Have you ever walked through a time of frustration and doubt, but couldn’t put your finger on why? Well of course you have. Haven’t we all experienced a time of discouragement without fully understanding the source? I was there recently and the Lord’s Word helped me to realize the source of my problem was a wrong vision of success and the future.
Recently, I studied the individual lives of men and women in the Old Testament where there is a detailed record of their walks with God. The list of people who experienced the unexpected in their journeys and had their ideas of the future challenged, is very long. I want to briefly focus on two. I am not trying to draw your attention to the purpose of adversity, but rather to how these saints may have perceived future success.
Let’s start with Abraham. I wonder what future Abraham pictured for himself when God instructed him to journey to the land that God would show him (Gen. 12:1)? What did Abraham say to Sarah? “Hey honey. Let’s get packed. I am not sure where we will end up but God said He would show us the way.” Did Abraham have goals and dreams? Did Abraham begin to question his picture of the future when he feared Pharaoh would take Sarah or when Abraham had to rescue Lot and his family? What about the strife between Sarah and Hagar? When commanded by God to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham was able, by faith, to envision a future in which God honored His promise to bless Abraham through Isaac’s offspring (Hebrews 11:17-19).
How about Joseph? He had the dream that one day his brothers would bow down before him. How did he picture his future? The Bible doesn’t tell us if Joseph grew discouraged when he was sold into slavery or when he was falsely accused of raping Potiphar’s wife then thrown in prison. Surely he must have. We don’t know precisely when Joseph came to the realization that the evil that befell him, God used for good. On the backside of all the challenges that lead to Joseph becoming second only to Pharaoh, Joseph spoke about the connection to God’s sovereignty and goodness. Joseph said to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20). He was able to trace God’s finger in retrospect.
What happens when our preferred outcome or our vision of the future destination doesn’t line up with God’s plan for our lives? What happens when we superimpose our preferred outcome as if it is God’s plan? What are the consequences of becoming wrapped up in an outcome God never intended?
At times, my focus has become so entrenched on my desired future outcome, I had convinced myself that my plan was God’s will. When that outcome didn’t come into focus like I expected, I was frustrated and discouraged. Through Scripture, the Lord helped me realize that I must stay focused on working for His kingdom, but to leave the results to Him. By faith I desire His outcomes and destination for my life. What a burden lifted! Holy ambition is good, but we need to remember, “God gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:5-9) and “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
Miracle: Jesus Heals a Man of Dropsy on the Sabbath (Luke 14:1-14)
Jesus had constant conflict with the Pharisees over a variety of issues. He had harshly condemned them because of their hypocrisy, greed and wickedness (Matthew 23). In light of the ongoing enmity, why did they invite Him to dinner (Luke 11:37-52) and why did He accept their invitation?