This week I saw a post that went like this:
The four stages of a Man's Life
- You believe in Santa
- You don't believe in Santa
- You are Santa
- You look like Santa
I took offence at that last one, but digress.
The truth is, we do have stages in our life. I thought about it this morning as I was reading Genesis 12
7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your offspring.” So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him. 8 From there he moved on to the hill country east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. He built an altar to Yahweh there, and he called on the name of Yahweh. 9 Then Abram journeyed by stages to the Negev.
It was that last part of verse 9 that caught my attention, "journeyed by stages". When you look up what that word means in the Hebrew, it speaks of pulling up the tent pegs and moving to the next area, then setting up camp for a while, then pulling up the tent pegs and going again.
Looking it up in the dictionary for todays language gives us this definition: a point, period, or step in a process or development, a section of a journey or a race. It can speak to a stopping place along the path from one place to the next.
No doubt life is made up of different stages. The picture I chose for this post gives a picture of the life of every person. We do not and cannot go from a baby to a senior adult, there are stages along the way of course.
Now sometimes we may feel like the stages are: birth, what the heck is going on, death. But, it goes deeper than that! If things go in the natural order: We are born, we become little kids, we go to school for the first time, we go into middle and high school, some go to college, others go straight to work, many get married and have kids, progress in our jobs (sometimes multiple jobs), get older and then in time we pass away.
I am well aware both personally and as a pastor, not every person born gets to go thru each stage nor am I even hinting at the fact that each stage is easy or free of challenges.
Far from it. I know there are also other stages we can go through. Seasons and moments of sorrow, depression, sickness personally or of family and friends, financial hardships and the list can go on and on.
But, can we also admit, we also have stages of great blessings, amazing joy, grace beyond belief, wonderful moments that take our breath away and memories made that will last a lifetime.
In it all, like Abraham, we journey in this life in stages and seasons.
With that being said, what lessons can we glean from Abraham about the stages of life, no matter what stage we are in. I believe there are a few, taken right from this text. Let me share.
Life is made up of stages
I know I have already stated this truth, but it bears repeating. Life is made up of times when we, like Abraham, put some tent pegs down and then moments when it is time to pull up and start the next leg of the journey.
Be encouraged, each stage has it's own challenges, but I firmly believe each one also has it share of blessings and joys too!
Each Stage, we must be Marked by our Tent and our Altar
What in the world does this mean preacher you may ask? Does this mean I need to sell everything and buy me a tent or carry a tent everywhere I go and make sure a build an altar. The answer is yes and no.
I know we do not live in tents (some do live in campers and RV's and one day, I may be in that stage too) like Abraham did and we usually don't pile up a bunch of rocks and make an altar where we live, work or go to school.
However, we must be marked by a life that sees the importance of a tent and an altar. Abraham's life was marked and directed by his tent and his altar. And when he forgot those two things, no matter what stage he was in at the time, he always, do you see what I am typing, he ALWAYS got off course.
Why are these two things so important. Bible Commentator and pastor, Warren Wiersbe says it best: The tent marked him as a “stranger and pilgrim” who did not belong to this world (Heb. 11:9–16; 1 Peter 2:11), and the altar marked him as a citizen of heaven who worshiped the true and living God. He gave witness to all that he was separated from this world (the tent) and devoted to the Lord (the altar).
So in other words, for us as Christians, in each stage of life, no matter if we are filled with blessings or facing all kinds of burdens, if are going to not only survive each one but seek to thrive in each one, we must be marked by our tent and our altar.
For us, it is an attitude and a mindset.
We must say in our hearts, I am going to make sure that I am spending time with the Lord everyday, reading His word, being in prayer, that every day, no matter what stage or age, I am not neglecting my altar.
We must lay before the Lord and confess again, we are are not of this world, we are just passing through. We must remind ourselves, we are not to be living for this world, even though we live in it. We are living for heaven and looking for heaven and that one day, we will go there.
We must be willing to say, no matter what Lord, anytime you want me to put the tent stakes down in a particular place, yes Lord, I will do just that. And then, no matter what Lord, when you say it is time to pull up stakes and move to the next phase of the journey, I am willing to go and do whatever you want me to do.
It is a life that is marked by spending time with the Lord daily and then obeying what He has told us to do as we sought His word and His will in prayer and time in the word. It must be a daily pattern of our life if we are going to thrive in each stage.
Or, like Abraham, when he forsook his tent and his altar and headed down to Egypt when times got hard, and they will, he got into all kinds of trouble. More trouble than the famine would have caused him. Why? At least then he would have been at the altar and in His tent, trusting God and not the world.
Which is the best place - always with the tent and the altar.
When we do get off course, we must and we can come back to what is important
We see in chapter 13 of Genesis, that Abraham, got back on course in the stage he was in when he came back to the place where He met with God at the altar, 3 And he went on his journeys from the south even to Beth-el, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Beth-el and Hai; 4 Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.
Where he was at the first. He came back to his tent and his altar and met with God.
All of us can get off course at any stage and any age and forsake our altar and tent way of living. We can bitter because of what we "think" our life should have been by now; we can get busy with our jobs, kids, family and life; we become broken because of a sickness, tragedy or tough place we are walking through; we focus on success, money and all the world has to offer and so many things.
And like Abraham, if we neglect these two things long enough, we will see the consequences in our life.
But, Praise God, the Christian life is made up of new beginnings and fresh starts.
Just like Abraham, we can come back to the altar and come back to a heart that says, I am no longer living for this world and it's life, no Lord, I am here again, saying, my life is yours, you guide me and keep my eyes on the city and country not made my human hands.
I know in my life, when I have allowed myself to be marked by the altar and the tent, it has not always been easy, but I know His grace and know His presence with each step of the way. And when I don't, I miss what God had intended for me in that moment and face the consequences that come as a result.
But, again, Praise the Lord for His grace to come back and know His hand is holding me and guiding me in each journey when I come back to Him and His way.
I do not have it down and I will fall short many times still on this journey. But, I thank God for every stage I have been in, the one I am in now and the one to come.
I truly say like the old gospel song, I would not take anything for my journey now.
God bless and hope this helps someone along the journey!