In the Bible, Mark writes much of his gospel in the form of describing the events in Jesus’ life as he travels on his journey to Jerusalem. Along the way, Jesus stops at different villages. He doesn’t spend much time in any one village. He does what His Father (as in God the Father) gives Him to do (preach, teach, heal), then He moves on to the next village. He never knows what or who He will have to deal with at the next village, but He has a positive outlook and sees each village as a new opportunity to serve His Father and the people.
One message for those who heard Mark’s gospel when it was written in the mid to late first century was that, as His followers. they too were on a journey. That message also applies to us today. Yes, we are on a journey. The journey is called “life”. “Life” is a journey. For us the villages are in the form of the circumstances and stages we go through in life. We travel from one job or career to another. From one group of friends and associates to others. From one church to another. From one age to another. From one home to another. If, like Jesus, we have a positive outlook on our journey through life, even when the circumstances are not so good, we will also see each stop along the way as a new opportunity to serve God and other people.
You never know when God will call upon you to get up from where you are and move on to the next village. To the next stage of life. To the next opportunity to serve Him and your fellow human beings. You can only be sure that sooner or later God will call for you to continue the journey. Even if you don’t believe God is real, He will be calling you. Therefore, the wise approach is to take time every day to listen to and say “yes” to God. Then proceed on your journey, following the directions He gives you. Even if you don’t get those directions just right, don’t worry about it. Just do the best you can. Like a GPS unit, God will “recalculate” if you make a wrong turn or fail to turn at all, and He will give you revised directions. God will never give up on you. But ultimately, it will be up to you as to whether or not you go on the God directed journey to which He calls you.
Even though I grew up as a “church person”, in my younger years I never thought of God having anything to do with directing my life, whether day by day or for the long term. In fact, while I “believed in God”, I also thought that even if there was no God, that wouldn’t have anything to do with my life. I had certain expectations for my life. I knew that if I wanted to achieve those things, all I needed to do was take the necessary steps, mostly in terms of education and work experience. However, in my late 20s I began to see that God was involved. Over the next few years, I began to accept that God did make a difference.
If I followed God’s directions, I would eventually arrive at the destination God had planned for me during my life in this world. I understood that the purpose of life was to reach a final God-given destination before I left this world. I would arrive at the last village, you might say. Then, when my life on earth was over, I would end up in heaven, with nothing left to do, on an eternal vacation.
Over the next few years, I began to realize what has now become accepted in both secular and religious circles. Regardless of our intended destination, even if we follow the directions perfectly, we are always subject to changes as we go through life. Some of these changes will be welcome and rewarding. Others will be harsh and difficult. Nevertheless, so far I had not experienced much in the way of the harsh realities of life. I was doing quite well moving in the direction of what I believed was the ultimate destination God intended for me. Until I lost my job at age 43 and spent over a year unemployed. I still look upon that experience as the worst time in my life. However, However, I eventually came to be able to look back at that experience as something I wouldn’t want to go through again, but am thankful that I did go through it. I say that because it led to my belief that life is a journey – not a destination.
After that worst time in my life was over, my journey led to my becoming a pastor in the United Methodist Church. When I began serving as a pastor, I thought I had achieved the final stage of my journey. I thought to myself, “This is what my journey through life has been about – becoming a pastor. I have now fulfilled my purpose in life. I have reached my God intended ultimate destination .” But there came a time when I began to hear God letting me know that my service as a pastor was not the ultimate destination toward which He had been calling me. It was but another stop along the way. It was as though God was saying “Stay tuned, I’ll be sending you directions as to where and when I want you to go next.
In the summer of 2005, God began sending me those directions. As part of my annual personal spiritual renewal retreat, I was attending Camp Meeting Week at Ocean Grove, NJ. The primary speaker that week, a missionary who was serving in South America, spoke about the gospel of Mark. He presented this idea which was new to me – life is a journey – not a destination. The purpose of life is not about reaching an ultimate destination before you leave this world. It is about being on a life-long, never-ending journey, which leads to a number of temporary destinations along the way. It is about listening to God direct you as to how to proceed along the journey. When and where to stop and stay for a while. When to get up and move on to the next destination. How to get from one place in your life to the next. It’s about being open to the variety of ways God will speak to you – through the Bible, circumstances, personal experience, other people, and the voice of the Holy Spirit.
During that week I began to hear God saying to me that the time was nearing to leave behind that part of my jouney which consisted of being a full-time pastor. But the journey was to continue. God was already calling on me to serve in other capacities. God was calling my friend and partner in ministry, Patty Perez, and I to organize Ray of Hope Ministries, which includes this web-site you are now looking at. Now, even as I write this , Patty and I know that this is just part of one stop along the journey of life God has given us. We both know that the time will come when God will call upon each of us to move on to the next “village” – just as it was with Jesus, during His three years of public ministry in this world.
Of course, Jesus, in His human form died at what was a young age(early 30s), even for people of those times. For a few days after His death on the cross, it looked like He had reached His final destination. His journey was over. But it wasn’t. The journey continued with His resurrection, His ascension to heaven, His sending the Holy Spirit into the lives of the people who would become the church – through which His life in this world, this universe, and heaven would continue forever.
In the same way, every human being has an opportunity to continue his or her journey, as long as their life goes on in this world, and then to continue that journey in heaven -with Jesus – forever. That is the hope we have, despite the evil we see every day in this world. The hope we have is that there is always good news in the midst of bad news. The hope we have is that our God-directed journey doesn’t end once we get to heaven. The journey goes on forever, in cooperation with and under the direction of Jesus – the One who fulfills that hope.
Grace and peace, Ray
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.
May God be with you,
Patty and Ray