Break Out: Knowing When to Make that Critical Move
Change can be intimidating for many, especially when it involves key areas of our lives such as our career, place of residence, and taking on new life commitments. And although change is good and healthy much of the time, that does not mean it’s easy. You may love change. You may hate it. Regardless, knowing when to make that critical move in life is key.
The Seasons of Life
There are times in life when you can feel a breeze blowing your way that marks a new season. God provides ways by which we can discern the seasons of our lives, and He gives indicators of what’s coming next. We may sense something new is on the horizon, or that we need to begin preparing to embrace a change. If we are sensitive to His Spirit, and faithful to seek His counsel and guidance, He will bring us into that place He has for us.
So, what are some of those ways and indicators God gives? We are told Israel is given to us as an example. Let’s discover what she can teach us.
A Pillar of Fire & Cloud
Following Israel’s exodus, God led His people into a wilderness where He would enter into covenant with them, dwell among them, teach them His ways, nourish them, lead them, and train them for war – all so they might take the land He promised them and become a people who declare His name and reveal His glory throughout the earth. Through Israel, God planned to reveal Himself to a lost and dying world. That’s a huge call to embrace.
At this time Israel was a young and vulnerable nation who had many enemies. In no way was young Israel prepared to take the land flowing with milk and honey after her exodus. She still embraced a slave mentality which was characterized by victimization. Israel had lived in Egypt for four-hundred years. That mentality, which was deeply entrenched, had to be broken. During this forty-year season God would strategically and meticulously undo a four-hundred year mentality that still bound His people. His will was not that she merely see His acts. That was not sufficient to break such a stronghold. Israel had to learn His ways. That was another level of freedom that Israel had not yet experienced.
We have much to learn from how God set Israel completely free.
God is very, very patient. He is long-suffering. This characteristic alone is one of His most endearing. It reveals to us His heart of grace, mercy, patience, and love. He’s not quick to anger. So we need to understand that when He does finally get angry – we’ve pushed Him beyond limits. That is a dangerous place to be. With this being said, Israel as a nation was very young and immature, and they actually succeeded at making Him mad on more than one occasion. In fact, it was frequent. If any of you have children, I am sure you can relate.
Israel had suffered horrible abuse at the hands of an Egyptian tyrant. Abuse and slavery were all they ever knew. Have you ever had to deal with an abused person? Here are some key things to note:
• They cannot trust.
• They are often cynical or suspicious of others.
• They struggle with authority figures.
• They can become bitter unless they’re healed.
• They are overwhelmed with fears and insecurities of many kinds.
• Their lives are often marked by rebellion and self-assertion in an attempt to gain control.
Israel demonstrated these issues in their relationship with God repeatedly. They could not trust Him. In fact, they falsely accused Him. They related to Him in the same manner in which they related to their Egyptian oppressor. They were very insecure and self-centered, making demands of God for their daily needs that He already planned to richly provide. And when they didn’t get what they wanted they threw infantile temper tantrums that literally pushed God over the edge. At one point they even accused Him of leading them into the desert to kill them. This did not go over well. And they continually disobeyed Him, hence their notorious rebellion. So we see that their mentality was still very much enslaved. Therefore, they needed time to get to know their God. They had to discover His expectations, and learn how to enter into His covenant relationship. Like untempered and disobedient children, God had to train them up and teach them precisely how to be His people in the midst of a world who did not know Him.
This took a long time to accomplish.
Israel’s forty-year journey through the wilderness is chronicled in the four books of the Torah (Hebrew) or Pentateuch (Greek): Exodus through Deuteronomy. In these four books, God’s recurrent theme is His Lordship. He repeatedly says to them, “I am the LORD”, making His deity clearly known. He drilled this into them. They had to understand there is no other God beside Him. During this wilderness experience Israel discovered who God really was. She came to know Him through a very intimate yet bittersweet relationship. She saw His miraculous acts, His glorious power, His abundant provision, His just judgments, and discovered the manner in which He was to be worshiped. In all these things He continually revealed Himself as LORD. This is the recurrent theme. He makes it impeccably clear that His Lordship is preemptive to every other role He fulfills in our lives. This preeminence is evidenced in the first commandment:
I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:1-2, KJV).
I love the tender intimacy He displayed. Israel lived in tents. So what does God do? He decides to live in a tent with them through the tabernacle He meticulously instructed them to build. His manifest presence dwelt among them in a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. In this manner, He taught His people how to both dwell with Him and follow Him. When the pillar rested upon the tabernacle, the people rested as well. But when it moved, they were to move with Him. His pillar may rest for days, weeks, months or even years. But when He moved – they had to learn to move with Him, and they never knew when that would be.
