Being a leader is hard work. It requires you to be strong when others aren’t, make tough decisions, and stand for what you believe is right; but we are all called to be leaders. A leader is simply one who leads a group, pretty basic stuff right? What this looks like is simple, yet complex. That’s one of the things that never ceases to amaze me, how simple God works to do incredible things. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” You see, we were specially designed by God, made in his image, he gave us abilities and talents that are unlike anyone else. He made us, but we have a calling that he gives each of you, use what he has given you to do good works. Those good works are simply serving others, treating others as you want to be treated.
The past two weeks we have been looking at life as a story that we create. We are the characters and we have a mission. The first week we looked at our past and last week we looked at the present, so now we will look to the future. The future has always been one of my biggest fears, maybe my only fear. It’s unpredictable and big, or is it? I used to look at the future as some big dragon I had to fight alone. It would taunt me with fears of where my life was headed, making me question my security in Christ. Will you ever find a job that you love? Does my life really make an impact? Is the work that I’m putting in going to pay off in the end? All of these questions terrify me, but I don’t have to be afraid. God promises us that we are never alone, that he will never leave us or forsake us. It is such a powerful promise that is made over and over again in scripture, and learning to trust in that causes us to move forward into the unknown with confidence. Trust is not an easy thing, but it is such a rewarding promise. No matter what happens, God will always be there. He may not change your circumstances and he may not make everything better, but he will always be there to guide and comfort you when you need it. He can change and shape your life radically, but you have to choose to trust him with the future.
Last week I talked about making a very important choice, a choice that will affect the rest of your life, but what happens afterwards? How do I go about living my life? So often we are able to make the choice, but we continue to live our lives as they were. This isn’t me saying we should all become hermit people only reading the bible every moment of the day, not a bad thing just basically impossible if you have to drive and interact with people, what I am saying is that we become changed people. A relationship with God isn’t some checklist to complete, that isn’t a relationship. We are in relationship with so many people, friends, family, co-workers; but the most important relationship we have is with our creator. When we spend time with these people in our life, we make an effort to connect with them, that’s what God wants for us. When we make the effort to connect with him, our outlook is altered.
Hello again my good reader! Over the past couple of months on this blog I’ve been focusing on different aspects that we can learn and use to build our arsenal against the trials that life throws at us. It has been somewhat of a theme, but today I want to focus in on the reason behind why I’ve been writing about these traits. My reasoning is because I have seen that only you can strengthen yourself. Here’s what I mean, we as people can listen to inspirational speakers, read the best books, talk to the wisest of people, but there’s one thing that we all forget. All of these are good, but it comes down to the fact that only you can make the choice over your life. This is one of the most beautiful lessons that Jesus teaches us, a gift he gives us. We all have a choice, and this choice is the decision of life or death. Yeah, that serious. Paul gives us the two options in plain, clear, view. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life.” One of the things that is so good about the bible is that things are so simple, a choice of living in sin, or turning from sin and running into freedom. It’s the choice, meaning the only choice we need. Do we follow the world, or do we choose to follow Christ? Without choosing to have a relationship with Christ, you can still work on the skills that I’ve written about, but it isn’t sustainable. Think of it like an environmental standpoint, if we keep using a non-renewable resource, we are left with nothing. Things break down, we lose the ability to live like we once were. The same is true without Christ, without having a daily renewal, we break down. We need to make the choice.
I want to talk about something today that I feel like doesn’t get talked about enough. Creativity. We look around every day and look at a world filled with beautiful nature, excellent craftsmanship, and individuals who are each unique in every way from us. We look at it all, but something doesn’t quite sink in. We live in a world that was designed by an all-powerful creator, yet we forget to acknowledge the power that is in that. We forget the intricate processes of the body that allows us to function on a daily basis. We forget the fact that nature has an inner working system that literally gives life. And we forget that we have been designed with the ability to use our own creative minds. Each of us is unique, designed by a creator, each with the ability to give back with our own gifts. All of us have talents and abilities that add to the kingdom and the world we live in.
