Going against the Flow

Which direction are we facing?

I was at a retail park recently: it was first thing in the morning so there were hardly any cars around, and I felt the Holy Spirit start to speak to me through the arrows that designate the one way system.

Very often we are called to move in the opposite direction to the world. Jesus tells us (Matt 7:14) that the way that leads to life is narrow, and not many find it; whereas the road to destruction is a broad one and many travel along it. Just to move along the path to Life runs contrary to nature: by believing in Jesus we set our faces squarely against the one-way system that leads to death.

Most of Jesus’s teaching turned accepted values and practices on their heads. We bless those who curse us. If we give, it will be given unto us. The value of the greatest riches in the world cannot compare with the pearl of the Kingdom of God. The path of faith in Jesus calls us to turn our backs on our previous direction of travel, and we have a word for this: repentance. By definition, a Christian is someone who has turned round and is heading towards the Kingdom of God and its promise of eternal life instead of the realm of sin and inevitable death.

The New Testament is clear that we are to obey the laws of the land that we live in, so there is a set of arrows that we are all required to follow. Romans 13: 1 makes this clear: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” There is another set of arrows too, a set that was literally set in stone when it was first given, and that is the set of instructions given to us by God in the Bible. These are basic principles of Christian living, and they are arrows that we follow.

But having accepted that we are now facing in the “wrong direction” according to the one-way system of sin, how often do we still accept the arrows that are painted on its roads? Who put them there? Who said, for example, that a terminal cancer diagnosis is a one-way street? God didn’t. Jesus healed all who came to Him, and multiple thousands have been healed through faith in His name since He walked the streets of Galilee. We don’t understand why it is that so often the arrow of sickness still takes our lives, and the lives of our friends and loved ones, down a shortened and unexpected cul-de-sac; but we can start by believing that God didn’t put it there, and at least we can do what James 4:7 says, which is to “resist the devil.”

Jesus said: “The thief (that is, the devil) does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) One of David’s noted victories is recorded in 2 Sam 5:22. In this instance, the “thief” is represented by Philistine raiding parties in the Valley of Rephaim. The Rephaim were one of the tribes of giants that scared the Israelites out of the promised land when they were first delivered from slavery. Sometimes the devil will attack us just out of hatred and malice, but sometimes he sends his raiding parties into places where “giants” still cast a shadow over our lives. Before he went into battle, David “inquired of the LORD” for his battle plan. We cannot receive the abundant life that Jesus offers unless we ask Him for His direction.

“Then the Philistines went up once again and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim. Therefore David inquired of the LORD, and He said, “You shall not go up; circle around behind them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees. And it shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall advance quickly. For then the LORD will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.” (2 Sam 5: 22-24)

Sometimes the arrow of God’s direction is unusual and unexpected. To see it, we first have to resist the devil, and then we have to prepared to look. To look, we have to believe that it is there strongly enough to “ask, seek and knock” until we see it. And if we are being raided, we also need to ensure that we don’t have any valleys of giants where the thief is welcome. Current sin or past occult practice are common “Rephaim” today. Faith is “the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1), whereas Proverbs 14: 12 says “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” So let us not accept the arrows of seeming inevitability that let the thief have his way, but let’s remember which direction we are supposed to be facing and go against the flow. If we look hard enough we might see a signpost pointing to the front of the mulberry trees.

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