One Sunday, I sat down on the platform of my church in panic mode. I was anxiously flipping through my Bible. I wasn’t looking for a sermon. I was looking for a word from the Lord for me. That Sunday morning, I felt like the whole world was crashing down on me. I opened my Bible to the first Psalm I could find and began to read. My eyes fell on Psalm 62:8. Trust in the Lord at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him.
That verse sank deep into my heart. Trust in the Lord at all times. I was to trust Him in the good and in the bad. I was to trust in the calm moments and even when my heart was in panic mode. That morning, I poured out my heart in desperate silence, as a whole congregation looked on. I had to preach, but I wanted to just run.
When God calls us to follow, the way isn’t always easy. God has His reasons for taking us down the road of difficulty. When He does, we must obediently follow. If we are to follow Him, we must trust Him. We must trust Him at all times and under all circumstances. The key to recognizing God’s leadership is confident trust and step by step obedience. The moment you fail to trust Him, is the moment you will fail to follow.
Allow me to share with you some principles of trusting God’s leadership. As a biblical basis for these principles, I refer you to the experience of the Israelites as they fled Egypt.
When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea… By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. 13:17-18a; 21-22 (NASB)
Did God lead the children of Israel to leave Egypt? Yes! It was clearly a directive from the Lord! They were powerfully delivered. God’s hand was all over their journey. But that journey was not without difficulty. In fact, God led them into difficulty. He also steered them away from other difficulties He knew their hearts were not ready to face.
There was no denying the fact of God’s leadership, and He purposefully directed them to the Red Sea. Has your journey of following God brought you to a Red Sea place in your life?
The only thing that will keep you following God when your way grows difficult, is the absolute certainty that you followed God to that place. You must know, as you stand in the face of difficulty, that you are standing in the center of His will. Therefore, on the front end of any decision you make, you must:
Establish firmly in your heart the fact of God’s leadership.
Before you begin your journey, there are some very important questions you must settle up front. Can you trust God’s leadership? Will He lead you wisely and safely and securely? Is it safe to follow God? Can you travel with confidence the road He has marked for you to travel?
That God does lead His people has been established. But can YOU trust His leadership? You will never go with God until that question has been settled! The way God leads you will not always be a way of success, or prosperity, or comfort. It may be a way of great difficulty. Because of the trials you face as you travel that road, you may be tempted to abandon your journey.
As you look down the road God is asking you to travel, you may envision some of those difficulties. When God called the children of Israel to go forward by faith into the Promised Land, a group of men came back with a report of certain difficulties that would make their obedience impossible. The result of their disobedience cost the entire nation forty years in the wilderness.
This brings up another important consideration:
Never base your decision to follow God on what you know up front.
God’s leadership is based on His foreknowledge. That means that there are some things God knows that you don’t. When God calls you to do something, every factor that needs to be taken into consideration for you to answer His call has already been taken into consideration.
The Bible clearly says that God didn’t lead them by the shorter route because He already knew how they would respond should they encounter war. He knows what we can handle and what we can’t! God also knew in advance how Pharaoh would respond.
Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’ And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them… Exodus14:3-4a (NASB)
When God speaks to you about an assignment you must trust His foreknowledge over the difficulties you see as you consider your obedience. An example of this comes from the New Testament when Jesus asked Philip where they would get bread to feed thousands of people. Jesus asked, “Where are we to buy bread that these may eat?” Philip was at a loss! He knew they would never be able to afford that much bread, and he said so. But the Bible said Jesus was testing him because He Himself already knew what He was intending to do. (John 6:5-6)
When the Lord gives you an assignment, don’t ask questions! Obey! Don’t ponder the difficulties! Take a step of faith. Never base your decision to follow God on what you know. Follow God’s leadership even if it defies your own logic. God knows something that you don’t.
Camped at God’s command between the armies of Pharaoh and the Red Sea, the children of Israel appeared helpless. But God was on a mission.
I will gain glory for Myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord. 14:4 (NASB) God knew exactly what He was doing.
Let’s review our first two principles of trusting God’s leadership. First, establish firmly in your heart the fact of God’s leadership. Second, never base your decision to follow God on what you know up front.
Never question your sense of God’s Leadership due to difficulties you may encounter along the way.
