One step forward, two steps back

One step forward, two steps back

One step forward, two steps back

by Dave Carter
7th January 2021

New year, new hope and expectations. And then new lockdown. Hmmm.

It feels like as soon as we see some progress or positive steps things then get reversed pretty quickly. Just over two weeks ago in my previous article I celebrated schools reopening as one of my highlights of 2020. Now we’re facing school closures again.

Christmas was much looked forward to…. then significantly reduced.

We celebrated the opportunity to meet together as a church congregation – now we’re facing longer periods when we don’t feel it’s the right thing to do in the face of spiralling infection rates.

With all this, it can sometimes feel hard to be motivated. We have to ask ourselves how we maintain our faith, hope and godly ambition. Yet I’m confident we can continue through the coming year with great expectations of what it means to be the people of God.

I’m reminded of the story of Abraham, who faced a number of setbacks in his faith journey, yet never gave up hope.

Called by God to become a great nation and bless the entire planet, the first step was then to leave his family, friends and his country and set out for Canaan. After settling there he experienced famine causing him to move to Egypt, where Pharaoh hit on his wife, causing much awkwardness. He had to leave Egypt, settled in the Negev with his nephew Lot, who then took all the good farming land before proceeding to get himself kidnapped, requiring Abraham to mount a rescue mission.

After that there was merely the challenge of overcoming infertility when he and his wife were in their 90s, whilst also managing the fallout of a dubious decision to take matters into his own hands and sleeping with his wife’s servant. Oh, and being circumcised aged 99 with no anaesthetic…..

Finally, after there seemed to have been miraculous breakthrough, God told him to give it all up by sacrificing his son Isaac. Fortunately, we know how that turned out in the end.

Yet after all this, Romans 4 v 18 gives the ultimate declaration over his life:

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations.

His life story is one of many struggles but in the end a great victory.

What pointers can we take from Abraham?

  1. He started by listening to God and obeying. In Genesis 12 God simply tells Abraham to go, to leave his home. He doesn’t give all the details of what the next steps are, but Abraham listens and moves in accordance with God’s direction.
  2. He kept on listening! If Abraham had only heard God once or twice, he may very well have killed Isaac. He heard God tell him to set out to Moriah to sacrifice his son, it’s a good job he then kept listening so that when God said to stop he did. I bet Isaac was also grateful.
  3. He drew on the miraculous nature of God. He was promised an heir, which was impossible by human effort. He then did blunder by attempting to solve it with human resources, he wasn’t perfect. Ultimately, though, Abraham and Sarah were partakers in a miracle that led to the fulfilment of God’s promise to them. The world was forever changed because the kingdom of heaven broke through in an impossible situation.

I would urge us to follow some similar principles:

  1. Pay attention to what God has spoken over your life. Be obedient to his call, step out in faith.
  2. Keep listening! Promises aren’t enough on their own, it’s day to day relationship with Jesus that is our privilege and the key to living out our calling.
  3. Don’t view things through the limitations of human resources, expect the miraculous nature of the kingdom to be outworked through your life. You have access to the supply rooms of heaven and free access to the throne room. Ask God to show you more of what he is making available to you.

You will be blessed, and the world will be blessed through you. Whatever 2021 holds, our God is mighty, loving and personal. It’s a great position to be in.