He Leadeth Me: Lessons in Belief and Obedience
- 2009 3 Sep
"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (I Corinthians 13:11-12)
The Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God. (See Hebrews 11:6.) Recently I found myself asking, When did I first begin to learn about faith? What is faith? Today do I really know any more about faith than I did fifty years ago? Am I pleasing God with my faith?
With those questions in mind, I thought back to my childhood days, and the Lord immediately brought to mind two stepping-stones along my path. When those incidents occurred, I hardly identified them as such. However, today I clearly see them as stepping-stones . . . no, milestones.
Milestones are markers. They are evidence that work has been accomplished; progress has been made. In our spiritual journeys, milestones indicate that additional work—the Holy Spirit's work—has been accomplished in our lives. Often there is a decision to be made at a milestone. As you and I walk out this journey of faith as children of God, each of us must make a decision at each milestone: will I continue, or will I stop? The journey never ends. We must continue to walk, and we must walk by faith. (See II Corinthians 5:7.) In doing so, we will grow in faith and we will please God.
My Journey of Faith
On my journey of faith, I keep "passing" two milestones: belief and obedience. I used to think I could learn about faith in six easy steps—sort of—but I'm discovering that it's not a matter of six easy check-it-off-the-list steps. Rather, for me, it is a matter of taking the same two steps over and over again, moving forward slowly. Each time, the size of my step increases, although sometimes the gain is hardly discernible. Still, by God's grace, one day at a time—one step at a time—I am moving forward.
Belief and obedience go hand in hand. Sometimes belief precedes obedience, and sometimes obedience precedes belief. However, with each step of either obedience or belief, God is gently, steadily, and lovingly guiding me to a deeper and deeper understanding of faith.
I was about 8 years old the first time I remember noticing that milestone of obedience. For several years I had the privilege of attending an international school in Kumasi, Ghana. I loved everything about Ridge School—my teachers, the schoolwork (yes, I'm being truthful!), the Star Chart, the music class, the math drills, and the students . . . well, most of the students. Somewhere along the way one of those students, a little blonde, blue-eyed German girl named Fray, became my enemy.
Why is it so easy to make an enemy and yet forget how the conflict began? Something must have happened to make Fray and me angry with each other. I don't remember the details, but I do remember the consequences: Fray and I became enemies. As a result of our conflict, we both recruited "teams" to make each other miserable at recess. Fray had a team of three or four girls on her side, and I had a team of three or four girls on my side. Each day at recess, we'd pretend we were hiding and plotting in our "enemy camps," and then we would chase each other. It was all juvenile and silly, but we took it very seriously. Eight-year-old girls tend to be quite serious about such things you know. (We learn quickly, don't we?)
The "war" became more and more bitter. There was no winning—only fighting.
One day I told my mother about these recess battles and my conflict with Fray. Mother's response shocked me. She told me I had to love my enemy: I must love Fray. Mother told me it was wrong to hate and that my actions were not acceptable to God.
I understood the basic principle—that love is good and hate is bad—but I did not understand why in the world I had to love Fray. Mother had never given me any reason to doubt that she was truthful, but in this instance I did not believe that what my mother said was true. I did not believe that love could win a war.
God gave me wise parents. My wise mother did not offer this solution as a suggestion; it was a command. Mother said we needed to believe God's Word, and God's Word said to love our enemies, and she wanted me to love Fray and see what God would do.
At that point I had a choice: obey or disobey my mother. I chose to obey . . . reluctantly. I believe that was my first lesson in faith: obedience. I didn't agree with the concept of loving my enemy, and I definitely did not believe that a decision to love my enemy would make any difference at all (except that Fray would get to gloat and declare "victory"), but I took a step forward in my journey of faith: I obeyed my mother. And my mother was obeying God's Word, so indirectly I, too, was obeying God's Word.
The next day at school, I wasn't mean to Fray. I told my fellow warriors that I was disbanding our army; the war was over for me. I didn't feel any differently about Fray, but I did my best to love her, which at that point meant simply to stop despising her.
I still begin to cry when I picture the scene that took place a few weeks later. I was sitting alone on the concrete steps outside my classroom, at recess, watching the other children run and play. Fray came up to me. She smiled at me. I smiled back. We were no longer enemies.
I can't explain what God did in that situation, but He did it slowly, gently, and thoroughly. Love did win the war. I had passed my first milestone in faith: obedience. When Mother came to pick me up after school that afternoon, I remember running to the car to tell her about it as fast as I could get the words out: "Mother! Mother! Fray came up and talked to me today at recess! Mother, she's not mad at me any more! Isn't it wonderful?! Mother, you were right!"
Oswald Chambers puts it this way: "The promises of God are of no value to us until by obedience we understand the nature of God. We read some things in the Bible three hundred and sixty-five times and they mean nothing to us, then all of a sudden we see what God means, because in some particular we have obeyed God, and instantly His nature is opened up. . . . "
We all know that seeing is believing, but the Bible says that faith is believing—sometimes without seeing: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1) A second milestone along the journey of faith is belief, and I have a distinct memory of the first time I remember passing it. One year when my family was on furlough, we lived with my grandmother for a few months. Her attic had no source of heat, and remember, I was used to tropical weather. So, one wintry night when I could still see my breath hanging in the air in front of me when I was inside—I got worried!
