Adventure Awaits: Essential Tools for the Journey

In J.R.R. Tolkein’s novel, ‘The Hobbit’, we follow the journey of Bilbo Baggins, a small, unassuming fellow who enjoys his home comforts and relishes his food.  He lives a quiet life of routine and respect until the wizened wizard, Gandalf, comes knocking on his door and invites him on an adventure.

Gandalf had been tasked to find the fourteenth member of a dwarf assembly, endeavouring to win back their home under the Lonely Mountain, and he believes Bilbo is the right man for the job.  On meeting the hobbit for the first time, the company of dwarves are doubtful that he is up to the task, and Bilbo begins to doubt himself too.  In the movie adaptation, the old wizard rises from his chair and responds, “there is a lot more to him than appearances suggest, and he’s got a lot more to offer than any of you know… including himself.  You must trust me on this.”

The following morning, Bilbo wakes up to find the company of dwarves gone.  He is still unsure that he really has what it takes, or if he truly desires to swap his cozy abode for risk, uncertainty and challenge.  But, after a moment’s hesitation, he grabs his bag and is seen darting through the village to catch up with the group.  

“Here, Mr Bilbo, where are you off to?” calls his neighbour.

“Can’t stop, I’m already late,” Bilbo pants in response.

“Late for what?” enquires the other hobbit.

“I’m going on an adventure!”

Having then caught up with the group, Bilbo is given a pony to ease the physical strain of the quest.  Unbeknownst to the others, he is allergic to horse hair and immediately begins to sneeze.  Patting down his pockets, he shouts, “Stop! We have to turn around! I’ve forgotten my handkerchief.”

“You’ll have to manage without pocket handkerchiefs, and a good many other things, Bilbo Baggins, before we reach your journey’s end,” Gandalf informs him. “You were born to the rolling hills and little rivers of the Shire, but home is now behind you, the world is ahead.”

From the beginning of this tale, Bilbo is intrigued and interested by the idea of going on an adventure, but reason causes him to hesitate on more than one occasion.  Gandalf chose him for a purpose, but he doubts himself and feels poorly prepared for the journey ahead.

I think we can all feel like this at times too.  God calls us to join His quest, but sometimes we are excited by the idea more than the reality.  We hesitate and deliberate over whether or not we will respond positively.  And more often than not, we feel ill-equipped for all that is to come.

But even when the future is uncertain, we can play our part in preparing ourselves for our great adventure.  We may lack the material provisions that we will need along the way – that is all part of God’s plan to teach us to depend fully on Him – but we can work on developing our character and spiritual disciplines.  Then, no matter when He calls, where He calls us to, or what He calls us to, we will be ready.

Wherever you currently are on your adventure, be assured that God always has more.  The best really is yet to come.  But in order for us to be ready to step into the next season that God has for us, we need to be prepared.  When we fail to prepare, we delay or even forfeit the opportunities that God has laid out before us.  

We should never become complacent in our relationship with God, thinking we are the finished product.  God will never stop perfecting us on this side of eternity so let’s not resist our gentle shaping and refining from our Father but, instead, embrace it and be proactive in becoming more like Jesus.

In this blog, we will explore the primary lessons and habits that will better equip us for our adventure.

 

Be Devoted

In Acts 2 we read about the very first Christians.  Jesus had ascended back into Heaven, having completed His work on earth following His resurrection, and He had left the disciples alone, tasked with telling the world about Him.  Talk about a challenge!

Yet they succeeded, didn’t they?  The fame of Jesus has spread across countries and generations and we still share testimonies of His power today.  

However, they were no longer under the watchful eye of their Saviour, so what if they had let fear, or pride, or doubt stop them?  Then where would we all be?

The key is this: they were devoted all by themselves (Acts 2:42).  Jesus had spent three years with them; teaching them about God’s love, demonstrating the right way to live, and using miraculous events and parables to illustrate His mercy and grace.  He had equipped them with first-hand experiences of the kindness and justice He had shown to the world, and now empowered them with the gift of the Holy Spirit; anointing them with boldness, and the ability to speak in languages they had not learnt so that the gospel could spread beyond their own, limited means.

