As Christians, we claim to trust God but often, we have a plan B and even a plan C, if God doesn’t come through on plan A. However, there are those situations where if God doesn’t come through on plan A, then there are no good alternatives. I think of two such situations in the Bible. The first is Israel standing on the banks of the Red Sea. They couldn’t go forward because they would drown and they couldn’t turn back because of the Egyptian army behind them [see Exodus 14]. Their options were a miraculous escape, apostasy or death. I think also of Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego who refused to bow to an idol erected by king Nebuchadnezzar. To punish them, the king had them thrown into a fiery furnace [see Daniel 3]. Again, they were left with three options; death, apostasy or a miraculous escape.
As I wrote previously, these situations come to us in one of two ways; from God or through God. The situation is either orchestrated by God as was the case with the Israelites. In their case, God intentionally led them to the Red Sea even though there was at least one other route [Exodus 13:18]. Alternatively, the situation is allowed to unfold by God as was the case with Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego. In either case, what is important is that we realise God’s sovereign authority over His creation, including all the circumstances of our lives [Hebrews 1:2-3]. If God wasn’t sovereign over His creation, He wouldn’t be God [Daniel 4:34-35].
While we may never understand the reasons we find ourselves in certain predicaments, God has given us the freewill to choose our response. If this is the case, what can we do when we find ourselves at the Red Sea? I must confess that I am often struck with inertia when faced with a situation beyond my control. I tend to passively wait on God to do something, but the Bible doesn’t advocate such a response. Instead, I must face reality and take responsibility for what lies within my remit [Ephesians 6:13], and then, wait on God to do His part. The truth is while God can do all things, there are certain things He won’t do until we act first because He has delegated certain responsibilities to us. Sometimes, this is how God shapes our character as He disciplines us and teaches us to be responsible [Hebrews 12:6-11].
I’ll admit that often my inertia is a result of fear, not faith. I doubt I’m alone. We must recognise and prevent this to avoid sabotaging ourselves. Additionally, it is also worth noting that fear can drive us to make wrong choices. In theory, Moses could have surrendered to Pharoah, and the Israelites could have been taken back to Egypt as slaves to spare their lives. After all, Pharoah needed the slaves [Exodus 13:5]. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego could have recanted their faith in God before being thrown into the furnace but they didn’t. If they did, they would have acted out of fear. Sometimes, at the Red Sea, our integrity is also tested. Several opportunities to compromise may present themselves, often as options to avoid the unfavourable outcomes we dread. These are the moments our faith in God is tested. Will we walk our talk, aligning ourselves with God’s precepts no matter the cost? Or will we compromise and behave in an ungodly way to save ourselves?
These are hard choices but there is no such thing as following God without taking a risk. Moses had never seen a sea parted, nor had the three friends ever see men survive being thrown into a furnace. Often all we have is what God has done in our past, like Moses. Or what you’ve heard Him do for others, like the three friends. This means that acting in faith is going to require courage. However, since we aren’t guaranteed to get the outcome we want, acting in faith is also going to require us to leave the outcome to God. This is so much harder when we’re set on the outcome we want. This is where we find out if we truly trust God. For trusting God means trusting that whatever outcome He permits is best for us, irrespective of how things may look on this side of eternity. Is this something you’re willing to do?
Job left us a powerful example in trusting God amid tragedy. Having buried all his children and lost all his possessions, he could still say: “though He slays me, yet will I hope in Him” [Job 13:15]. Those are tough words to say on the banks of your Red Sea especially if, like me, you’ve thought through the terrible implications of your predicament. Nevertheless, if you find yourself at a Red Sea, I want to encourage you to trust in who God is, not what you think He will do. While we have no guarantees that God will part our Red Sea or save us from our fiery furnace, we do have guarantees about the consistency of His character [Hebrews 13:8].
Furthermore, I would suggest three things to remember on the banks of your Red Sea. First, remember who God is. This will invariably lead you to the conclusion that God is bigger than your predicament. Next, cast your mind to Calvary and remember just how much you mean to God. Lastly, having done all you can do, let God dictate the outcome of your situation. Don’t act out of fear or compromise your integrity. Ultimately, following God has more to do with the sincerity of our hearts than the accuracy of our actions. So, when you feel vulnerable, take courage, for it’s in our weakness that God shows Himself strong [2 Corinthians 12:10].