Can failure be worshipful? I think God told me once that it can, and that makes sense to me. I sure hope that that’s true. Twice now in the last year Michelle and I have stepped out in faith and generosity and completely failed at what we were attempting. (Click here to read about a failure that was not worshipful)
Last spring, Michelle was taking a class a local community college as she was trying to knock out a few electives to finish up her Bachelors in Psychology (Which, she just finished! Way to go baby!). One of her class mates was in need of a computer and didn’t have the money to buy one. Michelle decided that we should offer one of our two laptops so that he would have something to finish school with. One computer would be plenty for her and me. He was very grateful when she told him and we were all convinced that God was using Michelle and me to extend the love of God in a very tangible way.
Then, as a responsible computer owner, I wanted to wipe the hard drive before handing it off. I had heard that this was the safest way to ever sell or give a used computer. I’m not very talented with the computer skills, so after fumbling around for about two days I called a buddy for help. He was able to wipe the computer, but then Windows wouldn’t reload. Today, neither Michelle’s classmate nor Michelle and I have that computer. It is still waiting for some miraculous OS download from heaven. Fail.
The toughest part about that one is that if we hadn’t tried to be generous, we would still have a second computer. I wonder how much spiritual warfare plays into stuff like that? Maybe it’s just a result of bad engineering. Then again, that was the same computer that miraculously healed itself of a nasty virus after I prayed over it a year or two prior! No joke, it was broken, got prayed over, and then it was better. Let’s be honest, miracles do happen. God does respond to prayers, and God is really good with computers! Why didn’t he fix it when we wanted to give it away then? I definitely prayed then too. I don’t know. But, I’m convinced that He’s good.
Then there was tonight’s adventure. Michelle and I realized that we had no family plans for Christmas day itself. We easily could have just enjoyed the time alone, relaxed in front of the fireplace, read a book, or taken a bath, but Michelle thought it would be awesome if we invited someone over to enjoy Christmas dinner with us. Someone who didn’t have anywhere else to go and needed someone to show them that they matter. God knows there are plenty of those people out there!
So, off I went to find our person. Michelle stayed home and finished the final preparations for the meal and I went out. We were both very nervous and concerned that we wouldn’t be able to find anyone who needed a place to hang out for the evening. We spent some time in prayer and asked God to lead us to this person that He had targeted. We had felt that God had told us that He already had someone picked out. After driving around for 45 minutes and only approaching one person who seemed like a good candidate, I called Michelle and we decided that I should head home. The food was getting cold and it was getting past everyone’s dinner time. Fail.
Man, can’t a guy offer a free dinner to someone! I would have loved to have heard their story and listened to their struggles and victories. I would have loved to have started a relationship with that person. But, it didn’t happen. I wonder how much spiritual warfare plays into this sort of thing? Maybe it was just bad planning and lack of perseverance on our part. I don’t know.
As Michelle and I struggled to process this all as we ate our amazing feast alone, I realized something. Disappointment sucks. It’s almost painful. It gets you doubting and questioning and wondering and pondering. It’s difficult. But, I’m convinced that it’s not as difficult as waking up one day, realizing you’re 75 years old wishing that you had taken more risks, walked more in faith, given more generously, dared more boldly, and thereby lived more abundantly.
Today I was reminded that I can deal with failure. What I can’t deal with is living a pointless, boring life.
Courage in the face of fear,
Faith in the face of doubt
(This segment is where I get a little personal and share some of my doubts and fears)
Did anyone out there ever become obsessed with juggling for like, three weeks? I remember my high school friend, Collin, and I getting really into it for like a month. We were pulling off the, “under the leg” stunt, the “behind the back” extravaganza, and even the remarkable, “two-person juggling” craziness… yeah, we weren’t very good. Never could figure out how four balls were supposed to happen. We sure had a good time though!
Living a life of faith and ministry feels a lot like I’m juggling tennis balls, basketballs and raw eggs all at the same time. I have a lot of things up in the air, catching one thing in this hand while releasing that thing with the other hand. Certain things definitely have more weight, while other things are quite fragile. It’s quite a different kind of life. Not quite the 9-5 that I was used to.
Ministry opportunities always seem to carry a lot of weight and get prioritized. Not because it’s absolutely the most important thing in life, just that it has the most limited scheduling options. So when needs come up, people need someone to talk with, pray with, or laugh with, you take your opportunity and go for it. Other things get pushed aside. These are my basketballs. Currently I am juggling 7 basketballs. Prayer Resolution, Prayer Resolution training, Immerse Discipleship weekly meetings, mentoring 3 Immerse disciples, Connections Team at Substance, Prayer Captain at Substance, and teacher at Substance’s discipleship school.
Intimacy with my Father and time with the wife are always the most fragile things I juggle. Those seem to be more flexible, but entirely more important. If I don’t have my alone time with my heavenly Father, I am not doing anything out of the peace that is mine to take hold of. If I don’t get my date night with Michelle and we grow apart, I lose my most valuable teammate and vessel of so many of God’s provisions into my life. I am growing more aware of the value of a good marriage and how God has intended it to be a blessing and a strengthening. I am truly blessed. These are my two eggs. I’ve got to be super careful and intentional about these.
After all this I have the “other stuff.” These are my tennis balls. They’re fairly manageable and if I drop them they’re not going to break. These are the things that I often have to trust my Father with as I take care of the heavy and fragile things.
