In recent years, stories of GPS mishaps have multiplied. Japanese tourists visiting Australia followed instructions for a drive to North Stradbroke Island but wound up stranded at the shoreline. The GPS failed to factor in that their car wasn’t amphibious and would not be able to cruise across the nine miles of water between the island and the mainland.
Another motorist punched a New Jersey address into his console only to find himself stuck on a Manhattan stairway leading down into Riverside Park.
And then there’s the driver from Belgium, who set out from her house for the train station in Brussels, which was approximately 45 minutes north. However, her malfunctioning navigator sent her south, so south she went. Traveling through Germany, stopping twice for fuel and pulling over at least once to sleep, she motored on. Finally, after arriving in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, she realized that her GPS had led her astray.
If we want to end up in the right place, it is essential that we start out going in the right direction.
Read Genesis 1:1-5
Before opening your Bible, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what He wants you to take away from this passage. Then read the section, jotting down your first impressions: What questions do you have? Is anything confusing? Which verses speak into your present situation, and how?
It’s noteworthy how Scripture begins with this most crucial introduction: “In the beginning, God …” These four words set the direction for everything that comes after. If we don’t understand that God is the beginning of all things, God is the source of all life, God is the truth behind every command and instruction we will find in all the stories to follow, then we inevitably will take disastrous turns and land in erroneous places.
Scripture begins with “In the beginning, God …” These four crucial words set the direction for everything that comes after.
The Bible is first and foremost about God. Throughout these holy pages, we discover much about ourselves (our identity, our humanity, the value of our work, the good life intended for us), but all of these truths make sense only because they are centered in the Lord. In the story Scripture tells, we find that God is the foundation of all things, the one in whom we “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28 NIV).
It is vital for us to recognize that our life depends (from beginning to end) on the Lord. If we believe the story starts with us, then we doom ourselves to futility, heartache, and a never-ending restlessness without hope of relief. Augustine of Hippo knew this well and expressed it this way: “[God] is the fount of our blessedness, and He is the goal of all our desires ... For our good ... is nothing other than to cling to Him.” In other words, we do not find our joy by simply pursuing joy; we find it by pursuing God, who is all joy and light and goodness.
The Bible begins with the most fundamental truth: God. If we begin anywhere else, we will point our life in the wrong direction.
Write your thoughts in the space provided for notes or in a journal.
• Take another look at the first chapter of Genesis. In what way is God’s action highlighted? How is He the originator of everything that comes into being? What would be different about the story if God were not the starting point? Can you imagine how the narrative would unfold differently if it didn’t commence with “In the beginning, God ...”?
• List a couple of your favorite stories from both the Old and New Testaments. Retell each story to yourself. Where do you find God’s action or truth or providence being the central theme? How might we be tempted to read each one differently, making human action, desire, or effort the crux?
• Read Romans 8:26-39. Note all the places where Paul highlights God’s action preceding any human effort. What point do you think the apostle is trying to make? And how does he describe the confidence we can have in God and the assurance of His love toward us? How might this be different if we were the central characters of the story?
• In thinking about how you might tell your own life story, where are you most tempted to make it primarily about you? How would you tell your story differently if you recognized it as being first of all about God? Can you think of situations—or groups of people—in which you might find it more challenging or intimidating to speak from that perspective?
• Why do you suppose it’s difficult at times to think of our life beginning and ending in God? What doubts arise as you reflect on this? What resistance do you encounter as you consider orienting your life in God?
• While some Christians miss the truth that God is what life and history are all about, others are sometimes accused of “seeing God in everything.” How would you respond to such a criticism?
• Considering Augustine’s words on page 41, how might keeping God as the prime player in your story actually yield more joy, delight, and goodness? Why do we fear the opposite?
• Listen to the stories that are told around you, such as in movies, news, and conversations. How do they intersect with the fact that God is the force behind our life? Now, think about recent historic events (from the past 100 years). In what ways does viewing those events through the lens of God’s involvement affect the interpretation of their significance?
• Take the phrase “In the beginning, God …” and allow it to become your prayer. When you wake up each morning and as you make your way through the day, repeat this prayer in your heart. Pay attention to what you notice and to what changes inside you.
• This week, consider your anxieties and your hopes. Do they reflect this truth: In the beginning, God … ?