Israel came to know God intimately each and every day through His manifest presence. For everything they did, God was now suddenly a part of it. He was ever before them. He made it impossible for them to forget Him. He spelled out things for them in His law that are tedious. In this, we see His divine parenting very clearly. He laid down the official ‘rules of His House’. And we can see why. Israel had to re-learn how to live because they were no longer slaves of Egypt. They were sons of God. And God wanted them to understand that everything they did was an act of worship unto Him. And until they understood these truths, they were not ready to take the promised land.
At the time Israel was freed from Egypt, she and her God were virtual strangers. This young nation, which was reared in a pagan country, witnessed miracles that left the entire surrounding region in fear and dread for their very lives. Yet for all this, Israel still did not understand God’s ways. Although she saw His acts, His ways remained an unveiled mystery to her for all He had done. She just never quite got it. This was a dangerous spiritual delinquency that had to be healed.
For this very reason, it was the next generation who would inherit the promised land. These were the children of the exodus, who grew up knowing nothing but God and His ways – which is the exact opposite of their parents. They were raised in the wilderness on miracles. They ate manna from heaven. They drank water from rocks. Their meat fell from the sky. They heard His voice as a trumpet. They saw mountains smoke and quake at His presence. They lived and worshiped in very midst of God’s manifest presence day after day after day… in the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. They practiced the covenant of God since their infancy. God was all they knew. And there was no other.
Can you see the difference?
God knew precisely what He was doing. One generation cowered in fear, unbelief and victimization despite seeing His acts. The next rose up in faith, boldness and courage, because they understood His ways – and they inherited the promised land. Israel had finally been set completely free of their slavery. God is an excellent Father. Not only does He know how to raise up a nation, He knows how to raise each one of us as individuals. We each have a promised land to inherit.
Are you embarking upon a new horizon? Is God getting you ready to embrace change? Is He preparing you for the promised land?
God wants us to know and understand His ways. It’s not enough to merely witness His acts. When He calls us into a new season – whatever it may be – we must learn to follow Him. And the only way we can follow Him is when we know and understand His ways. Embracing the change God has for you requires a heart of faith, courage and boldness.
So what is the lesson? We must learn to be moved by His Spirit. God still dwells in a tent, but it’s not made with human hands. He dwells inside of us. We are the temple of His Holy Spirit where He resides. You have an intimacy with God the Israelites never had. He lives within you and is able to guide you – provided you learn His ways. Here is a word regarding our lesson from Israel:
Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it (Hebrews 3:7-12, 17-19 & 4:1, KJV).
So how do you know when to break out and make that critical move? God is well able to speak to you. Harden not your heart. Be of faith and belief. You may hear His voice clearly, receive a dream, a prophetic word, a scripture, or even a confirmation from an outside source. God is able to speak to us in any number of ways. Yet even in spite of all this, there are three primary cues or signs that God gives to us which clearly indicate a move.
Sign #1: A Loss of His Peace
Sometimes you don’t need word. There is a deep inner witness by His Spirit that is much more prominent. In fact, this cue can be stronger than any other. And when God gives it, it can be as loud as a screaming siren.
God is faithful to grant us His peace when we are doing His perfect will. As many of you already know, doing His will and completing His assignments are not always easy. They can indeed be challenging. God will call you to do things you never dreamed you could do. They may even appear impossible. And you’re left wondering, “God… why me?” When you consider yourself you may feel entirely disqualified, impotent, and even ill-equipped. But when we accept His will for us, He grants us a peace and grace that we recognize as coming only from Him. Christ makes it clear that His yoke is easy and His burden is light, and that we are to learn of Him. God has to teach and equip us for many of the things He calls us to do.
So regardless of their inherent level of difficulty, He grants us His peace for His tasks and assignments. Many times this peace is entirely contrary to our own rationale or human logic. And if we’re not careful we can intelligently argue it away. Yet He grants us the peace that carries us through if we will accept it. Therefore, when that peace leaves or lifts from us, we can know that God is indicating a shift. He’s beginning to move. That pillar of cloud or fire is beginning to signal a change. It’s not difficult to recognize a lifting of God’s peace when we see the following take place:
• There is deep and consistent dissatisfaction or discontent that you are unable to remedy. This is usually one of the very first signs. If left unattended, you’ll eventually graduate to a loathing.
• You sense an uprooting. God begins tossing out feathers from your nest. God is getting you ready for a ‘transplant’. New soil awaits you in which you can bear fruit.
• Finally there comes a loathing. It takes everything in you just to get out of bed and do it all over again. Your tolerance is nearing the zero mark.
Sign #2: A Lifting of His Grace
God’s grace is known by the power He gives us to perform His will on earth as it is in heaven. When we accept any given assignment from Him, we receive His grace to perform it. Some may call it an anointing, and by either term, that would be correct.
