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About this series
Turning God-Shaped Dreams into Reality
The God of the universe is looking for regular people to accomplish things beyond our wildest dreams. In this series, from Nehemiah 1 - 6, learn how God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things and the process by which He molds men and women for His purposes.More from this series
God always, in history, is carrying out a plan to do great things through ordinary people who assume it could only happen through others, and the qualifications are very, very simple: He’s looking for a man, a woman, whose heart is fully His. And when He finds a man, a woman, or a student – regardless of education, regardless of background, regardless of race, regardless of gender – if He finds that person in the midst of great need, He will shake and move all of heaven to resource them to stand in the gap, and build up the wall, and make a difference.
And we’re on a multi-thousand-year history of God doing that. There’s a searchlight, where the Spirit of the Living God, who created all that there is, is looking for one man, one woman, one student who would be willing to forsake all, and in, probably, trepidation and fear, step out and say, God, all I am and all I have is Yours. And in my sphere of influence, the way You made me, I will do whatever You want me to do to stand in the gap, and be Your representative.
And we’ve learned, as you open your notes, that there are three conditions we’ve looked at so far. The first one is: do you have a dislocated heart? And it really answers the question – do you care? Can you get beyond your own world, and your own needs, to really care?
The second, was a broken spirit. And I got a lot of texts, and a lot of emails, from people who said, “That hit me right between the eyes.”
Are you desperately dependent, as evidenced by the behavior of talking to God, and praying God-centered prayers that lead to gut-wrenchingly honest prayers, that then, have promise-centered prayers, where you say, God, I can’t do this. I’m only one person. But, I’m going to ask You to do what only You can do?
And now, our model, Nehemiah – this businessman who’s in Persia, whom God has placed in this city, at this time, with this platform, with this intelligence, with this influence, and this affluence. And he’s going to take a radical step of faith.
We pick up the story in Nehemiah 1, and I put it in your notes so you can follow along. It’s at the end, where he ends his prayer, and he says, “O Lord, let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of this, Your servant, and to the prayers of Your servants who delight in revering Your name.”
And here’s his request – after four months of praying, God has revealed to Nehemiah, It’s not an accident that I gave you this prestige, and this position, and this intelligence, and this leadership in this city, at this time in history. I want you to be My man, and go over there to Jerusalem, and rebuild the wall.
And God has given him a plan, as he’s prayed, and as he’s talked. And you find, his prayer starts out as he asks God, personally, and as you read this prayer carefully, he says, “The prayer of Your servants.” So, he got a small group together, and he’s not in it alone.
And we’re going to learn, in just a minute, he’s going to walk into the king’s presence, and do something that, if the king’s in a bad mood, it will cost him his life. He will take a radical step of faith. He’ll put his life on the line to come out of his comfort zone, and align with God’s agenda.
And so, he asks God, “Give us success. Give me favor in the presence of this man. I was the cupbearer to the king. It was the month of Nisan” – that’s about April – “in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes of Persia, when wine was brought before him. And I took the wine and I gave it to the king and I had not been sad in his presence before so the king asked me, ‘Why does your face look so sad when you’re not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.’ I was very much afraid but…”
Do you understand what he did? In the culture of this time, if you’re sad before the king, if he’s having a bad day, it’s your last day: “Get him out of here. Get me someone new.” Everyone’s life revolved around making the king happy.
But Nehemiah realized, I will get his attention. I’ve built a relationship. This is what God led me to do. And he’s going to ask me a question, and I hope he’s having a really good day, God.
And I want you to just notice: In your notes, will you circle the word but? “I was very much afraid, but…” I want to suggest that the greatest things that have ever been done on the face of the earth, by God’s people, are by people who are absolutely terrified, and afraid of what they’re about to do.
But they don’t let the fear stop them. They don’t let the fear of finances, they don’t let the fear of rejection, they don’t let the fear of their physical life – and they do what God shows them, even though they’re afraid. So, as we go through this message, if it brings up things in your heart that make you feel afraid, you’re in very good company.
“But I said to the king, ‘May the king live forever!’” – a little PR never hurts. “Why should not my face look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”
And the king respects him, and he gets his attention. And the king says, “Well, what is it that you want?” “And then I prayed to the God of heaven.” I think this was one of those real quick ones, in his heart. “And I answered the king, ‘If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.’ Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him asked me, ‘Well, how long will your journey take, and when will you get back?’ And it pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.”
He had a dislocated heart. He cared. He didn’t have a knee-jerk reaction of just launching into something. For four months, he prays individually. He gets a small group. He has a broken spirit.
