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Pastoral Perspective - The Power of the First Step

10/06/2017


Stuck. Trapped. In a rut. The new day’s dawn slowly illuminated the same bleak landscape as the day before. All that stood between the two armies was a narrow valley floor, and the ground rose sharply in every direction. Like opposing teams in bleachers on each side of a playing field, the Philistines and the Israelites could clearly see each other. From their hiding places, the men of Saul’s army could tell that every trail and passage out was blocked by the enemy. As the sun rose higher, the contrast was clear. Piercing light glinted off the Philistine weapons on one side as the dull surface of farm implements was visible on the other. No light reflected off the tools the Israelite army used as weapons, and the countenance of each man in the army was even dimmer. But this day would be different.
The writer says the men of Israel were “in a strait”. It was a distressing situation and a literal example of being “between a rock and a hard place”. If the terrain would have been more level, perhaps the enemy would have already annihilated them all. It was much easier to keep the Israelites trapped, as “the people did hide themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits” (1 Samuel 13:6).
This day would be different because Jonathan took a step towards freedom. One man acted on the belief that God could work on his behalf, and everything changed. One step lined him up with the God that did not need a majority to do the miraculous.
It began as a frustration with present circumstances. This prince and his companion slipped away to the enemy garrison with nothing more than an understanding that God could do what they could not. A great victory was won that day, and it all hinged on a step being taken even though everyone else was hiding. God didn’t need their skills, but He provided victory when they took initiative to align themselves with what He could do.
It’s a spiritual principle that applies to every area of our life. If you want to see improvement, God will help you when you do what you can first. It is not presumptuous to attempt the impossible if it is anchored in a desire to see the hand of God at work. It may seem absurd to think that God’s involvement is contingent on our initial action, but it happened with Jonathan and it still happens today. It matters not if an individual is stuck or fearful, He is looking for someone willing to take a step in the right direction.
God had a great plan for Abram, but the details weren’t revealed until he took the first step.
The journey to the Promised Land involved crossing the Jordan River, but the children of Israel didn’t cross on dry land until after the priests took the first step into the water. Simon Peter had an invitation to walk on water, but first he had to step out of the boat.

There is a time to wait on God, but many times God waits on us. We want the entire journey mapped out in advance, but often the light for our path only illuminates the next step.
Many times we justify our lack of action with faulty thinking.
If God wanted me to stop engaging in this harmful behavior, then He would take away the desire.
If God wanted my marriage to succeed, He would fix it.
If God wanted me to eat healthy, He would close all the fast food restaurants on my drive home.
But God will replace desires when we delight in Him! He will get involved in our relationships when we invest in them. And He will give strength to be an overcomer when we resist what we know is wrong.
To show our faith that He will do the impossible we first show our commitment by doing what is possible.
In the book Great by Choice, author Jim Collins shares the story of two explorers, Amundsen and Scott, who led separate teams on a 1,400-mile expedition race to the South Pole in 1911.  While both teams would be traveling the same distance as each other through extremely harsh weather conditions, each team took an entirely different approach to the journey. Scott’s team would walk as far as possible on the good weather days and then rest up on the bad days to conserve energy. Amundsen’s team adhered to a strict regimen of walking 20 miles every day no matter what the weather. While on good days Amundsen’s team were very capable of walking further, Amundsen was adamant that they walk no more than 20 miles each day to conserve their energy. They wouldn’t walk as far as they could every day, but they would daily try to move forward. Which one succeeded? The team that took consistent action; the team that took a first step every day

It really doesn’t matter what area of life you face challenges. Take that first step today towards improvement and watch for God’s involvement! Don’t wait until the conditions are perfect. God will bolster your efforts when you take the first step in the right direction. Then do it again tomorrow.