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Conceptual Skills for Faithful Living

Seeing what is coming far off and what is behind you in the mirror is critical to effective driving. It is, however, the spiritual lessons of how we navigate in life that I would like to discuss this month.
By DAVE JENNINGS
Read Time: 6 minutes

When I first started learning to drive in 1970, my dad, seated next to me in the front passenger seat, used to ask me where on the road I was looking while I was steering. I told him I was looking about 20 yards in front of the car so that I could avoid hitting anything.

He properly instructed me that I could not do anything about what was happening 20 yards in front of the car when I was traveling at 50 MPH. He said, “You don’t drive, looking at the hood ornament!”(For our younger readers, in the past some cars had a decorative “ornament” on the front of the hood.)

I soon realized the value of this counsel as a motorist. Seeing what is coming far off and what is behind you in the mirror is critical to effective driving. It is, however, the spiritual lessons of how we navigate in life that I would like to discuss this month.

IN THE REAR-VIEW MIRROR

The first skill we can all employ is the ability to look backward and see the hand of God in our lives. Doing so gives us great reinforcement about the bumps in the road today. Each of us can recall countless examples where in key moments of need, it was the hand of the LORD that delivered us.

How many times has He already demonstrated to us His love and care during times of great uncertainty and risk? David spoke of how under painful duress from an enemy, his “spirit was overwhelmed” and his heart was “desolate.” (Psa 143:4). In his moment of need, how did he regain his spiritual resolve? He looked backward:

“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands.” (v. 5).

David knew that God would deliver him from the present enemy because he had already delivered him from several enemies. Abraham, when considering the judgment of God on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, could look back at the faithful and righteous acts of God and declare, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen 18:25).

How many times has God already demonstrated to us His love

When we find ourselves boxed in and feeling like we have no way out, look in the rearview mirror. Recall where you have been. Do you not have ample evidence to trust in God rather than yourself? This was the frequent message of God to the people of Israel. When they came to the desert of Sinai, God regularly reminded them when they faced challenges of faith that His powerful hand had delivered them from the Pharaoh of Egypt. He intended this to be evidence for them to move forward in confidence.

BEYOND THE HOOD ORNAMENT

Another skill we learn early in life is how to make plans. We acknowledge that not everything can be done today, so we measure out our responsibilities into days, weeks, months and even years. Similarly, we learn this essential skill in our spiritual lives.

We recognize that life is not only defined by the present but also by what the future will bring. The potholes that are right under us may be unavoidable. The bumps can easily dominate our perspective. A spiritual life that is focused only on the view of the “hood ornament” is surely at risk. Reading through the prophets’ messages, I am struck by just how well this concept is conveyed. Isaiah, for example, had some difficult messages for the sinful nation of Israel, a “people laden with iniquity.” (Isa 1:4).

The need for repentance was urgent, and the consequences for not turning to God were significant. Yet, as Isaiah’s prophecy unfolds, he supplements beautiful visions of redemption with these warnings. Some of the best illustrations of the future Kingdom of God are provided often just after a pointed exhortation for repentance.

Look beyond the present to the glory of the future

This repetition is frequently seen in the words of the prophets. There must be a lesson for us in this stylistic teaching. Of course, our best lesson about having a future focus when dealing with present difficulties is the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. Faced with great challenges of his faith, how did he not grow weary? How was he able to bear through being reviled and suffering wrongfully? (1 Pet 2:20-23).

I believe his ability was due in large part to his future vision. We are told that the exhortation and example for our lives is.

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2).

This is how God encourages us to think. Don’t have a myopic or shortsighted view of your life. Look beyond the present to the glory of the future. The faithful characters of Hebrews 11 illustrate this. One example, Moses, looked beyond the immediate opportunity for fame and fortune in Egypt, “esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt” (v. 26). These faithful,

“having seen them afar off, were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” (v. 13).

Being able to see what lies ahead is a keystone for our faith.

HOW CAN THIS CHANGE OUR PERSPECTIVE OF PRESENT DISTRESS?

When we self-examine, what we perceive about our lack of faith may lead to great disappointment. We can be overwhelmed with a sense of failure as we see the insidiousness of our carnal mind and sinful behaviors. We can walk away from the Breaking of Bread service with our chins on our chests, feeling quite overwhelmed. David, facing his personal failure, said,

“For mine iniquities are gone over my head: as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.” (Psa 38:4).

But when we embrace the wonder of grace in our lives, we realize at the conclusion of our memorial service that we should instead be filled with joy. We have been forgiven, and the victory is the LORD’s, not ours. David emerged from his anxiety by recognizing that his hope was in the LORD, not himself. (Psa 39:7).

When we embrace the wonder of grace in our lives, we realize that we should be filled with joy.

The Apostle Paul, with great precision, went through the painful diagnosis of his own failures in sin. He saw the domination of his flesh over his spirit and described it as an agonizing experience. He rightly recognized that he was a “wretched man.” (Rom 7:24). However, Paul could look beyond his individual failures to the Lord’s success and be assured of deliverance in Christ Jesus. It was the “gift of God” that would deliver him from “the wages of sin.” (Rom 6:23).

When Israel assessed the Second Temple at the time of Zerubbabel, the sound of those rejoicing was matched by those who were weeping. Many had seen the prior glory and splendor of Solomon’s Temple. Those who wept saw the current Temple as being “in comparison as nothing.” (Hag 2:3).

The current Temple was built with serviceable wood from local forests, rather than the impressive “cedars of Lebanon.” It lacked many of the appointments of Solomon’s Temple. Beyond this, Israel was still under the control of a foreign power and continued to fall short of its mission to be a light to the world. Haggai rightly tells them to take their eyes off the imperfections and limitations of the present Temple and look to the day when the “desire of all nations shall come.” (v. 7).

A day was coming that they needed to fix firmly in their minds—a day of redemption and exaltation of Jerusalem beyond any of the glories of Solomon’s day, a time when “the glory of this latter house shall be greater than the former.” (Hag 2:9).

THE EYE OF FAITH

Seeing what God has done and what He will do changes our view of the road before us. We see our own imperfections but know that we are being changed into the image of our Lord. “We are his workmanship.” (Eph 2:10). Through the eye of faith, we can see over the horizon to a time when, by the grace of God, we shall be like him.

We can apply the same principle to our brothers and sisters, who are also on a transformational journey under the care of our LORD. When our ecclesias fall short of divine standards, it can be demoralizing, especially if we drive looking at the hood ornament. The eye of faith can see fellowship far beyond our human ecclesial organization, to a time when we as kings and priests free from the flesh, will beautifully collaborate, to lead a world to righteousness.

While most people reject our proclamation today, we know that in the Kingdom of our LORD, we will be to the nations,

“a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a rock in a weary land.” (Isa 32:2).

We must cultivate these vision skills in our lives. They lead to a godly perspective about our present imperfections and to confidence about what God has already done and will do for us all. What lies beyond the hood ornament is our destiny and what we must keep our eyes focused on.

Today we live in a world that lives primarily “in the moment.” Mankind lacks a vision of God’s power and His plan and purpose. The future glory of the Kingdom is a bright light that has illuminated all ages. It is still the answer today. Let’s make a point to describe that beautiful vision to all who will listen. There is nothing today that compares. As the Apostle Paul wrote,

“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor 2:9).

That is what lies beyond the hood ornament.

Dave Jennings

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