One of the biggest questions I think everyone has asked themselves at some point is, do I even matter? It’s kind of a frightening question to ask oneself. Do we actually matter to the landscape of the world we find ourselves in? The answer, in our own eyes, varies all over the place. Success is subjective in the eyes of the person trying to obtain it. Success in the world may be fame, fortune, and glory; but if this is the standard for if we matter, most of us will fail. I know for me I’m a broke college student who is trying to figure out how I get to the place God has called me to. I don’t exactly meet the fame, fortune, and glory type of success. There has to be something more, right? I believe that God’s idea of success is so much more powerful than we could ever imagine, and it is so much greater than our worldly desires. Psalm 1:1-3 says, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither- whatever they do prospers.” This verse I believe answers that question of why we matter.
I hope you all are staying warm and safe from the icy roads! I am currently in a hotel in Lillington after spending a day visiting a friend. It was very crazy having my dad call me to tell me that the roads were too dangerous for me to try and make it, so I made reservations at the hotel. It’s currently raining and freezing from outside a coffee shop here in the town, and this situation, as well as what I’ve been learning throughout this week has lead me to one central idea. Trust. Trust is something that is hard for me, the word itself means to have a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. That’s a pretty big role to fill, yet God wants us to put our complete trust in him alone. For me, it’s hard to trust things and people, because all of us are sinners, people who are not perfect. If we expect imperfect people to be perfect, we will be disappointed. I often make that mistake, I really do mean often. I look to other people to trust in, because I can tangibly hear and see them, but I make them into a higher position than God himself. This is a dangerous way to live, Jesus called out the religious leaders of his time because they similarly put their trust in the law, while missing the son of God who was in front of them. I think that’s the danger of putting trust into someone or something until it turns into faith, and that’s something hard to admit.
Life gets hard. If there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s that fact. Sometimes it happens in unforeseen ways, giving a sucker punch to our gut. Other times, our own dumb mistakes can bring on heartache and pain. I know for me, both are true. I’ve faced storms throughout the past year and this year has been a fight as well. I’ve made mistakes, let my anger take over in moments of weakness. It’s a challenge I’ve always had, anger. Anger against those who hurt me, anger towards those who hurt others, and anger towards myself. I hate that part of me. I seek peace and a laidback nature, but when I don’t let God have control, I lose it. I’ll say things I can’t take back, whether true or not, the words will hurt. I share this because I struggle. I’m not a perfect person and neither are you. Maybe you struggle with anger like me, or maybe your thorn is of another kind. Addiction, holding on to grudges, pride, judgement, abuse; all of these many of us struggle with on a daily basis. All of these can cause a fracture in our relationships, hurting our families, friends, or our overall persona that people perceive of us. The funny thing is, we expect everyone around us to be the perfect person we are not. The dichotomy becomes our expectation of others perfection to counter our imperfection, thus creating the fracture. The only thing that can counter our imperfection is God’s complete perfection.
I love hero stories. I’ve always loved comic books and epic hero movies where one individual faces an incredible challenge, and they make it through the toughest fight. I look up to stories like that because I want to make a difference. I want to stand up for what is right, defend the weak, and repair what has been lost. I think the same is true for you, it’s the reason why we love movies and books where one individual, whom no one thinks is strong enough, has what it takes to save the day. Often we feel like we can’t make it through our situation, or that the mountains we face have no chance of being moved. This is simply not true, we have a God who is so much bigger than the trials we face. God picks us up off the ground, the moments when we feel defeated and all alone, and he looks at us and says, “You’ve got what it takes, kid.” Now this isn’t scripture and we may not hear God actually say this to us, but the point is, God created us for a reason. God created you to be more than what you think you are, God made you to be exactly who you are, and He made you with supernatural abilities that will change the world. Over and over in the bible we see stories of simple individuals, people that would normally be looked over in their daily lives, and God used them to do amazing things. They may not have been able to control minds, have spider-like abilities, or fly; but God gave them incredible power. God wants to give you the same power.
