What Path Are We On?

09/16/2007

Are you waiting for the day when you will grow up and be able to answer the statement, “When I grow up, I want to be __________.” It seems the older we get, the more we begin to understand that we will never be fully grown up, because we begin to realize that life is a continual process that is never-ending on this earth, all the way into our eternal home—and the process is good. Oswald Chambers writes: “It is the process, not the end, which is glorifying to God.”

I heard a statement today by a man named Jim Harris. He said, “There are two great days in a person’s life. The day you’re born, and the day you know why.”

This statement seems to run deeper than what we want to be, and into who God created us to be. Do we sometimes miss who we are because of pressure from ourselves, and even others, who seem to know what it is we should be doing and how we should be doing it? How do we get to the bottom of the who, what, when, where, why questions at all?

Human plans, no matter how wise or well advised,
cannot stand against the Lord.
Proverbs 21:30 (NLT)

There seems to be many great plans for our lives. We have one. Our parents probably had a great plan for our lives when we were growing up, and maybe they still do. Our spouses may have a great plan for us, and they’d probably like to suggest it to us often! Our friends can even have a great plan for our lives—it may even look a lot like the same plan they have for their own lives. And yet, when all these plans don’t really seem to fit exactly the way we’d like them to, we continue to ask ourselves, why am I here? What is my purpose? How will I find it? Why is it so hard for me to see it?

Maybe we need to start at the beginning—who were we when God was forming us in the utter seclusion of our mother’s womb? It says in Psalm 139, that every day of our life was recorded in God’s book. That every moment of our life was laid out before a single day had passed. It reminds me of the first day of school, and laying out the new clothes that were to be worn—great thought was put into just the right outfit—would it be appropriate? There were those who wanted to be different than all the others—there were those who wanted to make sure that the clothes they wore would be just like what everyone else would have on. It seems we put great thought into what to wear, but in actuality, the why played a huge part in the decision-making process.

In God’s decision-making process, God knew why He was forming us before we were ever born. He knew why every day of our life was laid out the way it was. He already knew the impact the life He gave us would have on this world—even those who never took an actual breath here, and those who live to be over 100 years old. God knows it all, it is not a great mystery to Him—and as many mistakes as we seem to make along the way, we cannot mess it up because “no matter how wise or well advised” we are, it will not “stand against the Lord.” That is a comforting thought that we can truly rest in. We’re not big enough, we’re not powerful enough, and we’re not dumb enough or smart enough to “stand against the Lord.” We are His, and His alone. His plan will prevail, here and all our days into eternity.

God even knows our eternal future before He ever creates us, and that boggles our mind!! Why would God create beings that would turn their backs on Him and not love Him? Why wouldn’t He just create children who would be obedient, loving, submissive, and compliant, and never stray from His perfect love? Could it be that if we didn’t test our wings, we would never learn to soar with Him? Could it be if we never attempted to walk this road alone, we would never experience the deep comfort of His embrace? Could it be if we never rebelled, we would never appreciate being welcomed back into His flock? We are God’s children, not His robots. We are His family, the brothers and sisters of His One and only Son, Jesus Christ. He wants us to be at home with Him, even while we still live here, and that will never happen if we don’t get to know Him. Even Jesus had a choice to make, as did Satan. They chose opposite paths…Satan was an angel that rebelled and was thrown out of Heaven—God’s Son, Jesus, was obedient and ascended back to His Heavenly Home to sit at the Father’s right hand.

God’s one and only Son, Jesus, was formed in Mary’s womb for a great purpose. The Father knew how “wonderfully complex” Jesus’ life would be—a perfect life, with a perfect purpose, and perfect meaning. What made it all so perfect? It was perfect because Jesus was and is God and there was no sin in Him, but it was also perfect because Jesus knew why He was born to walk this earth because He knew His Father and He chose to do His will. We can know our Father too, and choose to do His will.

God longs for us to ask Him to “lead us along the path of everlasting life.” (Psalm 139) When we do, we will discover why we are here. David said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you…” Do we get so busy in our days that we forget to ask, and we lose the why in the busy-ness of life? Absolutely! It happens over and over again. We can expect it, we can not be surprised by it, and if we are smart, we can ask those we know who also know our Lord to remind us often that this is not all there is, there’s so much more, and it’s not to be missed. Other believers can remind us to start over, to refocus on what’s most important—with the rod and the staff of a shepherd, they can help us to get back on “the path of everlasting life.”

