Just before my youngest brother graduated from university, I called him one afternoon for a chat. We had not talked for a month or two, and, being his (only) protective big sister, I like to get the lowdown on all his recent endeavours, challenges and misdemeanours. Plus, of course, hear the latest on his love life.
As we chatted that afternoon, weaving between the trivial and more serious topics of conversation, we inevitably found ourselves discussing his possible next steps and his greater hopes for the future. We talked around a number of different ideas; some very ‘normal’ ideas, others a little more radical. With my big sister know-it-all approach still very much in play, I insisted on sharing a few of my own more traumatic life choices and offering him some advice that I wish I had adhered to back in the day. Finally, having heard enough of my common sense, he implored, “but life is an adventure!”
An adventure, eh? The dictionary defines adventure as an exciting or very unusual experience; a bold, usually risky undertaking; a hazardous action of uncertain outcome.
Do these words accurately describe your life? Perhaps for some, but I doubt, for the rest of us, that the words ‘risky’ or ‘uncertain’ are the first that come to mind. Yet if they were to describe your time on earth, how would that make you feel? A few years ago, the very idea of considering life as a risky undertaking of uncertain outcome would have had me breaking out in cold sweats.
Depending on our attitude, we may think life is something that happens to us, or else that life is something we build for ourselves. Sometimes, we may misunderstand how the world works and think that God, or others, play us like puppets for their own personal gain. Perhaps we feel trapped by our circumstances and it takes all of our strength just to make it through another day. In reality, life is a bit of both; reaction and proaction. Our life is the result of every one of our decisions, choices and plans. But upon what, or whom, do we base these things?
Oswald Chambers, an early-twentieth century Evangelist and Teacher, born in my home city of Aberdeen in Scotland, once stated, “As Christians we are not here for our own purpose at all. We are here for the purpose of God, and the two are not the same.” Yet, throughout our lives, beginning at a very young age, we are invited to dream dreams for our future. We ask toddlers what they would like to be when they grow up. We ask children in school to select subjects and courses based on their desired career choices. As we get older, decisions based around relationships and family become more common-place. Then thoughts turn to retirement and how we wish to spend our final years on earth. But how often do we ask God what He has in mind for us?
When we map out the life we want, we usually fall into one of two camps: the first is where I pitched my tent for the first twenty-odd years of my life. This camp is regulated and controlled; every detail is carefully anticipated and prepared for. Here, we play it safe, reluctant to take any risks, ensuring that we remain in control of our circumstances as far as possible, and not allowing our circumstances to control us. This is where society generally expects us to be; we look the part, act the part, speak the part, and blend in with the crowd. If we have a relationship with God, we pray to Him and read His Word faithfully but often times struggle to accept His promises for our own lives when He does not immediately provide a detailed road-map to take us there. In this camp, we hold God as our Companion, not our Conductor.
The second camp is where all the dare-devils live (and sometimes my youngest brother). Here, everything is spontaneous; we live for thrills and surprises. We live recklessly, taking risks with little concern of the consequences of our actions. We want to experience life in its fullest but do so in our own way; travelling, meeting lots of people, hopping from place to place, job to job, with little concern for responsibility and dependability. Here, if we know God, we may jump at every exciting opportunity that comes our way and look to Him only when the aftermath is too much for us to handle. In this camp, God becomes our Guardian, not our Guide.
When we fail to live in the fullness of God’s will and purpose for our lives, we get stuck in one of these two camps and we no longer permit God to map out our journey through life. We often associate idolatry with money, fame or power, but there are many more subtle idols that sneak into our lives too. It can be very easy to slip into idolatry and be unaware of it. John Piper, an American Pastor and author, said, “We make a god out of whatever we find most joy in. So find your greatest joy in God and be done with all idolatry.”
For many years I was blissfully unaware that I had made control an idol. As long as I remained in control over my job, my future plans, my finances, and my belongings, I was happy. Perhaps it is something different for you. What makes you happy? Is it comfort? Or security? Even adventure can become an idol if that is where we look to find our joy. Perhaps we crave it so much that we begin to exaggerate our circumstances and blow everything out of proportion, just to feel like we are in one. Instead, however, we ought to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these other things will be given to us as well (Matthew 6:33).
Fortunately for us, God is a gracious God and, if we repent of our own way of doing things, He will lead us into a far greater adventure. The Bible teaches that God is a Sovereign God, for many are the plans in the mind of a person, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand (Proverbs 19:21). To some, this may seem stifling and controlling, but what we often fail to understand is that the Lord’s purposes are the greatest adventures! In the Gospel of John, Jesus stated, “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]” (John 10:10b (AMP) (emphasis added)).
