Follow Me: Moving Beyond Our Human Strategies

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Follow Me

Moving Beyond Our Human Strategies

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There’s an old maxim that says life is what happens to us while we’re making other plans. We think we’ve learned that lesson already—until the next time. Surprise! As much as we plan and hope, life is not a straight line from point A to point Z. We experience dips, bumps and curves in the path. Some are self-made, some from the impact of others—but what I sincerely desire to focus on are interruptions caused by a gracious God who puts us on new paths never imagined to fulfill His purposes beyond our best intentions.

For a few minutes, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of Joseph of Nazareth and walk with him through an unforeseen interruption in his life to better understand how to spiritually enhance our personal calling to heed Jesus Christ’s invitation of “Follow Me” (see Luke 9:23; John 21:21-22).

Confronted with a seemingly terrible dilemma

We come alongside Joseph as he is introduced in chapter 1 of the Gospel of Matthew. He’s preparing to permanently “tie the knot” of marriage to one named Mary. Anticipation is in the air! According to Jewish custom of the times, marriages were often arranged during childhood by parents and perhaps a matchmaker. On coming of age and agreement to the union, the young man and woman were “betrothed” (engaged) to one another for a year and were technically considered married other than physical intimacy, which was not to come until the wedding ceremony occurred. During their engagement, the man or woman could end the relationship, but that required an official divorce.

It’s here in Matthew 1:18 that shocking news comes to a man anticipating his upcoming wedding, expectant that his fiancé has been faithful. Yet he learns she’s pregnant. As we’re told, “she was found with child of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18). Say what? Talk about a person’s lifetime plans crumbling before him. Just imagine the roar in Joseph’s mind to Mary’s surprise announcement: What have you done with whom?! Again, I don’t want to go too deep into Joseph’s mind where Scripture is quiet, but we can perhaps fill in some blanks based on what we might be inwardly thinking when the “best laid plans of mice and men”—and, yes, even we as disciples of Christ—go awry.

As a religious person Joseph was acquainted with God’s previous blessing on the wombs of Sarah and Hannah, but that was with the involvement of Abraham and Elkanah, not the work of the Spirit of God with no human father! “C’mon!” Little could Joseph put together the grand significance of what God was doing here.

In any case, we do know from Scripture what Joseph’s initial line of response entailed. We are told in Matthew 1:19 that he, being a “just man,” did not want to make Mary a public example, subjecting her to shame and perhaps even death by stoning (Leviticus 20:10; John 8:3-11). Instead, he was minded to to quietly divorce her.

God presents a third option

Let us understand the gravity of the moment. With Joseph’s life upended, it seemed his choice was between these two courses, with him intending the more merciful one.

But at this critical juncture, God calls a “time out,” to use a sports metaphor, and huddles with Joseph through a messenger: “An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus . . .’” (Matthew 1:20-21).

What’s going on here? Joseph had sized up the situation and arrived at what seemed the best way to handle it. Yet God steps in with a third option: Marry her! This was beyond Joseph’s humanly compassionate consideration. God granted Joseph a new way—a third option of measuring outcomes and moving beyond our human strategies to personally glorify God. With this introduction of “the third option” we are confronted with the gulf between our human best versus God’s perfection.

Four steps towards godliness

What are some takeaways here as we heed the Master’s invitation of “Follow Me”?

Step 1: Knowing God and knowing a biblical verse about how He intervened in the lives of others are of no value unless you become faithfully open to God’s intimate intervention in your personal time of need.

He bluntly shares with us: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Our hearts must be prepped into a state of readiness to move beyond human shortsightedness, expectant of God’s greater reality centered on eternity and not just our moment in time as we perceive it.

Step 2: In praying for “our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11), think beyond your kitchen cupboards and ask that our Heavenly Father supply the vital spiritual nourishment to see and live beyond our human perspective.

Remember, it’s not merely when you pray but how you pray and what you’re asking to receive (see Matthew 7:7-8; James 1:2-6). Prayers on bowed knees without a bowed heart will go no farther than your ceiling. Instead, bow your heart and tell God that you are stuck on trying to see and decide your way through. You need more than good answers—you need His holy perfection!

Step 3: Then be prepared to meet the timing and manner of God’s response to your prayers, which may be quite outside what you had in mind.

Joseph was visited by an angel, but the One Joseph was to call Jesus would later proclaim, “I will come to you” (John 14:18)—speaking to His disciples then and now. He does so through the Holy Spirit, leading us in the right direction (Romans 8:9, 14). Revelation 3:20 presents His people with a heads-up for preparing our hearts: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him and he with Me.” Perhaps now is the moment to admit we don’t have all the answers. We are stuck, and we need God’s “third option.” Christ may well be knocking on your door right now through this column!

Step 4: In opening the door to the Spirit of our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ, be prepared to receive Their direction and respond to Their bidding.

Jesus always requested that His disciples do what they can do, but then He and the Father do through us what only They can perform (see John 15:4-8). Proverbs 16:9 informs us, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”

Joseph and Mary followed the directives or assignments given to them. We’ll close here with these three. God told them both, “Do not be afraid”! (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:30). He told them to marry and have and raise the child in Mary’s womb, the Son of God. And He told them to name the Son Jesus, meaning “the Eternal Is Salvation.” Both Joseph and Mary followed through on each of these directives from Above as each step built on another to glorify God and His purposes beyond their human planning.

Until next we meet, I implore you to take and keep taking these four steps as we walk in faith towards God’s perfection beyond our strategies in heeding the Master’s call of “Follow Me.”