The challenge of walking with the God who knows me
Names changed throughout except in some cases where the person involved has been or is in ministry.
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 2 Cor 5:17
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John 14:29 (NIV)
“I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.”
“Have you thought about what might be involved in manufacturing film?”, the interviewer asked. Did you think about what might be involved in the job before coming to the interview? Well, the fact of the matter was that I had not. I used to, but then I found there was a problem. I would read the job advert and think through all the difficulties that might be involved in the job and what the job might involve. As I did this I would get quite excited about the prospect of working on such issues. The problem then came, when I arrived at the interview and discovered that the job was nowhere near as interesting as the job I had imagined. I would be disappointed, and that disappointment was communicated in the interview. So I had decided not to try and work out what the job might be like beforehand.
At the time that this happened I did not see any spiritual parallels. Later however it was to be illustrative of an issue. There are times when God gives promises. When he does, I have a tendency to think through what they might mean. This is not that unusual, even the angels do that, so we are told. There is a sense however, in which it can be unhelpful. I can so build up a picture of what I think that God is going to do that I miss what he is actually doing, or I can become disappointed with what God actually does when his actions come to light. God made it very plain to us that he would take us to Portugal and that he would develop a ministry there. My immediate response to such promises from him was to interpret them. I expected him to do things with blazing miracles that would leave the world agog. The reality was that everything went along in a very low key manner. Yes, certainly when you looked at the detail one could see the finger of God here and there. We could certainly see that God had been at work as he had promised, but it was not the kind of fulfilment that would convince a complete sceptic. So, had God failed on his promise? By no means, rather, I had built up a completely unrealistic expectation of the fulfilment of that promise and my expectation had been dashed. But when I looked at the actual wording of the promise, it had been or was being fulfilled. Thankfully I was in the habit of writing these things down so that I could go back to them.
On thinking of all this, it occurred to me that the promises given are given with different purposes from which we receive them. I tend to receive them to puff up my self-image. The image of me that is, instead of the image of Jesus. The image of me is puffed up by idle fantasy based on the reality of God’s promise. Jesus on the other hand gives his promises so that when we look back on their fulfilment, on the intricate web of seemingly irrelevant coincidences, we will be amazed at the glory of our God. Amazed that he could bring such things together to fulfil his will, knowing that there was no accident here, only because he had promised it before it had happened.
Yes, God’s promises do give hope, they give an encouragement when we are plodding on in the mundane, or even more when things are going badly, but I must be careful that the hope does not become my dream or my hearts desire. Jesus is my heart’s desire!