I have to give quote credit from the title of this post to good old Ernest Hemingway, though he has absolutely nothing to do with what I’m about to say. Fitting for a title though. 🙂
Whether you like him as a preacher or not, Francis Chan has some things that we all need to hear. They’re challenging, they’re not “fun” things to hear necessarily, but they are the truth. He basically gives a slap-in-the-face reality check about how broken our society is, particularly in his (now famous) book, “Crazy Love.” Even from the back of the book jacket, I get chills. I’m not even done reading the text inside yet! “Have you ever wondered if we’re missing it?…God is calling you to a passionate love relationship with Himself. Because the answer to religious complacency isn’t working harder at a list of do’s and don’ts – its falling in love with God. And once you encounter His love, as Francis describes it, you will never be the same.” Woah.
One of the main arguments that Francis makes is that we, in general, simply do not actually trust in God enough. Most of us have read the Gospel story of Jesus sending out the Twelve in Luke 9:3, saying “take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic.” But do we ever take the time to wonder why? Jesus was not doing this to make them poor, wretched, hungry, naked, etc. Jesus was doing this so that the Twelve would put their complete trust in Him – the one who truly provides.
Yet as Chan explains, “This place of trust isn’t a comfortable place to be; in fact, it flies in the face of everything we’ve been taught about proper planning. We like finding refuge in what we already have rather than in what we hope God will provide.” How true is that? We would much rather (me included) settle and be comfortable in the little that we may have, thinking that this is trusting Jesus to live with “just enough.” Rather, we are called to trust Him so completely that we can “find refuge in what we hope God will provide.” Again though, Chan continues. “But when Christ says to count the cost of following Him, it means we surrender everything. It means being willing to go without an extra tunic or a place to sleep at night, and sometimes without knowing where we are going.” The bottom line here is that God wants us to only rely on Him. He doesn’t want us to rely on Him after all else fails, because that means we are using Him as our last chance. He is our only chance, and we should live in that reality.
Easy peasy, right? Wrong. I know how naive it would be to say that we read that lesson and then just magically apply it to our lives. We can sum it up easily and say that when it comes to God, we have trust issues.
Or at least I do. When reading through this chapter of Chan’s book, every page brought a new level of challenge for me. First I’m reminded about the need to trust God, then I see Biblical evidence for it, and now I just feel like I’m getting slapped in the face again with this whole issue. Chan uses a great story from college to explain it, and I think it’s worth putting the whole thing in. So bear with me, read what I’ve got for you, and I’ll get back to you in a minute.
“Walking in genuine intimacy and full surrender to God requires great faith. Hebrews 11:6 says “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Back when I was in Bible college, a professor asked our class, ‘What are you doing right now that requires faith?’ That question affected me deeply because at the time I could think of nothing in my life that required faith. I probably wouldn’t be living very differently if I didn’t believe in God; my life was neither ordered nor affected by my faith like I had assumed it was. Furthermore, when I looked around, I realized I was surrounded by people who lived the same way I did.
Life is comfortable when you separate yourself from people who are different than you. That epitomizes what my life was like: characterized by comfort.
But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.”
So, if your reaction was anything like mine, I was pretty struck by what he had to say. And to think about how everything he said was so legit – I’ll pull a few of my favorite parts of it.
First – what am I doing in my life that requires faith? Without the context of this passage, I would start listing a lot of things. The pursuit of a college degree, maintaining certain friendships, the job hunt, the post-grad adventure overall, and much more. But again, that goes back to finding refuge in things we already have (or things we really don’t NEED God for). But what does that say to God, when we trust our own abilities? Well, it’s hurtful and it also shows how foolish we are. There isn’t a way for us to be able to do this crazy thing called life without Him, so we should probably just stop trying. But anyways, this question got me really thinking about where are the places in my life that I have completely given up control? The places that I have offered it all to God because I have fully realized that trusting in my own strength is simply putting me at a disadvantage? Right now, it is the entire post-graduate volunteer program situation. For me, I realized a LONG time ago that if this was the route I was going to take, I better stop thinking and start praying. It goes back to my old classic of “letting go and letting God,” one of my most-viewed posts. Where do you need to let go and invite God in? What part of your life do you long to control? Now think about how much relief you could get from offering it to God by learning to fully trust Him.
The second part of this that really got me thinking/worrying/over-analyzing my life was the “God doesn’t call us to be comfortable” tidbit. Unfortunately though, it’s more than just a tidbit. It’s a HUGE bit of our faith, a central understanding to the call of the Christian. Let me just re-write this one part of the excerpt. Read it a few times if you have to, but grasp the full meaning:
“He calls us to TRUST Him so COMPLETELY that we are UNAFRAID to put ourselves in situations where WE WILL BE IN TROUBLE IF HE DOESN’T COME THROUGH.”
This means willingly, freely, and peacefully entering a situation that basically would scare the crap out of us if we didn’t have a God who saves. That accounts for SO many life situations. He calls us to walk with abandon into places where we would be screwed without Him – that’s the kind of trust He desires from us. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can think of a big, long, scary list of places/situations where we would be “up a creek without a paddle” if we didn’t have God to save us. Now, challenge yourself to enter into those types of places with the confidence that comes from trusting God!
This was a heavy night, I know it. I want to apologize for it, but it’s kind of a “Sorry I’m not sorry” type of deal. I read the words of Chan’s book, was ultimately challenged and invigorated by them, and knew that someone out there – one of you – (or more) needed to hear them too. I hope I was right.
“Trust in The Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, submit to Him, and He will make straight your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6
& one more for good measure, from C.S. Lewis
“Remember He is the artist and you are only the picture. You can’t see it. So quietly submit to be painted — i.e., keep fulfilling all the obvious duties of your station (you really know quite well enough what they are!), asking forgiveness for each failure, and then leaving it alone. You are in the right way. Walk – don’t keep on looking at it.”