Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Building Your Wings

I was talking to a young man recently. He was one of the core members of my youth group back in my youth pastoring days. Since then he has gotten married, had a child and started a successful small business. We spoke of his struggles growing his business and knowing when to expand or to hold off. Where is that fine line between faith and wisdom anyway? I was sharing about some of the obstacles we have faced in building our church facility and pastoring a church in general. Obviously there are differences between business and pastoring, but there are some things that are the same no matter what you feel like your life’s career or pursuit might be. One of those things is that nothing in life is certain except for the fact that nearly everything is uncertain.

During the course of the conversation I was reminded of a plaque that usually sits on my desk, although, at this moment, it is wrapped in newspaper and safely sitting in a storage unit waiting for the completion of our church facility. (Speaking of obstacles) The plaque was actually a gift from my wife. I don’t remember now what the occasion was, but I do remember how those few simple words impacted me and have helped guide me through some big and, at times, scary decisions I have had to make. The plaque simply says, “SOMETIMES YOU’VE JUST GOT TO TAKE THE LEAP AND BUILD YOUR WINGS ON THE WAY DOWN.”

I’m not too old….at least that’s what I keep telling myself. I am, however, older than I’ve ever been, and in all of my years I’ve noticed a couple different types of people.

First, there are those people who just live to make it through the day. Sure, there was a time when they had a dream or a vision about where God would take them, but that time has seemingly past. Now it’s just the same old job, the same old routine, the same old everything. Often these same people will complain about their job, circumstances or whatever, but never seem to do anything about it. It’s like the man who opened his lunch box and said “bologna on white bread again!” When his co-worker said, “why don’t you ask your wife to make something different?” The man replied, “My wife doesn’t make my lunch I do.” If you don’t like it, why not try something different? Often these people will say things like, “It just is what it is” or “I used to have a dream but life got in the way.” Maybe they will say something like, “I’ve got it pretty good here, I should be happy.” Although while they are speaking you can palpably feel that they are not where they want to be and they are most certainly not happy or fulfilled.

On the other side of the coin, I’ve seen the faith-walking, risk takers. Last year I had the opportunity to speak at a church that was founded by a friend, who unfortunately for us, passed and went on to be with the Lord at a pretty young age. Their facility is actually an old school that was purchased and turned in to a church. This was no small undertaking, financially or practically. This is also not some big mega-church congregation. Instead, it’s a small but dedicated group of believers who were, up until his passing, led by one of the most faith-filled people I have ever met. Since his passing, his wife and other members have picked up the baton and continued to carry the vision instilled by Pastor Jeff.

One of those young men was showing me around the facility when he relayed to me a story that I didn’t know. He said, “Pastor Jeff heard about another pastor, who we all mutually know, who had a vision to buy a school and turn it in to a church. That pastor did exactly that, and has built a beautiful facility." He continued, “Pastor Jeff said, if God can do it for them, He can do it for us too.” So they set out, with mostly faith and with very little in the way of resources and managed to buy the school and convert it in to the church that it is today. This place is now being used to worship God, preach the gospel, heal the sick and set captives free. Has the journey been easy? Not so much. Was it possible? Many would probably say no, but apparently it was, because they did it. The last time I checked my Bible still says, “With God, All things are possible.”

What is the difference between the “it is what it is” folks and the risk takers? I have learned from my own journey with God that it is simply a matter of faith versus fear. Did I say simply? Yes! Did I say easy? No! There is a difference.

The battle between faith and fear is a battle that we all will face. It makes no difference what our vision, career, family situation, finances or anything else may be. Faith will always be locked in a war with fear. Whichever one you choose will determine whether you sit where you’re at or you take a leap of faith and risk it all in pursuit of a God-given vision.

I want to make something clear though. I’m not talking about some insane and unwise leap into something that is not of God. I’m talking about those times when something is pulling you to make a move and you know that it is God. The enemy will begin to jump on you with fear, doubt and discouragement like, as they say, a spider monkey jacked up on Mountain Dew. These attacks can tempt you to back off and maintain the status quo. Don’t do it! Step out and believe God. It will not be easy, but it will be worth it.

As I’m typing this, our church has been in the midst of a fourteen month battle to renovate a building we purchased. One thing after another has come up and, at times, has seemingly created an impassable barrier between what I have felt God has said and the “reality” of our situation. Over the course of this time there has been a price to pay. Some people have left the church. It has caused financial stress, personal stress, church stress and any other kind of stress you can imagine. At times people have wondered if we made the right move. Truth be told, I’ve gone to God on more than one occasion and said, “Are you sure? Did I hear you right?” Each time there is an assurance that comes over me and a voice inside that says, “Just keep moving and trust me.”

In the last couple of months things have finally started to move. Are all the obstacles gone? Not yet. I doubt they will ever be gone, but there is a mountain that is moving. Walls are being built, platforms are being constructed and new plumbing is almost finished. I have never heard something as beautiful as the sound of a nail gun and a skill saw. The gap between the vision in my head and the building I’m looking at is getting smaller by the day. I can see the finish line. It is still a little way off in the distance, but I can see it. I can visualize the day when we walk in to a facility that is complete and ready to be used to worship the King of Kings and spread the gospel of the Kingdom of God.

None of this would have been possible if not for a decision that I made, along with my family, our leaders and our congregation to jump ship from the facility that had been our comfortable home for nearly seven years, purchase a building that needed a ridiculous amount of work and set up church in a hotel conference room while we try to get it renovated. From a strictly human point of view, we must have been out of our minds. However, fourteen months of headaches later and I can tell you with assurance that I see the end of the road, and at the end of the road, I am going to say it was all worth it.

At many points along the way, I have thrown up my arms and said, “God, I jumped in faith and I feel like I’m crashing and burning.” Gently and with a great amount of love and assurance, God keeps saying, “Just keep building your wings and you will be alright.” By faith I am taking Him at His Word.

So, what about you? Are you an “is what it is” person? Is God calling you out in to some kind of adventure that seems ridiculous? Do you know it’s him? If so, maybe it’s time to jump. From a fellow jumper who is furiously trying to build my wings, I say Go for it! It is better to try and fail than to live life without having tried at all. You just might find that, if God is in it, you won’t fail at all. Instead you just might realize that you were born to fly.