Hebrews chapter eleven is a perfect example of what I’m trying to convey to each of you. This chapter is the “By faith” chapter, it records how different individuals in the bible were able to do super natural things by faith in the one true God. People like Noah, who built an ark to save humanity, Abraham, whose descendants grew mightily when his wife was barren, and Moses, who stood up to tyranny and led people into freedom. Each one of these people chose to live in faith, they chose to trust God even when it seemed impossible. God had a purpose and vision for each of these individuals and called out to them saying that they had what it took. You see, God has a purpose and vision for our lives to. He calls to us, telling us that we have what it takes, that you have a power within you that is awe-inspiring, and one that cannot be stopped. All we have to do is live by faith, trusting that God will guide and protect you, and you can do great things. I want to spend the next few paragraphs describing how we can awaken this power within us and become more than who we are.
We have to accept the calling.
In every epic tale, the hero is reluctant to take on the responsibility. Luke is reluctant to train as a Jedi because his family needs his help on the farm, Peter Parker has amazing abilities that he doesn’t know how to use effectively, and Katniss is tied to protecting her family from an oppressive regime. All three of these characters were created by different people, all have different settings and worlds, but each has one big thing in common. Each has the strength to do so much more, and each has to accept the calling on their life. This happens through a catalyst, an event that requires them to stand up and face the fight. Luke’s family is killed and the universe is threatened, Peter Parker watches as his uncle is murdered by a criminal, and Katniss takes the place of her sister that is placed in certain peril. Each one has a choice. We all have that same choice. Do we accept the calling on our lives, or do we stand back and let the world go down in flames around us? God gives us a choice, and he lets us live with the consequences of whatever we choose. Our God loves us, but he lets us make the choice all on our own. This is the first step. If you choose to not accept the calling, well, you will continue to live and not make an impact. Your legacy will blow away like dust in the wind. However, when you choose to accept the calling, choosing to make a decision and have that real relationship with a God who loves you deeply, your journey begins. You’ve listened to God’s voice, and you believe that you can make an impact. You will live a life of meaning, one that will shape the world forever. You must make a choice to accept the calling God has placed on your heart.
We must surrender your selfish desire.
As people, we want to do what we want to. It’s what makes us selfish, we think about what we want, with no thought about others. Great leaders think about everyone. They think about the people who are always with you, and they care about the quiet and shy ones who hide in the background. When we look at the people who lived by faith in the bible, we see people who thought about the future. Thought about the people they were impacting, the lives that would go on to make a difference. This sometimes means not getting all the credit, not being in the spotlight, and not having adoring fans. Sure that can be nice, but the purpose is not to glorify yourself, it is to impact the lives around you for the better. To look at those around you and help heal the broken, lead the lost into freedom. Every great hero we see in literature and films defends the people, they sacrifice their own safety and comfort, in order to save others. We must take on the calling for our lives, and we must live serving others. This will give us the power to change lives and make that lasting impact on everyone around you. We have been designed with purpose, and God wants us to lead others into his kingdom. We need to lay down our own selfish wants and comforts, in order to step into the power that God has given you, because when you do, you will impact everyone.
We must trust with everything.
This is the final step into your journey of taking on what God is calling you towards. Each person in the bible fully trusted God, it wasn’t always easy, but they trusted him with everything. One of the guys in the by faith chapter is Elijah, and he lived trusting God with everything, even with food as he had to hide away in the desert. God sent birds to feed him, and if God can do that for Elijah, he can do that for you. It probably won’t entail trusting that God will send you a bird with food, but maybe it means living with a trust that can will bring you out of this pain. Maybe it means trusting God with your finances, with your relationships, or with your struggles. We need to live with Jesus every day, we have to trust that he will guide us with every aspect of life and any struggle we may face. You have been given talents and abilities that are unique, but we need God to accomplish what we have been called to do. Every hero has a mentor, someone who has walked the path before and can guide us. Luke had Ben Kenobi, Peter Parker had Uncle Ben, and Katniss had Hamish. The same needs to be true in your life, we need a sensei because you are a warrior. We need to trust God with everything, so that we can accomplish anything.
I’ve always loved hero stories. Heroes that stand up for what’s right, heroes that fight for the weak, heroes that are looked down upon even when they have done such great things. I think everyone has a desire to make a difference, to be someone with great power that changes the world. We all have a power inside of us, we have the ability to lift people off the ground and help them find freedom. We need to accept the calling, surrender our selfish desires, and trust in God completely. When we do this, we are unstoppable. Life will still get tough, things won’t always go by plan, but God will always be with you. We can live by faith, and accomplish so much. We just need to choose.
You’ve got what it takes, kid.
This week begins another phase in my life. My classes at the university start back, and that marks the beginning of a new semester in my life. Life will start to be more chaotic and my time will be filled with more work and studies, which isn’t always a bad thing. The girl I’m dating heads back to school herself which is hard, but will make the time together even more meaningful when we do see each other. My close friends start a new phase in their lives as well, so getting together is more of a challenge to stay in touch. I will take on new responsibilities within my serving at the church, I’m taking on the task of what it looks like to write a book, and I’m having to make the most with the time I’m given. All of this is good, and I’m excited for what the future will bring, but I’m terrified. This always seems to happen when big things are coming. The fear starts to creep in, I start hearing the whispers telling me I will fail, or that I’m not skilled enough to chase my dreams. I’m so scared that all the things God has made me for, I’ll screw it up or miss my chance to achieve it. I think a lot of you might feel the same. You may feel like your dream is so big, that there’s no way you could make it happen. Maybe you feel scared like me, and you know what? It’s okay.
Whenever these feelings creep in, I’m reminded of Joshua. No, that’s not a humble brag about me thinking about myself and being totally cool (Cue the sweet putting on of sunglasses). I’m talking about Joshua in the bible. I think many of us feel like Joshua. He was a slave that followed Moses out of bondage, because he had true faith in the one true God. He was eager, he was young, and he had a desire to be close to God. I know for me I feel this way, and many of you do as well. We have a drive to be all that we can be, we are young in our faith, and we want nothing but what God has for us. Joshua was so devoted, he was right by Moses to help him in any way that he could. There was one instance where Moses had a tent and told the Israelites that the spirit was in it for any to come be in his presence. No one went in, except for Joshua, and not only that, but when Moses left the tent, Joshua stayed and kept worshiping. So, when Moses passed away, the Lord appointed Joshua to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. No big deal right? Actually yes, it was probably the biggest thing any of us could face. Joshua reacted like me, he was terrified. He didn’t run away from the challenge, but he was scared. I mean think about it, this was hundreds of people, people that would wander away like sheep without a leader. But God is way more awesome and bigger than we often make him out to be. You see, God isn’t a get out-of-jail free card or a nice guy, he is an all-powerful and all-knowing savior. He is on your side. When you look at chapter 1 of the book of Joshua, God reassures Joshua by simply saying, be strong and courageous. Today I want to encourage you, because this has encouraged me. I am terrified, but I have a God who is bigger than my fears, a God that simply says to be strong and courageous because he has a plan for you. When we look at Joshua, we see simple truths that each of us can hold onto, three little ideas that combat our fear, because we get scared, and that’s okay because God is with you.
God has designed you with purpose.
