My Uncle George hunted bobcats.
He also hunted bear, deer, rabbits and most anything else that lived in the woods and had four legs.
Uncle George loved the outdoors and was more at home there than in his own living room.
George was also a Maine hunting guide. He was well-known and respected for his skill in navigating the backwoods of Northern Maine – no small area.
Once, when a hunter was lost deep in the woods and game wardens had just about given up, George was summoned. He found the hunter, who told him he was on the verge of taking his own life, despaired of ever being rescued.
If you’re hunting or fishing in the wilderness, having a reliable and experienced guide is pretty important. You could take the wrong turn, become disoriented, wander to exhaustion; you might panic which would only make things worse.
With a guide you can trust – so long as you listen and follow – you’re safe. No matter how deep in the woods you may be.
You can’t get lost. Your guide knows the way. Follow him (I know, I’m making this analogy way too easy).
If you think this past year was an unpredictable Nantucket Sleigh Ride (a whaler’s term for what happened immediately after you harpooned a whale in the middle of the Atlantic in the 1850s), you haven’t seen anything yet.
We have a new president who will be unlike any in history. The world is a fiery cauldron of instability and danger. Natural catastrophes and weather-related events will rock the earth. Terrorism will continue to pose a constant threat. The economy is always anyone’s guess.
None of this includes the panoply of things that may happen to you, me and those we love in the coming year – or the personal decisions we may have to make.
Yes, we need a Guide.
Fortunately, we have One. He’s experienced. He’s knowledgeable. He sees the road ahead. He understands the terrain – he made it. He cares about you and me and wants to lead us through whatever the future holds.
He knows that too – the future – very handy when you’re the guide.
God not only knows the future – he thought it, planned it, choreographed it, ordered it and completed it before he created a single star.
We’re continually surprised by the course of human events. God never raises an eyebrow.
God’s a lot more than a very lucky fortuneteller gazing into his crystal ball.
The problem is not that we don’t know what God can do. The problem is we refuse to trust him to do it. That’s always the issue isn’t it? It’s not that we don’t know – it’s that we don’t believe.
The poet T.S. Eliot summarized the Christian dilemma this way:
“The greatest proof of Christianity for others [and for ourselves] is not how far a man can logically analyze his reasons for believing, but how far in practice he will stake his life on his belief”.
It may be the difference between faith and trust.
Faith is often abstract and safely theological. Good to embrace in calm weather. Trust, as the late Brennan Manning put it, is a “ruthless” practical choice you and I make every day of our lives.
Faith interprets circumstances – trust takes them by storm – and in the storm.
Have you ever wondered why the Twenty-Third Psalm is the best-known and most loved?
Because it speaks of an unforeseen and very personal journey and a faithful loving Guide. It’s the shepherd’s song about the ultimate Good Shepherd Who leads his sheep through all manner of circumstance – the divine Guide Who never leaves, never forsakes, is always very present.
In the green pastures and beside the still waters, but especially in those dark valleys.
No wonder it’s the psalm the dying saints turn to most.
Isaiah tells us that “the Lord shall guide thee continually” (Isaiah 58:11, KJV).
“The Lord”. Not an angel but the Lord God omnipotent Who reigns over all. God himself shall be our intimate Guide. When the Lord told Moses he would send an angel to lead the people of Israel through the wilderness because he’d had it up to his royal diadem with their stubborn and faithless rebellion, Moses balked.
“If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place,” Moses pleaded with Jehovah (Exodus 33:15, NLT).
Without God, Moses wouldn’t go across the street. With God, he’d cross the earth.
“The Lord shall guide thee …” God’s promises are sure, his covenant certain. We can count on him. He will never go back on his word to you and me. People’s wisdom, predictions and advice fail us. But the God Who loves us is the God Who shall surely guide us. He’ll never fail – and he’ll never fail us.
“The Lord shall guide thee continually”. God’s guidance is not a sometime thing. In every situation, at every time on every day of our lives God directs our steps and guides our choices.
No matter how difficult or complex things may become for us – no matter how desperate or alone we may feel, God is with us. He will be a light unto our path and a lamp unto our feet.
Do you trust him – really?
In 2017, how far in practice will you stake your life on your belief?