And now, he takes a radical step of faith. And here’s my definition of “a radical step of faith.” This is the kind that God supports. A radical step of faith is choosing to step out to fulfill God’s clearly defined will, at great personal risk, and sacrifice.
This isn’t some wild thought you get. This is God’s clearly defined will. Nehemiah knew rebuilding Jerusalem, the promises of God, the people of God – it’s clearly defined will.
We know it’s God’s will for poor people to get loved, for lost people to hear the gospel. We know the gospel is to go to all the world. We know it’s God’s will for fathers to love their families. We know it’s God’s will for moms to be mentored, and know how to take care of their kids. We know it’s God’s will for single people to discover their gifts, and live pure lives, and be loved and encouraged.
There are a lot of things that are clearly defined will of God. We know it’s God’s will for the gospel to cross ethnic barriers, and people be loved who have never heard about Christ.
And a radical step of faith is choosing to take a step that’s God’s clearly defined will – but here’s the deal – at great personal risk. In other words, it might get really dangerous. And second, it might really cost – sacrifice.
And when you read all through Scripture, and when you read all through Church history, what you find is, when you get in any church where God is working, you’ll find people who have taken a radical step of faith.
And, by the way, they usually do it reluctantly. We get this idea that they’re superstars, and they have more faith, and they know so much more than we do. Remember Moses? Like he was really up for the job? “Send someone else. Send someone else.” Esther it was, “Not me, please. Not me, please.”
I was teaching in Jordan, on spiritual warfare. And, in that season, we brought about a hundred and fifty leaders from twenty-six Arab countries, and they were the heads of whole denominations, and Campus Crusade, and people who were born again, had personal relationship with Christ, even from some groups that you would think, Really? Yeah.
And so, I was teaching through The Invisible War, and after each time – we would teach it, then, we would translate it simultaneously, and then, we’d have Q&A to contextualize it to Jordan, or Iraq, or different countries. And Pastor Ronnie, who spoke excellent English, was a pastor from Iraq. We got to become friends, and he needed some resources, and I gave him a book. And he came back two days later, and he had the first third of the book translated. And he said, “Can I use this?” I said, “Are you kidding me? Just tell me what you need; I’ll send you whatever.”
And then, we got to talk one day. And he talked about what it was like to have the terrorists come and shoot bullets, and how, one day, in light of that, he, and his wife, and all three kids got underneath the bed and he said, for twenty minutes, it was just bullets, bullets, bullets, bullets.
And it finally got quiet. Waited about half hour, and went to the entrance to the church – it was connected to a bunch of shops and homes. And he said, “There were six bodies lying in front of my door. And we were just shaken. My kids were shaken. And we didn’t leave the house for about two and a half days, and the internet would only come up for an hour or two a day.”
And he talked about how afraid he was, and then how, What am I going to do? Am I going to have the courage to open services for Sunday? And he said, “So, I did. And no one died. And we did that.” And I thought about, What a radical step of faith. And then, later in the day, we got talking, and I said, “Ronnie, what’s the biggest challenge you’ve had?” He said, “ remember the name Zarqawi? He was the number two guy under Saddam Hussein.” He lived in the town where Pastor Ronnie was a pastor. “And a couple months earlier, he ordered the cross to come down from the church, told people, “Between four and six in the afternoon, if anyone goes out on the streets, you’ll be killed.” And he just took over the town.
And he said, “I didn’t want to take down the cross, and I was willing to die for my Savior.” But he said, “They were going to shoot a rocket in the church, and there were all these people. That is not a good testimony for your church, and all these innocent people to die. So, I took the cross down from the church.
“Then, early one morning, I was just spending time with the Lord. And as I was spending time with the Lord, reading, I had the clearest prompting from God: Ronnie, put the cross back up today. Today is the day. I want you to do it at four thirty.”
He said, “I really argued with the Lord.” And he said, “But at four thirty, I took a step ladder – because I had to climb on top of the roof – and here’s Pastor Ronnie, with a cross and a stepladder. And he leans it against the church. And he’s just thinking, Some sniper, someone’s just going to mow me down, to set an example. And he leans his stepladder up, goes to the church, puts the cross on top, comes down, goes home, isn’t killed. And the morning news, the very next day – Zarqawi is taken out by a rocket.”
See, when we talk about a radical step of faith, if you’re not careful, we can start thinking it’s like, Oh, I’m taking a big step with my 401(k), or, If I do this, my business or relationships might be changed a little bit, or, I might not be as near to some of my family, or friends, or my grandkids, or, Boy, if I take this radical step of faith, I might have to change vocations. And we start making those things a radical step of faith – which they are, in our culture.
