One million believers gathered under one roof at the National Mall in Washington D.C., an event uniting amazing Christian speakers and leading worship bands all for the name of Christ and the glory of God. That’s Together 2016, and I wanted to go. I don’t even know why, but something deep within me that I can’t explain was pushing me, pulling me, nudging me to go. The only word I can use to describe it is desire. As it continued, I even researched plane tickets and came up with a plan where I would fly down in the early morning, be there for the day of the event, and fly back to be home just before midnight. Totally crazy. It wasn’t hard to talk myself out of it. I logically figured my way around it and practically thought my way around the impracticality of such a seemingly impulsive decision. I have since regretted it.
I have learned a lot from the regret of not attending Together 2016. One, to know when it is the right Spirit and to trust it. Two, how to use the tools of logic and such properly. And Three, how to live on the edge, taking the risk, trusting God and walking by faith.
I am not saying that logic and practicality are wrong. God gave us our brains to use as tools. But they are not foolproof tools, for just as with real tools, there is a proper way and place to use them. Bible teacher Beth Moore’s words remind me of one way using these tools wrongly works when she says that the Holy Spirit will give us warnings, but we can logic or reason our way right out of something that is meant to save us. She is referring to when we sense red flags coming up in a situation that looks otherwise safe. We can look at it from the outside deeming it good and ignore the inside warnings of danger.
She is right. You see, it all comes down to epistemology. Epistemology simply means the study of how you know what you know. That is, what is your basis for knowing what to do, when it comes right down to it what is your trump card? For some, they base their decisions off of man’s wisdom: whatever the experts say. For others it is experience: this worked or failed before, so it should do the same again. For Christians, the basis of our decisions should be God’s Word. This would be stepping out on faith, no matter how ridiculous it seems. Those moments when you quit your job to go into full time ministry. Or when you take a job not knowing where it will lead or how things are going to work out but trusting that God’s plan will come through.
Nothing is impossible with God because with God all things are possible. But we do not step out on faith blindly by any means. Christ is our leader, and He has given us the Holy Spirit to lead us as He says in John 16:13-15: “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.”
Walking in the Spirit does not mean we follow every strong desire or fuzzy feeling. This is where the tools of logic, discernment, and perception come in to work. 1 John 4:1-3 tells us to “test the spirits to see whether or not they are from God,” and then he tells us how, using our biblical epistemology. “By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”
I hate the idea of having missed an opportunity and never knowing how your life would have changed or what would have come out of it if you had taken the risk and leap of faith. That is how I felt about not attending the Together 2016 event. But we cannot wallow in regret. Instead we need to look ahead to what lays next on the horizon of our lives, learning from our mistakes but not living in them.
An opportunity came up for me to be a part of a worldview study/mentor program, including homework and requiring a once a week time commitment for the next 32 weeks. I really wanted – and in my mind, needed – to be a part of it. As I was considering it, I started to think my way out of it: “I don’t really need it,” “I don’t have time,” and “My family, my job, my official education should be a bigger priority.” The hard thing about these statements is the truth mixed in with the lie. But the discernment and the wisdom gained from my last missed opportunity kicked in, and I started thinking of it in a different way: “What would life be like if I did not do this?” “Could I live with that decision?” and “What really do I have to loose in trying?” I sought the wisdom of my parents and the Lord. After talking together, we first decided against it but after realizing that was not a decision I was willing to live with, we made the shaky decision of going forward. So I was in the night before the program started, and I can say not only have I not regretted it, but I have grown from it and can label it as one of the best decisions I have made this past year.
In the Christian life there is this radical aspect where we are to live by faith. Faith as described in Hebrews 11:1 “is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Sometimes that faith is taking a step even when we don’t see ground where we are about to place our foot. Faith takes the step confidently, trusting God will come through. It may even be that no ground is there but we step in faith knowing with assurance God will catch us and place our feet on the solid rock. In this faith there is a sense of living life on the edge. How often do we make a decision or pray a prayer or live in a way where God has to come through and if He doesn’t we are in trouble. Do we pray in a way that when God answers He is glorified beyond the shadows of doubt? Do we seek from God things only He can do or give? Are we willing to say, “Okay God, I will move where you have call me to” and then take the steps to do so weather of not we see God’s provision playing out yet? God designed us to be reliant on Him, but how much do we actually rely on him?
The things God calls us to do are often the things that change our lives. Whether or not we do them shapes who we are and our relationship with God. It forces us to ask how well we know the sound of His voice. 1 Corinthians 2:11 says, “Who can know the thoughts of another person? Only a person’s own spirit can know them. In the same way, only the Spirit of God can know God’s thoughts.” Friends, we have the Spirit of God. We are sealed with it as Ephesians 1:13 points out: “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” With the Spirit of God inside us we can know the thoughts of God to the extent that we can think His thoughts after Him. And we know God’s thoughts don’t always measure up with the “wisdom” of man.
How does thinking God’s thoughts help us live without regret, live on the edge? Thinking God’s thoughts allows us freedom to live, to learn from mistakes and not regret them; it allows us to see the bigger plan in play. In simplest terms thinking God’s thought after Him changes the way we live because God is God and we are not. God is in control and sees the whole picture and His way is not man’s way; therefore, in many instances, His way will seem radically different than the ways of the world. The contrast makes living in reliance on God seem risky, but in the end we can know with confidence that when we walk through the door God places before us we will be right in the place He wants us to be, doing exactly what He designed us to do.
My encouragement to you is to let go of the desperate desire for control and take the risk of relying on God. Live on the edge in faith and pray. Pray so that when God places an opportunity before you, you can not only recognize His voice but have the courage to obey it.
“For, My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9