Setting the Pace

1 Kings 8:56-58 (the message)
     Blessed be God, who has given peace to his people Israel just as he said he’d do. Not one of all those good and wonderful words that he spoke through Moses has misfired. May God, our very own God, continue to be with us just as he was with our ancestors — may he never give up and walk out on us. May he keep us centered and devoted to him, following the life path he has cleared, watching the signposts, walking at the pace and rhythms he laid down for our ancestors.

These verses were spoken by King Solomon after he finished building a temple for God.  His father, David, had wanted to do it but God said no, your son will build it.  The Temple was to honor God, it was elaborate and took years to complete.  Here Solomon is speaking to the people of Israel declaring that not a word God had spoken centuries before to Moses had “misfired.”  I love that!  When God makes a promise to us, no matter how long it takes or how rocky the road seems, He doesn’t take it back.  His word does not miss the mark. 

What has touched my heart this morning, however, is the last part: “may he keep us centered and devoted to him, following the life path he has cleared, watching the signposts, walking at the pace and rhythms he laid down for our ancestors.”  Did you know that God has, in fact, cleared a life-path for us?  He has a plan for our lives but that can sound so ‘pie in the sky’ and it’s hard to get our hands on it, so to speak.  But look a little closer and I think you’ll see part of the equation that can be so simple yet so easy to miss…we have to watch for the signposts and walk at the pace and rhythm He sets for us. 

I was sitting on my front porch while the rain poured down this morning.  It’s one of those mornings that is dark and gray and the rain is falling (and my girls are still sleeping!) and it seems peaceful.  So, as I sat outside talking with God, one of the issues on my heart is how my oldest daughter starts first grade tomorrow.  We have had a really special summer and so  my ‘mommy heart’ is a little sad…I know we are about to climb back into the saddle of schedules and homework and strictly observed bedtimes!  Also, my youngest daughter will start preschool in a few weeks.  She will only go three mornings a week but this will be extra time in my week I haven’t had in years.  My prayer this morning was that God would lead me in how I spend my time this school year, especially those mornings when Leah is at preschool.  See, for most of my life that would have certainly been labeled “Vanessa time!”  But as God becomes a more personal voice in my life and I witness first-hand the power and fruit in letting Him lead, I realize my time is not my own.  That sounds way too spiritual!  Don’t be mislead!  I am learning by trial and error, but the mistakes I make show me more clearly how important it is to let Jesus set the pace for my life.

We can have great plans.  We can have awesome intentions.  But if the path we are pushing forward on isn’t the one cleared for us by God it will not produce the fruit and fulfillment we hope for.  The path God clears for each of us, personally, isn’t always easy but it can be almost effortless.  See, if we let the Holy Spirit teach us how to hear His voice and sense Him leading us then we can walk into a place where we are in His will and He will enable us to do and be what He asks of us.  I don’t think, however, He will enable us to do and be things He has not asked of us.  Our plan could be a good one, nothing necessarily “wrong” with it, but if it isn’t the path He cleared for us every step will be in our strength.  And eventually it will wear us out.

How in the world can we actually learn to walk at the rhythm and pace God sets for our lives?  How can we know? 

God’s peace.  Before we can walk onto the God-cleared path for life (His perfect plan for our life) we need to make peace with God.  I don’t believe He is seething and angry with us, waiting to punish us with calamity.  But the truth is that sin and disobedient living steals our peace because it breaks up our communion with God.  True peace only comes from Jesus.  So, first we have to humble ourselves and repent for the sin and willful disobedience in our lives.  As we are forgiven and set free from the shame and condemnation that comes with sin, our hearts begin to open and our spiritual ears begin to hear.  Our spiritual eyes begin to see.  A hunger grows in our hearts to read the Bible and see what God has to say about life.  We make the time, because we want to, for talking with God and listening.  Over time we discover as we go throughout our normal day that He brings a scripture to mind as we encounter certain situations.  Or instead of just wanting to lash out at that annoying person at the office, we see through their behavior that maybe they are having a hard time.  So, we respond a little differently than we would have before.  As God sees us responding, He leads some more!  As we recognize what is happening our confidence grows that, Yes! God actually speaks to us and can be involved in our every day lives.  The more and longer we live this way the more we can hear Him and sense Him leading us.  The more we are willing to respond the easier it becomes to walk at the pace He sets.

It’s ironic, really.  For all the years and times I fought so hard to protect “my time” or fought against the nudging of the Holy Spirit in my heart, I was really missing out.  Instead of preserving something I thought would bring me joy, I was losing out on the joy in letting Jesus set my pace.  We are so hard-headed sometimes!!  We really think we know what is best…what will make us happy…what we deserve.  Yet God knows that true fulfillment, joy and peace only come on the path He cleared for us.  Oh, we don’t have to walk it if we choose not to!  He won’t make us.  But it stays clear.  He keeps the brush trimmed back and the walkway clear of debris in case we ever decide to take His hand.  See, Jesus will come down any path you are on to find you…but once you take His hand you will head back over to the path He cleared just for you.  He will teach you how to recognize the road signs along the way.  You’ll sense amazing grace, taste true stability, and experience not just peace with God, but peace with your life.  And as you gaze at your surroundings and how beautiful life on this God-cleared path can be…your steps will give way to Jesus setting the pace.

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