Thursday, October 18, 2012

Time To Move

"And the Lord said unto Moses,
Wherefore criest thou unto Me?
speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward."
Exodus 14:15
(KJV)

In a spiritual battle, 
in the thick of spiritual combat,
or when faced with one of life's hard decisions...
there are moments when God commands us to be still...
when all we have to do is relax in His arms 
and allow Him to do the fighting and moving on our behalf.
Then there comes a point when God gives us the command to take action.
To make a move.
To take an offensive stance.
To go forward.
It is a deep conviction within...
one of those gentle urges from God....
a time when there is no doubt that it is Him...
speaking to our inmost soul.


Sometimes, there is no outward evidence 
to support the logic of moving forward.
If you had been in the midst that day...
among the Israelites...
completely trapped...
between Pharoah's mighty army...
pounding the ground behind you...
inching closer every minute....
and the massive Red Sea in front of you,
would God's command to "Go forward" 
have seemed logical to you?

Where could they go?
How?

Sometimes the forward command does not make sense.

But, the push forward is compelling enough to convince us 
to take that first forward step.

The first step is the hardest....
the most terrifying.

I was in a state of indecision.
I had cried to the Lord as Moses did in today's verse.
Then there came a point when I sensed God's urge to go forward...
in a certain direction.
I would make an inward resolve to go ahead and take that first step,
then fear of the unknown would overwhelm me to the point of being
completely frozen in place.

Proverbs 11:14 says,
"...in the multitude of counselors there is safety."

I sought the advice of those I most trusted...
those wiser than I.

Through one of them, I was referred to someone 
who spoke profound wisdom to my situation.
He said,
"Don't approach this with a spirit of fear."

His words were just what I needed to hear.
It was like God was speaking through him...
to me...
the same words that He spoke to the Israelites standing before the Red Sea.
It was as if He were saying,
"Why do you continue to cry unto Me...
when you already know in your heart what to do.
Don't look back.
The hooves of the enemy's horses are pounding the ground behind you.
The road ahead is completely closed off in front of you.
But, I am telling you to "Go forward".
Do not linger in the valley of decision another minute.
As you step, the way will open up to you.
Take that first step...forward.
It's your move."

Fear had paralyzed me to the point of immobility.
I hadn't identified it until that moment...
on the phone...
with the wise man.

If we are whole-heartedly seeking God, 
if we want His chosen will for our lives more than anything else,
He will lead us.
If it is His perfect timing for us to take a forward step,
He will sometimes allow our current circumstances to become unbearable....
intolerable.

Why?
To shake us.
To get our attention.
To make us see that we must take that first step of faith.

In these instances, we will not be able to be content...
staying where we are....
remaining indecisive.

God is just that faithful.
If it is His time for change to come about,
 and He allowed us to feel at ease and comfortable,
why would we ever feel the need to take that first step of obedience?
Out of our comfort zone?

The answer is, we wouldn't.

We would remain right there in our state of comfortable complacency, 
and we would never move.
We would never progress.
We would never grow...
or develop...
or take the land God has willed to us.

It is the faithfulness of God that compels Him to shake our nest...
to make our comfort zone no longer so comfortable.

I'm not saying it is going to be easy...
to leave a softly-feathered, warm nest of familiarity.
The road ahead is unknown.
Untested.
We've never passed this way before.
But, when God says, "Go forward", 
we have His absolute promise that we will not go forward alone.

How much have we missed out on due to being completely paralyzed by fear?


Once a new employee was hired to work in the branch of the bank
where I was scheduled to be.
I asked her to go to lunch to become better acquainted.
We decided to walk, instead of drive,
since the Pizza Hut we chose 
was very near the branch.

We came to an intersection.
Not giving a second thought about needing to get to the other side,
I proceeded to cross the road.
There were no cars in sight, 
and I felt perfectly safe.

After a few moments,
I realized that my newfound friend was not by my side.
I turned around.
What I saw surprised me.
She was still standing at the opposite side of the road,
clutching her purse tightly...
standing still and looking very troubled.

I didn't understand.

She seemed paralyzed,
indecisive....
but why?

I could see that there was no traffic.
Why didn't she move?
Why didn't she follow me?

I didn't quite know what to do.
Not wanting to embarrass her by asking what the problem was,
I crossed the street and walked back to where she was.

When I got there, it didn't take long to see that she was utterly terrified.
But, of what?

"Are you okay?" I asked.
Plainly, she seemed ashamed,
and I wasn't feeling so comfortable, either.
At last she spoke.

"I'm afraid to cross the street."

I was dumbfounded.
I could understand a bit more had we been on a busy street.
But, there was absolutely nothing to fear in crossing this empty street.

Yet, she could not bring herself to make a move.
She stood still...
frozen.

She turned her head and looked behind her,
and for a moment,
I thought she may bolt back towards the bank.
Back to what was at least somewhat familiar.
Back to where she felt safe.

What if the children of Israel had done that?
They were considering it, remember?
Had they turned and gone backwards, instead of forward, as God commanded,
they would have returned to the familiar....
a life of tormenting, never-ending, increasingly-demanding, anguished bondage...
under the ruthless, cruel rule of an overpowering dictator.

