Resolved to be Risk-Takers

This journey of faith continues to define us as we daily move forward in the walk Christ calls us to live.  Admittedly, stepping away from a secure position as a Lead Pastor of a church is not advisable when you have nothing to step to.  I would never have recommended anyone to do what we did.  There simply was far too much risk involved.  Yet, we recognize that sometimes Jesus calls us to be risk-takers.

How do you explain to others that what you are about to do is worth the risk you are taking, especially when you don’t know exactly what it is you are going to do?
And when understanding begins to dawn you fumble for words to share the vision.  Nothing you think of seems adequate to express the idea you hold in your heart.  Your best attempts come with a totally silly feel to them that embarrass you as you hear the words come from your mouth.  It just seems impossible!

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This is where we found ourselves just a little over a year ago.  Family and friends thought we had lost our minds as we set aside the security of a job we’d held for 23 years to begin a new adventure.  David’s Mom expressed what most thought, “But David, how are you going to live?  I mean, how will you pay your bills?”  Yes, it’s true this adventure started out void of any plan, income, or destination.  Some might describe it as a whim, a fancy of sorts, where people hit their midlife crisis and do weird things.  It seemed like an insane thing to do, and the people around us had no problem pointing out the insanity!

Actually, this reality didn’t bother us at all because we knew the motivation was love for us.  Their questions were good as they forced us to dig deeper in our own hearts to discover the reason why we would take these steps.  The questions pushed us to this crazy thing called prayer to find answers we didn’t have.  If it wasn’t a midlife crisis, then what was it that had driven us to this action?

One thing we discovered in this journey is not everyone is concerned about your future, and their questions aren’t meant to help you.  All they really want to do is keep you from doing something extraordinary.  Ok, maybe that last line was over the top and cruel, but it is how you feel in a few of these conversations.  Who knows what the real reasons are?

  • Maybe they don’t want to be challenged themselves to a life of faith in Christ.
  • It could be they have experienced some sort of trauma keeping them from risk-taking.
  • It might simply be they are one of the people in this world whose personality kills the sense of adventure in themselves and any others they can influence.

Matthew Barnett posted on his Twitter feed this statement, “Trying to convince a doubter that your leap of faith makes sense is a massive waste of productivity and mental energy.”  What a true statement.  Sometimes, in our efforts to convince the naysayers, all we really do is get frustrated and waste energy.

It isn’t that we think it’s a waste of time to help people who love you to understand the steps you are taking.  They care, and you need their understanding and support.  In fact, experience has taught us some of those you talk with become your biggest supporters for the journey.  When you feel like giving up they are the ones who step up to challenge you to go one more step.  They are worth the energy spent to explain Jesus’ calling.

However, it is a waste of productivity trying to change the minds of people who doubt that you heard from God.  If they don’t think God is in the idea then you just have to wait for God to show that He is.  And that is up to God to do; don’t even go there out of some narcissistic reason to validate yourself.  You don’t need the frustration or waste the time.

As we move further down the path of faith we discover more evidence that the Holy Spirit is going with us on this journey.  There are some days when that is such a relief to our souls.  Multiple times we have seen things that let us know Christ has gone before us and prepared the way.  Here are a few simple examples:

  • 4 days after our final service at Bridge of Hope we were asked to be an interim pastor in the greater Canton, OH area.  God knew the need of that dear church, and He knew our need of income.  The interim time ended just as we had been accepted into U.S. Missions and knew we needed to focus all our time there.
  • After arriving at our current destination we had to shop for a washer/dryer.  Money was going to be a factor at some point, and so we searched for the right situation.  Our prayers were answered as we found a good deal, and the salesman also gave us a slightly damaged microwave for free.  Coincidence? Maybe, but we rather think that God was answering a need.
  • Every time someone becomes a part of our Support Team we are humbled by the reality that another person has chosen to stand with us and say that they believe we have heard from God.  As a pastor serving the local church we never understood what this meant to a missionary.
  • When church planters seek us out for a little advice or a bit of training it encourages us.  There really is need for what God put in our hearts to do, and there are people waiting for someone who can give them the time.  Incidentally, these conversations happen at just the right moments.  Amazing!

