Episode 1. Well, What Did You Expect?
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You know, most of us, when we hear about the sort of faith that moves mountains, most of us expect to move the mountains we want to move. We expect to see the results, to benefit from them, to revel …
It’s great to be back with you at the start of another week – and if you had a chance to join me over the last couple of weeks, you’ll know that we’ve been taking a look at faith from a different perspective. I guess most people want to have faith – but what is it and how does it work?
And we’ve had a good look at a couple of real life stories – the story of Abraham and Sarah – man, they definitely needed faith and yet they made so many boo boos along the way. And then, the story of an incompetent king and these four lepers – that was last week. And both of those stories – well they weren’t what perhaps you may have expected.
Abraham and Sarah were so imperfect in their faith. And then the story of the siege and God’s blessing – none of God’s people showed any faith at all, and then, then these four lepers with really no other alternative stumble out into God’s blessings.
I wonder in a series called Having Faith that Moves mountains – what sort of stories did you expect? Stories about characters and people who’d shown this mighty faith? Stories of people, real people – who had such a mighty faith that they could single-handedly cast a mountain into the sea?
And when you and I – when we look at our own lives and our own situations, what do we expect of ourselves? What sort of faith, what sort of journey, what do we expect?
I’ll tell you what I expected when I gave my life to Jesus a decade and a half ago. I expected an easy ride. I expected that despite what the Bible said, despite what the preacher up the front said on Sunday mornings (and I was blessed with a faithful teacher of God’s Word in those early days) and despite what happened to Jesus – I would have an easy ride of it.
That I’d crash through brick walls. That the problems would go away. That everything that I touched would turn to gold. And the more that I got myself into understanding God in His Word, and the more I discovered fantastic promises like:
In the world you will face persecution (John 16:33)
Somehow, the more I still wanted to cling onto this notion that I would have an easy ride of it. I was somehow special and different and that was that and the rest of you could go and travel your difficult roads, but that was not for me.
The only direction for me was up. That’s it. I’m not accepting anything else. And as I look back on those years since I gave my life over to Jesus as my Saviour and my Lord, there are some fantastic stories to tell. He’s done such amazing things in me and around me. He’s involved me in things that I could never have dreamed up myself.
But there have been obstacles and difficulties to traverse as well. There have been long and winding roads. There have been storms. There have been times when I felt completely alone. There were times when I would not have dared dream up a title for a bunch of radio programs like Having Faith that Moves Mountains.
And those times just didn’t fit with my plan. Because my plan was so much like the world’s plan. We talked about that a couple of weeks back. Success. Success is about bigger, better, faster, richer. Success is about other people looking at our lives and saying, “Oooh, he’s truly blessed.” And, “She’s got it made!”
And at some point it dawned on me – I can’t remember exactly when – that my plan wasn’t God’s plan. (Tragic, but true). Even though I’d laid my life down at His feet as completely and utterly as I was able, I still had a plan for “success.” For a long time my plan and God’s plan were tearing me apart. But the problem was I couldn’t have described it as neatly as I just have to you now. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was but something, something wasn’t right.
I wanted to do great things for God – but it was on my terms and not His. I wanted to work hard and succeed at being a Christian. I wanted to make a difference in this world for Him. But there was something, something that had to give.
It’s that something that I want to talk about in this week. To put it under a magnifying glass. To hold it up and look at it from this angle and from that. So that together we can identify it and name it.
What exactly are we missing – could it be that our template of success – yours and mine – isn’t the same as God’s template for success. Could it be that the pattern that you and I are carrying around in our heads and in our hearts – the glasses through which we see things – are kind of distorting our view – that we’re chasing after something that really isn’t there? Something that really doesn’t work?
One thing that I’ve discovered in life is that something that works well over here in this situation can be a complete failure over there in that situation. I worked as a consultant in the IT industry for many years. That took me into well over 200 organisations – companies large and small, and government agencies around the world.
And it just never ceased to amaze me that whilst my experience and knowledge grew with each project and consulting assignment, it wasn’t possible to take the approach that we used for company X last year and use it for company Y this year.
Why? Because the context and culture were invariably different. Each organisation had its own unique blend of rules and relationships. This one was flexible and entrepreneurial. That one was more structured. This one was risk-averse, that one was more open to risk-taking.
That one had had a bad project two years ago that everyone remembered. Whilst this new one hadn’t. And so what I discovered after a few years of doing this, and with the benefit of a very wise mentor, is that the template for success was different in each organisation. The most important thing to do was to figure out what success looked like for and organisation, in order that we could shape a project and an outcome that was successful.
And after a while, I figured out that the template for success in the kingdom of this world, is different – quite different – from the template of success in the Kingdom of God. And the tension that was going on inside me as I was striving so hard to succeed in this new Kingdom, God’s Kingdom was because I was striving for the wrong things. Things that in God’s eyes didn’t constitute success.
The context and the culture had changed. And I was still trying to be successful in the old way, the world’s way. In a way that was never going to be successful in God’s way.
As I said earlier, my model of success was base on the “onwards and upwards” idea. Always going forward. Never taking a step back. And to be honest, you see a lot of that brand of success floating around the church of God today. It’s the world’s approach and not God’s. These words from Douglas Webster’s book, Under the Radar – Conversations on Leadership really strike a chord with me:
We shouldn’t be surprised that the Bible calls for leadership that the world does not recognise as leadership. We have trouble identifying the ‘David’ type leader whose character and leadership have been forged in the wilderness while caring for the sheep.
It turns out that God’s template for success is based on something that I’d never, ever, ever in my wildest dreams thought would be related to success. A word that I’d never used in the same sentence as “success”. That word, is … vulnerability. And that – that’s what we’re going to talk about tomorrow on the program.