A reality check can either be a positive, faith-filled moment or become a negative, faithless one. Reality checks happen to all of us, and can come at any moment. They can come suddenly when something causes us to pause and assess where we really are at. Sometimes a reality check can include seeing the ‘truth’ that we have been missing all along.
If we are foolish associating with foolish people – then we will not benefit from the insight offered through a reality check. Ecclesiastes 4:13, ‘It is better to be a poor but wise youth than an old and foolish king who refuses all advice.’ Proverbs 27:6, ‘Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.’ A few verses later, verse 9, ‘The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.’ And verse 17, ‘As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.’
Sometimes reality checks come from within as we process life – other times they come because of something another person says to us. Proverbs 13:20, ‘Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.’ If the reality check comes because of something said to us – we need to take time to consider whether it is sound or foolish advice. If we walk with wise people, then a reality check caused by the words of another is not to be feared.
Sometimes they come inadvertently through the words of another person in a way that the speaker does not know has happened. God’s Spirit seems to use these words to challenge us. I can think of many occasions when this has happened to me. There is something about how God chooses to use other people, often without them even realising it, that is refreshing and humbling. It makes me think that God may be using me in ways that I have never even imagined. I spend hours preparing to preach, say something profound, in my eyes anyway, and God speaks into a person’s life in a way I never intended and they completely miss my ‘profound’ statement…
Jeremiah 6:16, NKJV, ‘Stand in the ways [crossroads] and see, and ask for the old [ancient] paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.’
There are ancient pathways, eternal, timeless ones which God Himself has established. These are the pathways to follow, the ones He designed for us to be able to navigate this life with faith obeying His word and ways – a lifestyle which pleases Him. It is a good way, a pleasant, agreeable, happy, prosperous way – all of these words help to express the Hebrew for ‘good.’
‘Stand in the ways and see…’ In the context of Jeremiah 6, this speaks of taking time to assess what was really going on within and all around the nation. It is God imploring His people to recognise that they were at a crossroads. If they didn’t stop and consider their ways, repent and ask God to guide them back onto His way – from that moment on – they would be walking the pathway of destruction.
The call, ‘ask for the old [ancient] paths,’ is a call for the nation to pursue God, just as their forefathers had done in the old days, on God’s terms living out their faith in the light of His commandments. The whole chapter, Jeremiah 6, is God’s prophetic word to Judah proclaiming that – because of how ungodly they were, thinking unholy thoughts, living immorally, and worshipping falsely – God was about to send on them His threatened disaster and destruction, if they did not repent.
Sadly, Jeremiah’s prophetic words fell on deaf ears and Judah took the wrong road – just as they had been doing for years. The road they took was not the ancient, godly way which would have refreshed their souls; no, they took the road that destroyed their souls ending up in a place of spiritual decay and death. They took the road of death and destruction, and captivity to a pagan power in a foreign land.
The Lord always knew their thoughts, He knew what was in their hearts. Later in Jeremiah, 18:15, because of their idolatry and desertion of Him, and His ways, He says to them, ‘My people are not so reliable, for they have deserted Me; they burn incense to worthless idols. They have stumbled off the ancient highways and walk in muddy paths.’ The nation was now walking a bad, unpleasant, disagreeable, unhappy and bankrupt pathway.
I wonder are you walking the ancient pathway? The one God’s word talks about. The best type of reality checks are the ones that stop us walking a pathway that displeases God. Sometimes Satan sows a reality check into our lives designed to turn us off the ancient pathway. If we walk with wisdom, filled with His word and Spirit, and fellowshipping with wise people, we will soon be able to discern the false nature of the ‘reality’ we are seeing. Be a student of God’s word, ‘Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path’ (Psalm 119:105).
The challenge for us is to be able to live in the reality of today with its setbacks, distractions, challenges, highs and lows, constant busyness, ongoing work, and opportunities. The day by day, week by week, month by month and year by year nature of life is an endurance test. Love, laughter, joy, godliness, happiness, family, friends, church, and purpose are all blessings which help us to live well. Godliness with contentment is great gain.
It is easy to get so caught up in the day by day that we miss seeing the next part of the pathway which, if we walk along it, would lead us into a new season or phase of spiritual growth and usefulness of life to the Master. I suggest that we also need godly visionaries and dreamers in our lives to light up the pathway. They are wonderful, and sometimes very frustrating, people to be around.
A visionary is a future orientated person. A good visionary understands the past and the roadway we have walked, the impact of all we have experienced, where we are at this moment, and where we could be in a few years time. A good visionary is able to set out the practical steps needed to get to that better tomorrow. In Christian terms, a godly visionary knows the ancient path, and is able to map out the next stage along that pathway.
A balanced dreamer inspires others with their tales of what could be. The dreamer is constantly having flights of fancy dreaming of a better today and a better tomorrow. In fact, in the Bible, dreamers were prophetic people who were able to guide people in the present because of their God-given ability to interpret dreams about tomorrow.
In the world around us there are many false visionaries and dreamers who are unspiritual, ungodly and antichrist in nature. If we listen to the gurus of this world, they will take us off the ancient pathway and onto some sort of pseudo-soulish pathway where the size of the challenges and problems get bigger and bigger, the cup is always half empty without the favour of God, faith is destroyed, and despair sets in leading to spiritual darkness and decay.
If there was not the crossroads of a reality check – then it would be bad for us spiritually, even soul destroying. However, a good reality check, conviction of sin, leads to repentance; redemption is God’s eternal plan in Christ, and salvation, and restoration, are offered, through the Gospel, in His name.
- There are times in all our life journeys when God programmes in a reality check. This is a chance to prove our faith, assess where we really are at this moment, and lift our gaze beyond our own abilities afresh onto the Lord.
- If we haven’t prepared ourselves knowing that God regularly uses reality checks – then they can take us by surprise, be a spiritual dampener, and cause us to stumble and lose our way.
- I wonder – which outlook do I take when a reality check comes along in my life?
- Those who are wise live depending on all that Christ has accomplished on their behalf at the Cross. As a result they seek to live a purpose-filled life following the Lord practising the spiritual disciplines, future-orientated awaiting the future glory in God’s presence, while living out the faith today in the fullness and power of the Spirit.
- Foolish people never take the ancient pathway. They view the world through the lens of human ability and resources – they do not know God, nor His ways in Christ. They only know the unspiritual, ungodly and antichrist world and its ruinous pathway.
- If we listen to wise Christians, they inspire us to continue following Christ partnering in His mission to the world, rooted in Christ, full of faith and life affirming.
- There are those who view the world through the lens of human ability and resources – for those rooted in Christ, we view life full of faith following the ancient pathway.
- There is power in the name of Jesus to overcome everything, including the negativity of a difficult reality check.
- I wonder – which pathway do you take when a reality check happens: the ancient godly one or the other destructive one?
Father, I pray that we will be focussed on Christ. Then Lord, even when the reality check hits – we will be able to stand on Your word and promises, look beyond the material reality into the spiritual reality, count our blessings, chose to remember the godly transformations that have happened, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and be better equipped to travel the ancient pathway. Hallelujah!
I pray that as a result of this insight – we will be inspired to continue following Christ partnering in His mission to the world. I also pray for any who can only see the size of the challenges and problems, are seeing the cup half empty, losing faith and despairing thinking that nothing can be redemptively changed – draw them to the foot of the Cross and grant them the gift of repentance and faith in Christ and His victory on their behalf. Lead them onto the ancient pathway and bless them thereon. In Jesus’ name. Amen