Jan Johnson
Jan Johnson

WisBits Archive

November 2009

Only the Next Step

“I just wish God would tell me . . .” is usually followed by a desire to know about something that will affect the next 20 (at least) years of our life. My experience is that God doesn’t do things that way, but shows us only our next step: make a telephone call, study up on something, look within at our motives. If we knew more steps than that, we would probably be overwhelmed.

It’s true that God has sometimes given people the big picture. Abraham is a good example: God was going to make of Abraham a great nation and through that nation all families of the earth would be blessed. It took, however, twenty-five years for that vision to even begin to be evident. In the meantime, Abraham had a lot of “next steps” in the building of his character and his trust in God. This was not a bad thing at all; in that process Abraham became a friend of God. What more could anybody want?

That’s a good question. Perhaps what most people want is not to be a friend of God but just to know the future or what particular circumstance might be “God’s will.” This amounts to the Mapquest-style Jesus where we just want answers on a printout. But Jesus is always personal, as I talk about in chapter 2 of Invitation to the Jesus Life. Jesus will have nothing to do with printouts or telegrams, but wants to communicate with us, jumping in the car next to us and working with us. With Jesus in the passenger seat alongside us, we go through drive-throughs we would have skipped, stopped to help people who startle but amaze us and have picnics in the most unique places. Jesus doesn’t tell us much ahead - just the next step.

When our eyes are only on the goal or destination, we miss so much including important preparation. Many times I have pursued an opportunity only to have it amount to supposedly nothing. But in each step on the way, something important happened: I encountered people who became important in my life; I got to help people I would never have known before; and I got to be exposed to and learn new ideas I would have missed. Was it a waste because nothing supposedly came out of it? No. I kept following my “next step” as I believed I was led and delightful things came of it. If I’m only outcome-focused and productivity-oriented, I’m going to miss out on so much richness of life with God.

So now I ask only for discernment about my “next step.” I’ve quit trying to see the whole picture. When I tried to see the whole picture and thought I saw it (or invented one I wanted to see), I schemed to make it happen. The result was not authentic or organic. It was rigged and people sensed that.

So when we’re in a dilemma in a relationship or a computer problem or lost on the road or unsure what to do in a work project, we need to ask God to show us the “next step.” That may not seem to solve anything, but it usually prepares us for subsequent steps that will solve it. I need to get my heart right first in the relationship; I need to think about the last time I had this computer problem; I need to call someone to get better directions. The dilemma is resolved only as I focus on the next simple step.

Next steps may seem pathetically small but that’s OK. It’s not about accomplishing big things but about walking with Jesus.

Grace and peace,
Jan Johnson




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