A Step of Faith into the Unknown
Steve Jobs once said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”
I imagine the devil wishes he could’ve connected the dots better before he instigated the crucifixion of Jesus. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he said,
“…we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7-8 NKJV).
In other words, they didn’t know His death would be our life!
And I think this principle helps us in our faith, because how many times have we been nervous to take a step of faith into the unknown? I’ll raise my hand first and say, “Many times!” But here’s what I’ve learned: for every time it felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff with one instruction from God to step out, He met me there.
Things are hidden for two reasons: protection and protection. I repeated myself on purpose because think about the scenario Paul was speaking of — heaven’s agenda was hidden to protect it from being exploited or foiled by the enemy. But it was also hidden to protect God’s precious gift of life to man.
The good news is that things of the Spirit don’t have to remain hidden from God’s children any longer.
“As it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NKJV).
Too often, we stop and marvel at verse 9 that there are innumerable things that God’s children haven’t seen or heard. On the one hand, I think that’s okay because faith marvels. But I love that we aren’t in the dark. God, through His Spirit, wants to share His heart and purpose with us. And it’s done through our relationship with the Holy Spirit.
In the natural, I agree with Steve Jobs. Without faith, we can only connect dots behind us. But we are not operating only in the natural (without faith). The Holy Spirit abides in us, while also intimately abiding with God, knowing His heart and mind. Therefore, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can take steps of genuine faith connecting dots as we move forward with Him.
The Message Translation explains this well:
“The unspiritual self, just as it is by nature, can’t receive the gifts of God’s Spirit. There’s no capacity for them. They seem like so much silliness. Spirit can be known only by spirit—God’s Spirit and our spirits in open communion. Spiritually alive, we have access to everything God’s Spirit is doing, and can’t be judged by unspiritual critics. Isaiah’s question, ‘Is there anyone around who knows God’s Spirit, anyone who knows what he is doing?’ has been answered: Christ knows, and we have Christ’s Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14-16 MSG).
So yes, we can connect future dots when we are led by the Spirit. We hold the thoughts, feelings, and purposes of His heart within us.
It’s just a matter of faith.
The Attractiveness of a Surrendered Life
By Sarah Phillips
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Luke 18:22 NIV
“I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me, he can work through anyone.” St. Francis of Assisi
Have you ever wished you could share your faith with friends or loved ones who do not know Christ? Or have you ever worried that our culture is slipping farther and farther away from God’s truth, but don’t know how to turn it around? In past devotionals, several of us have quoted St. Francis of Assisi’s approach to evangelism: “Preach the Gospel all times and when necessary, use words.”
St. Francis’ entire life was one of radical conversion that led to many giving their lives to Christ. Let’s see what we can apply from his medieval story to modern times.
Francis’ story takes place in the early 1200’s – an era when Christianity enjoyed prominence in Europe. But sadly, even with widespread power and acceptance of the Church, many Christians did not lead lives in keeping with their faith. Francis was no exception. He came from a wealthy Italian family; his father earned a comfortable life as a successful cloth merchant, and his mother was of noble birth. The handsome, witty Francis was spoiled rotten by his parents, showing more interest in playing than in his academics or his father’s career.
Francis’ life of ease and play received a rude but life-changing interruption in 1201. After being captured in a small battle between rival cities, Francis spent a year sick and alone. His time of weakness and contemplation made him realize how useless his life had been up to that point.
But transformation for Francis was slow. After he regained his health, Francis desired personal glory. He signed up for the military, even fancying one day he’d be a great prince. But illness and a sense that God was calling him back to Assisi brought him home again.
It was around this time friends began to notice a lasting change in this attractive, party guy. Friends asked if he had a woman on his mind. He responded, “I am about to take a wife of surpassing fairness.” But this wife was not a mortal woman. Instead, Francis renounced his inheritance, gave what he had to the poor, and wedded himself to “Lady Poverty” (much to his father’s fury).
Not long after taking his vow of poverty, Francis heard Christ speak to him while he was praying in a small, shabby chapel. The voice said, “Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down.” At first, Francis thought he needed to repair the actual building he was praying in. But soon it became clear Francis’ mission was really to restore genuine faith among the church – God’s people.
So Francis began spending most of his time praying, serving the sick and preaching repentance throughout the region. He had no intentions of starting a community of religious, but single men of diverse backgrounds became intrigued by Francis’ humility and wholehearted devotion to the Gospel. And not long after men began joining his mission, a privileged young woman named Clare left her riches behind, bringing women alongside Francis to restore genuine faith among the people.