Yet, if these first Christians had been satisfied with their existing knowledge of God, they would not have grown or journeyed much further.  Our past experiences of God are important, but they merely provide us with a foundation upon which we must continue to build.  It is our responsibility to continually press into Him and seek a fresh revelation of Him every day if we are to continue growing and outworking His call on our lives.  We cannot depend on yesterday’s faith for what God wants to do in our lives tomorrow.

Our daily habits may ebb and flow as we journey through different seasons of life, but our devotion to God must be resolute if we wish to fully enter into the adventure He has laid out before us.  It took me many years to establish effective devotional habits in my own life, but real change was brought about when I began to pursue God to truly know Him, and not just because it was ‘the right thing to do’.

For the longest time, I had just treated my Bible readings and prayer time like items on a daily checklist.  We form habits to ensure that priorities remain so, but as our love for God grows and we begin to experience true joy in His presence, we, too, will become devoted all by ourselves.

Matthew 6:33 (AMP) encourages us to first and most importantly seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God), and all other things will be given to us also.  When we focus on drawing near to God and knowing Him more, everything else – our fears, our hopes, our sin, our desires – work themselves out.  The more we open our hearts to Him, the more freedom He has to work all things for good.

And as we fully devote ourselves to the Father, our hearts and minds are changed by the Holy Spirit that is at work in us.  We become more like Christ, because the fruit of that same Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Being devoted all by ourselves is the key to equipping ourselves for our next season; it unlocks every other tool listed below. 

 

Work From Rest

None of us like to feel anxious but it is increasingly becoming the accepted norm in today’s culture.  Stress, worry, busyness; they are part of everyday life.  I can recall feeling, in my early twenties, that these things were something to strive for; that I was not fulfilling my call to serve in the local church if I failed to fill every evening of the week with church activities.  In fact, I had a sense of achievement and pride when my week was fully booked.

But filling our weeks with vigorous church activity is not what God asks of us.  In fact, it may be quite the opposite.  Around that same time in my life, I read a quote that would remain a constant challenge every day since: “If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” (Adrian Rogers). Ouch.  And it is true.  The majority of the spiritually dry periods in my life have not been a result of sin, but a result of too much church activity and not enough rest at the feet of the One I serve.

The Bible tells the story of two sisters, Mary and Martha.  These women, along with their brother Lazarus, were good friends of Jesus and they appear in the Gospel narrative a number of times.  On one occasion, Jesus visited their village and Martha invited him into their house for tea.

While her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to his teaching, Martha busied herself serving everyone with food and drink, ensuring everyone was comfortable and satisfied.  She shot disapproving looks at her sister, frustrated that she had been left to do the work herself, until finally she implored, ““Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”  But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”” (Luke 10:40b-42)

I know this story so well.  For years I had always related to Martha and could not understand why she had been reprimanded like this.  Surely being hospitable and showing kindness was also considered obedience to Jesus’ teaching?

But what Jesus was saying was, unless we find our rest in God, no amount of feverish activity or serving, even in the greatest ministries, will achieve very much.  We must remain rooted in the Life-Giver.

I am no gardener but I have attempted to keep a few house plants over the years.  We all know that plants need the very basics: water and sunlight.  They also require the correct compost and will occasionally need re-potted as they grow.  But the only way we can encourage a plant to flower or produce fruit is if it remains firmly attached to its roots.

In John 15, Jesus uses the analogy of a vine to explain to His disciples just how important it is to remain in good relationship with Him.  He is the vine and we are the branches, therefore we will remain spiritually healthy only when we stay connected to Him, because through Him is supplied that which we need to live.  When we are rooted in Him, our lives will produce evidence of that through the joy we carry and the spiritual fruit we bear.  It is the vine’s responsibility to provide everything needed to sustain life and channel it into the branches, the branches depend on the vine and produce fruit almost effortlessly when in a healthy state.

