A Hero for Our Time

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, mesmerized, watching dramatizations 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 they instil 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?

– Adventure Awaits

2020 has been quite the year already. We’re barely halfway through and already we’ve battled a global pandemic and appear to be on the brink of a new civil rights movement. Not to mention the horrors surrounding Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, the raging forest fires in Australia, and the passing of the controversial new security law between China and Hong Kong.

Yet, though these singular events have shone a media spotlight on the injustice, pain and challenges that many are currently facing, the underlying issues are not new. Disease, poverty, violence, discrimination, destruction and oppression have been present problems since humanity’s poor choice in the Garden of Eden.

But also at work since that fateful day is God; calling, positioning and empowering ordinary men and women to step into an extraordinary purpose and to face these common issues head-on. We read in Exodus of how Moses led the Israelite nation out of slavery in Egypt. The book of Acts depicts how the early church shared their belongings to help combat poverty. Dr David Livingstone fought physical and spiritual disease as a missionary to Africa in the late nineteenth century. Christian minister and activist Martin Luther King Jr faced arrest and assault, yet became the symbolic leader of American blacks in their fight for equality. Australian evangelist and author Christine Caine, along with her husband, founded The A21 Campaign a little over a decade ago to help tackle global human trafficking. I could go on.

And yet there’s still so much need. So what are we going to do about it? What difference can we really make? The truth is, not much. Not alone, anyway. But God doesn’t ask us to do it alone. If we allow him, he’ll do it through us. He asks us to simply be a vehicle through which he can work. The potential to reform these global crises resides within us. But our choices determine how much of that potential becomes reality. Will it be tough? Yes. Will you want to quit? No doubt. But will you live to see God’s power manifested in you and through you? Most definitely.

Whose name will appear in the history books still to be written? Whose face will feature in future based-on-a-true-story Hollywood blockbusters? Could it be yours? Then it begins today. It can start now. Step out of your comfort zone and take a stand. God has already given you a sphere of influence so ask him how he wants to use you within it. When you surrender to him, he’ll open up doors you never imagined walking through and equip you to do that which would be impossible without him.

God has a unique role for you to play in the salvation of mankind. He has a wild adventure of faith already scripted and he invites you to play the main character. He promises to fund you, train you, prompt you, and direct you, and those who bear witness to his work in your life will recognize that only the One who holds all things could possibly orchestrate such an incredible adventure.

Read more in my book, Adventure Awaits.

A Tale of Two Tests

As I reflected over the Easter period, I was struck by two different perspectives of the well-known Easter narrative. Each describe a test of faith, and each have relevance in our own faith journeys two millennia later.

The first, is that of Jesus Christ, Himself. A.W. Tozer said, “True obedience is the refusal to compromise in any regard our relationship with God, regardless of the consequences.”

When I think of the cross, I think of Jesus’ determined obedience to His Father. He knew what was ahead; He knew what God was asking of Him; He knew the pain and suffering He would have to endure. He fully understood the consequences of His obedience. But He did it anyway.

He did it because He loved the Father, and because He loved us, but ultimately He did it because of His obedience. Just before He was arrested, He uttered this prayer, “Abba, my Father, all things are possible for you. Please – don’t allow me to drink this cup of suffering! Yet what I want is not important, for I only desire to fulfill your plan for me.” {Mark 14:36 TPT}

I find this incredibly humbling, for I know that there have been many times (I don’t need to think too far back) when I have either hesitated in my obedience, or flat-out disobeyed the prompt of the Holy Spirit because I have been afraid of the possible consequences of my obedience; whether it be awkwardness, rejection, or something worse (and let’s face it, in the western world, we are rarely faced with much worse).

Often there will be pain, or discomfort, or rejection, as a result of our obedience. Jesus experienced that too (on a much greater scale). But this momentary suffering led to something exponentially greater, with eternal consequences.

When commanded by God, we must seek to look beyond our own discomfort and fear, and trust His bigger plan; His sovereign perspective. If Christ had thought only of His own impending suffering, He could have chosen to save Himself from His agonising crucifixion. But He trusted God’s greater plan. He recognised that God was outworking something far greater than just His own destiny. His obedience made way for the redemption of mankind!

Just as I shared in a previous post, Humility: Redefined, we need to resist being distracted by our own interests, and instead consider the impact of our obedience on others. Don’t allow your fear to steal breakthrough for someone else.