When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” So he made his chariot ready and took his people with him; and he took six hundred select chariots, and all the otherchariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he chased after the sons of Israel as the sons of Israel were going out boldly. Then the Egyptians chased after them withall the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and they overtook them camping by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon. As Pharaoh drew near, the sons of Israel looked, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they became very frightened; so the sons of Israel cried out to the LORD. Exodus 14:5-10 (NASB)
While following God’s leadership, nothing ever overtakes us to the surprise of God. God sees it coming and has a plan to deal with our difficulty before we ever become aware it exists. Does God know the difficulties that you face today? Did those difficulties come as a result of following His leadership? Can you trust that He saw those difficulties before He sent you? Then don’t question God’s leadership because of your difficulties. Trust God in the face of them.
The children of Israel weren’t ready to do that. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone’ let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert. Exodus 14:11-12 (NASB)
Is it ever better to stay where you are than to follow God? Even though they were in a period of great difficulty they were right in the midst of God’s activity! You may be following God, and you suddenly find yourself face to face with some great trial, all because you followed Him. Is God able to handle the difficulties that we encounter as a result of following Him? This is one of the questions that you must settle your mind before you begin the journey.
There are three questions that you need to settle about the situation that you face today: First, did God lead? Are you where you are as a result of following God? Second, does God know? Was He fully aware of this difficulty when your journey began? Third, is God able? Can He handle what you are facing? Difficulties arise even when we are following God and standing in the center of His will. For that reason you must:
Always seek a word from God in the face of your difficulty.
Moses and the people faced an impossible situation that arose as a result of following God. How were they to respond? What they needed was a word from God. That word came in Exodus 14:13-15. They received three commands.
But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. “The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.” Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward. Exodus 14:13-15 (NASB)
Allow me to isolate those three commands. The first two came from Moses. He had a very clear sense of God’s leadership. Therefore, he was able to encourage his people.
The first command was “Fear Not!” C. H. MacIntosh, a Bible Scholar who lived in the 19th century, wrote: “Fear leads us to interpret God in the presence of the difficulty, instead of interpreting the difficulty in the presence of God Faith gets behind the difficulty and there finds God, in all His faithfulness love and power.”
The second command was “Stand Still!” Standing in the midst of difficulty, your heart will say run, but the Spirit will say wait. The God who brought you to this point will not abandon you! The problem you face may be beyond your ability, but it is not beyond His. He is able! You established that fact when your journey began.
Did God lead? Does He know? Is He able? Then stand still, and the Lord will fight for you while you keep silent. I have to admit that my heart often goes into panic mode. When it does, God always whispers the same word. For thus the LordGOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, “In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.” Isaiah 30:15 (NASB)
To stand still means to maintain your faith. It means to keep your eyes glued on God and your ear tuned to His voice. Trust His leadership. Wait for a word from Him, and when you hear it…
The third command came from God Himself. That third command was “Go Forward!” The “go forward” was issued before the sea was parted. The command called for faith. It called for faith that God would make a way when there seemed to be no way.
There are some things we will never learn about God until we stand with Him in the face of difficulty. If you run from the difficulty, you will never discover what God can do. If you find yourself in an impossible situation, it is the perfect situation for God to show you what only He can do.
Never forget that the God who sent you is with you to protect you along the way.
The angel of God, who had been going before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them. So it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel; and there was the cloud along with the darkness, yet it gave light at night. Thus the one did not come near the other all night. Exodus 14:19-20 (NASB)
God knows the road that you are traveling. He knows the circumstances that you face. If you will stand still, if you will trust Him in the midst of your circumstances, He will show you His power in a way that you have never seen it before.
There is no way I can know the circumstances you are facing as you read these words. But I know this, the promises of God are true. God is faithful. God is saying to you as you stand in the midst of your difficulty: “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”Hebrews 13:5 (NASB)
The difficulties God allows you to face, and your ultimate deliverance from difficulty, will bring honor to God’s name in your eyes and in the eyes of a watching world.
16 As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land. 17 As for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18 Then the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord, when I am honored through Pharaoh, through his chariots and his horsemen.”Exodus 14:16-18 (NASB)
Have you come to the Red Sea place in your life,
Where, in spite of all you can do.
There is no way out, there is no way back,
There is no other way but through?
Then wait on the Lord with a trust secure
Till the night of your fear is gone;
He will send the wind; He will keep the floods,
When He says to your soul, “Go on.”
Annie Johnston Flint
Photo by Kevin Wolf