“I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more” but “I don’t need to walk around in circles, walk around in circles, walk around in…” However, “these boots were made for walkin’—so that’s just what I’ll do!”
For all 2 of you who understood those song references—congrats! For the rest of you, oh well. 😊
We are people who love to act! Our feet were made for walkin’, so that’s often what we do! Especially in this day of instant gratification, if something is taking too long (by our judgement), then we frequently try to force the issue. I can’t tell you how many times one of my kids is trying to do something on the iPad and if it takes a split second too long to load, they are quick to hit the button over and over again to try to make it work! I have to remind them to just give it a minute and then try again if need be.
But we are impulsive creatures, wanting things right when we want them. Life is short! There’s no time to waste! Time is money! Just do it! These mantras call us to action. Or perhaps we’ve created these mantras as a reflection of an internal drive to act that we already possessed…
Chicken or egg—it doesn’t matter. We are action people! But sometimes when I’m acting, or about to take a step, I begin to wonder if it’s really what I’m supposed to be doing. This question always remains: should I be waiting on the Lord, or doing something? In my previous post I addressed the first part of that question: why am I waiting? This post addresses the second part: why am I walking?
There are times when I am in the middle of doing something and I pause, suddenly wondering if I’m on the right track. Perhaps it’s because I’ve met more resistance than I expected, or it’s just not turning out how I thought it would. Or maybe things are great but I’m suddenly uneasy. I may have confidently taken that first step in faith, but as I keep walking down the path I question all of it. Did I not hear God correctly? Am I doing what I wanted to do and just tried to convince myself it was God’s voice? Why am I walking?
Or maybe I’m about to act in faith and I have last-minute doubts. I pray for more insight and confirmation, but am met with silence. Is it because God has already told me to take a step and now wants me to move forward in faith? Or perhaps the silence is indication that deep-down I know that I should be waiting on Him? So why am I walking?
Let’s look at a couple of Bible stories that show the consequences of taking steps: both positive and negative. The Abraham/Ishmael Story and the Widow with the Jars of Oil:
Genesis 15 shows the Lord promising Abraham (at that time named Abram) that he would have an heir of his own flesh and blood, even though he did not have any children. Genesis 16 picks up years later, and Abraham still does not have any children:
“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife.
11 The angel of the Lord also said to her (Hagar): “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. 12 He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”
15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne.”
God made a promise to Abraham, but after years of it failing to come to pass, his wife was impatient. She made a somewhat logical argument for the day—that Hagar should act as a surrogate. Since Abraham was supposed to have a son, but did not have one, perhaps they needed to make it happen in a more creative way. But after the baby was conceived, an angel said that he would “live in hostility toward all his brothers”. Clearly, he was not the promised son.
14 years later, in Genesis 21, God fulfills His promise to Abraham in His own way and timing. I wonder, during those 14 years, if Abraham and Sarah believed Ishmael to be the heir that God had spoken of in Genesis 15. As he grew up in their midst did they think him unworthy to continue on their legacy? Did they even realize their disobedience in doubting God? They acted, when they should have waited.
Now for another story, this one from 2 Kings 4:
The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”
2 Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”
“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”
3 Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. 4 Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”
5 She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. 6 When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”
But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.
7 She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”
The widow acted as well. She brought her problematic situation to a man of God and was given instructions about what to do. The instructions were unexpected and not something she would have been likely to think of on her own. But she acted and was therefore blessed because of those actions. The Lord is willing and able to provide for us, but sometimes He calls us to take certain steps of faith before we see any provision. She had to go around and ask for empty jars, and then begin pouring from her full jar, before anything miraculous happened.
Both stories showed action, and yet the outcomes of each were very different. How can we determine whether or not we are supposed to be moving or standing still? Below are some questions we can use to think and pray through in order to come to a wise decision:
Who am I listening to? Just like in the “Why am I Waiting” article, we should remind ourselves where we got the idea to act in the first place. Abraham listened to unsolicited advice from his wife, and it turned out to be unwise advice. The widow also listened to a person, but this person was a prophet—a well-known conduit of Godly wisdom. If I am questioning my actions, I should revisit the idea source. Was it the logical thing to do given the circumstances? Was it something a friend suggested? Was it a conviction placed on my heart? All of these might be valid, but we should prioritize our Godly convictions or Godly promptings above other sources of inspiration.
Am I comfortable? Does what I’m doing feel comfortable? Did I begin moving forward because it was the comfortable option—easier to move than to wait? Was I trying to take control of a situation that was not mine to control? God calls us to obedience, not comfort, so it’s likely that if we are taking action that leads to direct comfort, it may not be in accordance with His will. It doesn’t necessarily mean we are doing something bad, it just might not be best.
Abraham chose the comfort of control. He found a way to give himself an heir, so he did! It just wasn’t the heir that God had intended. However, the widow’s actions probably took her outside of her comfort zone. She had to go around to her neighbors and ask for empty jars. I’m sure some criticized or questioned her along the way because they did not believe in her task.
Do I believe I was called to do something, but now I doubt it because it is uncomfortable? Perhaps it is taking longer than I thought it would to see any results, and that is why I am questioning it now. If I still feel conviction to move forward, then pushing through the discomfort will likely lead to the joy of obedience.
What is the root of my reflex? Did I act because of a fleshly impulse? Like someone who is quick to become angry, did I jump into action when the mood struck? Impatience, fear, boredom, desire to be noticed, or any need of the flesh can trigger action without us even realizing it! I find that I am quite good at tricking myself when I want to! Abraham and Sarah were likely getting impatient with the Lord’s timing and so they acted reflexively.
On the other hand, the widow’s actions were a result of spiritual prompting. She was spiritually guided to do the things she did—they were not actions driven by the flesh! Am I acting in a way that surprises even me? Did I impulsively go outside of my comfort zone and find myself volunteer for something that almost goes against my fleshly instinct? Did I have inexplicable inspiration to reach out to someone and tell them something even though it sounded weird or out of context? This can be an indication that my actions are being guided by the Holy Spirit and are spiritual impulses.
What about you? Are you in the middle of doing something for the Lord but are questioning why you are doing it? Or about to take a step in faith but wonder at your motives? Why are you walking?
- Why are you involved with that ministry? Is it because God laid it on your heart and you found yourself drawn to it? Or is it because people have guilted you into it?
- Why are you filling out job applications? Is it because you feel convicted to take that step? Or are you acting out of fear that God will not provide otherwise?
- Why are you continuing to pursue a dream even though you are not seeing any fruit? Is it because you have confidence that God is developing your character and calling you to obedience? Or is it because things have become routine and comfortable and you don’t want to admit that a change is needed?
Looking closely at the reasons we are walking can help us determine if we should continue on, or stop and wait. Frequently I know the answer when I really take a moment to think about it—I just may have been fearful to admit it to myself. Praying through the process can help give me both confidence and a submissive heart to wait in faith or walk in faith. I want to learn to be better in sync with the Holy Spirit so that when He says “go” I go, and when He says “wait” I wait.
James 4:17 “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”
Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”