The second perspective I have been pondering on is that of Jesus’ followers, specifically in the hours after his death. They had spent three years listening to the teachings of Christ and witnessing His miracles. They had hoped that He was the much-anticipated Messiah, but it now appeared that their hopes had died with Him.

As He breathed His last, they wept; they mourned; they felt broken, empty, disorientated. They were not only faced with the emotional grief of losing a loved one, but also with the devastation of lost hope.

Slowly, one by one, they turned their faces away from the cross and began to imagine a life without their friend, their teacher, their Saviour.

The disciples had held a vision of what the manifestation of God’s Messiah might be like, but when their current circumstances didn’t match their expectations, all hope was seemingly lost.

They had never anticipated Christ’s resurrection. And yet, Christ had spoken of it (Matthew 27:63). His disciples, too, would have known the writings of Isaiah and the other prophets, and the promises that God had made to the Israelite nation. God’s Promises had not been broken, they had simply been received through the microscope of human understanding.

Proverbs 3:5 reminds us that we cannot depend on our own understanding. We cannot depend on what we think the end product of God’s guidance is going to look like. Rather, we need to depend on what God says and then simply trust Him.

Despite the panic, despite the confusion, despite the fear, despite the tears amongst the believers at the foot of the cross, God knew what He was doing. No moment or outcome was a surprise to Him. Everything played out the way He wanted and expected it to. And the greatest sadness unfolded into victory!

God had a perfect plan to redeem us through His Son, Jesus Christ. His love and foresight aligned everything up perfectly so that, at just the right time, Christ went to the cross and paid the price for the sin of the world; our sin. His blood bought our freedom; freedom from punishment and death, freedom from fear, freedom from isolation and loneliness apart from Him. Christ became the bridge that connected us directly to God, and made a way for us to be in relationship with Him again.

How do we respond when the expectations that we have seem to die before us? Do we lose hope? Do we allow panic, confusion, and fear to consume us? Do we turn our faces away from Jesus, concluding that our hope, our anticipation, our trust was in vain?

When we look back on the Easter story, perhaps we know that the disciples only had to wait until the third day to see the glorious end to their perceived tragedy. But when you are still waiting – when you are in the midst of hopelessness – it can feel like the consuming darkness is endless.

Here’s the simple, yet challenging truth: It is not our responsibility (or even a possibility) to dictate the outcome of our current circumstances. It is our job, however, to trust God in those silent moments and not to allow confusion or doubt to fuel those fears that threaten us.

One of the most freeing lessons I’ve learnt in the last 12 months is to resist spiralling into doubt and depression in the dark hours that follow an unexpected turn of events. In an effort to self-protect, I would have always sought to think through every possible outcome and begin actioning thoughts or plans in an effort to protect my heart from further disappointment. Then God began to reveal to me a pattern of behaviour in myself that actually made the experience for me worse, not better. The enemy played on my vulnerability and fed my fears with lies and gleefully watched me spiral into misery. But as I learned to identify those lies, I began to resist them rather than partnering with them, and rather chose to hope. I chose to trust. I chose to wait with expectation to see what God would do next. He held the final word. I only needed to patiently and courageously (and it does take courageous) walk it out, one hour, one day at a time.

What I found was that God would often reveal Truth within 24 hours of my disappointment. Now, this is not a hard and fast rule, I don’t believe, and not every experience fits this timeline, but these experiences taught me to always wait a little longer, hope a little longer, trust a little longer, and allow God time to outwork what He had planned and purposed for me in a particular trial. And let me tell you, I saved myself a whole lot of tears in the process!

The grace that God offers us is sufficient for every challenge that we face (2 Corinthians 12:9). In difficult times, His peace buoys us up in the midst of the waves. We may try to jump to conclusions or guess what will happen next in an effort to self-protect, but God does not ask that of us. He asks us to trust Him.

There will be many times in our lives when it appears that hope or promises are lost, and yet God has the ability to raise them back to life. He will finish what He starts; He will bring His work to completion, but He determines what that completed work looks like, not us.

The recount of Christ’s death and resurrection reminds us that no matter how bleak our circumstances look, God has a bigger plan. We may not recognise it immediately. We may need to blindly trust Him in some of our darkest moments. But we can trust Him to allow His plan to unfold in the way it should – no delays, no absences, no detours – simply the best way.