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Danger Ahead

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to. — Bilbo Baggins, “The Lord of the Rings”

We were made for adventure. Even those of us who work in offices know that to be true. It’s the adventures, the experiences that contain an element of danger—or that involve great difficulty—in the pursuit of something worthwhile, that make us feel most alive.

What does that have to do with money? Quite a bit, really. And it has everything to do with this time of year—traditionally a time of making resolutions or setting goals.

Maybe you’ve been so disappointed by past experiences with all of that, you’ve cast it aside as foolish or trite. I get that. Finding yourself at the end of one too many Januaries having already failed at all the grand plans you made just weeks ago is beyond discouraging.

I’m convinced that the reason so many of us break our resolutions is because we made them out of a sense of duty or obligation. They were the right ones to make, but truth be told, they bore us. Our goals go unmet because they’re too logical — all head and no heart. And most importantly, they were made on our own and pursued with our own strength rather than reliance on God

So this year, if you’re willing to give it another try, take a different approach. Through prayer, choose something to pursue that scares you. Really. Something that seems impossible.

I have a friend who goes to a church that for the first time in its long history was trying to buy its own building. He felt led to participate in a big way, but also conflicted.

You see, his dad took off when my friend was just five. Even though he’s a successful entrepreneur, having been raised by a single mom who never made more than $25,000 a year left him feeling like he’ll never have enough.

Still, the senior pastor’s vision stirred something in my friend, reaching deep into his heart. A contribution amount kept coming to mind that seemed crazy, completely beyond anything he had ever considered.

He was up most of the night before a commitment needed to be made, “wrestling with God.” On one side was the old familiar feeling of never having enough. On the other, he sensed God asking, “Are you really going to doubt that I’ll take care of you?”

As night turned to day, he decided to give more than he had made in a year for most of his working life. His wife couldn’t have been more on board.

What is it for you? Will this be the year that you finally stop messing around with debt? That might mean moving to a less expensive home or living a lifestyle more in synch with the truth of your situation or telling someone about your debt—all of which probably puts a knot in your stomach. It’s a sure bet that it’ll be hugely inconvenient, embarrassing even. The first part of the journey looks painful. But wouldn’t the freedom be worth all the sacrifice? You know the answer.

What is it for you? Is it going back to school or quitting your job or some other step that would enable you to pursue the work you know you were meant to do? Is it about looking for a different job, maybe even one that pays less, so you can get off the road and be home more often for your family?

What is it for you?

Daniel Burnham, the visionary city planner who is largely responsible for the design of Chicago and its incredible open lakefront, once said: “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized.” I like that a lot.

And I like even more what God’s Word teaches us about the unreasonable part he would have us play in the greatest story ever told, if only we would muster the courage and wisdom to listen and respond to his invitations.

When an angel told Zechariah that he and his wife, Elizabeth, would have a baby in their old age, Zechariah asked for some assurance that it was true. Because of his disbelief, he was temporarily made unable to speak.

When an angel told Mary that she would have a baby as well, even though she was a virgin, she, too, wondered how it would happen. But hers was not a question of disbelief; it was an innocent expression of awe: “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary responded. “May it be to me as you have said.”

As you pray and think about what God may have you pursue this year, pay attention to the scary ideas that come to mind. The ones that seem unreasonable or impossible. My prayer for you is that you’ll muster the courage to say, “May it be.”

It’s okay if you can’t see the full path ahead. Just trust, say the words in faith, and take the next step. All that follows might just be the adventure of a lifetime.

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4 Responses to Danger Ahead

  1. Don and Terri Thompson: January 6, 2018 at 9:23 AM #

    How can we contribute to Steve’s ministry?

    • Steve Draper January 6, 2018 at 11:16 AM #

      Dear Don and Terri,
      Please know that my note to Matt was never intended as a fundraising letter. There are a lot of reasons why folks might give “under compulsion”, and I don’t want either of you to feel any pressure. Having said that, your question humbles us and makes us smile at the ways of Jehovah Jireh (God Provider).
      I work for a non-denominational Christian organization called The Navigators. My wife and I have been on staff with the Navs for 33 years. You can see a fine photo of the beauty and this beast, discover my passion and calling, and even how to give to us at this website: navigators.org/staff/104927
      How surprising and deeply encouraging,
      Steve

  2. Steve Draper January 3, 2018 at 4:38 PM #

    Matt,
    I am in a ministry that requires me to raise my own support. I have seen Jehovah Jireh provide every year we have been on staff – every year. But the last two years I’ve been “coasting”, living on gently-declining support, about to have the red ink rise over my toes, awaiting The Phone Call from by boss asking when my fundraising plan is going to begin.
    Bottom line? I’m scared, afraid to step back into that dependent effort of relying on God to turn people’s hearts so that they will be willing to give some of their hard-earned money to support our ministry.
    So, carrying this weight, this morning’s Bible thoughts were surprisingly drawn to Peter walking on the water. His “gunnel jumping” was only to get to his Lord. There were so many reasons why this was a foolish decision. But over the side he went. The Spirit was shouting application to me this morning. And now your words. It’s all a set-up!
    Well, I’ve just figured out what needs to be raised to get back to financial health – a monetary goal to be raised by August 31. And I have listed all the reasons of why this won’t work, and there’s the faintest laugh from Heaven, as if any of these 8-foot speed bumps will stop Him:
    – tax law changes – people won’t give
    – I have no new contacts to go to – nobody to give
    – I’m too old to be worthy of “investment”- who wants to financially back a dinosaur
    – This ministry isn’t “sexy” like other ministries – what I do isn’t worth much
    – I’m really scared
    Matt, you don’t have to say anything about any of these. As I look over them, each is corrected by Biblical truth. My head gets it. What you and the Apostle Peter are addressing is my will. sigh.
    So, just wanted you to know, today, that you’ve tag-teamed with God to get me to jump the gunnel, not for more money but just cause I want to get a little closer to my Lord. He’s asking me to trust Him with the impossible (see list) and co-labor with Him as He wants so much for me to grow in dependence on Him. Oh, and there might be higher income levels, but that’s not the big deal.
    So thanks.

    • Matt Bell January 4, 2018 at 7:41 AM #

      Steve, what an honestly and beautifully written note! Your words are a great encouragement to ME. God has clearly equipped and gifted you to be an encouragement to those who would partner with you in the spread of the Gospel—to have them see that the opportunity isn’t about writing checks, it’s about walking side by side with you in the life-changing, eternity-shaping work to which you have been called.

      It’s been my experience that the evil one loves to discourage those who dare to boldly follow Jesus—to fill their minds with doubt, keep their aspirations small, and question the impact God is having through them.

      Your last points about trust and dependence resonate as well. One of the scariest experiences I ever said yes to led me on a journey that brought about unspeakable pain. It made me realize that what I thought the journey was about wasn’t really what it was about after all. It was about my relationship with Christ and the character formation He wanted to bring about. I’m so thankful.

      Blessings to you, Steve, as you continue on the journey.

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