Sunday, August 5, 2018

Which way do I go?

Have you ever been lost? There have been times when I am heading to a particular destination along an interstate or back road somewhere and find I am all 'turned around' in my way-finding. I missed some sign somewhere along the way, or just plain didn't judge the distance correctly. I find myself back-tracking, looking again for the right way to go, or I might just give up on ever finding what I was looking for in the first place because it was just impossible for me to find without help! Much of the time in life we are on some kind of journey. We find ourselves kind of 'lost' sometimes, not because the way wasn't explained to us, or that we hadn't consulted the plan for how we'd get their several times, but because we misread, missed, or just plain didn't acknowledge the signs along the way.

You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God.  You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him.  That’s right – you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set.  You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it.  Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set; then I’d never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel.  I thank you for speaking straight from your heart; I learn the pattern of your righteous ways.  I’m going to do what you tell me to do; don’t ever walk off and leave me.  (Psalm 119:1-8)

It is a comforting thing to understand the direction we are headed – to clearly know the paths we are to follow, the things to avoid. There are even times we head off in directions unplanned for us, venturing out on our own completely unaware of what lays in wait along the path we chose. It is a God-honoring thing to await his course direction – it is even more honoring to choose that course above any other. It is one of the hardest things to allow another to set our course, especially when we have created a 'picture' of the way we believe our course should be going! There is a sense of deep satisfaction when we stay on course – a deep sense of pleasure and contentment awaits us as we walk “steadily” on the road revealed by God. Happiness is a very elusive thing – it is conditioned on so many 'unknowns' along the way - things such as circumstance, the people in our lives, timing, and even the attitude of our heart at the moment. We seek happiness in the most amazing ways – through the pursuit of fame, fortune, or position; in some type of what we believe to be a meaningful relationship; and even in giving away all we possess because we heard this could bring us to a certain 'level' of happiness in life. All the while, true happiness appears to evade us and we are left empty, frustrated, and perhaps even filled with despair or disappointment.

The advice set before us is one of “walking steadily” on the course outlined by our God - a little harder than we want to admit when we have this thing called "self-will" to reason with along the way. The word used for God in this text is that of Jehovah – the God of divine compassion, who stands unchangeable in his promises, permanent in his tender care, and righteous. The course we choose in life is established, overlooked, and guarded by this very God of divine compassion and unchangeable character. We can walk steadily when we understand the care that has gone into preparing the course before us and the caring oversight that is ours as we traverse that 'established' path. To “stay” on course implies that we are continuing on, standing firm, and remaining in consistent pursuit of the course outlined by God. I think there is an even deeper meaning that we need to consider – that of enduring. Happy is the man or woman that “stays the course” or “endures” in the way. There is a great sense of inner satisfaction to have remained consistent under suffering without yielding to its pressures – to not give in to the hardships along the way - and each road has its own hardships, regardless of how small. Our consistency comes not in our own effort, but because of the power of our unchanging and consistent God. He is the one that gives us the ability to be firmly fixed in place, to be unfaltering in our movement. There is a resolute assurance that the course we walk is designed at the hand of our God - we have a direction established by God, but we need to choose to stay within the guidance of those directions. It is our fortune to stand with him along this course constant in our emotion, principled in our actions, and stable in our thoughts.

Along the path, we are commissioned to “do our best to find him”. What is our “best” – what does that look like? Some would describe “doing our best” as giving our maximum effort – I’ve even heard some describe it as giving 110%! To be painfully truthful here, I am not inclined to believe that I actually have more than 100% to give – so I am not going to stress that we somehow find an additional 10% to reach some “stretch goal” in our pursuit of God. Rarely do we even get to the 100% mark, let alone find an additional 10% we can muster up to go 'above and beyond'. I am challenged daily to be productive, to excel in some way, but rarely am I able to say that I have given “my all” in the pursuit of God. I daresay that most of us would find ourselves in that same condition if we were to truly analyze our walk with God. It is encouraging to realize that God only requires our attentiveness to his direction – that is how we “do our best” in serving him - we pay attention. We “pay attention” when he speaks, we “focus our will” on his, and we choose to be engaged in this course he has established for us. In so doing, we are placing ourselves on a steady path. What is God really asking you to "pay attention" to along this path you are travelling on presently? What is he asking for you to focus your will on - to be determined in effort and mind's focus? Until we can answer these questions, we probably will wander around pretty doggone aimlessly, even getting a little lost along the way. Just sayin!