STEP BY STEP
“Where do we go from here?” Not infrequently we reach those places in life where we ask ourselves this question. The way before us seems obscure, and the indicators we look to for guidance point almost every direction. The challenges we face seem overwhelming in view of our little strength. “Where can we go to find the strength to valiantly keep on trying?” (Helen Steiner Rice)
It has been said that almost any problem is manageable if broken into small enough parts. Jesus clearly understands our limitations and knows that we are able to bear only so much at any given moment. He divides into small pieces the large tasks we face. Shortly before His death, He told His disciples, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now” (John 16:12). With that same understanding and patience, Jesus deals with us today.
At any time in our lives, Jesus would say to us, “I have yet many things to say to you.” We never outgrow the need of His teaching. Even as we sincerely try to follow Jesus’ example, we simply do not see all that Christian life entails. We intend to be valiant soldiers of the cross, and we think we are brave and true, but we have not fully considered two major adversaries: our carnal natures and Satan.
Learning any skill is a step by step process. If a schoolteacher would announce to her first grade students, “Today we are going to learn to read,” and would lay a fourth grade reader on each student’s desk and say, “Okay, let’s read,” her pupils would despair. Instead she says, “Today we will learn the letters A and B.” The next day she teaches them a few more letters. She introduces, one by one, the phonetic sounds of the vowels and consonants and their combinations. Soon her students are reading simple words and then simple sentences. One step at a time, they learn to read.
A teenager learning to drive a vehicle may easily catch on to the rudiments of acceleration and steering. With increasing self-confidence, he cruises down the road, gaining momentum as he goes. Suddenly, he comes to an unexpected curve in the road or some hazard in his way. Unprepared, he may momentarily not find the brake pedal and, when he does, may apply it much too sharply, creating problems he has not anticipated. One does not know how to drive until he knows how to stop.
Similarly, in our human self-confidence and shortsightedness, we often overlook basic things we need to know about Christian life. We would like to assume we know a lot when, in reality, we know very little. Depending on our personalities, we may need to learn when to speak up and when to be silent, what matters we can endeavor to change and which we must leave to God and prayer. We, also, do not know how to follow until we know when to pause.
It is God’s plan to lead His children further, deeper, and higher in understanding and obedience. We are assured by His Word that He who has begun a good work in us will carry it on to completion (Phil. 1:6). He does this with patience, always taking into consideration how much or little we know and what we are able to bear. We must be sure that the “work began in us” is of God and not of some alien source. We must take each step as God reveals it to us.
God often shows us only one step at a time. As we try to see what might lie ahead two months or a year from now, God is saying, “You do not need to see that far. If you could, it would only bewilder and confuse you. But there is one step you can see. Just take it. Then I will show you another.” God does not often show us step three until we have taken step two. Only as we have taken step three are we equipped to take step four.
Christian life begins and continues with basic steps that follow one after the other. We must repent of our sins and be granted a new birth through Christ. We then lay a foundation by studying and understanding the doctrine of the Word. We learn to trust God and to love Him and our fellowmen, even in difficult circumstances. We are led into new areas of service.
Some of these steps are so fundamental that they must be taken before the next can be experienced. Others may be taken somewhat simultaneously but will, nevertheless, come through day by day, step by step, revelation, obedience, and learning.
These major, basic steps are further broken into still smaller ones for our uncertain feet. When we are bewildered by the challenge before us, God says, “Pray.” When we are not sure how to make a decision, God says, “Ask advice of a friend.” If we are unsure just what to do next, the thought steals into our consciousness, “You could try this approach.” Perhaps His answer will be, “Confess your fault in this problem,” or, “Make a public declaration of your new determination.”
Life as a Christian will bring both expected and unanticipated challenges. We will need to overcome a spiritual weakness or besetting sin. We may need to learn how to face life after some devastating loss. New responsibilities will be laid on our shoulders. Something that has hurt us to the core of our hearts must be forgiven. Marriage and child training may bring tests and tension into our lives. Financial decisions, with much at stake, will need to be made.
In these circumstances, and in many others, we will not be able to see as far ahead as we would like or think necessary. Our desires and efforts to see into the future will be futile. In those times, may we listen for a quiet voice that says, “My child, there are many things I would like to teach you, but you could not understand them all now. But here is one step you may take, and when you have taken it, I will show you another.”
Our natural and spiritual lives are designed to be lived step by step, hour by hour. Each step carries us closer to a real goal. And sometimes after many small steps, we lift up our eyes and realize we are approaching some goal. The journey that seemed insurmountable is almost done!
From Messenger of Truth, Vol. 115, No. 06, March 15, 2017