I’ve recently been reading The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson, one of the books on B.M.D.M.I.’s required reading list for missionary candidates. So much of it resonated with what I’ve experienced since my call to missions that I decided to write down some of the things I’ve gleaned from it to share with others in hope that they may be encouraged in their personal ministries, whether in the local church or foreign missions. When God asks us to do things that make us uncomfortable sometimes we need to be reminded “that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Have you ever felt frozen in your tracks, filled with uncertainty, faced with the choice of whether to leave what feels comfortable behind in order to pursue your dreams? Sometimes as we journey through this life, the path before us appears to be long, lonely, and maybe even a bit scary. We hesitate to move forward because we don’t know what awaits us at the end or what may be lurking beyond what we can see. We’re not sure we have what it takes to complete the task – we doubt our abilities. Things seem overwhelming.
We’re not really content with where we are. We want something more exciting, something different, something better than this. As Mark Hall and Matthew West write in Casting Crowns’ latest title song, Thrive, “We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives.” But there is a certain comfort with our familiar surroundings and worn-out routines. After all, most of us aren’t “wired” to be adventure seekers. We struggle taking risks. This is especially uncomfortable when it means leaving supportive relationships behind. As a result, we often let opportunities pass us by, taking refuge in our TV, sports, or social media security blankets. We eventually tend to lose our sense of meaning and purpose. I believe Mark Hall and Matthew West were absolutely right when they went on to write, “It’s time for us to more than just survive. We were made to thrive.”
Fear of the unknown paralyzes us and creates stress and tensions we don’t always recognize. My 17-year-old son, Tyler, is on the brink of diving headlong into his own future. I look at this intelligent, very talented, and usually self-assured young man wrestling with his apprehensions regarding his budding independence. Somewhere within himself I’m certain he’s thrilled with the prospect of making his own choices and becoming his own man, but what is most obvious to me is his uneasiness with beginning to drive, enrolling in college, getting his first job, and the prospect of mom and dad moving out of the country and trusting him to take care of himself. Without our “gentle nudges” I wonder if he’d venture out at all. It seems ironic that he is so anxious about the thing he’s been wanting to do for so long – to realize his own dreams. But anxiety almost always occurs when we leave our comfort zones behind, regardless of how unhappy or unfulfilled we were or how excited we are regarding our prospects. And it generally doesn’t matter how talented, strong or brave you are.
This fear of the unknown hinders us from pursuing the works of Him who sent us (John 9:4). A great example of this is Moses’ reluctance and excuse-making which revealed his fears when God hand-picked him for the mission to lead Israel from Egypt’s bondage. Another example is Gideon’s fear and unbelief which became evident when he made excuses about his weakness and hesitated by testing the Lord twice. But the Lord assured Gideon, “I will be with you” (Judges 6:15-40). How quickly we believers forget God is faithful to “equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we… become mature, attaining…the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13). I’m also reminded of the apostle Peter’s momentary doubt and fear (I suppose walking on rough waters in a howling windstorm will do that) which caused him to begin to sink after leaving his comfort zone (a boat tossed about on a lake!). Jesus was quick to chastise Peter saying, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt 14:31) By the power of God’s Holy Spirit, though, this same apostle with the “little faith” grew in faith and preached the message of Christ on Pentecost where 3000 were saved, became a founding father of the church, and sacrificed his life to spread the gospel of Jesus.
God has planted a dream deep within me, a strong passion to do something special. When God invites His people to participate in kingdom work, he repeatedly tells them to “Be strong and courageous,” “Take courage!” and “Don’t be afraid.” Why does He do this? Because He knows we will be stretched beyond our comfort zones, encounter hardships, and endure fear and heartaches. But also because He loves us so dearly and wants to see us succeed and receive blessing, He knows we can only do this if we rest in His will. I admit that since my call to missions I have experienced countless times of anxiety, doubt, feelings of inadequacy, and downright fear. But God has reminded me over and over, in many different ways, that He’s “got this.” He’s assured me He knows my weaknesses, my “little faith,” my fears, my age, and the sacrifices He’s asking me to make. For some reason, He still wants me for the job. He has tremendously increased my faith and decreased my fear. Through this, I am learning to rest in His sovereignty.
Wilkinson writes in The Dream Giver, “Until you decide to pursue your dream, you are never going to love your life the way you are meant to. Millions of people never take the first step. A whole lifetime can pass without a person ever accomplishing the great things he or she was meant to do and wants to do.” Like Moses and Gideon, we’re all called to serve God in specific ways. As I already mentioned, God has already laid out our good works and we cannot begin to imagine the amazing works God has prepared for us (see 1 Corinthians 2:9). Although He promises to equip and strengthen us as we need to accomplish what He has asked of us, we make excuses, procrastinate and argue with Him. We act as though God must have made a mistake. Don’t waste time making excuses or arguing with Him. Instead, spend it doing what He wants.
Only by being entirely obedient to His call on each of our lives and resting in the promises He makes can we ever hope to experience JOY UNSPEAKABLE – a joy that prompts us to sing God’s praises while confined in stocks in jail, to consider it great joy whenever we experience trials; FAITH UNSINKABLE – a faith so great that we would raise our hand clutching a knife to take our only son’s life if that’s what God asked us to do, a faith so profound that we could witness the walls of Jericho fall simply by marching around the city; and LOVE UNSTOPPABLE – a love socomplete that we could truly love our enemies, a love so unlimited so as “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)