steps so that I would get there. All I needed to do was to keep my eyes on the white lines of his promises. He designs and lines the road of faith. Although the clouds of doubt and uncertainty may hover over our heads for a while, we are safe. We will get home. We will win. We just need to do the things that are clear before us, being fully persuaded that God has the power to do what He has promised.
We are less than a month from our departure. The Lord has wonderfully worked out detail after detail. The money for the trip has been supplied through the generosity of our family and friends. It is another one of God’s wonderful ways of carrying out his purposes. He speaks to others, so that what is done is not one man or woman carrying the load, but many partners sharing the weight of prayer and provisions and also sharing in the blessings and celebration. Behind it all God is working.
Just one further illustration and I will close. One of the decisions we had to make was concerning our rented house. What would we do with it while we were gone? Financially, it seemed prudent to pack up and store our goods and save thousands of dollars. It would mean added pressure as anyone who has ever packed and moved would readily see. But, the Lord had a better plan. After reserving a storage facility, we informed our landlord of our decision. In a few days she came back to us and told us we were such good renters she would hate to lose us. She offered to lower our rent in half! What a blessing! No move, no packing, saved money. That is what I am talking about.
That is the way God works. It is still about God calling, promising, and sending; and man hearing, believing and trusting. God is glorified when weak men place their trust in a strong God and do not waver. The road may be winding and steep, the clouds may hang around for a while, but the road is clearly marked. We don’t need to see far ahead. All we need to do is keep our eyes upon the promises and do the next thing. He will get us to the top.