“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Is. 43:18-19 NIV)
Permit me to ask you something rather pointedly: Are you prepared to allow the Spirit of God to change your status quo? Are you truly ready for the Lord to do something new in your life? Something unexpected? Out of the ordinary? Are you ready to follow Him down roads you’ve never traveled? Are you open to the possibility that He might bless you in an unexpected, perhaps startling way?
None of us would be so arrogant as to say, “I know it all,” yet from time to time we may affect a certain blasé sophistication, an attitude of pride that finds it stylish to be critical, cynical, or “laid back.” Yet this prideful attitude hamstrings our ability to move into the fresh and the new... and grieves the Spirit of God.
Who says you know what’s next for your life?
Who says God can’t use you in a dramatic, wholly unexpected way?
Who says He can’t lead you into a season of life and ministry beyond anything you’ve ever experienced, or even dreamed?
Just who is the limiting factor here? Is it God? Or are we capable of closing our hearts to what He wants to do in and through our lives?
The Book of Ruth is a true story, a thin slice of real history. But like so much of biblical history, it speaks to us of God’s ways with people...people like you and me. Ruth was a woman who came to a new time and to a new place. In her experience, there is a message, the Lord is calling each of us to a new time and a new place. And how we respond to His call will not only determine the character of our days here on Earth, it will determine our very destiny.
Following the deaths of her husband, Elimelech, and her two sons, Naomi released her widowed daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, to return to their families in Moab. Orpah tearfully accepted that release and went back to her people and their gods, walking out of the pages of Scripture, never to be mentioned again. Ruth refused to depart from Naomi. Not knowing what hardships or heartaches lay ahead of her in a foreign land, she chose to cling to what was left of her new family rather than returning to the old.
“Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” (Ruth 1:16)
Ruth had prepared herself to step out in faith and see what this God of Israel had to offer. As David would later put it, she was ready to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). Ruth’s determination to follow Naomi was the pivot upon which her life turned. On the strength of that commitment, she was brought to a new time and a new place...and found a new love.
Ruth, of course, had no idea what would open up as a result of her decision. In her wildest imagination, she couldn’t have dreamed what would flow out of her choice at that desert crossroads. All she knew was—come what may—she’d made up her mind about her life’s direction. On the basis of that simple decision, her life flowered as never before.
Before the rewards, however, was the commitment
Before the blessings and bounty was the naked decision to follow the God of Israel...no matter where...no matter what.
There was a relative of Naomi’s husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz. Ruth said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field and glean the heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor.” Naomi said to her, “Go, my daughter.” Ruth left and gleaned in the field after the reapers. She happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. (Ruth 2:1-3)
Boaz would ultimately assure the recovery of Ruth’s life by the self-sacrifice of becoming her kinsman-redeemer. He became a magnificent Old Testament picture of the One who laid down His self-interest, laid down His reputation, and became a Kinsman-Redeemer for you and me.
Scripture says Ruth “happened upon” the field of Boaz when the sun crept over the horizon on a spring morning. A divine accident? Through the years I have discovered that when your heart is strongly inclined toward the Lord, He will see to it that your feet end up walking in the pathways and in the places that will accomplish His purposes in you.
So many people have sat with me in my office and moaned, “Oh... if I could only find the will of God! If I could only be sure of getting hold of His will!”
Yet the will of God is found in your heart.
You can get good counsel and read helpful books and diagram your life on the kitchen table, but ultimately, the answer is in your heart. When your heart is totally given over to follow Christ and walk in His ways, you can’t miss the will of God in the outworking of your daily life. He’ll get your feet there, one way or another. Yes, the route may be roundabout. It might include a climb over some jagged mountains and dip down through some dry, rocky valleys. But He’ll get you there.
I can’t help but notice that Ruth found her way and her future in a harvest field. That’s where things happen. That’s where relationships develop and deepen, and where destinies are revealed. None of us can earn a relationship with God by working for Him, but we can certainly learn the depths of such a relationship when we busy ourselves with what concerns Him most... the harvest.
To think of the biblical term “harvest” is to think of people helping people, touching people, loving people, serving people, and winning people into the love of God. On the other hand, to misplace or lose our perspective on “the harvest”—on serving people with life—is the surest way to short-circuit the promised possibilities of our lives.
I’ve found a common element in every individual who grows bitter, misses fulfillment, becomes sour, complains about God, falls into self-pity, or wonders “why nothing good ever happens to me.” That common denominator is a lost sense of ministry... of serving, loving, helping and reaching out to men, women and children in the Savior’s name.
Ruth’s life says to you and me: Get out into the harvest. Get out of yourself and touch lives for Jesus’ sake. As you do, things will begin to happen. Without even being aware of it, you’ll be edging ever nearer to that new time and place in your life.