In 1999 my wife and I returned to the United States after almost four years of ministry in Europe. When we got off the airplane all of our earthly belongings consisted of the bags we had just cleared through Customs and a single chair and some extra boxes of books stored in my mother’s attic space in Montana. Now, 12 years later, we have a home, a couple of vehicles and we continue to experience God’s provision daily. I love my wife and she loves me. My two adult children are moving forward with God. We love our church family who encourage and inspire us. We continue to gain understanding of what it means to live in God’s favor. On top of all these blessings we live in one of the most beautiful small towns in America. I am a very blessed man.
Jan and I have always tried to hold all blessings with an open hand so that we would not miss those new and fresh encounters and directives of the Holy Spirit. It’s easy to settle into focusing on the blessings and become dull to His voice, especially if a new word from the Lord could upset our current place of blessing.
Recently, I read Hebrews 11. I have read this chapter hundreds of times. Today, something new jumped from the page into my heart.
“It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. 9 And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. 10 Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.” Hebrews 11: 8-10
For years I have focused on the unique faith Abraham possessed that helped him leave a secure settlement and a known life to engage a new life without a known destination. “He went without knowing where he was going” are words so powerful they almost overshadow what comes in the next verse.
In verse 9 the writer of Hebrews says, “And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents.” When Abraham finally arrived in the land of promise, he never settled – he continued to live in tents like he was only passing through. The words of this verse came to me in a new way. Here is Abraham, our Father of Faith, being described as a man who finally made it to the land of promise, yet he continued to live like a foreigner in a tent. He was like one who realized he needed to remain mobile because something more was out ahead of him.
The Holy Spirit began to bring some fresh realities into focus as I read verse 9.
We live here on earth manifesting a kingdom that is not yet in its fullest expression. The kingdoms of this earth are becoming the Kingdom of our Lord. The operative word is “becoming.” The best this life has to offer, even the good things God brings our way, are only partial expressions of His will because this life is currently incomplete.
Like Abraham, what we are willing to leave behind, those things that are known and predictable, can become what actually defines how we will live in the future. Abraham took the results of his faith with him when he stepped forward towards the promise God had revealed to him under the night sky. When Abraham arrived in the land of promise he lived like a foreigner in a tent because he knew that no matter how good his life of promise would become, it was not yet the fullest expression of what God had planned – there was more and he needed to be ready to move towards the “more” when God spoke.
This life is only a temporary encampment – not a final destination. Abraham lived as a foreigner in a physical tent because God wanted him to remain mobile. We carry physical tents, bodies inhabited by the very presence God, that must remain open and available to His voice. Settlement is not a Kingdom mindset if in our settling we have become deaf to the voice of God. This shift in thinking will produce a new season of spiritual mobility, whether continuing to live in familiar surroundings or moving to another place.
Living faithfully today will create a foundation of faith for future generations to build upon tomorrow. Our faith lived out today is an investment in generations we will never see. Abraham knew nothing of Isaac and Jacob when he began his journey and when he lived in a tent as a foreigner in the land of promise. God saw Abraham’s future and invited him along a path of faith that many of us continue to walk upon thousands of years later.
As Abraham lived in a tent in the land of promise, he was defined as a foreigner because he was fixing his eyes on the fullness of a Kingdom yet to be seen. His gaze of faith was foreign to those around him. He was looking at something they could not see. If we choose to live a life of faith we will draw looks of suspicion from those around us who have chosen to settle and not see a new and emerging future. Settlers can end up protecting what they possess at the expense of future expansion. Foreigners living in tents, by the very nature of their existence, make the status quo nervous because what a settled life has to offer is no longer appealing to the tent dweller. “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” Hebrews 13:14
I have had to ask myself lately where I have settled into a good and blessed life at the expense of hearing a new word for a new season. These new words can shake up our current reality. God is in the process of making significant adjustments in the encampment of His Church. God wants to free us up to be available for supernatural mobility. As we step out in faith and let go, God will be asking us to exchange hard structured lives of security for foldable tents of faith so that He can bring us into our promised destiny.