With so many joining in, Francis realized he was becoming the leader of a monastic movement. So, he sought to keep their focus on Christ by establishing a rule of life on Scripture. In short, the mission of the Franciscan monks and Poor Clare nuns would be to “Announce the kingdom! Possess no gold or silver or copper in your purses, no traveling bag, no sandals, no staff” (Luke 9:1-3). They imitated the early disciples by traveling in twos, owning few personal possessions, and serving those in need while sharing the Gospel to all. Their spiritual legacy continues with Franciscan and Poor Clare communities in regions all over the world today.
Some other little-known facts of how God worked through this influential Christian:
Did you know Francis once challenged a Muslim sultan to consider the truth of Christianity – and the sultan actually considered it?
Did you know Francis is credited with creating the first living Nativity scene at Christmas?
Did you know that, centuries before the Reformation, Francis taught and wrote about the faith in local dialects so commoners could understand?
Francis’ story gives us encouragement today. After all, we too live in a culture where Christianity was the dominant religion for a long time but sadly, it’s now common for good people to lose sight of the faith. But God worked through a spoiled, wealthy young man to show the surrounding community that even worldly comforts could not satisfy the deepest yearnings of their souls – and He can do the same today.
While most of us are not called to take vows of poverty, it was Francis’ unwavering, single-minded devotion to the Gospel that most attracted others to him. And this is something we can – and should – aspire to imitate. As we seek to surrender our lives to Christ more completely, God will work through each one of us in unique ways to inspire others to join us on the faith journey.
“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.” – Psalm 25:16 NASB
In his book about the American frontier, author Louis Fairchild described how lonely life was for many 19th-century Texas settlers. While land was plentiful, many lived in relative isolation. Overwhelmed and alone.
In 1880 when the first census was taken of the Texas panhandle, only 1,600 people were counted in one 25,000-square-mile region. In fact, six counties had no inhabitants at all.
Settlers could spend months without seeing anyone outside their own family. They readily welcomed visitors, eager for the opportunity to interact.
In this atmosphere, many found hope by turning to God. They discovered that He was with them, even when no one else was there. They longed to gather together to fellowship, to worship God, and to study His Word. On many occasions, revivals broke out.
In our modern world, loneliness still is a major problem. We can escape into our own homes, ignorant of the pains others may suffer behind closed doors. We may try to fill the silences with the media, music, or phone interactions. But our hearts still crave Christian fellowship and the love of Christ.
Ask God to help you be sensitive to the needs of the people around you. Be ready to reach out, give encouragement, and show His love. Let Him use you to change lives. Don’t crowd Him out of your schedule. Spend time alone with Him! Develop a more intimate relationship right where you are.
Christ’s first and last subject
By: Charles Spurgeon
“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17. “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Luke 24:47
Suggested Further Reading: Philippians 3:1-14
If you are renewed by grace, and were to meet your old self, I am sure you would be very anxious to get out of his company. “No,” say you, “No, sir, I cannot accompany you.” “Why, you used to swear!” “I cannot now.” “Well, but,” says he, “You and I are very near companions.” “Yes, I know we are, and I wish we were not. You are a deal of trouble to me every day. I wish I could be rid of you for ever.” “But,” says Old Self, “you used to drink very well.” “Yes, I know it. I know you did, indeed, Old Self. You could sing a song as merrily as any one. You were ringleader in all sorts of vice, but I am no relation of yours now. You are of the old Adam, and I of the new Adam. You are of your old father, the devil; but I have another—my Father, who is in heaven.” I tell you, brethren, there is no man in the world you will hate so much as your old self, and there will be nothing you will so much long to get rid of as that old man who once was dragging you down to hell, and who will try his hand at it over and over again every day you live, and who will accomplish it yet, unless that divine grace which has made you a new man shall keep you a new man even to the end. Good Rowland Hill, in his “Village Dialogues,” gives the Christian, whom he describes in the first part of the book, the name of Thomas Newman. Every man who goes to heaven must have the name of new-man. We must not expect to enter there unless we are created anew in Christ Jesus.
For meditation: In our testimonies we should own up to what we used to be, but in such a way that we also disown the people we used to be. Don’t be like the biography of a Christian which seems to glory in the sin of the past—reserve all the glory for your Saviour (1 Corinthians 15:9,10; 1 Timothy 1:13-17).