You may know, also, that healthy shrubs must be pruned from time to time.  These plants are not pruned because there is something wrong with them, but because the gardener recognises the potential in them and wants to encourage them to flourish.  Similarly, it is in those times, when we face trials and difficulties, that we grow even more, become stronger, and are enabled to produce even more fruit.

On the other hand, a beautiful flower that has been picked will last only a short time until it begins to wither and die.  No amount of water or sunlight will keep it alive once it has been removed from its roots.  Similarly, when we do not root ourselves in Christ, we quickly become unhealthy; we cut ourselves off from the Life-source, we dry out, and we fail to produce good fruit.  We try to go it alone but end up so focused on trying to remain healthy ourselves that we have no energy left to be fruitful.  I’ve been there; feeling physically, emotionally and spiritually drained; beginning to resent the ministry you are serving in; attitudes and priorities slip.  It is a terrible place to be.

When we find our rest in Christ, our serving becomes infinitely easier.  We not only find it easier to identify where best to serve, we also become more effective in our serving because we are fuelled by Christ Himself, and not our own feeble efforts.

True rest equips us to fight the schemes of the enemy.  Elisabeth Elliot stated, “Rest is a weapon given to us by God.  The enemy hates it because he wants you stressed and occupied.”  Considering rest as a weapon almost seems counterintuitive, but God’s ways  are rarely understood.  Waging war against the enemy from a state of rest allows God to fight for us, rather than us entering into the battle depending on our own efforts where we don’t stand a chance.  In those instances, when we are stressed and occupied, we are deaf to God’s reassuring voice and blind to His guiding hand.

We must prioritise true spiritual rest (not laziness!) and be careful not to get so caught up in frantic activity that we miss the reason we serve in the first place.  We are most effective for God when we find our rest in Him.  Our physical energy can take us only so far, but the life that Jesus offers will supply us with all we need to complete the adventure He calls us on.

Another lie I believed for many years was that rest was only available on vacation.  And yes, vacations are important; time to recharge, time to spend with family and friends, time to explore the world and encounter new people and different cultures.  But a peaceful soul is cultivated by daily rest found at the feet of Jesus.  

The closer we draw to Him; the more time we spend with Him; the more we hear His voice and learn to trust Him, the more rested we will feel.  And then we have the energy, the strength, and the courage to take on the world!

Learning to rest at the feet of Jesus is absolutely essential if we wish to live the full and abundant life that God calls us to.

 

Practice Pondering

So, we have established how important it is to intentionally build in time to spend with God each day.  But this need not always be activity-driven.  By this, I mean, that spending time with God is not always outworked by reading the Bible, praying, worshipping, or listening to a podcast.  It is also important to take time to be quiet before Him; to quieten those inner voices that are reminding you of all the errands you need to run that day, or the presentation you are rehearsing silently in your head for your big meeting at work.  We need to learn to reflect and ponder.

As we practice pondering, the whisper of our Heavenly Father will begin to break through all the white noise of our daily lives.  It is in these moments that we enter into a conversation with God and find peace in our circumstances and joy in communion with our Creator.

A.W. Tozer, an American pastor and author who spent his life in the pursuit of God, said, “Coming before God in quietness and waiting upon Him in silence can accomplish more than days of feverish activity.”  Sadly, it took me years to apply this truth in my own life.  I was always so busy with feverish activity that I failed to make quiet moments with God a priority.  But, in a season when I became so overwhelmed by the busyness of ministry and serving in church, I am grateful that God created a window of opportunity to sit alone with Him for a few hours on a cloudy Sunday afternoon.

There was nothing particularly special about that afternoon; it was cool and cloudy for July.  I was visiting a friend and we had attended church that morning and were then stuck for ideas of how to spend the afternoon.  We eventually agreed that I would sit on the balcony and journal (feeling the desperate need to reflect on an exhausting two months that had just passed in the blink of an eye) and she would have a nap.

