Adventuring with God
One of the key indicators of cultural perspectives and values permeating contemporary Christianity is the popular view that Biblical success can always be equated with a lack of difficulties. In fact, in many Christian circles any and all problems encountered are assumed to be a result of either sin in one’s life or spiritual warfare. While the latter may always be true in the sense that we live in a fallen planet there is a question that begs to be asked when overwhelming problems are encountered. ‘What if God both allowed and ordained my present situation- including the trials?’
In order to correctly process that question it must first be asked ‘what is God’s will for our lives’. In a word His will is we become conformed to Christ. The question must then be asked ‘how are we to think of Jesus as a role model’. Should we identify Him as a prophet, a teacher, a healer, or a lover of the lonely? All of those aspects of Christ are good and, actually, important to keep in perspective. Those functions, which Christ operated in, however, are merely functions. He operated in those functions not so much due to primary intention but because of who He was, and is, in His core being. When push came to shove Jesus identified Himself as a son. He was never so much focused on establishing His titles, or empire, as He was to do the will of His heavenly Father.
We see as bookends to Jesus’ 3 years of ministry the Father speaking over the Son. On both occasions, the Father encouraged, strengthened, and comforted Jesus by proclaiming that relationship of Father/Son. (Matt. 3.17 & 17.5) We see Jesus as He approached the worst moments of His life preferring the Father’s will to His own. His prayer, found in Matthew 26.39, was fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” His ethos was always, as a son, to please the Father. Since Jesus knew and considered He to simply be the Son of God then this is the model for thinking of what are life goal(s) ought to be!
Sonship; Giving & Forgiving
The apostle John stated ‘See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.’ Having dealt with the previous questions, the answers then beg one more question- ‘what does it mean to be a mature son of God?’ There have been countless Bible teachers, preachers, and pastors who have done long, involved, in-depth series concerning what it means to be a mature follower of Christ. Countless volumes have been written on the topic. For the sake of a brief article how then could we condense a Christ like lifestyle without becoming either casual, or shallow?
The answer lies in perhaps one of the most famous Bible verses of all- John 3.16. From this simple, yet radical proclamation of Jesus’ we can deduct two essential characteristics regarding God, the Father. One, God is a giver. For the cause of love He gave His greatest treasure- His only begotten Son, to us and for us so that we might become sons of God. Two, because of Christ and the cross, God has forgiven us of all of our sins when we surrender our lives to Him. So, in essence, if we say our goal is to be like our heavenly Father than what we are saying is we want to live a lifestyle of two thing’s- giving and forgiving!
One of the greatest areas many of us have difficulty in surrendering to God is the constant need to feel as if we are in control of our lives. When Adam & Eve ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil they vicariously lost something for all of humanity. They lost a childlike trust in God’s wisdom for their (our) lives. The lie they (we) bought into was that if we could simply have enough knowledge we could be ‘as God’- in control of our lives and destiny. For this reason Jesus stated that if we don’t humble our selves ‘as a child’ we will not enter into the kingdom. In essence, Christ calls us back to the simplicity, but not simple, primary focus of dependence on God. Even the name Jesus, or Yeshua, means ‘the Lord is your salvation’. It speaks of God’s grace, apart from our works and abilities.
The first generation out of Egypt had faith for God to take them out of slavery but not faith to grace them into the Promised Land. The stumbling block was they simply could not understand how God could use them (as grasshoppers in their own perspective) to defeat the giants of the land. That generation could not understand how, or why, God would work His supernatural grace to them and through them. Basically, they stopped short in their journey due to a lack of faith to adventure with God. Although they were no longer slaves legally they were, in fact, slaves to their fears and disbelief. There are many today who although they may be rich in regards to money and possessions are actually living in poverty because they too are ruled by fear. Although they may have everything they are not free to enjoy anything. While a Christian may have the potential of all thing’s in Christ Jesus fear and unbelief can rob us of freedom to enter into the full promises of God. We actually may be sons of the Kingdom, but our souls resemble beggars outside the walls of the palace.
