“We’ve come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord”. Those are the opening lyrics of one of my favorite songs. How do you feel when you consider life in retrospect? Are you not awed by God’s undeniable faithfulness when you connect the dots of the past? I am.
When I read the old testament of the Bible, I frequently come across characters building altars to the Lord. Noah set up an altar to God when he and his family came out of the ark (Genesis 8_20). The earliest example of Abraham building an altar is seen in Genesis 12_7, after God had promised to give his seed the land of promise (I say our God deals in real estate, what do you think?). Altars could mean many things. For me, they represent celebrating progress.
The Bible mandates Christians to celebrate progress. In the book of Deuteronomy, I read of many feasts and festivals instituted by the Lord for the Israelites. Later in other books, I realized that every apostasy in Israel was marked by apathy for the celebration of those festivals. Those festivals managed to give the Israelites an increased sense of God’s involvement in the details of their lives as they recounted their history from Abraham to Jacob, through Egypt to the red sea, and wherever it led. By forsaking the celebration of those festivals, the Israelites ceased looking to God and were led on a steady slope of backsliding.
It’s the same with us. When scripture mandates us to “remember the former things of old”, it really is for our good (Isaiah 46_9). When we learn to celebrate progress, we stay in an attitude of faith in trying times and remain grateful to God in good times. Here’s why: the picture of God we hold in our hearts is enlarged and magnified with every progress we celebrate and attribute to Him. We then go about with the belief that if God did it back then, He’s bound to do it again (Hebrews 13_8). After mandating us to celebrate progress, the Bible continues, “for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure”(Isaiah 46_9,10). When we celebrate progress, God’s sovereignty is further established in our hearts.
After Joshua had led the Israelites in crossing the Jordan River, he set up memorial stones. And this is what he said; “That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, what mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them that the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off…” Here’s the catch – every altar you build, every memorial you set up, every progress you celebrate would be a telling mark of God’s hand of providence, security, faithfulness, goodness.
Often, we remember the things we should rather forget – the disappointments, the failures, the hurts – and we forget the things we should remember – our victories, successes, and the good times. Maybe it’s because we take life for granted. We forget that God is the giver of all things. We forget that He is the one that gave us that “lucky break”. He caused us to be at the right place at the right time, to meet the right people. We don’t realize it was God at work. Do you know the story of the man who drove into a parking lot, but couldn’t find a parking space? Out of frustration, He prayed and said, “God, if you can get me a parking space, I promise to attend church every Sunday”. Immediately, a car pulled out, giving him space to park. The man parked, looked up and said, “Never mind God, I just found one”.
We need to be sensitive to God’s hand in our lives. Think back to the major victories and unexpected successes. Remember special people that God brought into your life. Recall how God healed you or a loved one and prevented death. Don’t forget those times when, awestruck, you watched a God of providence and miracles at work. Then build an altar. Set up a memorial. Celebrate the progress you’ve made.
Life may have been a series of good times and bad times, but look past the gloom and thank God for his goodness. “Hitherto hath the Lord helped” you (1 Samuel 7_12). He’s helped you through sickness and through health; in honor and dishonor; in perplexity and in joy; in perils and in peace; in prayers and in triumph. Because of you, God has never once gone on a vacation!
Look back and thank God – celebrate progress. You’d look forward and trust Him.
From Welcome To Goodbye