I sat there, huddled under a blanket, listening to worship music and began to process and reflect upon that busy period.  It had been stressful, and I felt completely drained and relieved that it was over.  But I did not realise just how desperately I needed rest until God graciously gave me the opportunity for it.  For three hours I sat alone, staring up at the clouds and watching the light trying to break through.  I punctuated the time with worship, prayers, pondering, re-reading old journal entries, and writing down new thoughts, as the Holy Spirit inspired me. In just one afternoon, I sat and received God’s healing, His peace, and allowed His joy to enter into my heart again.

That afternoon was the breath of fresh Spirit-filled air I needed to bring my head back up above the water and be reminded that God holds all things in His hands, not in mine.  The peace and relief I experienced that day reminded me of the importance of sitting quietly in God’s presence and it became a pivotal point in my relationship with my Father.  From that day on, pondering and reflection was no longer a rare luxury, but an intentional priority.  It was in this environment I found peace and joy.

If we are to live the adventure that God has called us to, we must practice pondering.  It is in these moments that we are quiet enough to hear the voice of God, reflect on what He is saying, and find peace and direction for the next step in our journey.

 

Be Thankful

We have already touched upon the importance of cultivating a thankful heart.  When we focus on what we are still waiting for, we miss the opportunity to thank God for all that He has already blessed us with.  This breeds discontentment and bleeds our joy.

Discontentment arises when we fail to appreciate the good gifts that God has given us, and waste time complaining to Him about what we do not yet have.  At the root of this problem is the simple fact that we do not trust God to give us what we need, when we need it.  But if God has not given us something yet, it is not because He can’t, but because He does not deem it necessary for us right now.

However, when we learn to recognise God’s hand in the detail of our lives, we begin to realise that His gifts and His timing are perfect for us.  He is a loving God who desires to give us good things.  He does not withhold the things that we want just to spite us, but He uses the delay to teach us and ultimately give us something even better.

In my family we are not the most creative when it comes to giving gifts.  More often than not, we will circulate a wishlist with some items we might like a couple of weeks before a birthday or Christmas, just to provide a few ideas and pointers.  At the end of the day, though, it is up to the giver to decide upon which gift to purchase, and to determine when they will give it.  The recipient does not demand a specific gift or determine when it should be received, they trust the giver.  In the same way, we can pray to God and request that He meet our desires, but what He chooses to give to us and when He chooses to give it is ultimately His decision, not ours.

In part two I explained how journalling is a significant part of developing my relationship with God.  One of the reasons for this is because I use it to document all my answered prayers.  It provides a practical method for me to record God’s goodness in my life and see His faithfulness in hearing and responding to my pleas.

Tracking answered prayers has also become a defence strategy against the enemy’s schemes, because, in those low moments of discouragement and doubt, I can turn back the pages of my journal and be reminded of time after time after time when God came through for me.  Being reminded of God’s faithfulness in my past, causes my faith to rise once again to believe He will be faithful in my future.

So what can you thank God for today?  Food in the fridge; clean, running water; a roof over your head; a God who loves you?  Pause now and show your gratitude for all that He has blessed you with.

 

Develop Godly Relationships

God created us to live in community.  It is in community that we learn to celebrate diversity, to work together for a common purpose, and to give and receive encouragement.  

Community is always a group of people, but not every group of people is a community.  True community works together for the common good; it builds one another up, not tear one another down.  Community should be a safe place where we can be ourselves, feel accepted, and help to shape and encourage one another.  And for better or for worse, we inevitably become more like those we spend most time with.

Because we were created for relationship, not isolation, we all have the desire to be part of community, but the challenge is choosing the right community.

Many of the problems we face today stem from a lack of good community.  While working for a social outreach project in my home city, I met many individuals who admitted that a significant reason for their drug habit was because, when they were looking for community, it was addicts that readily accepted them.  Several alcoholics we supported had slid into their addiction because they found company in the pub; the alternative was to sit alone in their house.  