But when you rub up against people who are willing to give their lives for the gospel of Christ, I will tell you, it recalibrates what it means to follow Jesus. That’s what Nehemiah did. And when God finds people who are willing, fearfully, to take that step, He does revolutions. He does revolutions in cities where only two to five percent of the people even go to church, in places where people are hardened, and think that Christians are narrow, bigoted, anti-intellectual, intolerant people. And He can change people in such dramatic, revolutionary ways, that those farthest from Christ would say, “What do you all have?”
Here’s the question: How do you get that kind of faith? This isn’t mustering it up. This isn’t getting on some emotional high, and stepping out, and doing something really stupid. You’d better do what God tells you to do, when He tells you to do it, how He tells you to do it, as He leads you. That’s a radical step of faith.
And I’m going to ask you, will you please open your Bibles to Luke chapter 9?
We’re going to look at some verses where, as you look at them, Jesus is going to describe, and teach, specifically, how you, an ordinary person, and me – ordinary person – can actually develop a radical faith.
And so, there are four things you need to remember, in order to develop a radical faith. And the first one is: by remembering what faith is, and faith is not. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.”
In other words, faith has to do with what you can’t see. Faith isn’t just all logic; it’s based on facts. But it’s not emotion. So often, we think faith is, Okay, oh God, I’m going to try, try, try to have this. No. Faith may have emotions, or no emotions.
Faith is being – what? Assured, certain of what you can’t see. Faith is nothing more, or nothing less than trusting in the character and the promises of God, to the point that you act, whether you feel like it, or not. That’s what faith is.
Old Testament example: God takes His people out of bondage, right? Egypt – they go into the wilderness. Moses is their leader. They have a lot to learn. They get the Ten Commandments. But now, they need to learn to trust Him.
What is the very, first thing that God does? What’s the very first test? It’s, “Will You provide for me?” They’re out in this wilderness. There’s desert; there are two, three million people, and they’re thinking, What are we going to eat?
And so, manna comes in the morning, right? And God tells them, very specifically, “Now, only take enough for today.” Translation: “Have faith; trust Me that I’ll bring some tomorrow.”
So, the first few days, what do people do? He says, “Take one jar; one omer.” And so, what do they do? Some of the people, they’re not looking. Some people put three or four jars aside. And they wake up the next day, and there are maggots in it.
And God’s saying, “No, no, you don’t understand. You don’t get faith for next day, next month. You don’t have to fear, if you do this, what will happen thirty days from now. You don’t have to fear what’s going to happen in a year. You don’t have to take a…” He says, “There is no grace in hypothetical futures. I will give you whatever you need today. Trust Me.”
And then, when it got to be the Sabbath, what was it? It was illogical.
Again, He wanted to show them: “Take two, because, tomorrow, you’re going to rest. I’m going to show you that I am so powerful, so faithful, so good, so sovereign, that you can get more done in six days than most people can in seven.” And the whole point of the Sabbath, and the whole point of collecting manna was, Can I trust God to provide for me? Am I dependent? Do I look to Him as my source?
The New Testament equivalent is Jesus talking about money. Jesus talked about money more than heaven and hell combined. And Jesus didn’t need our money then, nor now. So, why? Why does He talk about money, money, money? Because Jesus says there are really only two gods. The two gods are not God, and Satan. The two gods are God, and money.
You will worship either money, or God. You will either be self-dependent, and believe that with enough money it will create security, with enough money, you can look a certain way, with enough money, you can have certain things that will make you a someone. But all your significance, security, power, issues. We think the right job, the right money…
Now, Satan will be a part of trying to get you to buy that lie. And so, the whole point of New Testament giving is to recognize, every time we come together, I give the first portion of all that God has given me, so I realize, This is Yours – manna. And then, as I grow, I start giving proportionately more percentages as God blesses, because I understand that life is about eternity.
So, Jesus taught that to free our hearts from greed, and so that’s why, especially in America, a lot of people go to church regularly, a lot of people wish God would intervene, and answer their prayers, and they’re disobedient in the most basic things. If God doesn’t have your money, He doesn’t have your heart. That’s Jesus. Period.
And what it reveals is, you don’t trust Him. I can sing songs, but, and I’m with you, here. I didn’t grow up in the Church. When I went to church it was like, normal days – a dollar. Feeling kind of good – five. Ooey-gooey, spiritual experience – I just thought, I’m really going to bless the God of heaven. Here’s a twenty. I’m serious. I didn’t know.
