I’ve always marveled at the fathers of our faith like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and David. Often, God only gave them their next step without revealing the big picture or outcome, yet they trusted Him and obeyed.
For example, Hebrews 11:8 says, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” God simply told him to go, gave him a direction, but had not yet revealed his destination.
When Joseph’s brothers cruelly sold him to slave traders who took Joseph to Egypt, Joseph must have felt despised, rejected and abandoned. Yet in all this he continued trusting God even though he didn’t know what the outcome would look like. Even after that glimmer of hope in prison when he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker, it was two more years in prison before he was released, and God’s plan began to unfold.
Another example is Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus. An angel had appeared to Joseph warning him, “Get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” (Matthew 2:13)
So, Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt, not knowing how long they’d be there. And look at what happened next:
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. (Matthew 2:19-23)
God revealed Joseph’s next steps in stages. Certainly the angel could have told him the first time, “Go back to Israel, but don’t settle in Judea, but go to Nazareth instead.” But God chose to lead him one step at a time and Joseph trusted God and obeyed.
This is hard for us. We like to know the end from the beginning. We want our story to turn out well. We want to know that each step is a step in the right direction leading us to our goal. But in my experience, God often leads us one step at a time. This forces us to trust Him at each step of the way. And just like Joseph and Mary, we won’t get the next set of instructions until we trust God and take that first step.
A situation like that occurred in our lives many years ago. I had just completed a three-year Bible school diploma (the college I attended only offered a three-year diploma). Linda and I felt led by the Lord to apply with Greater Europe Mission (GEM) as missionaries to German-speaking Europe.
We spent a week at what GEM called Candidate School. There were presentations, orientations, assessments, and a rigorous interview with the board. As it happened, noted author and theologian, Dr. Merrill Tenney was on the board at the time. In all honesty, he was quite aged and a bit cranky. He posed theological questions trying to trip me up. He was very skeptical of the obscure, upstart Bible college in Spokane, Washington, from which I had graduated. Because he had never heard of Inland Empire School of the Bible, it couldn’t possibly be a college of any significance.
As a result of Dr. Tenney’s views and influence, he insisted that I continue my education and get my BA degree before GEM would appoint us to ministry. This was not a policy of GEM, but purely the view of this one board member. The other board members tried to dissuade him, but to no avail. They even sent a delegate to apologize to us after our intense interview. However, Dr. Tenney’s demand stood.
Linda and I had prayed much and sensed God leading us to go to Europe as missionaries with GEM. As a result, despite Dr. Tenney’s unusual request, we knew that God’s next step for us was more schooling. Again, after prayer and God’s leading, I enrolled at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, MN.
This necessitated moving from Medical Lake, WA to Minnesota. We didn’t know anyone in or near St. Paul, but my parents contacted a couple they knew and arranged for us to stay with them for three days when we arrived. This was the late 70s and there was no internet, Google, or Craig’s List.
So, we loaded our meager belongings in a U-Haul truck and drove to Minnesota. We arrived on the doorstep of the Rankin’s whom we’d never met. They graciously took us in, and we celebrated our daughter’s first birthday the day we arrived. Her older brother was three.
So far, the Lord had led us just one step at a time. We had a place to stay for three days and I knew where I was going to go to college, but we needed long-term housing and a job.
Sitting around the table at the Rankin’s we talked about our housing need and they told us about a small church they used to attend. They knew this church was without a pastor and they had a parsonage that was vacant. Perhaps we could live there? Rankin’s talked to someone on their elder board and they wanted to meet with us.
When the board of Mahtomedi Community Church found out that we were going to be missionaries, they offered to let us live in their parsonage until they found a pastor. Wow! God provided a beautiful, spacious home on 14 acres for us to live in!
A few short weeks later, the church hired me as their pastor. I also took a second job working for a man in the church who owned a piano repair business. He taught me how to tune and repair pianos, a skill that provided for us in coming years.
As I reflect on God’s leading, it was one step at a time. Sometimes it’s hard to muster that kind of trust, but it’s good. The Bible reminds us that “We walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7 NKJV) When we trust God a step at a time, we experience His faithfulness, omniscience, and sovereign working in our lives.
What next step is God asking you to take? I encourage you to trust Him and take that next step.
©2019 Rob Fischer