Copyright © 2019 by Philip Byler – All Rights Reserved
Unauthorized Duplication Prohibited by Law
"Quo Vadis, Lord?"
"Where are you going, Lord?"
WHERE ARE YOU GOING?
Have you ever asked yourself that question? I do. Lately, I ask it a lot. Not just, "where are you going?", but "Where are we going?" Just where are You taking me next in this journey of life? What are the plans You have for us at Trinity Church?
The epic movie "QUO VADIS," made in 1951 told of a retiring Roman general named Marcus Vinicius returning from the wars, and his love for Lygia, a devout Christian. This all takes place during the time of Nero's reign of terror. The story is historical fiction, played out against the backdrop of the intense persecution of early Christianity by Rome.
I saw the film many years ago and had not thought of it for decades. But recently, the title rose up in my memory for some strange reason. So, I decided to look it up to see what it means. To my surprise, it means what my title states, but in the English of the King James Bible. "Whither goest thou?" If memory serves, the end of the movie is the point at which the question is raised. Without going into detail, a series of suspense filled events culminates in the death of St. Peter, the death of Nero, and the deliverance of Lygia and Marcus Vinicius. As they look to their future, the arrive at this question, "Quo Vadis?" - Where are you going?
I find myself asking that question quite a lot lately. In fact,the older I grow, the more determined to keep that at the forefront of my thinking. Where are you going, Lord? Wherever that is, that's where I want to go. Where are you taking me, taking us? Sometimes I have difficulty understanding Your direction. Sometimes I have a struggle with how things are shaping up. But I sincerely want to go and lead others to where He is going.
I thought about titling this article "Lateral Movement." All too often we fail to move either forward or backward. We simply shuffle from side to side or move laterally, doing the same things over and over without making forward progress. This can, at times, be a good, or at least a necessary thing. In sports, like football or basketball, it may become necessary to move laterally to find a opening to allow you to advance. Lateral movement may be necessary in business as well, though it quickly becomes non-productive. No one wants to stay in the same place in business because growth demands advance - forward momentum toward a goal. However, to prepare for a coming advance, it may be necessary to maintain a certain level of "status quo" - keeping things in the state they are in. In a person's spiritual life, lateral movement can be particularly frustrating, especially to pastors and Christian leaders. Why? Because we see high levels of complacency and ambivalence in far too many Christians. They are going nowhere, doing little or nothing to grow in the Lord and doing nothing to advance the Kingdom of God. They are content to sit in a pew or on a chair on Sunday morning, sing a few songs, and listen to a message about faith, or prosperity, or salvation, or wisdom. But they return to their daily lives unmoved, unaffected, and unchanged. There is no movement toward a greater intimacy with God. There is no advance in spiritual awareness, no improvement of character, and no real challenge to their faith. Life simply goes from day to day, from week to week as though there was no importance placed on their spiritual life and character.
When I find myself moving laterally, I actually know I am backing up, not merely moving sideways. Lateral movement, instead of maintaining a person's level of spiritual growth, people lose ground, because the Kingdom is ever advancing. Still, lateral movement may be necessary at times. You may have to move laterally for a season to circumvent spiritual mountains that stand in your way. God may also use lateral movement in your life to keep you from becoming entrenched in something that will drag you down. However, lateral movement should be a signal, a call to greater intimacy, to greater awareness of God's presence, and a stimulus to a deeper prayer life. This is particularly true when that movement has no specific goal in mind, no searching for an avenue to victory.
When you realize that you are not consciously moving forward, it is time to cry out to God... "Quo Vadis, Lord?" Where are You going? Where do You want me to go? What is the next step forward for me? He may not answer immediately, but if you continue to seek Him and ask, He will provide answers and guide Your steps.He doesn't always tell you immediately, but the very cry of your heart reminds you that you are seeking His direction not your own. Believe me when I say that He will answer.
Perhaps you have never made a choice that adversely affected you life. If so, you are in an very small minority. Lateral movement in things of the spirit is often a strong indicator that you have made a less than perfect decision. Unfortunately such decisions have consequences, and the longer you move sideways, the greater those consequences become. These will usually have to be walked out across a period of time as adjustments in course may require time to recover your initial direction. When you convince yourself that your wrong decision was a right decision, overcoming those consequences may well take much longer than you imagine.
A wise man once told me that the best way to correct a bad decision is to make another decision. That's true. But it's important for that new decision to be one that adjusts the bad one. To do that, it is in your interests to seriously ask "Quo Vadis, Lord?" Where are you going, and where do you want me to go?
You may feel that life has been treating you like a pawn on a chess board. You may have faced, or perhaps right now you may right be facing your "bear in the arena" like Lygia did in the movie. You need deliverance. You need to be approved, accepted, and advanced in life. But you're uncertain of the future. The ground under your feet might seem shaky and unstable. The last choice you made may have proven to be a disaster of epic proportions. So be it. Life will go on. But you will have to live it as it does. You will either find your place of victory, or the epic will continue. The choice is yours to make. Follow God's direction or "crash and burn." In times like those, you need the Lord's guidance and wisdom. You can find much of it in Scripture, not hit and miss reading, but steady, systematic reading through large portions of Scripture until the answers begin to emerge in your understanding, in your heart, and on the pages of God's Holy Word.It is at those times that you must know - and only the Lord can tell you for certain - where are You going... and can I go with You? You can, you know, for His way is the way of life and He beckons you to come with Him.