Putting Adventure back in the venture of Christianity
By very definition the word ‘adventure’ means to willingly embark in a certain direction that will almost guarantee you are in danger. When I was in my teens and ‘20’s almost all of my close friends lived lifestyles considered dangerous by most. We were into rock and mountain climbing, some were into surfing big waves, motorcycle riding, etc. The best man in my wedding, Bill, was asked by his insurance agent, at one point, if he had a death wish. From the insurance agent’s perspective no one should have been involved with as many dangerous activities as Bill was. Our problem, however, was not that we loved danger, as much as we did adventure- putting our abilities to the test in situations with real life consequences. Even today, in my ‘50s while I no longer climb due to lack of time, I really enjoy pushing my skill levels in riding motorcycles. But far more than that, I love to put my faith in God to the test, as He leads, and see His amazing power and grace do for me (and others) what I can not do for myself when I am in over my head. Whether it’s praying for someone dying of cancer, sharing the gospel with someone far, from Christ, or taking on projects, as He leads that may be way beyond my capabilities and past experience.
When God leads you into a new realm (something you’ve never done before) you will feel like your in way over your head. He will put you into situations beyond your wisdom and experience. You will, in fact, feel like a youth embarking in adult adventures. When that happens say to yourself ‘I’m in good company’! When God called Jeremiah into his ministry Jeremiah complained that he was simply a youth- inexperienced! God’s response was to encourage Jeremiah to change his mindset by realizing that God almighty would be with him, and in short the battle always belongs to God. The apostle Paul put it this way: If I’m going to boast I’m going to boast in my weakness’ because God told me ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ In other words, if your being led by God’s Spirit you can expect and even celebrate when your in over your head- that’s when the miracles take place. In fact, when God allows you to be surrounded by impossibilities, He is setting you up for the miraculous!
How do we live a Kingdom lifestyle?
When God stated ‘ the just shall live by faith’ He was not simply speaking of how we enter the kingdom of God, but also how we ought to live a Kingdom lifestyle. God is still calling His people today to practice risky obedience and follow the Holy Spirit into realms we’ve never experienced before. Aside from faith in God’s leading to step into situations ‘over our head’ the kingdom cannot be advanced. Hence Jesus admonishment- to ‘humble ourselves like a child’ and trust Him. This is radically different than ‘leaning to our own understanding’ in order to feel as if we are in control.
There are demonic giants in the lands today God is calling us to war against giants such as aids, cancer, poverty, strongholds of substance abuse, and perverseness. Essentially, these giants God is calling us to confront rule the societies God is calling us into. We dare not forget the Kingdom of God is not simply when we die and go to heaven, but Jesus said to seek first the Kingdom of God on earth, as it is in heaven.
More than conquerors
I believe God desires to transition us for transformation. 2011 is a year of transitioning ourselves to run races that could last the rest of the decade. God wants to speak to many today regarding the difference our lives, churches, and ministries, could possibly make in the life of the culture around us over the next ten years. In order to catch what the Spirit may be saying, however, we might need a change of heart and mind regarding who we are. If we are saved to be conformed to Christ, and be givers and forgivers then in essence we are called to be ‘more than conquerors’! (Romans 8.37 NASB)
What does it mean to be ‘more than a conqueror’? Two things- first it means that by God’s grace you have conquered the major battles of your own life. Secondly, as you have freely received you go on to help others conquer their battles. A ‘more than conqueror’ is no longer gripped by fear that he, or she, will not have enough. So they are free in God’s abundant grace to give generously. Secondly, they celebrate wholeness in Christ to the extent of extending forgiveness rather than holding on to offenses. In essence, they practice the nature of their heavenly Father as they emulate Christ Jesus.
Comfortable, or Comforted?
Christ like freedom and wholeness render us free to step out into new and strange realms. God’s grace, wisdom, and leading give us a confidence to put adventure back into the venture of Christianity. As a friend of mine puts it: ‘there’s only one place in the universe where you cannot find God- in your own personal comfort zone’! Let’s learn to derive our comfort from the Person of the Holy Comforter. The consequences of striving to live a comfortable lifestyle are drastic. God loves a good fight- just ask David.
Marc A. Dupont
Mantle of Praise Ministries, Inc.