I remember being astonished when I was told that I was supposed to sleep in that freeeeeeeeeeeezing room—all night! I'm sure I was complaining to my sweet little grandmother as she tucked me in. As I recall, our conversation went something like this:
"But it's so c-c-c-c-cold, Grandmother! How can I sleep up here?" I whined.
"Now, Donna, you just wait a little while, and pretty soon, you'll warm up."
"But Grandmother, how will I warm up? I'm freezing!"
"Sweetheart, I'm going to put all of these nice, soft comforters on top of you, and pretty soon, you'll be nice and toasty under there. You won't be cold at all."
I didn't believe her. "How will I get warm, Grandmother?"
"Well, Honey, the warmth from your own body will do the job. These comforters will just help keep in the heat you already have!"
That didn't make any sense to me. How could my cold, shivering little body warm me up? It was illogical. However, my obedience was not an issue this time. (I would stay in that bed, even if I froze to death; I had matured in my understanding of obedience.)
But that was the first time I can remember choosing to believe something I could not see. Of course I had made that choice—to believe—many, many times before, but for some reason this memory made an extra big impression. I chose to believe that I would warm up—just because Grandmother told me to believe it.
Grandmother must have piled every comforter she owned on top of me that night. And guess what? I warmed up! As I chose to believe my trustworthy Grandmother and stayed in that cold bed, I took one more step forward on the journey of faith.
What Is Faith?
What is faith? It is a decision to obey that which is true. Oswald Chambers, a man of great faith, said, "If I obey Jesus Christ, the Redemption of God will rush through me to other lives, because behind the deed of obedience is the Reality of Almighty God."2 He spoke words of truth. He also had a keen understanding of faith, which he described as follows:
Common sense is not faith, and faith is not common sense . . . . Faith must be tried before the reality of faith is actual. . . . For every detail of the common-sense life, there is a revelation fact of God whereby we can prove in practical experience what we believe God to be.
Faith is a tremendously active principle which always puts Jesus Christ first—Lord, Thou has said so and so . . . ; it looks mad, but I am going to venture on Thy word. To turn head faith into a personal possession is a fight always, not sometimes. God brings us into circumstances in order to educate our faith, because the nature of faith is to make its object real. Until we know Jesus, God is a mere abstraction, we can not have faith in Him; but immediately we hear Jesus say—"He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father," we have something that is real, and faith is boundless. Faith is the whole man rightly related to God by the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.3
Did you catch that last statement? He said, "Faith is the whole man rightly related to God by the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ."
What is faith? It's a relationship with our Father, through His Son and His Spirit. Faith is also evidence of things not seen in the physical domain yet seen in the spiritual domain, including belief and obedience.
Stay on the Path
My journey of faith has taken me through some new territory in the past three or four years: great upheaval, physical suffering, depression, hopelessness, and confusion. Nonetheless, by God's grace I will keep pressing forward on the journey and keep passing those milestones: I will choose to obey, and I will choose to believe. I will have faith in God, Who never leaves me nor forsakes me. I will choose to love my enemies, and I will believe that what God says is true—even if I can't "see" it yet.
Two simple stories. Two significant milestones. An ongoing journey of faith. He leadeth me, and He leadeth you, too, and we, His children, follow Him. Let's stay on the path—by faith.
Can you recall your first steps on the journey of faith?
I encourage you to set aside some time to wait on the Lord—in a quiet place, all by yourself. Quiet your soul and listen with your heart. Ask your heavenly Father to remind you of ways that He has taught you lessons of belief and lessons of obedience as He has matured your faith. Write down the memories as they come to mind. Thank Him, and ask Him to continue to guide you "in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." (Psalm 23:3)
Your Father can show you ways that He has taught you His lessons. He leadeth us; by His own hand He leadeth us. Meditate on these precious truths from God's Word.
"Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations." Deuteronomy 7:9
"And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it." I Thessalonians 5:23-24
"Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." I Peter 1:18-23
"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Hebrews 11:6
"Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him." Hebrews 5:8-9
"Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me." Hebrews 13:5-6
He Leadeth Me
He leadeth me, O blessed thought!
O words with heav'nly comfort fraught!
Whate'er I do, where'er I be
Still 'tis God's hand that leadeth me.
He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.
Sometimes mid scenes of deepest gloom,
Sometimes where Eden's bowers bloom,
By waters still, over troubled sea,
Still 'tis His hand that leadeth me.
Lord, I would place my hand in Thine,
Nor ever murmur nor repine;
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since 'tis my God that leadeth me.
And when my task on earth is done,
When by Thy grace the vict'ry's won,
E'en death's cold wave I will not flee,
Since God through Jordan leadeth me.
*First published on September 7, 2009.
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Donna and her husband Timus have been blessed with the privilege of educating both of their children at home, depending daily on God's grace for wisdom and strength. They take great delight in encouraging families who are currently enjoying that adventure! Donna is TOS's General Editor.
Copyright 2009. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Summer 2009. Used with permission. Visit them at www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com. Catch the TOS Summer Bouquet of 19 exceptional gifts—yours FREE when you subscribe to or renew a two-year subscription to The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine!