Let’s face it, it’s hard to chase after our dreams. The Disney method of believing seems to be impossible. We all have desires and callings for greater things, and God has designed us to have this passion burning within us. We start the race, but life hits us with everything its’ got. We face pain from broken relationships, heartache from the loss of people dear to us, and the sting from words spoken against us. For me, I’ve experienced a lot of it, just like you have. Many times I don’t want to keep running into the future. I’m afraid of the pain and the unknown that will come. Fear creeps in. Fear always creeps in. For me, I want to be a writer and empower leaders of the next generation, but that road is unclear. I serve any chance I can and intern with youth, but that fear likes to creep in and tell me my dreams are unattainable. The same is true for all of us, we have different dreams and different places we wish to end up, but we are held back from our pursuit of it. I’m a visual type person, so when I picture the idea of chasing after a dream, I think of people running in a race trying to attain the medal. I think God is a visual person too, because he inspired the unknown writer of Hebrews to think of the same metaphor in chapter 12. Verse 1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” I love this verse because it revealed something to me that I want to share today. It caused me to think about three things that hold us back from moving forward. I’m going to call these the three viruses that hold you back, I like the word virus because it makes me think of some of the worst things in this world that keep us from living well, and these are nasty traits that will hold you back.
We see visuals of running all the time in our books, movies, and TV. From Chariots of Fire (you heard that music didn’t you) to Forrest Gump who just keeps running (you read that in his voice too didn’t you). For me, I think of The Flash, one of my favorite comic book heroes. In the books and the TV show, we see that he is the fastest man alive who keeps pushing himself to move forward no matter what villain or obstacle he must face. A man with a past of his mother being murdered and his father falsely accused of said murder, having to be raised by a step parent, trying to find his purpose in life. He is a fictional character, but that resonates with many of us. There have been days where I didn’t want to move forward, but God gave me the strength to press on. Last year was a hard year for me and my family, but one day in particular I will never forget. It was the day I went to a funeral and a wedding. A friend of mine that I looked up to as a brother committed suicide, there is nothing worse than seeing someone fall victim to the enemy like that. On a Saturday I went to his funeral in the morning with my brother-in-law, and afterwards a friend of our family was getting married. I went from two extremes, but I was given a picture from God, because even in the midst of sadness there is always hope. In hope we can celebrate, because death isn’t the end. We can’t stay in the darkness, we must move forward into the joy only God can give. I want to share the three viruses that hold us back in the darkness and explain how without killing them, we can’t move forward.
Move forward out of complacency.
Complacency is our first virus. This is the easiest to slip into, and it’s the idea that you are “fine.” It’s easy as leaders to get caught up in the fact that things in your life and ministry are doing fine, not bad, but it also isn’t great. This is the mentality of maintaining the status quo, but nothing grows during this time. You don’t grow spiritually if you don’t push yourself. We don’t remember the people in history that let things stay the way they were because it was just okay, you remember the people that said enough and took a stand. You can spot this problem once you start saying or hearing people say, “we’ve always done it this way.” Complacency will kill your passion. Complacency makes you stay in your comfort zone and miss out on opportunity to grow your ministry. Instead of letting it kill you, kill it by pushing yourself to try new things in all aspects of your life. Move forward, even when it feels uncomfortable, because it will lead you into something greater.
Move forward out of stagnation.
This is our second virus, and while it may seem similar to complacency, it is quite different. If something is stagnant, it isn’t moving, completely still. This is what happens when we refuse to even start the race. Often times God has given us a calling, but we don’t want to do it. We have talents and abilities that are unique, but we don’t use them to their full potential. I hate seeing this. It happens all the time at church. There are so many opportunities to try something and experience the power that comes from serving, yet so many choose to sit back and be stagnant. This will kill your influence. You are a leader, so people are always watching you, you have the capability to show humility by serving others. It goes back to what I talked on last week, you can’t speak truth unless you’re willing to get to know the life of someone else. Don’t be stagnant, move forward by jumping in.
Move forward in the midst of crisis.
This is our last virus, and I want to make sure you know something. When I say move forward out of crisis, I’m not saying get over it. The memory of hurt will always be there, but we cannot fall prey to the power of the hurt. Life never stops, we will always be facing a battle, but with Christ on our side nothing can hold us back. The verse above isn’t about a real race (but believe me any track team will use it in order to win), the verse is showing us that Jesus conquered the power of sin, he arrested death, so we don’t have to stay in the hurt. There will be pain and life won’t always go according to plan, but God’s plan is bigger than ours. I went to a funeral and a wedding in the same day, the heartache was real, but I was able to see the dichotomy of the two. Life brings pain, but God brings hope. Don’t let crisis kill your leadership, move forward into the hope that God’s love brings.
There are many things that try to hold us back from our passions and dreams, but God wants us to push through them and move forward into his plan for our lives. You are all unique people, people that are vital to this world and can change it for the better. The viruses of complacency, stagnation, and crisis try their hardest to put fear into our hearts of the unknown. Our enemy uses them to hold us back, to pull us away from the purpose we were made for. We have to fight. I don’t know your specific situation, maybe you’ve lost someone close, maybe you’re struggling with a failed relationship that you thought was the one, or maybe you can’t bear the hurt that those you once thought were close have done to you. There is hope. God wants you to be a witness to the family of the loss, God has a relationship for you and you just need to pursue him for it to be revealed, and God is the only person that defines you and he is the one who loves you more than anything. In the midst of darkness, God stretches out his hand to give hope. I have experienced the hardship, but I have also seen the hope and I am excited for the future because of that. You are made in the image of God, and you can keep running towards his endless glory.
Move forward in the presence of the one that made you, and you will find hope for the future.
Note: If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please get help. Depression is not an easy thing to fight, especially alone. Talk to your pastor, loved ones, or a counselor to work through it. No one deserves to fight alone, God is not finished with you yet.