Where is that path?
How do we find it?
Do we find it in asking, “Why am I here?”

There is encouragement from the Apostle Paul on this journey in 1 Colossians:

The lines of purpose in your lives never grow slack,
tightly tied as they are to your future in heaven, kept taut by hope.
1 Colossians 1:5 (The Message)

It sort of reminds me of the times I’ve seen pre-school children out for a morning walk, all hanging onto a rope that includes a teacher up front, and a teacher behind…the children don’t wander off as they make their way along as long as they don’t let go of the rope.

It’s not what we are doing here, it’s whether or not we are “tightly tied” to our “future in heaven, kept taught by hope.” How do we make sure we are? What does that even look like? In reading Matthew 20:17-19, I was intrigued by how Jesus spoke about what was going to happen to Him—He spoke like it was about someone else:

As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples
aside privately and told them what was going to happen to him.
“Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man
will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law.
They will sentence him to die. Then they will hand him over to the Romans
to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day
he will be raised from the dead.” (NLT)

I believe Jesus is clearly saying, “This is not about me.” Although Jesus spoke of His own life, and death, it is plain to see here that He was “tightly tied” to His Father’s plan for His life on this earth—He was following His Father’s lead. Even though that plan included great suffering to the point of death for the Vessel He lived in, none of it could touch the Spirit within and the great hope that lived there—Jesus knew that what was happening was the bottom line of why He was here—it was His Father’s will and He was chosen to be the Vessel that would be used in whatever way the Master Potter designed His life. He speaks of it like He had stepped outside of His flesh.

How has God designed each of our lives?
Can we step outside of our own flesh and watch what God has planned for us? I recently heard that suffering comes to all, but misery is a choice…yes, it’s difficult, I know, I’ve been there…

As I listened to a somewhat old song on the radio the other day, one that always stirs my emotions, I thought of how differently God designs each one of us. In this song, “I Can Only Imagine,” it speaks of Heaven, and how we will react when we meet our Savior face to face. I listened as it said:

Surrounded by Your Glory, what will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus? Or in awe of You, be still?
Will I stand in Your presence, or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing 'Hallelujah!'? Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine! I can only imagine!
(By MercyMe)

I thought of the different family and friends I have, and how unique each person is…how some will have to be dancing before the Lord. I thought of how I like to be still when I draw close to Him. Some will need to stand in His presence; others will drop to their knees. Some will sing His praises, others will have no words…we can only imagine what we will do or feel, but in our imaginings while here on earth, as believers, our “line of purpose” need never grow slack when it is kept “taut by hope” in what awaits us when our life on this earth is through.

Each of us has been designed differently, and for good reason. I have heard it said that if to “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it,” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV) does not mean that if we teach a child about God they will not depart from that teaching, but that a parent should look for God’s unique design in their child, and train them in that way because that is the way God’s glory will best be reflected in their life. Interesting thought…

How many of us, including myself, try to train a child up in the way we think they should go, instead of the way God has designed them to be? How many of us overlook our children’s special giftings because those giftings don’t fit the plans we have for them? Will we trust God with another’s life, and simplify our prayers into, “Father, help them to know You and to trust You alone”?

I remember trying to squeeze our boys into the box I wanted to design for their life, and it never really worked. I’m seeing that even more now as they are in their late 20’s, becoming who God designed them to be. Our oldest son is now back in college at age 29, studying hard, excited about his future, doing what God designed him to do. Our second son at age 26, is following his own dreams, not the ones we might have had for him. When he graduated from high school, I looked back on the all “battles” we had had and I realized that he was basically the same boy at age 18 that he was when he started Kindergarten. Most of the battles between us came because I was not accepting his uniqueness in God. And as I think about our youngest son, only being given 16 years, 29 days, and 8 hours to live here on earth, God knew why He had designed Phil in that way. It was a complete design, with nothing lacking. What may have seemed like unfinished business to us was not to God.

We can only imagine what each life looks like from the perspective of Heaven. We can only imagine what God has planned for each vessel that hungers and thirsts for His righteousness, which is where our desires need to be. Why? Because we know that those who do not hunger and thirst for His righteousness will not be wearing the “proper clothes for the wedding.” They will be bound “hand and foot” and thrown “into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 22)

This is tough to hear, but I didn’t say it, Jesus did!

