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 the shape of leadership

The Dot-to-Dot Connector

The beauty of trusting God for one day at a time

George O Wood on July 17, 2017

My brother-in-law, Larry Bray, is an artist. He can look at anything and transfer it into a painting or sculpture. I envy his talent and feel so frustrated that my artistic leanings will never find expression. My “art” is still limited to drawing stick figures.

As a child, I so wanted to paint faces, and mountains, lakes, trees, valleys, and rivers. But, my drawing was limited to coloring books that had the dot-to-dot connectors.

Remember those? Each dot is numbered, and it was your job to draw a line from dot No. 1 to dot No. 2 and to each succeeding dot until the whole outline was filled in. The more complicated “pictures” might have several hundred dots to connect.

But, even before you traced in the lines connecting the dots, you could rather accurately discern the outline of what you would be drawing. The dots, even when unconnected, all formed some discernible pattern.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if life were that way? If we could glance at an overview of all the “dots” in the portrait of our life story and see where today’s connecting line (from dot No. 27 to dot No. 28, for example) fits in the whole scenario of God’s pattern for our lives?

At times in our own lives, we find ourselves in a barren desert in which the sand blows in and eliminates all the dots. We once thought we knew exactly where we were going, and had all of life mapped out. And then, suddenly we found ourselves in a spiritual wilderness — trackless, monotonous and dangerous. It’s so unsettling because we can no longer see the whole; we are faced with the necessity of living just one day at a time.

Then we have to trust that God himself knows where all the dots are, and that He is not leading us in circles — but in some meaningful pattern.

A frustration is that God doesn’t reveal the whole picture to us. Like the nation Israel of old, He does not lead us through the wilderness on the shorter, more traveled road — but, around … and around and around (Exodus 13:17-18)!

He forces us into daily existence. Guidance is one day at a time, with “the cloud by day and with light from the fire all night” (Psalm 78:14). Even the food lasts only one day — and one cannot stockpile manna for tomorrow (Exodus 16:11-36).

What is God teaching us in the wilderness? To live one day at a time dependent on Him!

Are you in a season of life where you are frustrated because you cannot see the “whole”? Are you even panicky because life appears to be taking twists and turns that are taking you away from the picture you thought God wanted drawn for your life?

Take heart! You are in God’s wonderful and terrifying wilderness! He is stripping you of everything except today. He is forcing you to connect only this morning’s dot to this evening’s. In such a place, we learn:

We have to trust that God himself knows where all the dots are, and that He is not leading us in circles — but in some meaningful pattern.

• Prayer: “Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).

• Trust: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

• Obedience: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

• Security: “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock” (Psalm 27:5).

• Humility: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day will bring” (Proverbs 27:1).

As we learn to rely on God daily, we come to understand that just as He is with us today, He will be with us in all our tomorrows. He does know where the dots are going — even if we can’t see them. O Lord, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16).

As we transition into living one day at a time — and that day only — somehow we become far more focused. The day itself yields a much more intense relationship with God because we are no longer waiting for some future moment to deepen our walk with Him. It’s today or never! And, the same principle spills out in our interpersonal relationships. We commit ourselves to the love, forgiveness and duty needed for this day.

While I learn to relax in my responsibility to only connect this morning’s to this evening’s dot, I find scriptural prayer language on my lips. I awaken in the morning and say, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24, ESV).

Although the language of Psalm 90:12 is figurative, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” I have taken to applying it literally. On any given day, I know exactly what number of day it is in my life. (You can figure out how many days old you are here.) Each day, like a grain of sand, is special in the hourglass of my life. More days in this mortal tent are behind me than before me.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Through the window of my 24-hour day, I am looking and longing for the eternal day: the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30), the day of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:2), and the day of judgment (Romans 2:16). If I permit Him to live in me this day, then I will be blameless on that Day (1 Corinthians 1:8), what I do today will survive the fire of that Day (1 Corinthians 3:13), and what I have entrusted to Him will be guarded by Him until that Day (2 Timothy 1:12).

During the hours of any given day, I realize that the circumstances of my life may be inhospitable to me as a child of God; yet, I must make “the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). My mission for this day is drawn from the words of the Lord Jesus himself, “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4).

When the outer circumstances of any given day seem filled with distress and trouble, I quietly lift my voice in humble acknowledgement of the Lord: “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked” (Psalm 84:10). Even on the more difficult days of my life, when I am weak and hurting, I will still declare, “Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever” (Psalm 145:2).

Is it possible that you are no longer living a day at a time? Have you lost sight of God’s design for your life because you are trying to live all your tomorrows, rather than just today? Why not trust Him … just for today?

Remember the dot-to-dot connector! If you choose to draw the line today that connects the morning to the evening — God will show you the next day where the new dot is. Keep the pencil of your life moving according to His daily will, and someday God will let you look back and see a portrait that makes sense … and is beautiful.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of Called to Serve, the Assemblies of God ministers letter.

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