One of the most compelling reasons I write is to offer the simple advice that has resulted from a lifetime of learning to listen before I leap, and the importance of asking others to share from the vast treasures of their own experience. Like many, I have learned some of these lessons the hard way, by touching the hot iron to see if it’s really hot. It was one of the most difficult things for me to learn to ask for the advice of someone more learned than myself, before plunging headlong into the unknown waters of life. However, the unbridled passions of our youth do not have to become the lamentable sorrows of our enduring tomorrows. Learning to stop at those crucial moments in life, when a choice is not likely to result in an outcome that glorifies God, is not a skill most of us obtain without experiencing some of the pain and scars of this life.
The most seasoned adventurers I know have taught me that the best teacher is experience. That doesn’t mean you have to endure the same scars of life as your predecessors, it means you have to learn to identify the difference between what you really know, and what you only think you know. As the old saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know. By learning to be objective about what you do know, you can obtain the wisdom of those around you by learning to ask the right questions. My own life experience has taught me to never go it alone, as it relates to deciding a course of action in which I don’t know the outcome, or I don’t know how to begin in a way that can decide the appropriate outcome.
The short answer to this dilemma is to recognize that there is a deception of innocence that prevents us from grasping the risks involved with making decisions about life that reflect our inexperience. Being young and inexperienced, combined with our passion and desire to try new things independent from our parents and our traditions, we often obtain a result that is painful at the moment and comes with the undesirable attribute of long lasting embarrassment and humiliation. This is too often the result of pursuing the false glories of the world. What this requires us to do to avoid this same lesson in the future, is to either make the same mistake often enough that it finally sinks in, or to have someone to lean on that has the indelible ability to communicate a level of concern for us that will cause us to stop and listen long enough to avoid making the mistake at all. The false glory of the world calls us to do something that we may not understand, something that will have lasting consequences, and something that will ultimately cost us dearly. First of all we have to recognize what the glory of the world is, and what it claims to offer us, compared to what it actually delivers.
The most important comparison I have identified is to always, always, always, use the Word of God as the source of what is known to be the truth. This is singularly the most significant and trustworthy advice you will ever receive in your entire lifetime. Why it is so, is simply because there is someone who wants to be that person we can lean on, especially during our trials in life, to provide that indelible communication and concern; God desires to be that person in our life. I don’t believe you will ever hear anyone past, present, or future – not since the beginning of time – that will tell you they followed God’s advice from the Bible and it failed to deliver them from whatever circumstances they were faced with. Second, never, never, never ask a person for advice about anything, who doesn’t have an established relationship with God through Jesus; unless you are looking for an excuse to do something you know is wrong. Why? Because the answer they give you will not provide an outcome based in anything other than the glory of the world. The most comprehensive answer given by the smartest minds of the world apart from God, will never result in the wisdom of the least intellectual man who learns to “wait upon the Lord” for an answer to his deepest questions of life. Blessed is he who waits upon the Lord. – Isaiah 40:31
31But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
So you may ask, why should I wait upon the Lord? The answer to that you can find for yourself by asking one very simple question. If you choose on your own to take matters into your own hands, who then will you have to blame or credit with the outcome? Aha! Now for the person who has a meek spirit, that’s a really basic question, not so for the man with a proud heart. Psalm 37:9 provides the Biblical response to this very question:
9For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.
This may seem like it over simplifies the problem, especially since we tend to puff up our problems into a far bigger menace than they really are. One of the grandest and peace-giving aspects to our relationship with God as Christians is the trust we learn to place in His abilities, but this requires that we be willing to relinquish our confidence in our own abilities. Have you ever seen a person who revels in the drama of chaos, they have no desire to help you find an answer, because they enjoy watching you struggle against the currents of doubt and the tides of uncertainty. This is the heart of Satan, this is someone who knows no peace, and is perfectly satisfied to enjoy watching you suffer, as a means of easing their own trouble; your problems are nothing more than a distraction for them from their own problems. They are cut off from truth and reality as far as it concerns understanding the benefit of relying upon the promises of God. They refuse to entertain the possibility that God is willing to help them in their circumstances, as it would require, as they well know, that they first be willing to acknowledge God’s sovereignty and grace above their own self interests. Their lack of brokenness and refusal to admit the truth, that they are just as weak and incapable as you and I, deprives them of the heart of meekness that God desires from you and I, so that when we are brought down to our knees in humility, we can look up and proclaim - My God is mighty - He is able to deliver me from pit of hell, as the circumstances in my life are beyond my own strength to endure, but with God all things are possible!
