The Next Step

June 01, 2010

"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to."— Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings

Beyond the allegorical pages of Tolkien's ode to the victory of good over evil, the spirit of adventure is the eager, boisterous wind upon which progress is borne. I sit within the comfort of home because those with trailblazing urgency trekked weary and courageous miles over a winding track to settle the Oregon Territory. I join with an apocalyptic movement whose pioneers, few in number, stepped out in faith to answer the call of an end-time message. I am a debtor to these and many others.

To be sure, the reckless abandon often associated with adventure demeans the God-given spark in us all. Risking life and limb of self or others for the sake of momentary thrill resembles more of the demonic than the divine. Yet physical, mental and spiritual growth demand a risk. Every surge of progress, each victory won comes with the potential of defeat. And when defeat comes, the courageous look up and move ahead, by faith, even if the result is still unclear.

Bible stories are replete with these adventurers. By faith Abel brought a better sacrifice. By faith Noah built a ship in the middle of dry land. By faith Abraham left home without a destination. By faith Hannah asked for a child. By faith Moses and all of Israel walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. Esther walked into the unknown; David faced a giant; Peter walked on water; Paul survived a shipwreck. Hebrews 11 gives a more complete list of these heroes who "braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons." They were "stoned, sawn in two, murdered in cold blood; ... vagrants wandering the world in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless — the world didn't deserve them," (Hebrews 11:36–38, The Message).

But Hebrews 11's retrospective leads us to chapter 12's call to action. "Do you see what this means — all these pioneers who blazed the way ...? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running — and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in," (Hebrews 12:1, The Message).

Yes, Bilbo was right. It is a dangerous business, going out your door. But that path has the imprints of many before us. It has the beckoning arm of One who says, "Follow Me." And the destination we all long for can never be reached without stepping outside.

By faith, what is your next step?

Physical, mental and spiritual growth demand a risk. Every surge of progress, each victory won comes with the potential of defeat.