“And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, [the Magi] departed to their own country by another way. Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.'” ~ Matthew 2:13-13
Reading the Christmas story, it may seem that the players in the story are receiving one experience from God after another. Angels and dreams and stars, oh my!
But that would be a misreading of these events, and a misreading of the ways of God.
Yes, there are experiences of God to be had in this life. “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” the Bible declares (Psalm 34:8). But to imagine that the norm is for us to be able to stitch together one warm-fuzzy from God after another would be faulty thinking.
Hardly anyone on earth enjoyed more of God’s power than the apostle Paul, yet he insisted in no uncertain terms that on this side of heaven, we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
The pattern we see in the Christmas story is that life is usually lived with God “in, with and under” our lives, but often hidden, like a computer’s operating system. Only occasionally does the veil between heaven and earth lower to give us an encouraging reminder that we are not alone.
In between the times when the star appeared, the Magi pressed on, using their God-given powers of reason to live faithfully, waiting for further instructions. In between the dreams, Joseph followed and obeyed, exercising responsibility as he cared for Mary and prepared for his future, whatever that would be.
This is not unimportant to learn these lessons about life. I’ve met not a few Christians and entire groups of churches who believe and teach that following Christ is a never-ending feast of one miracle after another. Everyday God speaks to us! Every day is a power-trip from God!
But then when suffering comes, or darkness falls, or a silent night descends, all sorts of confusion wraps around the heart of that misguided believer.
We all want God to come close. “When shall I come and appear before God?” David asked with longing. And sometimes in life, God will grant that experience. When we seek, often we will find. At the right hand of God are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).
But often God calls us to seek, and wait. Or seek, and serve. Or seek, and suffer.
How will you respond in those seasons of life? Best to imitate the pattern laid down of faithful souls like Joseph, and the Magi.
And cling to the promise God gives, that “those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles.” (Isaiah 40:31)
Bear Clifton is a pastor, writer and screenwriter. His blogs and devotionals can be enjoyed at his ministry website: trainyourselfministry.com and his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, and “A Sparrow Could Fall”, all available through Amazon.