And how many of us have engaged in relationships, knowing they were doomed from the start, just to feel loved and accepted by someone?  Mental health issues frequently arise because thoughts and feelings that could be shared within community are internalised due to a lack of trusted individuals to share them with.  And, sadly, so many who have grown up without a loving home environment, seek it out in all the wrong places, just to fill the void in their hearts.

Presently, with the rise of social media and online communication, the value and quality of community is depleting even further.  Younger generations are missing out on the opportunity to develop good social skills because their community is largely on the other side of a computer or phone screen.

Therefore, we need to make it a priority to build and protect good communities.  Our local churches, our small groups, and our homes should be places of safety, acceptance, and love.

In community we not only bring our gifts for the benefit of others, but we bring our character, our wisdom, and our experiences as well.  As Christians, it is vital that we find a local church community to be a part of.

But within that community, it is also essential to develop intimate godly relationships.  These relationships go beyond the trivial and seek to create an atmosphere of trust, accountability, support, and encouragement.  The Bible states, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens [and influences] another [through discussion].” (Proverbs 27:17 AMP)  True friends do not simply tell us what we want to hear in order to keep the peace, they provide honest feedback, even if its hard to hear, because they love us and want the best for us.  The process of sharpening can sometimes be painful, but just think how much more effective we can be in our calling if we refuse to fight with a blunt blade.

One of the greatest influences in my own life has been a group of three unassuming girls.  They do not have large ministries or special leadership positions, they are simply faithful, humble, prayerful women who willingly serve in whatever their hand finds to do.  In 2011, one of these women suggested that three of us meet monthly to pray together.  Around a year later, we invited the fourth to join us and we have met regularly ever since.  We use group messages to share prayer requests and answers to prayer.  We also enjoy meals together or the occasional spa day.  Simply put, we do life together.  We all have different experiences, different testimonies, different perspectives to share and, in so doing, we sharpen one another in our faith.

Since beginning our Prayer Square (as we affectionately call it) we have celebrated incredible miracles together, mourned the loss of loved ones, built one another up in times of difficulty and discouragement.  We have witnessed love stories unfold, families grow, and God strategically place us where we need to be.  Our friendship has spanned oceans as well as years.  And I believe I would not be the person I am today without them.

Often times we face challenges and are eager for God to answer our prayers, quickly and directly.  When we do not have the skills or wisdom to find a solution ourselves, we turn to God for the answer.  It is absolutely right that God be our first port-of-call, but sometimes God has already provided for our needs, we just need our eyes opened to see the provision.

There are many examples in the Bible when God’s provision is supplied in the friends and family of those called by Him.  Moses was given Aaron to speak on his behalf, because he struggled with a speech impediment.  Ruth served and encouraged her mother-in-law, Naomi, when she was grieving and downcast following the loss of her entire family.  King David had his best friend Jonathan to encourage him and give him wisdom when David’s future looked bleak.  Even Jesus had his disciples to assist Him in the practical work He was involved with.

In a nutshell, community is one of God’s greatest gifts to us, so we must not neglect it or abuse it.  Intentionally building good godly relationships is one of the greatest tools we can carry; not just to benefit from, but also to sow into, so that the entire community around us can be encouraged and strengthened in their faith too.

 

Exercise Your Faith

Sport and exercise is not really my thing but I once entered into a running challenge with a friend.  Neither of us had ever run before (aside from school races, a decade or two earlier) so we agreed to run 5km three times per week for twelve weeks.  We were raising money for Mission Aviation Fellowship and hoping to get fit at the same time.

It was hard work at first but we made the effort to run together at least once per week and we soon identified our favourite routes around the city.  That first week I had to stop every couple of minutes to catch my breath (yes, I was terribly unfit), but by week two the period I spent running gradually increased as I developed my running technique, improved my breathing, and gained stamina.

As time went on, the running became more enjoyable and I celebrated every small improvement.  I remember by week ten I was able to run for 25 minutes without slowing to a walk – an incredible improvement!  And by week twelve, my running had vastly improved and I had lost over 7kg.  Perseverance, small victories, and support from my friend had got me there.