And they would have missed out on what God promised.
A land flowing with milk and honey.
A life blessed and infused with happiness.
A home that was rightfully theirs.

The consequences for my friend and me would have been
disappointing that day, but much less serious or severe.

If she had turned around and went back,
we would have missed out on lunch.

We would have gone back to the branch....
still hungry....
our mission to fill our stomachs....
unfulfilled.

Now, this was a dilemma.
 The only way to get to Pizza Hut was to go forward.
Pizza Hut was not going to move and come to us.
So, what to do?

I gently reached out my hand,
and she seemed strengthened enough to take that first step.
I literally had to walk with her, close to her, and lead her across the street.

Once we reached the other side, she was fine.

My heart was moved with compassion.
What a terrible burden to carry through life!
How much has she missed out on by being afraid to cross the street?
How many times has she given in to the temptation to go backwards...
to what she knew and trusted and was comfortable with....
even when it was not where she really wanted to be.....
even when she wanted to go forward?

There are all kinds of fears and phobias,
and they are very real.

Fear is real.
It is paralyzing.
It will completely immobilize us.

I John 4:18 says,
"There is no fear in love; 
but perfect love casteth out fear:  because fear hath torment.  
He that feareth is not made perfect in love."

Fear contains torment.
How many of us can vouch for the validity of that statement?

My friend was tormented by fear.
She was terrified to leave the familiar.
It created quite a problem for her throughout life.

As I became better acquainted with her,
I learned more about her agony.
It was quite pitiful,
and my heart truly went out to her.
She wasn't pretending.
Nor was she exaggerating...
or trying to draw attention.
I got the gut feeling my friend would have
much preferred not having to deal with this burden.
She had a real issue...
a real problem.

It turned out that others looked down on her,
talked about her,
thought she was strange,
even shunned her.
All she needed was love...
and acceptance...
and encouragement...
to make that first step.

John tells us in the above passage of Scripture that perfect love casts out fear.
If we were ever able to fully and truly comprehend God's love for us, 
if we would just accept it...
as it is....
the fact that it is unconditional and not dependent on our performance...
if we could just trust and believe that He will not let go of us,
that as long as we are seeking Him with our whole heart, He will never let us fall...
we would not so greatly fear that first forward step.

Love would replace the fear.
We could just let go...
and not be afraid.

God's love is perfect.
It is without condition.
It is without restraint.
Being consumed with it...
filled with it...
casts out and replaces all fear.

As long as I walked beside my friend,
she was okay.
I had already crossed the road,
and I knew what it was like on the other side.
Knowing that...
and knowing that I cared enough to turn around and come back for her....
that I didn't scold her, but instead encouraged her...
gave her the courage to trust me.

She let me help her.
We made it to our destination...
and enjoyed our lunch together.

Isn't that just just what Jesus does for us?
He's already walked this path.
He made it safely to the other side.
He sees what is over there.
He takes our hand, and He gently prods us forward...
when it is time to move.
He never leaves our side.
We never walk alone.
With Him...
we are safe.

He loves us with a perfect love...
not dependent on anything to do with us.
Not contingent on our perfection....
but reliant upon His.

2 Timothy 1:7 says,
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear;
but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."

There is no soundness of mind when we are stuck in the valley of decision...
held fast in the clutches of fear and indecisiveness.

During my conversation with the wise man whose counsel I sought, 
I said,
"I don't want to get out of God's will.  
I have such a fear of that."
His response?
Without hesitation....
he firmly and emphatically said, 
"You won't.
His will will be done."

After we talked, I have thought much of his words.  
I think their meaning has finally sunk in.  
As long as I keep this absolute determination to stay in God's will alive in my heart, 
as long as I am seeking Him with my whole heart, 
as long as I accept the perfect, unconditional love He offers me,
as long as I don't let go of His offered hand,
 my goal will be accomplished.

I will remain in a position that is dead-center of His perfect will.
I will never veer away from it.

Knowing this,
having this confidence in Him,
feeling this assurance deep inside....
 gave me the courage to take that first step.
He is holding my hand...
so I am not afraid.
I am not sure what the outcome will be.
I don't know where this journey will ultimately take me.
The conclusion is yet to come.
But, how would I ever find out...
how would it ever unfold to me....
if I had never taken that first step?

Are you feeling the sense that God 
is commanding you to "Go forward" in your situation?
Are the gentle urges coming closer together with increasing intensity and urgency?
Allow Him to consume your heart with His perfect love.
Know that He will never let you go.
Be assured that you will not veer, you will not falter,
as long as you hold tightly to His hand.
Say good-bye to the fear that paralyzes and holds you captive.
Trust His ability to keep you in the center of His will.
Know that He will not lead you astray.
Take His nail-scarred hand in yours, follow His lead, and begin your forward journey.

Don't approach the future with a spirit of fear.
He didn't give you that, remember?
He is saying,
"Let not your heart be troubled."

Believe Him, and do not be afraid.

It all starts with a single step.

And however many steps He asks you to take after that,
the main thing to remember is this....
you will never take one of those steps...
alone.



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