Stepping into the Unknown

stepping into the unknown

One of the most uncomfortable experiences most of us face is when we must try something for the first time. Sometimes this is relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, for instance, tasting a new food or meeting someone new. However, the tension and apprehension increases as the risks increase; such as, interviewing for a new job, doing a major home renovation, moving to a new location, or opting for a surgical procedure.

Given our specific temperament we may have different levels of apprehension, but it’s reasonable to assume that all of us eventually face situations which ramp up the tension level in our lives. And all of us cope with these stresses in different ways. Some people become irritable, some become quiet and sullen, some transition into hyper-mode, while others are paralyzed with fear.

A couple of weeks ago we looked at Abram and how God called him to make a drastic life change; moving his family and goods to a new country where he was to settle for the rest of his life. Today let’s take a look at the most prominent character in the early church, Paul.

Like Abram, Paul encountered God in an unmistakable way. In neither case is there any indication that Abram or Paul questioned with whom they were dealing. Both understood that it was God whom they had encountered and both realized they would never be the same afterward.

We read about Paul’s encounter with Jesus in the book of Acts where he underwent a dramatic conversion.

Acts 9:1-20
1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.
9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.
10 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.
11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,
12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.
13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:
14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.
15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: ***for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:
16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.
17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.
19 And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.
20 And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.

Few, if any, of us have had as dramatic a conversion as did Saul. We later read that, like Abram, whose name was changed to Abraham, Saul’s name was changed to Paul. But the real transformation for both of these men occurred as a result of their obedience to the voice of the Lord. And because of their obedience, both became powerful influences in their generations and beyond.

Paul was highly educated and was especially learned in the teachings of the Jewish law. His background and knowledge would shape the way we all understand God’s plan for both Jews and Gentiles. But arriving at a place of influence didn’t happen overnight. Like most things in life, Paul underwent a process of change which made him an outcast in some circles and a person of suspect intentions in others.

Shortly after his conversion as a result of antagonism from those who weren’t convinced of his authenticity Paul had to leave Jerusalem and traveled to Tarsus. He spent the better part of 10 years teaching about Jesus in relative obscurity. The scriptural record is almost silent regarding this time of learning and growth for Paul. We must remember that the Bible is often the highlight reel of the people we read about. They experienced a lot of ordinary things we never read about.

So in the Bible it appears as though Paul goes to Tarsus and then Barnabas went to Tarsus to seek out Paul and bring him to Antioch but the timeline is far longer than it appears.

The same is true about our lives. We often share the stories of the highlights of our lives because they are interesting to tell, but in between those events is a lot of ordinary day-to-day living. It takes a lot of will, determination, commitment and God-inspired passion to persevere through those ordinary days. Fortunately, along the way we encounter God and sometimes God calls us to do extraordinary things.

I doubt Paul considered his travels or his writing to be extraordinary. To his mind I expect he just felt he was doing his job as a follower of Jesus. But we owe much of our understanding of the Bible to the carefully crafted, God-inspired writing and the courageous obedience of Paul.

Likewise, most of us don’t consider our existence or our contribution to the world to be extraordinary. But obedience often feels ordinary in the moment. Yet, it’s extraordinary to adopt children and love them as our own and to raise a child who sometimes needs a little extra help as is the case with the Benavides family. It’s extraordinary to move from the comforts of Portland to Fairbanks, Alaska as a single woman the way Emily has done. It was extraordinary for my wife’s family to relocate from Tennessee to Alaska in the 60’s with no job prospects and the few belongings they could cram into a pickup truck because they felt God drawing them here.

You see, what often seems ordinary becomes extraordinary when God is involved and when we act in obedience. The hard part for most of us is stepping into the unknown.

What may be good to keep in mind, however, is that there is no such place as the unknown for God. God created it all and knows how to help us when we can’t see the way forward. Sometimes it just means we must take a step of faith and move in a direction which is, for the moment, unclear.

I saw today that a college friend posted on Facebook that she had successfully tandem-jumped out of an airplane for the first time. That’s a first step I’m not sure I could take but for her it was important because she was stepping into the unknown and that made her feel alive. Our most exciting and memorable times happen when we do what we’ve never done before and go where we’ve never gone before. When we stretch ourselves intentionally in order to become the people God created us to be we accomplish extraordinary things.

God may be tugging at your heart to step into some unknown territory. He may be nudging you to stretch beyond what feels comfortable. He may want you to choose Him above yourself for something extraordinary. He will help you; of that I am certain. But the first step must be yours. The first step must be mine. 


  1. La colpa e del comune non da le buste e non ci sono i Carelli per mettere i rifiuti,gli operatori pagano sia l”occupazione di suolo pubblico e la tarsus,bisogna sistemare il sistema.

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