And then, I remember beginning to read the Scriptures about, “This is His money, not yours. He gave you the brains; He gave you the job.” You want what percent? I just thought, the first time I heard that, it was like, “Are You on drugs? I’m not making it now, and You want me to give the…”
Chip, here’s the issue: I want you to trust Me. And so, Theresa and I learned to do that. And of course the rest is history. But, boy, for many, that’s a radical step of faith. And then, what you see is, you see God supply, and you see the supernatural starting to work.
So, the first thing you have to remember about a radical step of faith is what faith is, and what it’s not. It’s not emotional to obey God. It’s just – God is good. His promises are true. He said He will meet all my needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus. He said that He is kind; He is loving. So, I can trust Him.
The second thing you need to remember is how deeply God values our faith, Hebrews 11:6: “Without faith it’s impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe” – notice the two things – “that He exists, and that He’s a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
God is not impressed with your morality, He’s not impressed with your knowledge, and He’s not impressed with ministry success. The number one agenda that God has for you, and for me, is that you trust Him. That’s the deal. If you wonder, Well, what’s God doing in my life?
See, it’s gotten warped, and we have changed the whole deal to say, God, will You work my life out? God, I’ve got a problem in my marriage. God, I’m single, and I want to be married. God, I’ve got a problem in my finances. God, I need a job. And, oh God, oh God, oh God, if I go to church, if I try this, I do this, maybe if I do that, well, I’ll read the Bible a little bit. And there’s this works mentality, and you totally miss the point!
The whole point of the difficulties and the challenges in your life – what the Spirit of God is trying to get you to ask is, “What would it look like to trust God in this situation?” That’s the question. You ought to write that one down. “What would it look like to trust God in this difficult marriage?” “What would it look like to trust God, with a great attitude, without a job?” “What would it look like to trust God to deal with this addiction?” “What would it look like to trust God, to say ‘no’ to this relationship?” “What would it look like to trust God, to take a step of faith and, launch a ministry?” “What would it look like…?”
I can’t tell you how many people end up in negative, terrible, painful, ungodly relationships because they want to pick out who they date, or, after a difficult divorce, they are so desperate – “I’ve got to find someone!” – instead of, “What would it look like to trust God to make me the woman I need to be” – or the man I need to be – “and let God bring that person, at the right time, in the right way?” What pleases God is not your religious activity. Without faith, it’s impossible to please Him. And by the way – now, jot this under those notes – where there is no risk, there is no faith. Period.
We’ve turned this whole thing into a morality play: I’m trying to be good. I’m trying to be good. I’m trying to be good. When you step out in faith, God, by His Spirit, will make you good. But the goal is not to be good. The goal is to trust Him.
In fact, we now get to the exciting part, where Jesus teaches us, very specifically, about how to have faith. It’s like, I know this in my head, but it sort of went – whooo! Wow, this is, this is Your agenda. This is the goal; this is everything You’re trying to do in my life. You want me to learn to believe, and to trust.
Jesus taught His followers about a radical faith. It was His primary goal. The only time I can find Him rebuking the disciples is for their lack of faith. And, in all four gospels, here’s the one phrase, someone asked Jesus, “What is the work of God? What’s it mean to be right with God, and what does God really want? What is the work of God?”
Jesus’ response: “This is the work of God, that you believe.” Believe what? Believe everything! Believe Jesus is who He said He is. Believe this book is God’s Word. Believe what it says about what’s coming, and what’s happened in the past. Believe and trust that you’re made for eternity, and you’re in this tiny, little thing called “time.” Believe that God can meet your needs. Believe that God is sovereign. Believe that He’s good. Believe that He’s a rewarder, that He loves you, that He’s for you.
God’s arms aren’t crossed, like, “If you really obey Me, then you’ll never get married. If you really take a big step, I’ll send you to Africa, or I’ll send you someplace like you’ll never, ever be fulfilled.” We’ve got this warped view of God.
I love Tozer’s chapter, in The Knowledge of the Holy, on the goodness of God. And he said, “If God’s children could but believe that they live under a friendly sky, and that God, though being exalted in majesty and holiness, is eager to be friends with us, for He finds holy pleasure in the happiness of His people.” That’s the kind of God you’re trusting.
Where do you think we, as parents, get this desire of seeing our kids blessed, and filled with joy? That’s your Heavenly Father. Some of you have got this idea that God is just waiting for you to mess up, to come down, and, if you would ever take a step of faith, He’s untrustworthy. And Jesus is going to break that. Are you in Luke 9? Let’s go. This is the good part. How in the world, then, I need to remember what faith is, and isn’t. It’s not emotional. It’s trusting His character, and His promises. God deeply values it. It always involves risk.
Jesus taught His disciples about a radical faith. And then, notice, He’s going to call them to this. This isn’t just to the private disciples. This is to all of His followers: “Then He said to them, ‘If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it. What good is it for man to gain the whole world and yet forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God.’”
So, do you understand what Jesus is calling – this is the baseline for followers: “If anyone will come after Me” – the Word says that “he must.” This is normal Christianity. This is what it means to follow Him. This is what it means to be a Christian. This is the Romans 12:1 equivalent I must deny myself. That means my life’s not about me, my agenda, my future, or everything I can do. I need to take up my cross – it’s an instrument of death. In other words, I’m going to say to God, I’m going to die to my agenda, and believe that whatever Yours is for me is best. And then, it’s going to play out day by day: I’m going to follow You today. I’m going to listen to You, talk to You, be in the community of God’s people, and I’m going to obey. I’m not going to learn about You. I’m not going to hear what other people say about You. I’m going to listen to You, and make this – faith comes by hearing, hearing by the word of God.
I have never met a person with faith who doesn’t love this book. And they’re in it when they feel like it, and they’re in it when they don’t feel like it. And it’s not some religious, check off a box, but it’s, God, I want to get to know You. You’ll never trust His character, or know His promises, unless this book, His Word, is a part of your daily habit. And so, there’s the calling to radical faith.
Now, when you get there – some people think, You know what? I could never do that. That is too hard. That’s too big. I don’t have – I’ve heard people say, “I see these Christians God really uses, and now and then, I have this little flicker that I’d like to go there. I don’t have enough faith to be that kind of person.” It’s very interesting.
Jesus, now, will teach His disciples, “You don’t need much faith.” Isn’t that weird? You don’t need a whole lot of faith. Remember what He said? “If you have the faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to that mountain, ‘Be cast into the sea.’”
What He’s going to teach them is, you don’t need a lot of faith. What you need is to clarify the objective of your faith. If you could ever see Jesus for who He is – how good, how kind, how powerful, how trustworthy, how loving, how much He wants for you – if you could ever see God for who He really is, you don’t need hardly any faith. It would be easy to do whatever He says.
So, what we’re going to see is He is going to take the three disciples who will have the primary leadership roles in the Church after He leaves, and He’s going to give them a private moment with Him to clarify the object of their faith, who He really is.
And then, He’s going to have a public moment, where all the other disciples see, and those who have had this experience, and then, I have an illustration that will bring it home.
Pick it up with me in verse 28. Notice, it says, “About eight days after” – after what? After He said, “Some are going to” – do what? They’re “going to see the kingdom of God before they die.”
Well – guess what – it’s going to happen right now. “About eight days after Jesus said this, He took Peter, John, and James with Him, and He went up onto a mountain to pray. And as He was praying, the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightening.
“Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about His departure, which He was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him.
“As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to Him, ‘Master, it’s good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ (He didn’t know what he was saying.)” I can identify with that.
“While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is My Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him!’” What happened? It’s near the end of His ministry. Why? Jesus knows they’re going to have to believe. And it’s not about how much faith. It’s the object of their faith.
So, Jesus, we learn from Philippians 2, He veils His glory. All that means is, He came in the form of a servant. And, by the way, when His clothes were bright in lightning, it wasn’t like light came from heaven. Literally, what He did in this moment is, is He pulled back His humanity, and, literally, the light – it’s metamorphosized. It’s from the inside out. Light came out of Jesus, and it was brighter than the sun. And then, after that, then here’s Elijah and Moses – what do they do? The two characters that brought revelation and truth: Moses the Ten Commandments, Elijah restoring Israel – the two most important witnesses.
If I’m a little Jewish boy, growing up in that day – Peter, John, and James – they’re the two heroes of our faith. So, now I see the light coming out of Jesus. Then, I get the testimonies that this isn’t just some experience – here’s Moses, and here’s Elijah. And then, a cloud envelopes them, and I’m scared to death. And you hear the very voice of God: “This is my Son; believe in Him.”
Do you understand what God’s doing? He’s letting these three guys see who Jesus is. And when you see who He really is, then what we’ll watch later is, doing what He says isn’t all that hard. He’s God. He’s all-powerful. He’s faithful. He’ll never let you down.
