There are people who believe in conviction, and others who live by it.
Don’t believe me?
Watch the Olympics from Sochi, Russia, starting in February and see if you don’t change your mind. Nowhere is the determination to win more pronounced than watching elite athletes compete. Hearing the stories of hardship and sacrifice they endure just to reach the Olympics only adds to the sweetness of the victories that follow. Some athletes compete just inches away from the best of the best who threaten their life-long dreams and Olympic hopes. Others race against unseen opponents ~ against insecurity, doubt, failure, trauma, and loss. Any of those can melt gold medal dreams just as surely as another athlete can. Google “Dan Jansen’s Olympic story” for one of the most determined battles ever fought by an Olympian, and you’ll see a man who lived by the conviction that he was, indeed, worthy of a gold medal.
This year I’ve set out to live my life deliberately. It is my belief that living deliberately is possible, but will I? Will I actually live by the conviction I’ve said I hold? Will I walk that out in tangible steps? Will I go all the way to half way, or half way to all the way? Will I settle for something less than my everything?
Abraham did, and I’ve been thinking a lot about him over the past few days. Abraham stopped short of giving his all when he had the chance to soar to the “finish line.” He was called by God to join the journey of a lifetime and he sort of obeyed, but then he stopped. He stopped and settled for something less.
Ack! I hate the thought of settling for something. I never want to be “that person” who settles for less than God’s best, but I am…and I do…
All. The. Time.
How is that possible? By redefining God’s instructions so that I follow my own acceptable “interpretation” of them instead of obeying what He actually told me to do. It’s what Abram did. You know, Abram before he was Abraham in the Old Testament.
In Acts 7:2 Stephen recounts God’s call to Abram: “Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.’”
How hard was that? There were just three parts to God’s call to Abram: 1) leave your country, 2) leave your relatives, and 3) come into the land God will show you.
By the time it plays out in Genesis 11, it looks totally different than what God had intended. Genesis 11:31 says, “Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans in order to enter the land of Canaan; and they went as far as Haran, and settled there. The days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.”
What the heck?
Terah’s leading the tribe to Canaan? Yes, Terah, Abram’s father, took control of God’s call to his son and led the family out of Ur. It’s never a good sign when someone usurps God’s call to another and claims it as his own. Terah was not called, nor was he equipped to follow God’s leading because God was not leading him; God was leading Abram!
Because Abram abdicated his spiritual authority to his father, other family members joined the entourage even though Abram was told to go alone.
Finally, because Terah was leading the clan, they only went as far as Haran even though they all knew they were supposed to go all the way to Canaan. Not only did they stop in Haran, they settled there. They went all the way to halfway. God called, but Abram only partially obeyed.
Partial obedience is an oxymoron; there is no such thing.
KEY #4 TO LIVING DELIBERATELY ~ DODGE THE DITCH AND AVOID THE DETOUR
Between God’s call and Abram’s obedience is a ditch of temptation and a detour of disobedience. Because Abram abdicated and became a spectator to God’s plan for his own life, he ended up in Haran – a place God had not called him to accompanied by people he was not supposed to be with. Haran was a totally unnecessary detour along Abram’s journey with the Lord.
Have you taken unnecessary detours in your walk with God? I know I have.
Giving into temptation can slide us off in a ditch and result in discouraging detours along the roadside of our journey with Jesus. Here are some options when temptation shows up:
- Resist it ~ James 4:7
- Flee from it ~ 1 Timothy 6:11
- Opt out of it ~ 1 Corinthians 10:13 (doors of escape)
- Overcome it by the power of the Word ~ Luke 4:4,8,12
Any of the four options will do it. As believers in Jesus Christ we are never, ever at the mercy of temptation. “We are overcomers!” as one of my new friends from Nigeria reminded me last week (1 John 2:14). He is right; we are overcomers. Jesus saved us to be overcomers, not victims of circumstance.
Remember the goal we are focusing on as we walk through the challenge of living deliberately in 2014: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
We walk after God’s purpose, not our own. To live deliberately, I cannot allow temptation to hijack my pursuit of God’s purpose for my life.
Fortunately for Abram, God is merciful and reconnects with him after his father dies and reboots the journey. Genesis 12:4 says, “So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him…” When God gives us specific instructions, it is vital that we obey them exactly as they come. Even our intended kindness to others can become a hindrance if God is not calling us to it. By the time Abram finally obeyed God’s call, he was saddled with his nephew, Lot, who became an albatross around Abram’s neck, and a constant irritation to the descendants who came after them.
I don’t know what comes to your mind when you think about dodging a ditch of temptation, but here’s a picture I’ve been meditating on for the last week or so. It comes from our discussion on Key #1 to living deliberately: Remain Present in the Present. You might put other kinds of temptations in your ditch on the left or the right, but this is where my battleground is at the moment.
I’ve challenged myself to remain present in the present during 2014. Because of that, one ditch threatens to pull me back to my past when things were “easier,” “better,” and “more fulfilling.” It’s not true, but that’s the temptation. Philippians 3:13 counters that lie with the truth, “…one thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Dwelling on the past will never get me to my finish line with Jesus.
Even if I avoid wallowing in the past, I can still be tempted by the ditch on the other side of the road, which is being riddled with anxiety about my future. Matthew 6:34 offers the comfort I need for that temptation: “So, do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
When I get to the end of my race on this earth, I want more than anything to be able to say with the Apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7
How do I do that? How do I keep the faith in a world hell-bent on my failure? I choose to live deliberately; I keep my eyes on the finish line. I focus my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. He is the reason I run and the reason I live. He is everything.
So, to help me avoid ditches and detours, I wrote some words on a 3 x 5 card and put them in my back pocket. Most of you use your phones for that ~ whatever ~ I have a 3 x 5 card addiction, so I use those. Whenever I feel drawn to one ditch or the other, I pull out my card to remind me that I am, indeed, an overcomer and worthy of the “gold medal” Jesus has for me at the end of my race.
What helps you complete what God is asking of you and make it all the way to the finish line instead of stopping halfway?
© Copyright, 2014 by Donna Tallman.