Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Circle Maker Part 5--Risking It All (Chapter 5)

If we are completely honest with ourselves, I think that most of us living in the United States can safely say that we do not really take a whole lot of risks in our daily lives. In this country, we are free to worship as we please. No one is going to burst into my home as I type this and arrest me for sharing the Gospel. What a blessing. However, sometimes that same lack of risk taking can lead to complacency. It can be easy to start thinking that nothing will ever change and that we might as well just get used to it. But that is not the life God desires for us. In chapter five of The Circle Maker (read about the first four chapters here), Mark Batterson begins by talking about the importance of being willing to take risks for the sake of God's kingdom, being willing to look foolish to the world in order to further the Kingdom of God. 

Drawing prayer circles often looks like an exercise in foolishness. But that's faith. Faith is the willingness to look foolish. Noah looked foolish building a boat in the middle of a desert. The Israelite army looked foolish marching around Jericho blowing trumpets. A shepherd boy named David looked foolish charging a giant with a slingshot. The Magi looked foolish tracking a star to Timbuktu. Peter looked foolish getting out of the boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. And Jesus looked foolish wearing a crown of thorns. But the results speak for themselves. Noah was saved from the flood; the walls came tumbling down; David defeated Goliath; the Magi discovered the Messiah; Peter walked on water; and Jesus was crowned King of kings. 

When I look at each of the stories mentioned above I see individuals who did things that would have looked crazy to anyone watching. I mean think about it. There is Noah, in the middle of a desert, building a ship because it is going to rain. Rain? It had never rained on earth before. He did not even know what rain was. Talk about a leap of faith! Or look at Peter, standing safely in a boat on the sea in the middle of a storm. What does he do? He steps out of the boat and onto (not into) the water. Then he starts walking. How? He has faith that Jesus will keep him from sinking. And then I look at Jesus (and here I pause, because there is so much to say about Him, and I know I will not get it all right). And there He is, the Lord of all creation, humbling Himself to life and death as a man, something that does not make sense to the human mind. But He did it. It looked crazy to mankind, but He knew it was the only way to bridge the gap between man and God. All of these men did things that seemed so foolish to the world around them, but look at what God did with their faith, their willingness to risk it all for Him. 

In order to experience a miracle, you have to take a risk. 

There is such truth in this notion. I think sometimes we fall into the trap of believing that God doesn't really care exactly what we do with our lives as long as we pray and go to church and tithe and so on. But I firmly believe that is not the case. I believe that the Lord has great and specific plans for each of our lives and that in order to follow the path He has designed for us, we must be willing to take risks. Several months ago, my parents came up from Florida to visit us. I had been going through a particularly difficult time with the whole adoption/waiting to be a mom thing, and my mom was able to share some things with me that really helped me out. I wrote about it here, but I want to go back to one particular thing she shared with me. The story of Lazarus. It is not an unfamiliar story for me, but she was able to shed some new light on it, courtesy of a Tony Evans sermon she had heard on the radio. 

A quick overview of the story: Lazarus, a good friend of Jesus, has died, and his two sisters, Mary and Martha, are mourning his death when Jesus arrives. They are upset because He did not get there in time to save their brother. In essence, they are saying that Jesus (who is God) is late. Hmmm. So Jesus tells the sisters and the other mourners to roll away the tombstone. Everyone starts going on and on about how it is too late and the stone is too heavy and so on and so forth. But Jesus remains firm, telling them to move the stone. They finally do, and Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. 

You see, Jesus asked the people to do something that most certainly looked foolish. Roll away a tombstone? Yikes. Was Jesus capable of resurrecting Lazarus with the tombstone in place? Oh yes. Could He have moved it? Absolutely. So why didn't He? It was an exercise in faith for the people. It is almost like Jesus was saying to the crowd, "You want a miracle? Show me that you believe." 

Batterson says it well: If you don't take the risk, you forfeit the miracle. 

So how does all of this apply? Well, let's answer the following questions. 

1. What is the miracle you are praying for? 

2. What is God asking you to do to demonstrate your faith that He is able? 

3. Are you willing to take that risk? 

4. What are you waiting for? 

I can tell you right now that my miracle is becoming a mom to a herd of kiddos. That is what I want for my life. I want to raise children who love Jesus. But this has not happened the way I thought it would. Not at all. God is asking me to show Him that I believe He is able to do this. So we are stepping out in faith to adopt from Ethiopia. Please do not for one moment think I am saying that this is easy, or that I am so very super spiritual that this just comes naturally to me. That is a far cry from the truth. I am having to die to myself every single day in this department. But as a result, I am hanging onto God like I never have before in my life. 

He has asked us to take a risk, to do something that does not make sense. I mean really. Raise a ton of money to fly half way around the world to bring home a child and raise him/her? Does that sound normal? No. But what God asks us to do rarely does. And let me tell you this, as hard as all of this is, there is no where else in the world I would rather be, because right now, even though I feel like I am standing in the middle of a hurricane, I know that I am in God's will, and that is the safest place in the world for me to be. The Lord asks His children to do crazy things. But it is always for our good and for His glory. 

So, in light of all of this, I would encourage you to pray (and I am right there with you). Pray about the miracle you are seeking and ask God what He wants you to do about it. 

"Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face." John 11:38-44

**All italicized passages have been taken from Mark Batterson's, The Circle Maker. 

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