If you find yourself in an anxious season of difficult transition, take comfort from the life of Isaac.
If you had told me seven years ago that I would resign my comfortable magazine job in 2010 and make a shift toward public ministry, I would have asked if you were smoking an illegal plant. I liked my paycheck and my benefits. And in 2004 I was trying to figure out how I would put four kids through college when I had no extra money in the bank.
Fast forward to 2010, to the middle of the Great Recession. They say the economy is showing signs of improvement, but I don't see this in Florida, where the foreclosure rate is still one of the nation's highest. Yet right in the middle of these uncertain economic times, while the unemployment rate is hovering around 10 percent, I sensed God telling me to make a career change.
|"We must keep walking by faith, even when we feel trapped in Philistine territory. We must keep trudging ahead. We must go over the next hill. We must turn the next corner. There is a Rehoboth nearby!"|
Everything in my flesh screamed, No! Please, God! No! Yet I knew I was facing one of those Peter-get-out-of-the-boat-and-walk-on-the-water moments. Because I have been in one place for 17 years, the thought of change was terrifying. I didn't even want to look over the side of the boat, much less stick my foot in the waves and try to walk.
But two weeks ago I put my toes in the water. Like Peter, I have wavered a few times since then. The sound of the crashing surf is scary and I've looked back at the boat more than once. But I know that I know that I know that this faith-stretching exercise is going to end well.
What has carried me through this season of transition is the comfort I receive each day from reading my Bible. I don't read it just because Christians are supposed to have a nice devotional life. I read it for survival.
Since the New Year began I have focused all my reading on the journeys of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, mainly because these patriarchs pioneered this thing we call faith. Their life lessons provide a framework for our own adventures with God.
I read last week about Isaac's difficult life journey. Things were not easy after his father's death. His brother Ishmael was bitter because Abraham gave Isaac the first-born's inheritance. Then a famine came and Isaac had to move his family to Gerar, where hostile Philistines were cramming garbage in the wells that Abraham had dug.
Life in Gerar was not easy. Every time Isaac would dig a new well, the Philistines would claim it as theirs. In one instance, Isaac named his well Esek, which means "contention." Another time he dug a well and called it Sitnah, which means "enmity." What a depressing trend! It seemed like two steps forward and three steps back. He wasn't making any progress.
But then, Isaac journeyed just a bit farther. Genesis 26:22 says, "And he moved away from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it; so he named it Rehoboth, for he said, ‘At last the Lord has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land. (NASB)'"
It was right after this experience that God appeared to Isaac and reconfirmed to him the promise that He had given his father. The Lord said: "I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you, and multiply your descendants, for the sake of my servant Abraham" (Gen. 26:24).
All of us will encounter multiple obstacles on the road toward our promise. The contentious wells of Esek and Sitnah tend to drain the life out of us rather than provide any refreshing. Their waters are bitter. They are the hard places where we are most tempted to quit.
But the lesson here is simple: We must keep walking by faith, even when we feel trapped in Philistine territory. We must keep trudging ahead. We must go over the next hill. We must turn the next corner. There is a Rehoboth nearby!
Many of us have felt stalled in the dry places. The past few years have not been easy. You may feel that the devil has been contending for your family, your finances, your ministry or your health. He threw all this discouragement at you to stop you from advancing. He wants to keep you in a desert.
Rehoboth means "broad place," and it refers to the land of inheritance that only God can give and that the enemy cannot steal from you. The Philistines did not contend for Rehoboth. God kept them away. Rehoboth reminds us of the place God brought King David when he announced in Psalm 18:19, "[The Lord] brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me."
I want to prophesy to you: Keep going! Do not camp at the wells of contention! There is a Rehoboth down the road, and it is not only a place of spiritual fulfillment but also a garden of intimacy with God. Press into this New Year with faith and expect the Lord to fulfill His promise.
J. Lee Grady was editor of Charisma for 11 years and is now serving as contributing editor. He will be speaking this weekend at Daystar Church in Atlanta (www.daystaratlanta.org/). You can find him on Twitter at leegrady.