Monday, August 11, 2008

The better country...

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country - a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:13-16

The land that I have lived in for so long has been dark and gray and filled with anxiety and fear. I haven’t felt like I would ever receive the gifts of the kingdom, of freedom and promise. I was afraid that I didn’t have a hope and a future, because my past, and the things I have experienced there.

But I have tried to live by faith. Faith in the God of the bible who has shown again and again in the scriptures that He is a God of deliverance. He delivered the Israelites from Egypt, into their promised land. He delivered them again and again from their enemies when they turned to Him. He sent His Son, Jesus, to deliver all of us, if we turn to Him, and admit we need help. I have to believe that He will deliver me.

And I have seen evidence of it. Again and again He has delivered me a little at a time from different things in my past that have been holding me back. He has taken me little by little out of the old country and has pointed me towards the better country. The one promised to me, the one I have hoped and longed for.

Even when I didn’t see the evidence of changes or that God was starting to work, others around me could. I had to take their word for it at first. But then I started to see the promises from a distance. I can see the hope and future. I can see how much God is working. And I do have hope.

The phrase that really caught my attention, from the verse above, was the following.
“If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead they were longing for a better country…”

My past is the country that I have been trying to come out of. When I look back at it, I find that I can dwell on the things that have hurt me or held me back. I end up thinking of those so much, they cause me more pain and hurt.

My past has been an idol, or the pain of my past, I should say. I have focused on that for so long. I have looked at those things and held them up for all to see… held them up in my focus and in front of me for so long, that they have distracted my gaze from God. The country I have come from lures me back again and again to focus on it… to make myself go back there, and be trapped there.

Despite the fear of facing up to, and dealing with some of the last outstanding issues of my past, I know I need to. I need to face them and get them out of the way. Then I can look forward to the promises of the future. And as I am working through those issues, I have learned that I need to keep my focus on God, on the future that He promises me… because that gives me hope. Hope that I will get through and be able to keep on going. Hope that as I leave these things behind, dealt with and in the past… though I might feel empty for a time, God is coming in behind to fill all the gaps. He will fill me to overflowing with hope by the power of His Holy Spirit.

Saying goodbye to the past, to the things that have held me captive for so long, and say hello to the future promises, to the good things that God has in store for me.
That is my goal. That is my focus.

I will not stay stuck here anymore. No matter how much the enemy tries to intimidate me into staying where I am. I am moving on.

I am leaving the old behind, the new is coming. It may be lonely for a while. It may be hard. I may find myself longing for the garlic and leeks of Egypt (forget the Pharaoh and oppressive slavery there) rather than the manna of the desert that is between slavery and the promised land flowing with milk and honey.

I just want to encourage anyone else who is struggling with leaving things behind. There are idols in all of us that block us from God. We turn to them rather than the safe and loving arms of our Savior, because those other things are familiar and comfortable. It is so easy to stay where we are, because we know it.

Moving on, letting those things go, is scary, because we don’t know where we are going. We don’t know where we will end up. We don’t know what this promised land is, or what it looks like. We have heard it is good, but there seem to be so many obstacles and giants in the way. We doubt. We fear.

But God has so much more planned for us. So many things He wants to show us. If only we would follow Him. He is calling to us, calling us to follow Him… to drop everything and follow Him. For what we lose in this life we will receive back more than we had before. (Mark 10:29-30) He will give us more than we could have ever asked or imagined… because He loves us and wants the best for us. He wants us to give Him the chance to show us what He can bless us with.

We just need to drop everything and follow Him.

It sounds so easy in words, I know. In the actual doing it is hard. It is tearing things out of us that have become part of us. But if we ask God to help us separate from those idols and other things holding us back, He will. And, after we have walked away from them for a while, we will wonder why we ever held onto those things in the first place.

God will give us blessings beyond belief. He will fill us, and hold us, even when everything seems like it is falling apart. Because He is the God who creates and sustains, fills and loves.

“For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
Colossians 1:16-17

He holds us together, even when we feel we are falling apart. When we let go of our idols, tear down the high places in our lives, and feel like we are crumbling and falling and empty… HE IS HOLDING US TOGETHER! He is holding me together.

I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy of all praise. So shall I be saved from my enemies. I will trust Him with everything I am, everything I have. He is my Lord. He knows what is best for me. That is my prayer and my focus this week. Despite how I am feeling, despite the pressure to conform and go back to old ways of life and coping with it.

I choose to put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes (and it will come), I will be able to stand my ground, and after I have done everything, to stand.
Will you focus your gaze on the better country? Will you stand with me? Firm in the promises of God? In Faith?

No comments: