We continue our series on God-given vision today. And it’s been awhile since I’ve used a Lord of the Rings clip, so let’s fix that. As you watch, put yourself in this scene and think about the mission you’re feeling called to right now. Then reflect:
• Who in this scene do you most feel like right now? Why?
• What do you think of Bilbo’s words that close this scene? Do they comfort you, unsettle you, or something in between?
Last week, we looked at how we can get caught up in wanting something so badly—even if it seems right to us—that we can talk ourselves into thinking it’s what God wants, too. This week we head in the opposite direction: How can fear and doubt—whether it’s about what God wants, our own motives and capabilities, or something else—cause us to miss, or even run away from, what God wants?
Fear of the unknown—or for that matter, of re-experiencing something painful—is something we all face. And because the future is unknown, it’s easy to make it into something even scarier than it really is.
In his book Love Is an Orientation ,Andrew Marin observes, “Fear of the ‘what-ifs’ tends to have a crippling effect of Christians’ outlook and practice. But we’re not called to live in fear; we’re called to live in faith one day at a time.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer adds, “The self-tormenting and hopeless question regarding the purity of one’s motives, the suspicious observation of oneself, the glaring and fatiguing light of incessant consciousness, all these have nothing to do with the commandment of God, which grants liberty to live and to act.”
But there’s another spin, too, courtesy of C.S. Lewis, “It is a remarkable fact that on this subject Heaven and Hell speak with one voice…. What matters, what Heaven desires and Hell fears, is precisely that further step, out of our depth, out of our own control.” You never do know where it will take you.
While the future is unknown to us, it’s not unknown to God. You’re reading this because you believe there’s something God wants made known. And for that to happen, the first person he’s going to have to show at least part of that to is you. That thought should frighten you. Therefore, we need to get past our own fears of the unknown and trust that God knows the way he’s taking us. This week is about taking a step forward somehow, and discovering why, despite the fears and uncertainty we might have, that if this is God’s vision, it’s all worth it. So let’s begin.
Since this is our third session on the matter, we’re going to look at three examples this week, so get that additional tab ready. (Don’t worry; no more upping the ante after this.) And since we’ve already put some of our fears on the table, let’s begin to examine the fears we might have about what God’s calling us to, and how we might get past them. And let’s start with an example that few of us would willingly choose. It’s in Jeremiah 20:7-18.
• What emotions and reactions does Jeremiah experience here?
• Let’s me just ask this: How can one person possibly be feeling all these things at once? How would you explain it?
• Where’s the “fire in [your] bones” right now? In other words: What would you attempt for God even if you knew you’d fail over and over? And where does the vision you’re exploring fit into that?
A big part of recognizing a God-given vision is realizing, “I can’t not do this.” Jeremiah went the distance on a mission that looked like a failure to everyone else, and even to Jeremiah himself. But Jeremiah obeyed God, and even praised God in the midst of his despair, and by doing so he gave an entire nation an opportunity to turn around.
More often, when God gives a vision, He also provides a happier ending, even though there’s often huge obstacles to overcome. So let’s look at a much more successful—but no less scary—example that takes place more than 100 years after Jeremiah’s attempt, in Nehemiah 1:1–2:8/
• How does Nehemiah seek God’s will—and do it—over the course of this passage?
• How strong of an indication is it that the things we’ve “wept… mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven” about are the things God wants us to do?
• And: What’s tougher for you—to weep, mourn, fast, and pray for God’s will (Nehemiah 1:4), or to wait from “late autumn” to “the following spring” (Nehemiah 1:1 and 2:1) for an answer?
There’s a certain point where it doesn’t matter how hard or impossible something looks—if it’s truly God’s call, then it’s a call we need to answer. We never fully know what God’s getting us into, and that’s often a good thing. Nonetheless, we should make every attempt to understand, as best we can, what God wants, and what it’s going to cost us. But once we’ve counted that cost, we need to say “never mind the cost” and embrace what God wants to accomplish. God wants to put things right in this world He’s created, and He wants us to be a part of that plan.
So, one more passage, this time from the New Testament—John 6:60-71.
• About what in your own life, right now, could you say, “Jesus, couldn’t you have made this a little easier to understand?”
• How would Peter’s response, “Lord to whom would we go?” help you move forward, even as you continue to work through those things you don’t understand?
You might still sorting through whether this vision you’re wrestling with is God’s or not—or, whether you’re meant to be a part of it. So let’s wrestle a little more:
• Which of today’s three passages feels closest to your situation right now? Why?
• If things don’t turn out the way you envisioned, what’s the benefit of following wherever Jesus takes you anyway?
The idea here isn’t to fast-track, or short-circuit, your wrestling process, but to think about and pray about what your next steps are. Because no matter what you decide, the future is still unknown, and you’ll still need step somewhere with God’s help. So, start walking….