For example, I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to do 160 hours of Prayer Resolution in five weeks with two different people who were desperately in need of the Father’s intervention in their lives. The problem was that I had this “tennis ball” I would totally have to drop for almost an entire month. That tennis ball is the construction work I am doing on my house. So, I dropped it and committed to doing ministry. I love doing ministry. I love almost every opportunity I get to be involved in God’s workings with someone. The struggle comes not in the ministry but with the question, “If I’m taking care of everybody else, who’s going to take care of me?”
So, things are getting cold around here pretty fast. I have windows to install and bathrooms to finish. Winter is on his way and the baby is growing like a champ and will be here soon! While the rest of the world is speeding by, construction is simply slow-going. It gets pushed aside as God continues to provide amazing ministry opportunities for me. There is a harvest taking place. It’s easy to doubt and question what will happen if I keep seeking Kingdom stuff first all the time, but what about all those verses? Could they be true?
Another example is that for the last month Michelle and I have been trying to get on a MN health care plan and WIC (A nutrition program to help pregnant women and children). It’s kind of a big deal, but with everything else going on it keeps getting pushed aside. Not to mention, this stuff is like trying to learn a brand new language! Man, it’s simply confusing and frustrating. After heading out to Target tonight at 9pm to pick up more printer ink, I’m starting to see how expensive it is (time, emotional energy and money) to try to use these programs. It reminds me that the government is never efficient although they seem to be doing more to help the poor than the church is.
The biggest temptation in all this is to throw in the towel, go back to the old way of life, work full time, fix all my problems, focus back on myself and take care of my own needs. Believe me, I’ve been there. Sometimes I am there! And, it’s only been a year since I sent in my resignation to my old job, pursuing a life of ministry and faith. How far can one go by simply living on faith? What about all the unexpected stuff like the furnace going out (which happened this last week… Praise God for a more efficient furnace!)? Is our Father able to handle all that stuff? What about housing markets and greedy banks and oppressive mortgages? Is that beyond God’s strong hand? Honestly, I often don’t know… not in my heart anyway. But, I’m willing to find out. I have enough faith to keep going, and that will have to do to move this mountain.
In the last week two different people have approached us and told us that they want to help support us and our ministry with a very substantial one-time gift. I cried… it’s true! It’s a humbling and honoring thing to be on the receiving side of generosity. I can’t stress enough how meaningful both of those gifts are to Michelle and I. They were so timely. Michelle and I had been going through such a difficult time of uncertainty and doubt and God used both of those people to assure us that He’s still taking care of us. He is fighting for us. And, He still has people in the world who are listening to Him and responding with inconvenient generosity. God is good, He answers prayers, and His church is still alive.
It seems a lot easier to trust God with ethereal things like “going to heaven” than something so practical as dropping a borrowed axe in a river. How do you trust God in that? How do you trust God with things like lost keys or not making enough money to cover all your bad credit card choices from a few years ago? Sure, I can trust Him to get me to heaven, but maybe I’m more comfortable with that issue because I don’t really have to face the reality of that on a daily basis.
One of the more difficult things that I wrestle with is that it seems that God primarily, but not exclusively, works through His body, the church. The church of God should be doing everything the body of Christ did before his crucifixion. The problem is, it doesn’t. Lets say God wants to provide for me in some tangible, practical way according to my need and in response to my prayers, but if His body isn’t firing on all cylinders, maybe it will fail to respond to the brain’s promptings and in the end I’m out of luck. Not because of God, but because of His body not walking in obedience. Man, that’s a tough one! Makes me want to make sure that I’m always being obedient to the promptings of the Spirit and willing to be generous even if it hurts.
Here’s the problem. I think this perspective is a slight distortion of the truth. Check this out:
Everything we need is ours in Christ.
2 Peter 1:3: By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.
From start to finish, by faith. (not earned)
Romans 1:17: This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”
When God makes a promise, He will make sure that He fulfills it.
Hebrews 6:17-19: God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.
Now, look at Abraham. God made Him a promise and Abraham believed Him. He didn’t explain away why God hadn’t come through for him yet, nor did He think that someone had somehow messed up God’s plan (like the whole “getting a child through his wife’s servant” thing). He wasn’t concerned that God had lost his opportunity to fulfill his promise simply because things weren’t working out according to his own schedule. It could have been easy to think that either he or his wife had somehow messed up God’s plan through their impatience or adultery.
Romans 4:20-21: Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.
Bam! I would even venture to say, “Wah-bam!” That’s what faith really is. I think it’s easier to have more faith in people’s selfishness and greed than it is to have faith that God can work with all that junk and still fulfill His promises in your life. Is He really that capable? Is He really that good?
I do believe that we can miss out on God’s will for us if we refuse to obey the promptings of the Spirit, but I simply can’t believe that that somehow means that God’s promises won’t be fulfilled. He will accomplish what He promises whether I or the next guy responds in obedience or not. That’s the amazing potency of God’s power. Maybe He has to talk to three or four people, maybe nine or ten, before He finds someone who is listening and willing to respond on my behalf. Maybe He just bypasses them all and I randomly stumble across *insert current need here* lying on the street. That’s fine with me! The only down side there is that a bunch of people really missed out on being used by God to do amazing, Kingdom things.
Find the promises of God in scripture. Stand on them unwaveringly. Watch and be amazed.