There’s a meme floating around social media – a picture of a simple park bench with the prompt something like, “You and one person, living or dead: who would you choose?” The idea has always intrigued me.
In my way back, I would’ve picked King Arthur – or the one who most closely embodied that legend. But that was before I found Christ – or, more accurately, He found me. (I just became aware that He was there.) I admit, sitting and chatting with Jesus Christ would be quite the experience.
But I have someone very different in mind, and it’s not so much who as exactly when in his life I would want to meet him. I would love to meet Abram or the newly-renamed Abraham – before Isaac was born. (Genesis 17:5).
I am changing your name from Abram [meaning “exalted father”] to Abraham [sounds like “father of a multitude” in Hebrew] because I am making you a father of many [a host/multitude of] nations.
I will… make you … bless you …
I will give this land to your descendants…
All this land that you see I will give to you and your descendants… I will make your descendants as many as the dust of the earth…
See, Abram had absolutely nothing but God’s promise at this point in his life. In comparison, I look out from my snug, smug vantage point of 2016 at millenia of Arabic (Ishmael), Jewish, and Christian history, with God’s Word in many translations at the touch of my finger, and a multitude of like-minded believers to back me up whenever I feel the slightest doubt. But what did Abram have?
Certainly, he’d seen that there was a “land” where this apparition of God said there was, but that seems to be the only hard evidence. Maybe he could assume a little from Ishmael’s birth (proving that he could have children) but Sarai/Sarah was 90 years old – well beyond child-bearing age. I would ask Abram, “How much doubt do you feel?”
When I began thinking about today’s post, I had two words in mind: “sure” (as in “sure of myself”) and “assured” (“assured from outside myself”). Both are adjectives. But assured is also a verb.
Sure (adj) Confident in what one thinks or knows;
having no doubt that one is right
Assured (adj) 1: Confident
2: Protected against discontinuance or change
Assure (v) 2: Make something certain to happen
1: tell someone something positively or confidently to dispel any doubts they have
“To remove doubt”
It’s this idea of “from within” versus “from without” that I’m trying to get across. I’ve been “sure of myself”. Before I became a Christian, I felt that way – about some of my skills. But losing that security was part of my downward slide to rock-bottom. I had nothing to back it up.
“Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.”
You might say that life just happened to me. I have lived a lifetime of things I did not plan on or expect. As a Christian, I’ve come to understand this cliche in another way:
Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)
The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.
You might say that I am “sure that I am assured” to obtain and accomplish all that God has planned for me. It’s an entirely different point of view. It’s not self-confidence, as I used to understand it – that I will make my plans happen. Instead, it is being convinced of the dependability and infallibility of God, The Creator. I have his promise that everything – anything – that happens in my life is good. It’s for the good. My good.
The effect of this feeling is described in the well-used Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”). But, I want to use a lesser known verse to try to convey how I feel:
I know that You can do all things and that no plan of yours can be ruined [is impossible; can be hindered).
This is what delivers me to (or delivers to me) a peace that surpasses, and an accepting of whatever happens each day – whether I planned it or not. (Because I do make plans.) I think this is what Jesus was getting at, too:
Mark 14:36 (EXB)
He prayed, “Abba, Father! You can do all things.
Take away this cup of suffering.
But do what you want, not what I want.
I would ask Him, of course, if I could get two chances at that park bench, please?