This is the kind of thing that gives us the resolve to move forward, growing in strength with each step we take.  When these moments come that defy explanation, we find ourselves compelled by the Holy Spirit and this walk we are on to finish the course and see it through to the end!

*If you would like to know more about the mission that we are on and how you can be a vital part of it, please feel free to contact us.  We would love to share with you what we are doing and how you can best help us out in the journey.

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

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Being Tested?

ImageReading in John 6, I found myself struck by an interaction between Jesus and His disciples.  Specifically, it was an interaction between Jesus, Phillip, and Andrew.  We find Jesus along the Sea of Galilee with a large crowd gathering around Him.  Going up onto the mountainside Jesus sits down to talk with His disciples.  Let’s take a look at what is said.

John 6:5–9 (NLT)  Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.

Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money* to feed them!”

Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”

There was an obvious problem in front of them.  The time of the Passover festival was about to start, and they were entertaining a large crowd.  Who has a party without plenty of food?  So Jesus turns to Phillip for the answer, asking, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?”  Think about it.  Why would Jesus ask Phillip such a question?  They all saw the impossibility of the situation.   But this is it isn’t what captured me as I read the text.

What caught hold of me in that moment was verse 6, where it says, He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.”  I’m not sure that I like this thought… Jesus tests us to see what we are going to do.  But it is right there on the page and we, each and every one of us, have to deal with it.

Jesus knew where He was at in this thing; He knew what He was going to do, He knew the answer.  The real question being asked had nothing to do with bread to feed a bunch of people.  In this moment with His disciples (and I think Jesus could have tossed any of their names into the mix) Jesus was asking about where they placed their faith.  He was probing them to see if they could see beyond the circumstances that could serve as blinders or as an opportunity for a miracle.  Which way would they see this situation?

Phillip responds with the impossible; it would take 6 months’ wages to take care of this problem.  Translated, get feeding them out of your mind because we don’t have that kind of money, and even if we did, we couldn’t get that much bread.  It is doubly impossible according to Phillip.

Andrew does a little bit better but then fumbles it in the end.  He notices that there is a boy there with a little bit of food.  But that is the problem for Andrew:  it is a little bit of food, and he can’t see it being of any value.  Andrew doesn’t do any better than Phillip did with the question.

This made me think about the many times in my life where Jesus asks me similar questions… where the circumstances either serve as blinders to my spirit or as opportunity providers.  And as I thought about this for a little bit it struck me that most of the time my answers sound far too much like Phillip and Andrew rather than the one Jesus offered.  Thinking the way that Jesus thinks is not always easy in the context of a real world.  You would think that after observing the many times where we see how circumstances provide opportunity that we would naturally think this way.  But we don’t, and therein lies the problem.

The reality is that this life provides us with just as many examples where Jesus hasn’t intervened in our circumstances, at least not in a way we took notice of or in a way we liked.  These real life situations have a way of eroding all the faith that builds up in those special moments where Christ takes us to the extraordinary.  And so we are left with a dilemma each time circumstances arrive where we are given the choice of blinders or opportunity.  Is this one of those special moments or not?  We ask ourselves over and over, trying to get the answer right.  Wanting to hope but fearful of disappointment.

What if we rested in a faith that is focused on Christ as the object of faith rather than what Christ will do as the object of our faith?  Would that make facing such circumstances a little easier and less stressful?  I propose that it would.  It would make it natural to have the faith of a child, which Jesus calls us to.  We look at the situation, then we look at Jesus, and we leave the answer up to Him.  Instead of trying to figure out how many months’ wages it will take or if the little bit of bread and fish we have can get the job done, we turn our attention to Jesus who doesn’t seem to be limited by these things.

The next time an obvious problem presents itself pause for a moment and remind yourself that this problem can serve to give you blinders or opportunity.  The choice is up to you, while the outcome reaches far beyond you.  Choose well!

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.