The man who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, he doesn’t know he is dead in his sin, or that he is blinded by Satan by the shroud of death that covers his eyes, he cannot acknowledge the light of God’s truth from his own position in the darkness of spiritual death; which is separation from God. To give you a broader perspective on this, let’s identify the most comprehensive Biblical example I can think of, let’s look at the opposite of the glory of the world; the Glory of God. Jesus left heaven, the epicenter of Gods love, to come to earth. He left all of His glory in heaven to come here as God and man, to endure all of the humiliation of the false glory of the world and the injustices endured on our behalf, so that He could reveal to you and I the only true glory, the glory of God. Let me ask you something, why did He do that? Jesus turned His back on the glory of God in order to show us by His example, He embraced the filthiness of our sin into His being, paying the wages of our sin - knowing God the Father would at that moment turn away from Him, unable to look at His own Son - to show us that we must turn our back on the glory of the world so that we can obtain the glory of God, which is not the idea of Jesus, but Jesus Himself. The false glory of the world is spelled out for us in the bible, it’s the pride of life, the empty and temporary riches of worldly wealth, and the stuff people fight over when somebody dies. The pursuits of the things of the world are as Solomon put it, vanity of vanities. Wealth, power, fame, influence, none of these things will endure beyond the confines of our life on earth, they will be just as dead to us when we cross over into the eternity God has prepared for us, as they should rightly appear to us now, when we rightly view our life in Christ. So then what is the point in pursuing them?
The glories of the world cannot begin to compare with the glories in store for us in eternity with God our Father, yet countless drones of people from time immemorial, blindly walk down this path that leads only to their own destruction. This is not God’s plan for us. God has prepared a place for us, and if He has prepared a place for us, surely He will direct our path to arrive at the destination He intended for us all along. He desires to walk with us through this garden, this life in which we endure the exile of humanity until we are reunited with Him, through the regenerative power of His Spirit in the new birth we receive in Christ, and until that day when our journey is complete. Not only does He walk next to us along this journey, but he restores us as caretakers of this garden, as we become the sons of God, heirs in grace and joint heirs with Christ through His unfathomable love and by revealing the noble character He intended before the fall of man from His grace as it was with Adam.
One of the most fascinating stories that speak to this noble character of Gods glory is the “Chronicles of Narnia” by C. S. Lewis. This story of two brothers and sisters who find themselves on a journey beyond imagination, epitomizes the nature of God in that He (Portrayed in the character of Aslan) employs His nobility and Godly attributes to elevate these four young humans, who become engaged in the struggle of Narnia against the evil queen who seeks to destroy Aslan and seize Narnia for her own kingdom. Aslan rewards the brave character of each of these young people, each of whom use their gifts and abilities to defend Narnia, Aslan makes them princes and princesses of Narnia. This does not represent a title apart from Aslan’s character and his own nobility; rather it enjoins the sacrifice made by these people with the reward of fellowship in his kingdom. Indeed, this is the very essence of what God has done for all who choose by faith to repent from sin, lay down their life of sin, take up the noble cross of Christ, and accept His gift of salvation and his invitation to become the sons and daughters of God. The unspoken reality of the story of Narnia is that the fellowship between these humans and Aslan is such that they recognize His sovereign authority as it applies to their life, both inside of the kingdom of Narnia, and outside of Narnia in their own private lives.
Staying the course is difficult for those who are weak and fall prey to the obstacles placed in front of them by the dark forces of the powers of this world. Allowing ourselves to become complacent and neglect our spiritual development and growth is all that is necessary for us to fall into temptation. Even the brother Edward in the story of Narnia was tempted by the evil queen to betray the others in exchange for a promise of position and power. It started with the simple temptation of a boy’s sweet tooth. She played upon his desire and used it to gain an advantage she would otherwise not have had. Edward was devastated by the outcome, which almost cost them all dearly. But once again, Aslan set things right. He provided the servant-leadership to restore Edward as a member of his own family by firmly demonstrating the need for the others to grant forgiveness, just as he had forgiven Edward. Even though the presumed outcome was the death of Aslan, by sacrificing his own life for Edwards, because the queen violated the law. By taking the innocent life of Aslan, she jeopardized her chance of seizing control of Narnia; Aslan was resurrected and restored as King of Narnia and rejoined his followers to defeat her in battle. If you do not know the story of “The Chronicles of Narnia” I highly recommend the movie or the book, both of which are an excellent resource for gaining a deeper understanding of the nature of God and the gift of salvation found in the gospel of Jesus.
One of the many tools we have available to us to help us to stay on course in our journey through this life with God. This is especially true for those reading this story who may not have a great deal of experience with bible study. If you don’t feel comfortable or have difficulty understanding the bible, I recommend two very important steps in overcoming this. One, pray for God to bind up Satan and give you clear understanding of His Word. Second, pray for God’s Holy Spirit to give you understanding and wisdom to comprehend and apply His Word in the bible to your life. These may seem like very simple things to do, but the most important thing to remember about receiving the blessings God has prepared for us, is that it’s okay to ask for what we need. God will always grant us access to ask for what is good!
The next part of this series will speak to the subject of the steps that should precede, and the steps that should follow the beginning of our journey, and will be titled, “Planning for the journey of your life.”