Sometimes it feels like I say this over and over, but it will always be true. One of my biggest fears that has come at me over my life, is the fear that I have no purpose. I know this is a fear for you, it’s one of the biggest questions people ask; why am I here? Many of us spend our lives seeking purpose in things that don’t last, maybe you’re seeking the perfect career, looking for a relationship to fill the void, or turning to the consumeristic pleasures to fulfill you. God made us for so much more. Yes, it’s nice to find a job that you love, a spouse to share life with, and enjoy the simple pleasures of life; but they are so small in comparison to what God has designed you for. God designed Joshua to be a leader, his purpose was to lead the lost into freedom, literally and figuratively. Your purpose isn’t a test grade that defines you, or being in the best job that fits all that you want, your purpose is what God calls you to. What is God asking of you? Maybe you are a leader who has a passion for small groups and helping people find true life. Maybe you have a desire to help those whom are less fortunate than you. Maybe you desire to lead the next generation to be the best they can be, and not see the world put them down as a lazy generation. Your purpose doesn’t have a set path, you have to try things and figure it out on the way. In high school, one of my small group leaders who we called, “Mike D,” taught me this. He was a real estate agent by career, but that wasn’t his purpose. He used his influence and the opportunities to be around people to lead them into the kingdom. He showed love, listened to their problems, and cared for them. He did the type of things you see Jesus do in the bible, and he was just a simple real estate agent. That’s a picture of living into your calling, and that’s what God has designed us to do.
God will be with you, no matter what.
This is the most comforting part about being strong and courageous, God never just simply leaves you. It may feel like he isn’t as close, or feel like he is letting bad things happen in your life, but he never leaves you. Once you make a choice to have that relationship with him, he is always with you. The Holy Spirit is the third part of the trinity that doesn’t get a lot of attention, but he is vital. He is the one that is in you, the voice that helps guide your choices, and the one that convicts you in your wrong doing. The Holy Spirit walks with you in the good and the bad, he is there to listen and wants to be with you. The choice is, will we seek after him or not? Like any relationship, the only way we grow closer is by communicating. God tells Joshua to not let the word of the Lord depart from his mouth, what he is saying to Joshua, is that he needs to actively seek the Lord and be in the scripture to truly grow. The same is true for us. In the moments when we are terrified of what happens next, or when we are given more responsibility, we need to seek out the Lord. God is with us no matter what, but in order to hear him, we must pursue him. When you love someone, you pursue them, you understand that you have a deep connection and you will do anything to grow closer and care for that person. The same is true of our God. We need to pursue him in the calm and in the fear, we need to actively grow closer to him, so that when the fear comes, he will speak to us.
God wants us to obey.
Whenever I think of the word “obey,” I think of a parent and their child. Working in next gen ministry has shown me this. You have the kids who run around like crazy people, and their parent walks up, says their name sternly (and if it’s really bad, you hear the middle name), and they tell their child to stop and listen to them. I think that is a picture of how God feels with us. We are like crazy children running around with scissors trying to live the way we want to, and God just needs us to stop and listen. The parent is always right, even though the child may think jumping off the playground is good or that eating off the floor is totally fine, the parent knows what is best for their child. God knows what’s best for us. We need to stop and listen to what God is showing us. It may not be easy, it may mean giving up something you want. You may need to give up work and spend time with your family. It may mean to live authentically, rather than wearing a mask. It may mean putting boundaries in place for your relationship. And it may mean making choices to living in Christ rather than your own desire. Simply put, when we are scared, God wants us to stop and listen to his voice; “be strong and courageous.”
I don’t know what your life looks like, and I don’t know what you are going through. All I know is that it’s okay that you’re terrified, because I am too, but I will not live that way. God tells us to be strong and courageous. So when I go to class today, or when I sit and write my book, and even when I miss the people whom I love; I will be strong and courageous. It’s like I am a ship on the sea. The storms will come, I may have to navigate rocky waters, but I will trust the wind to guide where I’m headed. I choose to be strong and courageous with everything, I will trust my God because he has designed me with purpose, he is with me, and I will obey his wise guidance. I choose to be like Joshua, to desire God and follow him no matter what. This year will be unknown and exciting, and I am terrified, but it’s okay. God is bigger and I will trust him.
Be strong and courageous.