How many of us can say we are "goal-directed" individuals? If you have any bent toward being a Type-A personality, then you might just engage in this goal-setting more than you realize. Too many of us rely upon the "checklists" we create as a means of keeping us "on task". Why? Mostly because our minds are too filled with "stuff" to keep on task without them! Sometimes the hardest goals we have are the one God is after in our lives. Why? Simply because they are often revealed in the test or the trial (the challenges), not in the "lists". In Genesis 12, Abraham is asked by God to pick up and leave his entire "known world" - his country, his home, and his family - in search of a country God would show him. Most of us have lost the "pioneer" spirit quite some time ago, but whenever you set out in a direction which points to the "not known" or "not yet known", you are a course often established as a way of God getting us out of our "comfortable" and "familiar". It is okay for God to help us experience him from our "known world", but why on earth does he have to take us out of the "known" into the "not known"? I think the answer is found in the purpose of the "disturbance" - it is to experience Christ in a way we cannot until we take the first steps of "detaching" and "reattaching".
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. (James 1:2-4 MSG)
Too many times, this journey is made up of a whole lot of unknown details. There aren't sufficient "lists" to guide us through - such as when you prepare for a trip, marking out the journey on a map, reserving hotel rooms along the way, and noting the items of interest you'd like to explore in getting there. In fact, you seldom know the "items of interest" along the journey God calls you into - this is why it is called the "unknown"! In the absence of "details", God asks for the presence of "faith". Faith is not enough - it must be coupled with obedience if the journey is ever to become a reality. We can have all the good intentions and "faith", but if we never take the first steps of leaving, we will never experience the "unknown". We want the "specifics" up front - God reveals the specifics "on the way". It is often the "way" which brings the revelation, not the "revelation" which brings us the way!
Even when Jesus called his disciples, he didn't stop, give them a 10-point "Team Charter", laying out the goals of the "team", establishing the objectives of the journey! He simply walked right up to them and said, "Follow me." Hmmm...not exactly crystal-clear objectives, but the instruction is pretty clear, huh? We focus on the "objectives" - God is focusing on our obedience. A long time ago, my pastor told me, "God never disturbs your present unless it is to improve your future." I have held onto that one for years now. Every time my "present" begins to feel a little disturbed, I am confident in the outcome!
One thing I know for sure - we are not in charge of the journey! We might like to remain in control, but the responsibility belongs to God, not us. We want to focus on the "where" - God is focusing on the "what". Where we are going is really not all that important - what will be revealed and accomplished in the journey is all that matters. Guess what? If we follow Jesus, there is only one place we will end up - where he is! Let that one percolate a little! The journey "on the way" to where he directs is just as important as the destination - both play a part in bringing us closer to Jesus.
The journey may be riddled with difficulties galore. God never promises smooth sailing and no bumps in the road. What he promises is a destination! What he provides along the way is encouragement, instruction, and often course correction. The thing God asks is for us to be willing to trust him with what is the dearest and closest thing to our hearts. In laying these down, he becomes the central focus of our journey. Just like Abraham, country, home and family no longer become the focus. The focus was the destination - yet unknown - the journey was the difficult part - because it tested obedience, disturbed comfort, and challenged what has become familiar. Truth be told on all of us, when God asks for us to take the journey, we try to figure out what he has in store for us right from the beginning! We want to "figure it out" because we know if we do, we still remain a little in control. Guess what? The journey can seldom be "known" or "figured out".
God defines things differently than we do, huh? He defines the journey, not as a plan we can prepare for, but as a series of "faith-steps" we must take one right after the other until the destination becomes very apparent. Three things are learned in the journey: Trust, Obedience, and Hope. Trust because when we don't know it all up front, there is a whole lot resting on the abilities and power of another (God). Obedience because no journey into the "unknown" will ever be labeled as a "no-brainer" - it requires us calculating the risks, stepping out even though we don't know them all, and then seeing what unfolds along the way. Hope because "along the way" is the best place to encounter God's best for your life - not in the place of your comfort and familiarity! Just sayin!