“And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there” (Acts 20:22).
IN SECULAR AFFAIRS, WE USUALLY WANT TO KNOW WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN. Much of our planning is based on prediction: how can we be prepared if we don’t know what events we’ll have to deal with? And so we expend a lot of energy trying to forecast the future. A successful and safe journey, we think, depends on having a map of the exact territory we’ll be passing through. And not only do we try to forecast the future, but we try to control it. As much as possible, we want to pick our itinerary for ourselves.
In spiritual affairs, however, we have to learn a different kind of security. As Andrew Dhuse said, “God’s will is not an itinerary but an attitude.” We aren’t told what the future holds. The journey may take us along any number of different routes, none of which we can predict or be prepared for. So no map is given to us, only a Compass, and we’re to be content to be guided by God.
In the course of doing the Lord’s work, Paul needed to go to Jerusalem, where there might be danger. But Paul could live with uncertainty. With his heart fixed on God, he didn’t need to know what was going to happen: “I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there.”
Abraham is another example of how this works. Comfortable in Ur, Abraham was called upon to let go of the familiar, predictable path he’d gotten used to. “Get out of your country,” God said, “from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). And Abraham trusted God enough to let Him decide what territory would have to be traversed. “He went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8).
Today, most of us have some definite ideas about the kind of life we want. We have one or two scenarios in our minds that describe the paths we’d prefer to take between here and heaven. But we need to be careful. We must not hold on to those scenarios so tightly that we can’t let go of them. And we must not be too dependent on knowing in advance what kind of lives we’re going to end up with. The truth is, we don’t need to know the territory. We don’t need a map. All we need is a Compass we can count on.
“Abraham did not know the way, but he knew the Guide” (Lee Roberson).