Our faith can be just like that, too.  The more we exercise our faith, the stronger and more resilient it becomes.  Every time you face a challenge, choose to engage just a little more faith and a little less fear.  As time goes on, your faith ‘muscle’ will strengthen and you will have the ability to face bigger challenges and trust God for greater miracles.

Beth Moore said, “We believe little because we see little, so we see little and continue to believe little.”  But if we can muster up just a little faith and begin to exercise it, our faith will grow as we see answers to our prayers.

Just as in running, we need to develop perseverance in our faith too.  It takes time to build faith and the exercising of it can be a struggle.  When fear threatens to overcome you, hold on just a little longer.  Just because we are working with God on something, does not mean He will do all the work.  He does the heavy-lifting, yes, but it takes courage and strength to depend on Him when it looks like all hope is lost.

In work and in life, it is important for me to measure progress to keep me motivated, therefore celebrating the small victories is a vital exercise in keeping me hopeful and focussed.  And we can do the same in our faith journey too.  Look for the small victories; a change of attitude, a worry that has become less prominent in your mind, or switching your response to challenge from panic to prayer.  

My friend and I would regularly send one another selfies from the gym, or a pink, sweaty face after a run to spur one another on.  We both succeeded in the challenge because we supported one another and provided mutual encouragement.  Similarly, the Church should be our biggest fans when we are exercising our faith.  Our priority is to build one another up, not tear each other down.  When you are struggling to keep the faith in difficult circumstances, reach out to a trusted friend or leader who can encourage you, pray with you, and send you those sweaty selfies to remind you that they are running right alongside you.

If we want to dream big dreams and live the life God intended for us, we have to begin exercising our faith, for without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).  Without faith, we only depend on ourselves.  Without faith, we are limited by our own means.  Without faith, we cannot enter into a tailor-made, once-in-a-lifetime adventure with Him.

If I had laced up my running shoes for the first time and entered straight into a marathon, I would have barely completed the first kilometre.  Similarly, if we expect God to ask much of us and use us to do great things for His Kingdom, we have to start small.  God, in His grace, would not place us straight into a marathon of faith, for, if He did, we would surely fail.  We must train for it first.

So start by exercising your faith in small ways.  If you do not spot an opportunity, ask God to reveal one to you.  Ask Him to help you, strengthen you, give you courage and believe that He will be with you every step of the way.  The more we see Him at work in our lives, the more our faith develops.

In his gospel account, Mark shares what happened when a father brought his son to Jesus for healing.  He had already asked the disciples to heal him, but they had been unable to.  The father then turns to Jesus and asks that, if he can do anything, to please show his son compassion and help him.  Jesus’ response, however, was one of frustration.  ““‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-24)

Help my unbelief.  How many times have these words crossed your lips?  This father was desperate for Jesus to work a miracle in his son, but he first needed the faith that it could be done.  

When we bring our requests, our fears, our problems before God, we need to remember who it is we are praying to.  He is the God who created the universe, who fashioned everything from nothing.  He is the One who masterminded the redemption of mankind through His Son, Jesus Christ.  He can.  Whatever your request is, He can.  Now, whether or not He will answer in the way we expect is another issue, but we will look at that a little later.

Why not begin today by asking God to help your unbelief.  Whatever the issue is that is bothering you right now, give it to God in prayer and ask Him to do what only He can do.  Prise your fingers off and release it to Him fully.  He can deal with it far better than you can.  Take one day at a time and watch God begin to work miracle after miracle in your life as you release it to Him and have faith that He will act.

 

Be Courageous

To exercise faith, we also need courage.  It is impossible for us to live out our God-led adventure without courage.

Being courageous does not necessarily mean that fear is absent, but courage is present when we choose to trust God more than our fears.

When faced with circumstances that scare us, we must take a deep breath, invite God to bring peace into our hearts, and step forward anyway.  

“Fear not” is the command most repeated in the Bible.  I believe this is because God knows what a terrible thing fear is and how easily we succumb to it’s tyranny.  But God’s voice speaks louder; “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).”

