You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown, where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand
~ Hillsong United, Oceans
Recently, God called me out upon the water. In a turn of events orchestrated by Him but a complete surprise to me, He asked me to walk away from a nonprofit I’d invested personally and professionally in for nearly seven years.
I loved being part of this nonprofit. I could not fathom just leaving it behind. But God has a way of fleshing out what really matters in our hearts. And as He clearly laid out a new path and pointed me towards it, I was faced with a critical question:
Do I love Jesus or the mission?
Isaiah 43:18-19 welled up in my soul countless times as God urged me to let go of what was behind.
“Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
There are maybe a handful of times in my life where I felt clearly, unequivocally directed by God to leap off a dark cliff. And stepping into the great unknown where my feet may fail… publicly, epically fail … was a surreal experience. Especially for someone as strategic as I am.
I knew I would take the heat for this move. How could I explain walking away from something I had asked everyone in my sphere of influence to be part of? How could I explain why we were starting something new? I clung to God for wisdom. And I beseeched the Spirit to lend understanding where I could not adequately articulate the why.
But as I leapt off the cliff, I felt preternaturally peaceful.
There is something mysteriously comforting about being stripped to the very core of your faith. And having God divest you of something that permeated every aspect of your identity is surprisingly freeing.
In the process of letting go of what I thought was was true about myself, I found renewed confidence in the only thing that’s true:
I am a child of God.
Nothing else matters. Not my ministry. Not my accomplishments. Not my reputation. Not my credentials.
And every step of the way, God spoke to my very heart with words of reassurance. Words of hope. Words of comfort. He pulled me close and I hung on for dear life through the storm.
In the book of Philippians, Paul cautions against putting confidence in our flesh, our reputation, our deeds and even our zeal. He reminds us that if anyone can lay claim to lofty credentials before God, He can.
“If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” Philippians 3:4-6
I read through Paul’s resume over and over again, asking myself what credentials and accomplishments I try to place confidence in. Especially in light of how I’d labored for God in ministry.
I am zealous. I do good work. My list isn’t too shabby. But as I mentally ticked through the list of everything I’d done over my years of work, I had to call any confidence in my spiritual resume what it was: blatantly sinful pride.
None of us can lay claim to anything God builds, least of all me. And it is pretty powerful to make a personal list of deeds then read on:
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Phil 3:7-11
Our deeds, our achievements and even the loss of a mission we held dear are all rubbish. All that matters is our own personal faith in Christ, sharing in His suffering and becoming more like Him.
God reminds us to strain forward, towards the prize of the upward call of Christ. Straining is never easy. It is always tempting to look back with longing towards the easy path you could have taken. But when God calls you forward, He wants you to move forward.
Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14
God is in the business of comforting. But He is not in the business of comfort. He calls us to radical obedience. He calls us to do hard things that make no earthly sense for the sake of the gospel. He calls us to fling our arms wide and lay back into a trust fall.
And He meets us there.
In a season of change and uncertainty, I found renewed confidence in Him. In a season of dying to the old, I found myself alive in Him. In a step of blind obedience towards something unfamiliar, I found my old familiar faith in Him was was stronger than ever.
And now I as I move forward in a new direction, forgetting what is behind, I hope and pray that I remember this these lessons.
May I never place confidence in my work. May I stay alive by dying to myself. May my faith stay vibrant by choosing the hard things. May I press on towards the goal. And may I always love Jesus more than the mission.