Well, after they have this experience, they’re going to go down the mountain. And as they go down the mountain, I want you to notice how specific and why the author is letting us know these are connected: “When the voice had spoken, they found Jesus alone. The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at the time what they had seen.”
Then, notice the time marker again: “The next day” – the next day. All this goes together. “When they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met Him. And a man in the crowd called out, ‘Teacher, I beg You, look at my son, for he is my only child. And a spirit seizes him and suddenly he screams; and it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and it’s destroying him. I begged Your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.”
Why? What’s Jesus say? What’s the text say? Look in your Bible: “‘O unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son to Me.’ Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at” – what? – “the greatness of God. And while everyone was marveling at what Jesus did, He said to His disciples, ‘Listen carefully to what I’m about to tell you.’”
He’s setting them up: Look, there are going to be challenges. “And the Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.” But they didn’t understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so they didn’t grasp it, and they were afraid to ask Him about it.” He’s preparing them for His leaving, and He’s giving them promises. And how did He heal the boy? Did He touch him? What did He do? He spoke: “You can trust My word. There is power in My word.”
Some of the other gospel writers give this account, and say, “This kind only comes out by prayer and fasting.” It’s not that there’s some, little magical thing that happens when you fast. When people fast, they say that spiritual food and attention with God is more important than my physical food, and, as they fast, as they meet and spend extended time with God, it gets clarified who God really is. And that’s how you trust Him.
You don’t need a lot of faith. You need a crystal clear object of your faith. Let me give you an example. Okay. Let’s pretend this is a bridge, okay? And from here over to there is a span – let’s make it a hundred feet, since it doesn’t look that scary from here.
And then – you’ve got to pretend. Will you guys pretend with me on this one? Looking down, it’s a thousand feet, and there are alligators in there, and piranha. You’d probably die from the fall, but if you don’t, they’re going to get you, all right?
Here’s how we tend to think about faith: We think about faith as, okay, there’s a bridge that crosses it, and it’s God’s known will for you to cross the bridge. And we think there are only a few people – like a spiritual Indiana Jones – who can do it. And we visualize this as one of those rickety bridges, like we’ve seen in Indiana Jones, and it’s made with vines, and about every third board is broken, or looks old.
But there are some, there are a few – there’s the proud, there are people who have more faith than us! And they go, Bum, bum, buuuum! And then – oooh! And, oh, they almost fall! And then, they make it through and they go, and it’s through, they’re the awesome Christians, and we think, I could never be like that.
And that’s how we think about it. It’s Hudson Taylor, and Charles Spurgeon, and – you name your spiritual hero. Nothing could be farther from what the Bible teaches.
What the Bible teaches is, you’re right here. There’s a thousand-foot drop. And there are alligators, and there’s real danger, and there’s real cost, and there are piranha. And there’s a bridge. You look at the bridge. You say to yourself, Wow, those are three-foot steel girders. Not only that, but this thing spans – and it’s got concrete four feet wide. It’s twelve feet wide, has railings on both sides. Now, is it a thousand-foot drop? Yeah. Are there real alligators? Yeah. Would this bridge hold me? My lands, this bridge would hold a truck! It’s not a big deal to walk across this thing.
I remember a guy – I shared this illustration – he said, “I was taking a group of kids to a camp, and it was up in Maine. And they wanted to play some ice hockey. And we wanted to go from one side in Maine, to the other. And there was this lake.”
And he said, “I got out there, and I had this stick, like, Oh, boy, put a rope around me. I’m out there like this, because I’ve got these kids. Boy, if I lose one of them, it would not be good.” So he says, “I’m gingerly going like this, to get across.” And he said, “It makes your illustration a little bit better than that bridge illustration you made up.” I said, “Okay.”
And he said, “Then, I heard this sound: Woooooooooohhhwawawa! And as I went across, I looked up, and there was a logging truck. And the logging truck just went and drove right by me.” And he said, “Well, whoa, whoa, whoa, dude,” he said, “what are you doing?” He goes, “Oh, by this time of year, it’s sixteen feet thick.”
God is going to ask some of you, on this day, to take a radical step of faith. Some of you are in relationships that you know are ungodly, but, because of your security, you’re afraid to break them off. Some of you have addictions that are holding you up, and people don’t know about it, or the people who you love do, and you’re unwilling to come clean. Some of you have been holding on to your future. A great many of you, statistically, are holding on to your money. Some of you have had a dream in your heart about what God could really do through you, but, the implications, the moment you get to that you think, Oh, that might mean…and you withdraw.