In new seasons, we might find the tasks that God calls us to to be overwhelming.  But  God is a gracious God, and when He calls you to something, He gives you the desire (at times, not always immediately), the faith, the resources, and the ability to respond.

If we are not courageous, we remain in our default; our comfort zone.  But in God’s Kingdom, the comfort zone is a dry, barren wasteland.  Very little grows, very little fruit is produced, and there can be no harvest.  If we want to reap a heavenly harvest, it is essential that we muster up courage and begin to take risks in faith.

 

Learn Obedience

As Jesus began His ministry, He travelled from place to place teaching the Word of God.  On one such occasion, by the Sea of Galilee, the people crowded around Him so He borrowed a fishing boat and used it as a platform from which He could continue to teach those that had gathered around Him.

When He had finished speaking, He asked the skipper of the boat, (Simon) Peter, to let down his nets to catch their lunch.  But Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:5)

Simon Peter was an experienced fisherman and had been working hard all night to find a catch, but to no avail.  However, he listened to Jesus and obeyed.

On doing so, they caught such a tremendous number of fish that the nets began to break and they had to call their fisherman friends in another boat to assist them.

Peter had likely been fishing for most of his life; perhaps he had learnt the trade from his father before him.  He had fished all night, depending on his own knowledge, experience and efforts, trying to earn a living, yet he had nothing to show for it.  But at Jesus’ word, he obeyed, and received an abundance.

Peter learned that day that obedience is far greater than effort.  When we obey God, no matter how foolish or unlikely the outcome may seem, we will always receive an abundance.  Obedience to God’s Word takes us way beyond where our efforts ever could.

That day, Peter left everything to follow Jesus.  Christ famously told Peter that he would no longer be a fisherman, but a fisher of men.  Peter, who likely had no schooling, and very little knowledge of God, had been called out by Jesus to enter into the greatest adventure he could ever have anticipated.

Peter’s obedience to Jesus’ request to cast the nets one more time, laid the foundation for the far more difficult acts of obedience Jesus would require of him in the months and years to come.  When we respond in obedience to the small acts God asks of us today, we pave the way for Him to ask greater things of us tomorrow.  If we are willing to be faithful in the small things, He is willing to trust us with more.

God does not require us to be skilled, only available to be used by Him.  When we walk in obedience to all that God calls us to do, we partner with Him and find ourselves doing far more than we ever thought possible.

Billy Graham, the renowned Evangelist who ministered to over two hundred million people in his lifetime, with over 2 billion people across the world having benefitted from his work, once shared about how obedience to the voice of God led his wife on a path different to that that she had envisioned for herself.

“As a young Christian, Ruth, my wife, wanted to be a missionary, as were her father and mother.  But God had other plans for her life.  Changing circumstances revealed God’s will to her, and she was happy where God had placed her.  So many of us ask God to change the circumstances to suit our desires, instead of us conforming our wills to His.  Don’t let circumstances distress you.  Rather, look for the will of God for your life to be revealed in and through those circumstances.”

Ruth Graham is just one example of an individual who laid aside her own desires to respond to the call of God on her life.  Her own plans were honourable and good – she desired to be a missionary, after all – but God had a different plan, a better plan, for her.

We may also have ‘good’ plans and desires for our own lives, but they are still limited by our own finite skills and resources.  It is only when we surrender to God’s purposes that we push the boundaries of what is possible and enter into the great adventure He created us for.

 

Follow Your Convictions

As you press into the life that God wants for you, there will come a time when God asks you to do something that will appear utterly foolish to those around you.  And not just those who do not share your faith in God, but from some of your closest friends and family members too.  But it is not faith if it does not look foolish.

Because if faith made sense, meaning it was explainable and achievable by means of our own, there would be no need to trust God.  That is, no need for faith at all.  So we all have a choice to live in one of two ways: faith in God, or settle for a mediocre existence that depends entirely on ourselves.  There is no middle ground.  We either hold a conviction deep in our soul that God can be trusted to do what He has said He will do, or we consider ourselves – our own thoughts, decisions, and efforts – to be more reliable than God.