We can question it all, like the Pharisees and Sadducees did, but God has a perfect plan. Jesus was never stumped by their questions, and when He turned the question on them, “No one could answer him. And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.” (Matthew 22:41-46)

We can know that each of us is a vessel made by God—one that is on a journey to meet Him face-to-face one day, but what else? On that journey, we are a vessel that must be emptied out of all that accumulates in us that is not of God, so that we can get to know our Lord more and more each day. There are things we pile in on top of God’s design, and things others pile in on top of that!

So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives,
and humbly accept the message God has planted in
your hearts, for it is strong enough to save your souls.
James 1:21 (NLT)

When we enter this sinful world, there’s a lot of garbage that can fill us up and crowd out the glory of God’s design…of knowing Him. That “stuff” that must be sorted through in times of prayer and being in God’s Word, so that it can be “recycled” to reflect God’s true glory in our lives. When we do that, and ask God to “lead us on the path to everlasting life” instead of just following what we think we should do or what others think we should do, we can know that we are headed in the right direction in the process of life. When our heart’s desire is to get to know our Lord on life’s journey, we can start to live in the why of being here. This is very important, because if we only know our birth date, but not why we have it, we can feel very lost, and it can get scary. We have to “use God’s mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil’s strongholds. With these weapons we break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NLT)

It is not true to say that God wants to teach us something in our trials:
through every cloud He brings, He wants us to unlearn something.
His purpose in the cloud is to simplify our belief until our relationship
to Him is exactly that of a child…  Oswald Chambers

We need to dump the garbage and the misconceptions that have accumulated in our lives, and leave it all behind as we follow our Savior on the path of everlasting life. It’s like my brother was telling me the other day, when Jesus said, “Come and follow Me,” it reminds me that He was saying, “Leave yourself over there, and you come and follow Me.” He wanted to teach His disciples a new way of being in this world…the way Jesus was being when He was telling the disciples about what was to happen to Him…to step outside of His flesh and to give Himself fully up to His Father’s will.

We don’t need to know what we’re going to be when we grow up, we need to know God, because the truth is God is looking for His children to ask Him to lead them. That’s where the real journey begins…taking hold of our Father’s hand with great confidence in His design and plan for our lives, whatever it may be…up the tough hills, down through the dark valleys, from high mountaintops, on smooth and rocky seas. Our vessel can feel safe while traveling in God’s care because as we become more and more dependant on God, His perfect love casts out the fears that can plague us.

Why are we here?
We’re here to journey Home “on the path of everlasting life.”
And the only way is by getting to know the One who is awaiting our arrival.

Dwight L Moody wrote:

“The Christian’s hope of heaven is not of an undiscovered country. It cannot be compared with anything we know on earth. Perhaps nothing but the shortness of our range of sight keeps us from seeing the celestial gates all open to us, and nothing but the deafness of our ears prevents our hearing the joyful ringing of the bells of heaven…It is said by travelers, that in climbing the Alps, the houses of far distant villages can be seen with great distinctness…This is because of the clearness of the atmosphere. By perseverance, however, the place is reached at last, and the tired traveler finds rest. So, sometimes we dwell in high altitudes of grace; heaven seems very near…At other times, the clouds and fogs that come through suffering and sin, cut off our sight. We are just as near heaven in the one case as we are in the other, and we are just as sure of gaining it if we keep in the path that Christ has trod.”

So, we’ve been born, and we know why, and if we were to go back to the beginning of this message and fill in the blank now, what would we fill in?

When I grow up, I want to be ____________.

If we answer that we want to be “on the path of everlasting life,” then our Father is pleased with His creation because, “In keeping with his promise we are looking to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” (2 Peter 3:13 NIV) Through the hills and valleys that we walk through with God, we will find our purpose in each day. When knowing God is our aim, our “clothing” for the day will fit us perfectly, and the rest of what happens in our lives are simply the “accessories” that go along with knowing God. The why is taken care of, and it won’t be an uneasy life, but a life that will start to feel like the comfy clothes we put on after arriving home from a hard day’s work.

We won’t have to just be BUSY in life, treading down any old path, which I’ve heard described as “Being Under Satan’s Yoke.” Instead, we’ll always be searching for God’s path that leads us to be ACTIVE—“Accepting Callings That In-Volve Eternity!” In these activities, God’s glory will be what shines because we’re getting to know Him…He’s our ultimate, unending, very exciting quest each and every day!

Until the next time,

Diane