Life should neither be a chore nor a great burden, Jesus said Himself that it is to be enjoyed! The reason He came as a man to earth to die and to take the punishment for our sin is so that we can live a life free from guilt, shame and fear, and instead live a full, rich life in freedom. Real joy is found in living a life of faith in the purposes that God created us for. Nothing is more exciting than entering into an adventure with God.
I love to watch movies. Depending on my mood, I will watch a range of genres, including comedy, romance, science fiction, and action. However, some of my favourite movies, like The Blind Side, Hidden Figures, and Apollo 13, are those based on true stories. I sit, mesmerised, watching dramatisations of real-life heroes who have taken great risks, faced adversity and tremendous challenges, but, against all the odds, have overcome. The heart of humanity loves to hear tales of victory and survival; why else would these stories be considered enthralling enough for Hollywood to come a-knocking? Because it instills hope. Hope that if they can do it, so can we. Hope that, no matter what difficulties we face, we can overcome.
Yet, I think that in amongst the hope that arises within us following the retelling of survival tales, fear also flickers through. We ask ourselves, what would I do if I were in their situation? Could I really do what they did? Do I have what it takes? And doubt begins to cloud our vision.
But is it not about time we stopped watching everyone else’s adventures and started living our own?
If you could do absolutely anything, what would it be? How would you make a difference in the world if you had unlimited resources and a global and influential network of people? Maybe you would build an orphanage for African children, or open a half-way house to support ex-addicts settling back into society after rehabilitation. Perhaps you would start an organisation to fight injustice or poverty, or set up a scheme to befriend and support the elderly in your community. It could be that you hold a dream to compete at the Olympics, or open a Fair-trade coffee shop, or make a medical breakthrough. What has God shown to you and given you an unquenchable desire to meet?
Now consider this: is God Sovereign? Does He not have unlimited resources at His fingertips? Is He not the ultimate Networker and Promoter? Is it not in His power to make those dreams a reality?
God planted those dreams in your heart for a reason. He does not just want you to dream those dreams, He wants to make them a reality in your life. He wants to take you on the adventure of a lifetime to see those dreams fulfilled; not only to benefit others, but to grow you and teach you to become the person He made you to be, and, most importantly, to bring Himself glory so that the world will see the goodness of God in a tangible way.
The Gospel of John reminds us that we did not first choose God, but He chose us and appointed us to live our lives in such a way that points the world to Jesus (John 15:16a). Meditate on that for a minute. God chose us. God chose you. He imagined you, made you, grew you and shaped you, and He has appointed you to bear spiritual fruit in this world. We sometimes doubt ourselves, don’t we, and think, “why would God choose me? What difference could I really make?” The world is so big, and we are so small. But we often forget that our Ally in this war for the world is the Greatest!
God has a specific purpose that He has created you for and prepared you for; to show you His power and so that His Name may be proclaimed in all the earth (Exodus 9:16).
Forget where you have been and consider where you are going. It is what is ahead that matters, not what is behind. When we give God everything, He can restore all that has been broken, hurt or lost. We find our identity in God, our Heavenly Father, not in our own, earthly circumstances.
Your history may state, “I don’t love you,” but God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
The words, “you were a mistake,” may haunt your thoughts, but God intricately wove you together from your conception (Psalm 139:15-16), before He formed you in the womb He knew you (Jeremiah 1:5).
Perhaps you were told, “you will never make anything of yourself”, but God declares, “I have plans to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
People might have rejected you; “you mean nothing to me,” but God whispers, “you, yes you, are my treasured possession.” (Exodus 19:5)
Your circumstances may cause you to believe, “you are alone,” but God has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
God has more in mind for your life than you could ever imagine, you need only surrender it to Him. Give Him everything and you will find yourself living a Hollywood-worthy adventure every single day. The Bible promises that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him, in this life or the next (1 Corinthians 2:9).
All too often we settle for what is visible and believable because we can only see as far as our own abilities will take us. But God wants to expand our scope to see with eyes of faith, beyond our own abilities and into the realm of miracles. He is looking for men and women who are ready to partner with Him to do the impossible. If we are willing, He will take us on our own unique, heaven-prepared adventure where miracles and surprises become the norm.
One of the most important lessons I have learnt over the past ten years is not to dismiss ‘crazy’ dreams. Being a natural problem-solver, my brain automatically begins to map out a path to success when an idea or dream is presented – I can’t help myself. But sadly, some ideas proposed to me were never realised because, in my limited understanding, I failed to join all the dots in my mind and therefore dismissed the dream as obsolete. You see, when you dream dreams you can fulfil yourself, you will need only to depend on your own, finite abilities. But I have learned that if you begin to dream dreams that seem utterly impossible – ridiculous, some might say – for the glory of God, it becomes necessary to depend on Him every step of the way. And it is only then that you step into God’s adventure for your life.