And I want you to know, the ice is sixteen feet thick. Now, I’m not telling you there aren’t real alligators. I’m not telling you it might not be very fearful. And I’ll probably guarantee you it’ll get more difficult before it gets better.
But you can keep living the “try hard, come to church, be religious, ask God to make your life work out,” frustration life that is the average Christian experiences, all across America, or you can join an army of real Christ followers who have dislocated hearts, broken spirits, who take radical steps of faith. And when God sees faith, supernatural power occurs.
And what we have in the Church today are primarily – what? People who believe personally in Jesus, the great majority that I assume, whose sins are actually forgiven, and His Spirit actually lives in them – what we see is what they can do with their energy, their time, playing it safe, as long as God doesn’t ask anything too big or too scary.
And my experience is that Microsoft, and HP, and eBay take greater steps of faith to build something for profit than the average church, that has a bridge over troubled water, named Jesus, who was raised from the dead, and dwells in you.
And God called us together to become not a group of people that we measure by how many people show up, but by what kind of people leave, with what kind of faith, that are impacting our homes, and our lives.
And it’s a journey, and it’s difficult, but it is in all that pain, and struggle, and difficulty that you experience God. Not hear about Him, not try hard – experience things that you can’t explain.
Now, as the text goes on, you’ll notice that these disciples, Peter, John, James, this is near the end of the ministry. They’ve left homes. They’re being ridiculed. Jesus is a marked Man; there are assassination plots. This is not a safe person to hang around and follow. And so, they’re in.
And so, three things occur. One is an argument among them about who is the greatest. Second is, they find out about some other group that’s using Jesus’ name, and doing ministry, and, basically, they say, “Master, have You heard about this? These other people are, they’re not even on our super-duper, little team. Now, You don’t want them around.” And then, the third thing that happens is, they’re on their way to Jerusalem, and they need to go through Samaria. And the Samaritans and Jews had real conflict. And so, John and James, who really, now, believe – they’ve experienced great power – they say, “Lord, do You want us to call fire down from the sky, and take care of this village?” Whew! Boom! Boom! You know? They’re experiencing real, supernatural power.
And the dangers, when you get very, very committed to the Lord Jesus, are three: One is comparison, and it’s the misuse of position. At the heart of all walking with God is humility. You don’t need to compare yourself with anyone, and what they’re doing, and what God made them to do, what He’s called them to do, or how He’s using them.
The second danger is exclusivity. That’s the misuse of privilege. “They’re not in our group. They’re not in our denomination. They’re not our campus ministry. They don’t look at everything just the way.” “We’re the ones whom God is going to use.” You would be surprised whom God uses, who don’t fit some of your categories, who really love God and the truth of His Word.
And the third is, zeal is the misuse of power. As I just say that to some of you who are sitting here today, and you’re thinking, I was just wondering when someone was going to say this in this church. Man, you know what? If people gave like I gave, if they served like I served, if they shared like I share, why don’t these other people get on board?
It’s a private thought. It’s a judgmental thought. And it produces an experience that, when we meet you, if it bubbles up to the surface, that’s not all that attractive. And it’s that kind of conversation, where you criticize other churches, or other ministries, and it’s that kind where God does some things, and, if you’re not careful, you can get carried away with the experience, instead of with the Lord.
And then, I want to just let you read, follow along, because He says there is a cost, and we need to look at this before we close. And the cost, He says, is threefold.
Verse 57: “As they were walking along a road, a man said to Him, ‘I’ll follow you.’” Remember, Jesus said – we start out with, “Follow Me. Deny yourself. Pick up your cross.” This guy raises his hand. “‘I’ll follow You wherever you go.’ And Jesus replied, ‘The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.’”
Translation: You can’t hang on to stuff. You want to follow Me? We travel light. You can’t hang on to stuff. Materialism, locations, I am your security. There is no other security but Me. Anything I give you along the way, hold it loosely, enjoy it deeply, share it lovingly.
Next man comes up, and, “Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me.’ But the man replied, ‘Lord, first let me go bury my father.’ Jesus said, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead. But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.’”
That’s an interesting cultural issue I can’t develop. It wasn’t that He was being harsh with this man. But what He was really saying is, you can’t hang on to people. There can’t be any higher relationship than your relationship with Jesus. It can’t be your wife, can’t be your husband, can’t be your kids, can’t be your grandparents. God is gracious; He’ll provide for those things. But we can’t say to God, “I’ll do whatever You want, inside this box.”
I had an experience, a situation with someone who had a great gift, and great opportunity. And his wife said to me, “Well, I can’t live more than thirty minutes from my kids.” Well, that’s a really little box.
