Setting our Course by the Stars, not the Lights of Passing Ships


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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

We  ought to set our course by the stars, not the lights of every passing ship. -Omar N Bradley

Jesus does not call us to follow other Christians. He calls us to follow Him.

I was seven years old, lying awake in the middle of the night, thinking about how Jesus died for me. I decided I wanted to be baptized and follow Him. I got up and walked into my parents’ room, woke them up, and told them I wanted to be baptized. They thought that was great, but told me we could talk about it at breakfast. Looking back, I don’t know why I had to tell them in the middle of the night. It wasn’t like I was going to be baptized before breakfast.

In the decades since that night, I occasionally have experienced people trying to bribe and even bully me, both inside the church and outside the church, to compromise my beliefs. A conference publishing director once asked me to do something on Sabbath, that I did not feel was appropriate. He told me the conference president wants it done on Sabbath, so I better do it or else. In that moment I remembered two things. 1. Jesus died for me and not the conference president. I owed my life to Jesus and no one else. 2. On that night long ago, as I lay in bed thinking about Jesus’ love, I gave my heart to Jesus, and not the conference president. Of course those threats came from the publishing director. I have no way of knowing if the order actually came from the president. The president never made the actual threat. I stayed true to my convictions, and as far as I know, no threat was every carried out. Sadly, soon after, the publishing director left the church entirely. That’s what happens when you follow people instead of Jesus.

Often people get discouraged when folks in the church let them down. However, inMatthew 26:50 Jesus still called Judas “friend” when he betrayed Him. Jesus was not the least bit phased by Judas’ betrayal, because Jesus already “knew what was in each person’s heart.” John 2:25 NLT

The Bible is full of examples where people are let down by others but God still provided.

You know how hard I have worked for your father, but he has cheated me, changing my wages ten times. But God has not allowed him to do me any harm. Genesis 31:6-7 NLT

Jacob was cheated by Laban, but thanks to God no harm was done. This is why Paul said,

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. Colossians 3:23-24 NLT

We work for God not for people. Therefore we count on God to provide for us, and not people.

In my ministry various people have provided for me, for which I am very thankful. God has used different people at different times, but in the end it has always been God providing. I have learned to trust Jesus and not any one person or group of persons.

A while back when my verbal contract ended with a church, they gave me a generous severance. I wanted to use a portion of the money to buy a nice parting gift for the church to show my appreciation for their years of supporting my ministry. However, in the meantime, I heard about a family that had no money to pay the rest of their child’s Adventist school tuition. I decided helping them would be more practical than buying a nice gift that would collect dust in a church closet. I went to the school treasurer and paid off their school debt. Elated, the school treasurer asked if she could tell them who just paid off their debt. At first I thought sure, I would like for them to know that I care about them. But then I thought, Wait a minute. This gift actually came from God, and God is the One they need to trust in, not me! Next time God may use another person to help them. They need to know each time that God is helping them. They need to trust God and not me or anyone else. So I told the treasurer not to tell. All they needed to know was that God provided.

We are not called to follow other Christians. We are called to follow Jesus. We are not called to trust in other Christians. We are called to trust in Jesus.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

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