But as we advance forward, there’s an enemy trying to hold us back. The earlier part of John 10:10 reads, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” The enemy, Satan, seeks to steal and kill and destroy those dreams in your heart. He is out to discourage you and distract you from the great adventure that God wants to take your on. He does not want us to chase our destiny, knowing that he does not stand a chance against us when we surrender to God and begin to operate in the power that He makes available to us by His Spirit. Instead, the enemy seeks to blind us with doubt and fear, or distract us with lies, convenience, and instant pleasures.
No matter who you are – your age, stage of life, profession, marital status, or whatever – you have the opportunity to enter into a greater adventure. You don’t need to take a gap-year, travel the world, or have a bottomless pit of money, just enter into the best, the optimum, the too-good-to-be-true life of faith that God invites you to participate in. Every single day can be lived to a greater potential when surrendered into the hands of God. He can do far more with it than you can. Relinquish control, surrender your plans, and ask Him where He wants to take you, what He wants to achieve through you, and who He has called you to be. Your adventure can begin today.
One of my favourite passages in the Bible is Hebrews chapter 11 because it lists name after name after name of people who lived a life of faith. It is, essentially, God’s Hall of Fame. It highlights just a handful of the great men and women who entered into a faith-filled adventure with God; taking risks and witnessing the impossible because of their courage and resolute trust in Him.
We think of the Biblical greats like Moses, Abraham, the Apostle Paul, and others, as heroes of the faith and those who will have the highest honour in Heaven. But why can we not also be heroes of the faith in our own generation? God is the same God now as He was then. We, too, can seek after communion with God, just like the great Biblical heroes did. We, too, can nurture a close, loving relationship with Him. We, too, can surrender our own desires, and instead choose to walk in obedience to God and watch our faith grow as we learn to depend on Him more and more.
Just like the names listed in Hebrews 11, and just like all the others God has used throughout history, He calls us – just ordinary people – into His extraordinary purposes. We simply need to hear the call and respond.
Many years ago, I scribbled in my Bible a simple yet powerful reminder to myself at the foot of Hebrews 11: “By faith, Jane…” It initiates a powerful response in me and causes my faith to rise every time I glimpse it because it represents my response to God’s call on my life. It is a battle cry that coaxes me forward in my journey, willing me to take risks and dream big dreams; this cry acknowledges that a life dedicated to God is often filled with trials and difficulties, but, nonetheless, I stand resolute in representing my Saviour and bringing His love into this dark world.
Living out your adventure does not necessarily mean you have to move to another country, go into full time ministry, or whatever else may come to mind. Living out your adventure is doing whatever God calls you to do, with radical faith, trusting Him in everything; not depending on your income, or your job, or your home, or your family for your security. It means allowing God to give you a fresh perspective every single day, so He can open your eyes to new opportunities; to surprise you, to trust Him, and to serve Him. Everyone can live the adventure that God has for them, we need only trust Him with it. And with every surrendered life, God can do something radically different. Just like no two stories are the same in the hands of an author, no two lives are ever the same in the hands of God, the great Author of time. So let’s not get caught up in comparison but, instead, celebrate the diversity and creativity of God. Let’s not get distracted by our own selfish ambition but, rather, stick to the course that God sets out before us. And as long as we stay within the will of God we will live the greatest adventure available to us.
I don’t know about you, but I would rather experience a life of adventure than maintain an existence of convenience. I am no longer interested in my own mediocre plans for my life or the minute dreams that I once considered achievable. I will no longer allow fear to scare me into settling for a life less than the one I am capable of living. I am ready to embrace the unimaginable, believe the impossible, and step into the destiny that God created me for.
We do not need to know where the journey will lead in order to join the path. Entering into an adventure with God is not about focusing on the destination, it requires us to trust Him and see where the journey takes us. He may have allowed you to glimpse the landmarks you’ll see along the way, but the unknown, hidden surprises are the parts worth waiting for!
Our Heavenly Father longs for us to enter into the adventure He has prepared for us; a life of beauty, risk, faith and miracles. Are you ready to step into your destiny? Have you packed your bags for the thrill of a lifetime? Come now, adventure awaits.
This blogpost is part 1 of a blog series, Adventure Awaits.
Part 1: Created for Adventure
Part 2: Beginning the Adventure
Part 3: Designed for Adventure
Part 4: Essential Tools for the Journey
Part 5: Facing Opposition
Part 6: Embracing Challenge & Change
Part 7: The Waiting Game
Part 8: Anticipating Adventure
Part 9: Packing Light
Part 10: When Adventure Becomes a Habit
Part 11: The Greatest Adventure