I just wonder if being in the center of God’s will, with Him radically transforming your life, might have a better impact and a deeper relationships on your kids, than telling God what He can and can’t do, and how far or how close you’ve got to be to them.
The third test, as we pick it up, is, Jesus, “Still another said, ‘I will follow You, Lord, but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.’ And Jesus said, ‘No man who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the Kingdom of God.’” And the cost here is, you can’t hang on to the past.
I remember, vividly, when we stepped out, uh and said, “Okay, God, we’re going to take Living on the Edge to do teaching and discipleship – not the organizational side of life, not all the various other things, but that’s going to be the focus.” And it was like, “Well, but wait a second.”
What we knew was, in the first thirty days, if God didn’t radically show up, we’d have a hundred and fifty thousand dollar debt, because of some circumstances a bit beyond our control, and we were committed not to go into debt. So, what we knew was, in thirty days, Living on the Edge would be over.
Well, doesn’t God have the right? He starts things. Can’t He stop things? Now, guess what. Didn’t have any backers, no plan B, no deep pockets – radical step of faith. And we focused on what God called us and made us to do.
And a fellow said to another fellow, who said to another fellow, to other people I didn’t meet, and they came up with about five hundred thousand dollars to take to the listening audience, who matched it by over six hundred thousand. And God was our venture capitalist who relaunched the ministry.
God can do whatever He wants. He can start it; He can stop it. But it’s one thing to say a ministry is His. It’s one thing to say your family is His. It’s one thing to say, Oh, God, my money is Yours. Well, when He taps you on the shoulder and says, “I’d like to have it right now, for a while.” And I’ll never forget Theresa said, “Whatever God ever chooses to do, we will know it had nothing to do with us. It’s His.”
It was a radical step of faith. Now, was I afraid? Absolutely. Slash terrified. And I was thinking, I’m going to need a job, here. Not only did we not have any money for the ministry to go on, when I stepped out, I used to have this job being the president of this thing. It paid pretty good, and had a global platform. And it wasn’t like it was a lousy thing to do. I was really privileged. But it’s obeying.
See, at the end of the day, that’s…faith is a coin, and when you flip the coin over, it says, “Obey.” And it’s just trusting Him, to the point where you just do what He says. And there’s a supernatural life awaiting you.
The final point is that you can’t walk on water unless you get out of the boat. And as you continue to read, in chapter 10, what you’ll find is, Jesus, after this message – the crowd is bigger than the twelve, and He sends seventy-two people, two by two, out to do what He asked them to do. And He gives them power to do it. And then, He says, “Don’t take an extra bag; don’t take an extra purse. In fact,” He says, “I want you to go with nothing.” Why? What’s He teaching them? “I want you to trust Me. I want you to trust Me. You go to a town, and, if they’re responsive, God will have someone there, and you stay with that one group. Don’t do any jazzing around, and have people compare and, I’ll take care of you. Don’t even take a purse. Don’t even take any money.” And then, in verse 17 of chapter 10 – you might even scan down there. There, God does things beyond their wildest dreams.
And the last verse is this picture of what happens: “The seventy-two returned with joy, and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name!’” And listen to this – this is my picture of what I would love Jesus to look down on us in the Bay Area. “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven.” Wouldn’t it be great to see the intricacies andthe evil of the Bay Area – and Jesus look down on our little /time together with other churches and Christians here, and say, “I see Satan falling like lightening from heaven. I have given you authority to trample snakes and scorpions, and to overcome the power of the enemy. Nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
And then, I love this. To me, this is where it’s all at: “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, and have revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was Your good pleasure.’” Jesus is really happy. And He did it through very ordinary people, like us.
What’s it look like for you to take a radical step of faith? Is it becoming the man of your house, spiritually? Is it giving God the first twenty or thirty minutes, and saying, You know what? I’m going to, we went through that Romans 12 thing – I did it for a while – but I’m going to meet with You. Is it launching a ministry? Is it going public and saying, “I’ve never been baptized. I’m sort of a secret agent Christian.”
Or maybe it’s, “I’m going to give the first portion of my money. I need to get in the game, and trust God with my finances.” Maybe it’s, “I’m going to break up a relationship,” or an addiction. I don’t know what it is. But I’ll tell you, there’s a thick bridge that will hold you, and love you, and restore you, because the eyes of the Lord are going to and fro throughout the whole earth, and He’s searching for a man, for a woman, for a student who would stand in the gap, before Him, for the land.