There are several places in the Bible where God promises to go ahead of His people or a chosen person into a particular reality. One of the more famous verses is Jesus promising to go and prepare a place for us in His Father’s kingdom [John 14:2-3]. I rarely paid attention to this promise until a good friend mentioned the implications of God going ahead of me in anything. He said: “…if God goes ahead of you, then what is your future is already God’s reality. So, all I have to do is step into God’s reality.” That’s a remarkable revelation for anyone who can grasp it. It’s paradigm-shifting when understood in the context of a promise like: “All things work together for good for they that know God and are called according to His purpose” [Romans 8:28].
In one of the verses in Isaiah where God explains his sovereignty, He says: “… I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times, things not yet done. My counsel shall stand, I will accomplish My purpose” [Isaiah 46:9-10]. Elsewhere, it says: “…if God has purposed a thing, who can thwart it? His hand is stretched out, who can turn it back” [Isaiah 14:27]? God is essentially saying: “No one can change My reality”. He’s staking His integrity on it. When you consider all the uncertainty in life, it’s comforting that certainty is possible, even with the things that matter most.
The challenge is there’s often a gap between what God has said and our present reality. That shouldn’t be a surprise because it’s true to experience. For instance, if someone goes ahead of you to an agreed destination, they will get there before you do. Something similar happens in the Christian walk. When God says something, from His perspective, it’s happened. But from ours, things may look a little different for a while. Take Joseph as an example: God gave him a dream about His future, and in that future, he would be in a position of great honour [Genesis 37:9-10]. When Joseph had this dream, he was 17, and he couldn’t have anticipated all that would unfold between his present and the manifestation of what God had promised him.
David is another example from Scripture of this experience. David’s life changed the day God instructed Samuel to pluck him from obscurity and anoint him as the next king of Israel. The life-changing implications of this episode in David’s life are difficult to grasp with our modern understanding of monarchy. Yet, it would be several years of adversity, exile and even near-death experiences before David sat on the throne of Israel. Both David and Joseph had to actively step into God’s reality for them against severe odds. There’s more written about the two of them than most characters in the Bible, and it’s worth remembering that these stories have been preserved for our instruction [Romans 15:4].
David and Joseph’s stories aren’t word-for-word accounts. For example, the author of Genesis was born several centuries after Joseph died. So, our main takeaway isn’t the story itself but the principles of walking with God embedded in the story. In some ways, their stories should help set expectations of what can happen in the gap so that we aren’t surprised when life isn’t smooth-sailing, even after we have a word from God. If we’re aware that our reality may remain unchanged for a season, sometimes even mocking our convictions, then the energy expended doubting God could be channelled towards building our faith. The strengthening of our faith will result in a greater ability to see reality from God’s viewpoint and the conviction to step into that through our choices and actions.
So, what does it look like to step into God’s reality in the humdrum of life? As I reflected on this question, especially in light of Joseph’s story, one word kept recurring: righteousness. Simply put, the decisions and actions I make in every facet of my life must align with God’s word and character. I cannot get to the future God intends for me by ungodly means. Sadly, the nuances and vagaries of everyday life make such a stance extremely difficult in practice. It has always taken a significant amount of courage to act in faith rather than out of fear, especially when it’s likely to cost you dearly. For instance, what it would cost you (or what has it cost you) to live out the principles taught by Jesus in His sermon on the mount [Matthew 5-7]?
Maybe our generation is no different, but I sometimes feel the opportunities to compromise character and integrity are more numerous than they’ve ever been. It also seems easier to avoid accountability because, as a society, we’re more proficient at hiding in plain sight and only showing others the aspects of our lives we want them to see. Unfortunately, as we intentionally isolate ourselves from the scrutiny and support of others, often when we need it most, we make it easier for our adversary to take advantage of us. All this amplifies when our backs are against the wall. In such moments, we may feel cornered, devoid of any righteous options. At other times, we may feel let down by God, especially when we’ve tried to live righteously, and it hasn’t paid off. Our disappointment can become fertile ground for the devil and his schemes.
In observing the lives of Joseph and David, I must reluctantly accept that stepping into God’s reality can sometimes look like a pit, rejection, captivity, imprisonment, loss or even exile before the promised palace manifests. In those moments when everything else seems out of control, we can, with God’s help, still make righteous choices knowing that God is right there with us, and He always keeps His promises, irrespective of how things may seem at any given time.