When Naaman, a commander in the Syrian army, was told by God’s prophet to dip in the River Jordan seven times to be healed of his leprosy, he felt foolish.  But God acted and he was healed.

When Abraham and Sarah, nearly one hundred years old, were told by God that they would conceive a son, Sarah laughed at such a foolish notion.  But their son Isaac was born the following year.

Hannah, childless and barren, dedicated her hypothetical firstborn son to God, before there was a child to give.  The priest reprimanded her foolish behaviour, mistaking her bitterness for drunkenness, but God heard her prayer and she gave birth to the prophet Samuel.

When God asks us to act in faith, it is highly likely that we will be considered foolish.  There is a high chance that those watching will not understand why we are doing what we are doing.  But the bottom line is this: do it anyway.  If God calls you to act, follow your convictions and obey.  No matter what people may say or think, no matter how foolish an act it may seem.  If it aligns with God’s Word and your conviction runs deep, trust Him and see it through.

It is only people who live by faith that will see God work miracles in their lives.  It is only those who follow their convictions that will fully embrace this great adventure called life.

 

Be Led by Peace

Cultivating a peaceful heart is another important tool required to live the adventure you were created for.  When peace reigns, each day is far more enjoyable and each challenge is more easily faced.

Peace is the evidence of true faith in God.  Even in the midst of difficulty and uncertainty, God can and will still our hearts if we trust in His strength, instead of our own.  As Lysa Terkeurst puts it, “Trusting God’s plan is the only secret I know in the gentle art of not freaking out.”

The more my relationship with God has grown, the more easily I have found peace.  I believe the more you know God and the more you recognise His hand in the detail of your lives, the more peaceful you become, knowing that His sovereign hand guards you and guides you.

When faced with a decision, learn to pray about it immediately and consider which option settles your heart and brings peace.  If it causes you to stress or feel uneasy, the decision is most likely not a right one, “for God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33a). 

Two of the best known verses in the Bible are Philippians 4:6-7. They state, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  These verses remind us that God’s incredible peace can be ours if we just talk to God about our struggles, rather than trying to deal with them ourselves.  When we give Him permission to work in our circumstances rather than trying to carry the burden alone, He promises to guard our hearts and minds from stress, anxiety, overwhelming burdens, and desperation.

No matter what we face – concerns about a medical diagnosis, a broken relationship, uncertainty about our next step – we can place all these things at the feet of Jesus and ask Him for help, guidance and peace.  He can act when we cannot.  He can carry the burden when it is too much for us.  He can settle the strife in our hearts when the visible evidence screams at us to panic.  For nothing is impossible with God.

Later, in the tale of The Hobbit, Gandalf the wizard is asked why he chose Bilbo Baggins, of all people, to participate in such an important quest.  “I don’t know,” he muses, “[Others] believe that it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found.  I’ve found that it is the small things; everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay.  Simple acts of kindness and love.”

Just like Gandalf invited Bilbo to participate in his great adventure, God invites us along on His quest to win the world.  He does not call us because of our power, or our influence, or our title, or our wealth, (though, He can use all these things) but because our small, everyday acts of kindness and love reveal Jesus’ love to the world in the unlikeliest places.

If we prepare ourselves and submit ourselves to God’s great plan for our lives, He will engineer opportunities every single day that can reverberate across nations and generations for His glory.  Don’t just entertain the idea of adventure, enter into the fullness of a faith-filled adventure with God.

When we choose to embrace and nurture these tools in our daily faith journey, we can face whatever life throws at us because we rest knowing that He goes ahead of us.  Our God-designed adventure is not available to us without Him, so find a peaceful corner, open your Bible, and ask the Father to reveal Himself to you today afresh.  I promise, you will never be the same again.

 

This blogpost is part 4 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

6 thoughts on “Adventure Awaits: Essential Tools for the Journey

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