God of First Moves
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Romans 5:8, NIV
"Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."
Isaiah 43:19, ESV
It's the classic relational standoff: someone has treated me like dirt, so I'll just respond in kind. Or, things haven't shaken out well with my work, friend, family member....fill in the blank, so I will just remove myself from the fray, do my duty and disengage. My flesh responds to hardship two ways--fight or flight. The Holy Spirit in me calls a very different way. He tells me to focus.
The object of that focus is integral. In trying times, my focus has to be on Jesus Christ, who He is, how He dealt with hardships, and how He operates. If I can drill down into that perspective through my layers of anger, emotional pain, or self-pity, I begin to see clearly how Jesus operates. He leans in when things get tough, leading with love. He is the God of first moves who pushed toward me despite my mess and rebellion. He calls me to trust that He is doing a new thing through the thorniness of the weed patch I seem stranded in. He wants me to focus on Him, and keep moving.
The theological term for that movement is simply faith. Faith is our response to God's first moves--loving us, sending His Son to die for us, redeeming us, giving us the righteousness of Jesus Christ in which to stand. As we soak in these truths, we can walk in them and let them shape our character. We see that our God of first moves enables us to also make first moves, motivated by His love. Those moves may involve seeking someone's forgiveness, loving those who are difficult, giving up our desire to get even, turning off the gossip faucet, confessing greed, or ruthlessly smashing false idols. They involve operating out of our comfort zone, and pushing into places where we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. Those moves involve listening to the voice of faith instead of fear, and grounding our emotions through the truth of God's Word.
It is a great comfort to know that whenever I am called to make these types of moves, I am simply following. My Shepherd charts the path, and His first moves of love and sacrifice have made it straight for me to follow. He is always ahead, directing the moves of faith and love He wants me to make. I know He can be trusted, because He made them first.