Tag Archives: Joshua 3:4

Beginning at the end

I suppose I’ve always been this way:

  • Shaking the presents to guess what’s inside.
  • Reading the last line of a comic strip to see if it’s funny enough to read the whole thing.
  • Reading the last chapter of a book first or the final concluding paragraph of an article.
  • Actually walking down the entire buffet line before I choose “buffet.”

Some of you understand. Maybe you belong to a family where you only tell the punchline and everyone laughs because they’ve heard the story so many times. Some of you are shaking your heads in disdain, saying it’s the process that counts as much as the end result. And you are right. Sometimes the ending is spoiled when we know it too soon. If you knew all along “the butler did it”, where is the mystery?

Whether it’s waiting for Christmas morning, waiting for kids to grow up, or waiting for an answer to prayer, we have this desire to skip to the end.  I’ve heard some say that whether it’s good news or bad, they just want to know so they can move on to the point they can actually do something.

Though it often escapes us, there is purpose in waiting. Waiting provides for us, protects us, and prepares us.

Waiting provides valuable lessons that can’t be learned in the instant gratification lane. Besides teaching me patience, a virtue few of us enjoy learning, waiting provides me with a renewed sense of perspective. It causes me to realize I’m not in control of everything, not even my own life. There are situations where the only control I have is how I respond to the situation. We aren’t always the captain of our own destiny. Waiting teaches us that God is God; I’m not. It provides greater blessing when I would have chosen less.

Waiting protects us. I recall a number of times when my delay was actually the hand of God protecting me from a poor choice, a bad relationship, or an unforeseen accident down the road. Sometimes we have to wait for certain doors to open because we aren’t ready for what’s on the other side. Sometimes, if we push too hard, we open a door not meant for us, revealing real dangers we hadn’t anticipated in our eagerness to pass through. Imagining the consequence of our choice helps us to wait patiently.

Waiting prepares us. Imagine trying to pass a test without studying and learning the material. Consider the consequences of being promoted too quickly to a job only to find you lacked experience to be successful. Reflect on the plight of being thrust into marriage too soon. Waiting prepares us for a future we’re unready for now. It affords the opportunity to build not only our knowledge and skills, but our character.  Just as we wait for a fruit tree to produce good fruit, so waiting produces good results in our lives.

So which is better, waiting or skipping to the end? As with most of life, the best answer may not be “either/or” but “both/and.”  As difficult as it is to wait, especially in the darkest times, it’s helpful to skip to the end of the bible and read the conclusion of the story. “God wins!” Our God who sees you and me right where we are, who knows our pain and every temptation that faces us – this same Mighty God will work good for all those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. He will lead you through the valley of the shadow of death.  He will show you the way to go because you have not been there before. The end of this chapter of my life is not evident just now. But the end of my story – and all who trust God – is clearly revealed. The power of God’s Spirit gives us peace in the middle of the storm and secures our hope, “as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Hebrews 6:19)

While you are waiting in difficult times, go ahead and skip to the end of the story and see that it is well with your soul.


The basis for confidence

We make hundreds of decisions every day, some small and some significant. All either affirm or deny our faith. When we go our own way without consulting God, we deny the need for faith and convince ourselves we know best. Certainly, a life of faith builds character that is able to make good decisions. But we never outgrow our need for God’s direction in our lives, do we? We turn to Him for both simple and complex matters. Our confidence in His faithfulness, His goodness, His perfection and grace is our confidence in life. Without it, what confidence do we have?

I remember ‘rediscovering’ Joshua 3:4 years ago when pondering which direction I should take in my life. “Then you will know the way you should go because you have not been this way before.” God doesn’t expect us to have all the answers. How could we for there are so many circumstances we have never before experienced, so many new paths we have not yet traversed. When I was first in remission from cancer, I was immediately faced with the decision of whether or not to get a stem cell transplant which involved a more aggressive chemo, more pain, and more risk, but also more ‘assurance’ that the cancer would not return. There was no way I could make a conclusive analysis of matter. Would this procedure extend my life or take it sooner? After weighing the pros and cons, it was simply a matter to bring to God. I needed someone who had been down this path before.

“The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you. He will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

What doubts and fears are you facing that make it difficult to choose a godly path? “The Lord who goes before you” delights in revealing the best path for you. Ask Him to lead you in big and small ways. Your confidence is not misplaced in Him.

Your life plan vs reality

Isn’t there quite a bit of truth in this illustration? We tend to expect things will go a certain way, a matter of steady progress toward whatever goals we have. But in reality, life seldom seems to go that way. In fact, I don’t think I know anyone whose life does flow quite easily from point A to point B. Do you? Certainly there are those who seem to have everything going their way. But I suspect if we were to walk in their shoes, we might see a different picture.

And if we expect that life will be quite predictable, are we not setting ourselves up for disappointment? After all, when life takes a sudden turn toward difficult paths, we have then both the difficulty and the surprise grief over the turn of events.

Another thing that occurs to me is the irony that we seldom if ever know precisely where we are on the path. Is this current difficulty that you face actually a high spot compared to the next chapter of your journey? If so, wouldn’t we have special cause for celebration of this day’s blessings? And if we are at the bottom spot of a dark valley, don’t we have opportunity to celebrate the hope for better days yet ahead?

I don’t suppose many would voluntarily sign up for suffering or difficulty, but we are not put in this world to avoid difficulty either. (As if we could.) In the words of Charles Spurgeon: “Oh for the grace to love the rough paths, because we see (God’s) footprints on them.” God’s Word in the book of Joshua says, “I will show you the way because you have not been this way before.” Don’t we all want – and need – an experienced guide to lead us through the rough spots, those same spots that refine us and prepare us to draw closer to him and to those around us?

But we have more than two choices. We are not limited to just a fairy tale illusion of a perfect life or a pessimistic view of waiting for the next catastrophe to arrive. We have a third wonderful choice. And that is to accept each new day as a gift, complete with joys and difficulties (challenges). I admit, I’ve done better some days in this journey with Leukemia than others. But the day is much better when I contemplate how well I am doing now compared to certain past treacherous days; and how much better I expect to be in the future.

That is the beauty of this. Each day offers a new opportunity to refine our perspective. It’s one choice we have control over: how we will receive each new day.

This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24