The Next Step
content first published by Col. Steve Martin in Volume 15 Issue 06, the June 2023 edition of the Patriot News, a Yellow Ribbon Ministry Publication
As the man steps down the ladder, his heart races a bit with adrenaline. He’s gone through years of training and months of specialized preparation for this mission, yet a small bit of doubt creeps in prior to taking the next step. Pioneers of every age have experienced this same feeling as they step from the known into the unknown. All the training, all the money, all the countless hours of work by thousands of people is in preparation for this next step. The world media says it is to be the greatest step ever taken in the recorded history of man. As he steps, Neil Alden Armstrong becomes the first man to take a step onto another celestial body, the Earth’s moon. “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” spoken by Armstrong, sealed—for posterity—the moment in the collective mind of the world.
Neil Armstrong, Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. and Michael Collins served as the crew of Apollo 11. They were a generation of military men who had the “right stuff” to become America’s first astronauts. Armstrong was a naval aviator, and both Aldrin and Collins served in the Air Force. Armstrong and Aldrin were Korean War combat veterans, and Collins had served as a fighter/bomber pilot for a nuclear squadron during the height of the Cold War. These were highly intelligent men, with keen senses and reflexes, capable of operating at a high level in extremely stressful and life-threatening situations.
In October 1957, the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik I satellite into an elliptical low Earth orbit. This development greatly alarmed the United States, and this event began the space race in earnest. During the Cold War era, any propaganda that could increase their worldwide political sphere of influence was considered critical by America and the Soviet Union. The space race precipitated large scale military, economic, and technological advancement. Gaining the upper hand in this race was seen as vital to maintaining their sphere of influence.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy set the bar for the future in a speech to the United States Congress by challenging the nation to “commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.”
The lunar module carrying Armstrong and Aldrin landed in an area of the Moon called the “Sea of Tranquility” on July 20, 1969. Once the engine was shut down, Armstrong communicated, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed,” signaling that the landing was complete and successful.
As people around the world watched in amazement, the astronauts collected soil and rock samples, took pictures, and placed an American flag in the soil. It is—to this day—the greatest example of exploration ever conducted by man.
As the crew of Apollo 11 was returning to Earth, the news media wanted to get the thoughts and the perspectives of the now famous astronauts. The night before their scheduled splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, a live telecast with the astronauts was broadcast worldwide. When asked about his thoughts over the last few days, Buzz Aldrin commented:
“Personally, in reflecting on the events of the past several days, a verse from Psalms comes to mind. ‘When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the Moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; What is man that Thou art mindful of him?'” (Psalm 8:3-4)
Indeed, what is man that God would be mindful of him?
Several years ago, a team led by an Australian astronomer calculated the number of stars in the known universe to be seventy sextillion—seven followed by twenty-two zeros. It is hard to wrap our minds around such a large number, but to give you some scale—this same astronomer estimated that there are more planets than there are grains of sand on every desert and every beach in the world.
With all our knowledge and all our ability, man has only set foot on one other celestial body in space. Our steps—no matter how insignificant they may seem to be—are important to the Lord. Psalm 37 tells us that the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delights in his way.
The Bible often refers to steps as a matter of faith. God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees to go to a land that He would show him. Abraham obeyed and walked with God because he believed and had faith in the promises of God. God declared Abraham righteous based on that belief (Genesis 15:6).
There are many examples in the Bible of people stepping out into the unknown relying solely on their faith in God. The Apostle Peter also gives us an example of stepping out into the unknown. Matthew’s gospel tells us that Jesus told his disciples to get into their ship and go ahead of Him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. While Jesus was on the mountaintop praying, His disciples were in their ship on very turbulent waters being tossed to and fro by the wind. They were struggling on a very rough sea— fighting against strong wind and waves—for the whole night.
I imagine that they were worn out just trying to stay afloat. Early in the morning, Jesus comes to them walking on this tempestuous sea. At first, they were frightened thinking it was a spirit. However, when Jesus spoke to them, they recognized His voice. The impulsive Peter cried out to the Lord and asked to be able to come to Him on the water. Jesus bid him come, and Peter stepped into the unknown and began walking to the Lord.
Matthew relates the rest: “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, caught him, and said unto him, ‘O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?'” (Matthew 14:31)
Someone reading this may be on the precipice of stepping into the unknown. It may be a job decision, family situation, financial crisis, or moving in a direction you feel led by the Lord. As you look over the landscape of your decision, you may see a windy and boisterous “sea” rather than a “sea of tranquility.” You may be paralyzed by fear, afraid to take that next step because it seems so tumultuous.
Is your little faith what’s keeping you from taking that next step?
You may truly want to please God, but you are paralyzed by trying to determine what God really wants you to do. Many of us—rather than making a decision—are stuck in paralysis by analysis. We want all the answers before we begin, and we want God’s clear will to be evident.
God doesn’t always show you what He wants you to do, nor does He give you all the answers in advance. Many times, He wants you to step out in faith, and go forward. If you notice in Matthew 14:28-29, Jesus didn’t initiate Peter’s walk on the water, Peter did. He asked to come to the Lord on the water. When Jesus said “Come,” he stepped out and walked on the water. He sank when the fear of the elements (wind and water) became greater than his faith in the Creator of the elements—Jesus.
Your whole life may have been leading to the next step you now face. All your efforts, prayers, and experiences have led you to this point. But is it in the Lord’s will?
Here is a quick guide for those tough decisions:
Does your life align with scriptural principles? If your life is out of sync with the Word of God, your ability to discern God’s will will be out of balance.
Pray about it. Nothing takes the place of going to the Lord and asking Him to guide your steps as you venture forward.
Get wise and godly counsel. Talk to others who have taken similar steps, get their feedback. Those who have sought the Lord for guidance—for direction in their lives—are the best sources.
Make an informed decision based on the Biblical principles, prayer, and wise counsel.
Take that next step!
Follow the principle of the Four P’s: Pray, Plan, Prepare, Proceed.
When you reach this point, you’ve done all you can—step out in faith. Psalm 37:23-24 says,
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.”
Have courage and faith to take that next step.
Don’t be distracted by the boisterous conditions around you.
The Almighty God is mindful of you, and that same hand that spread over seventy sextillion planets into place is the same hand that upholds you!