The grace of God is given to those who do His will. Perhaps you have experienced this acutely. And it’s not something you can even explain. It’s beyond yourself. It leaves you in awe and wonder, because it’s not about your ability. God gets all the glory. And when you consider it, you’re really not sure how you do what you do.
When God moves, He lifts that grace. Sometimes it’s rather slowly. I believe He gives us time to discern His movement so we can adjust. He’s very gentle and kind in this way. The gradual lifting of His grace gives us time to prepare for that next move of God in our lives – whatever it may be. But if we push the envelope, we’ll find ourselves in a place we don’t want to be. So when you begin to see that God is lifting His grace in a particular area of your life, pay attention and begin to prepare for what’s next. Begin to seek His face and move with His Spirit.
When God beings to lift the grace, several things happen:
• You begin to experience a pressure or stress that was not there before.
• Your emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual energies are sapped. It’s just not in you anymore, and you find yourself exhausted. It gets harder and harder as the energies you invest continue to increase.
• You feel ‘wrecked’. And your recovery time is harrowing.
• Things don’t fall into place as they did before. Or things begin falling apart. Nothing is gelling – and you can’t necessarily place it or trace it to anything or anyone. There’s no evident reason why. But for all your labors there is very little fruit to show for them. When you’ve worked so hard only to find things failing or falling short – and it’s a consistent pattern – that is a clear sign God is moving.
You don’t want to encounter what comes next. If you missed #1 & #2, then #3 is a clarion call that is unmistakable.
Sign #3: Closed Doors
This is perhaps the most painful of any sign. And I personally believe it’s the final and last sign that God gives if we neglect His earlier cues. When God closes a door – no man can open it. For lack of better terms, this is the final nail in the coffin. It’s over. He’s done. He’s moved. And if you’re still trying to save the day for the sake of unwanted change in your life, think again – because change has already come. Don’t ever get trapped in a place where God has closed a door. It’s a very painful place to be which can be hard to escape. There can be costly complications in getting out.
So before God closes the door, begin to seriously ponder and pray about the signs and signals He’s giving you regarding an impending move. God is patient and He’s loving. He often does this gradually for our sakes, and I’ve seen Him grant generous time to any particular move He’s initiated. But don’t lag behind. Move with Him. Pay attention. Because once that door closes, here’s what you’ll most likely see:
• A removal of His favor that was once demonstrated through key individuals He’s placed in your life. Their support, involvement, approval, agreement, and personal commitment may shift. A removal of God’s favor can happen in numerous ways.
• A removal of resources. Things get extraordinarily dry. Finances dry up. Energy sources dry up. Everything dries up, and you find yourself in a wasteland of sorts.
• You become isolated and alone in a manner that is unhealthy, which you cannot and should not attempt to sustain.
• You begin to experience opposition and oppression that you were once protected from. Hence, there is a spiritual vulnerability.
When God closes a door, He’s been known to let it slam. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand this one. If the other two signs were somehow ambiguous to you, this one will get your attention. If you’ve never experienced God closing a door in your life – or if you just weren’t sure about all the other signs He’s given – this is one you’ll never doubt. And you’ll never want to experience it twice. This is one of God’s ways that is impeccably clear. It’s unmistakeable. The door that closes is often permanent. It can be very painful. And if you’re still hanging around when it happens, you’ve hung on too long. Get moving, because God is way ahead of you, and it’s time to catch up.
God is faithful to speak to us – even through signs. But when He does, we must learn to pay close attention so we can follow Him. Seek His face. God is faithful to lead us by His Spirit and His word. He does not change. He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. He is still LORD. He is still the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire.
So what is His manifest presence in your life teaching you?
The LORD will always move you forward. He has a beautiful life and future planned for you – but you must be willing to embrace it. If you are someone who does not welcome change, this can be difficult. That embrace requires faith in what is often unknown, and it comes by a courageous and bold spirit.
Sometimes God moves when we least expect it. And although He’s often patient and gentle in His guidance, giving us ample time to adjust and prepare, there are times when He moves unexpectedly and quickly. I believe He does this to teach us His ways. He wants us to know Him and how to follow Him. There were times when Israel would tediously set up camp only to find His cloud moving again the next morning! Talk about a journey! Can you imagine? So we must be ready at any given moment to follow the LORD. Nothing is permanent or promised. Our walk with Him is very unpredictable. It’s a walk of faith lived moment by moment through intimate communion with Him. Jesus likens those who are born of the Spirit to the wind. You never know which way it will go (see John 3:8).
The key to breaking out is being willing to embrace those changes He’s put before you, so you may step into the destiny He’s called you to fulfill. When you’re following God, even in those hard and challenging assignments, you’ll always find these three things:
1.) His peace
2.) His grace
3.) Open doors
God bless you as you break out, embrace the change, and move forward with God! He’s faithful to lead you to the promised land – if you will hear His voice, learn His ways and follow Him.
Cheers & Shalom,