“Safe?” said Mr Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” ~ C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
Most of us have constructed in our hearts some kind of personal contract with God–an agreement, of which we are barely conscious, that restricts what God will or won’t do in response to our efforts to follow his ways.
For Christian leaders, this contract often includes agreements like these:
- If I do what You say, my church or organization will grow in numbers.
- If I follow Your lead, my sphere of influence will get bigger.
- If I do what You say, I will be safe, my family will be safe, and we won’t suffer much.
- If I follow Your lead, the path will generally make sense to me and lead to the kind of success I envision.
And so on. But the problem, which every Christian leader has to face up to sooner or later, is that God never signed that contract. He often works in ways that can seem counterintuitive, nonsensical, and even dangerous to us. Scripture is full of examples of this, though we tend to not really see them. So here are a few examples of ways God may bust up your paradigm:
- He may purposefully reduce your numbers. Remember when God told Gideon to drop his army from 32,000 to 300 (Judges 7)? Our obsessive belief that greater numbers always = God’s favor borders on crazy. Jesus often intentionally ticked off the crowds in order to sift out those who were genuinely willing to follow him. What would you do if God told you to reduce your numbers in order to increase His involvement and impact?
- He may call you to a smaller stage. Remember when David (who was called to be king) was forced to leave Saul’s court (1 Samuel 19-20)? He lived in caves for ~15 years and led around a band of mostly crooks. Instead of expanding your leadership to larger and larger venues, what if God calls you to take a lesser role?
- He may let the thing he has called you to build, collapse. God led David and Solomon to build the Temple, which became a bastion of God’s presence for many generations. But Jesus predicted it would be torn down, because God was about to do something new (Luke 21:5-6). There is a season for every good work, and not all of them are meant to last forever. What if God tells you to let the thing you have built collapse?
- He may call you to bring a message that no one will heed. Remember Jeremiah? His whole life was an exercise in Divine frustration (Jeremiah 20:7-10). Yet it was precisely the life God called him to. What if God doesn’t make anyone heed or follow the message he’s told you to bring?
- He may allow you to suffer and even die alone, even after doing everything right. Nobody likes to read about John the Baptist’s final days, right? But here was a guy who couldn’t have been more faithful to the message God called him to bring, but he ended up in prison, discouraged, and doubting the validity of his whole mission. Even after sending a message to Jesus asking for encouragement, Jesus never went to visit him (Luke 7:20-23). In the end, he was beheaded and mocked in his death. So…what if God doesn’t’ make it all turn out all right for you in the end?
- He may do things that offend you deeply. Remember when Jesus proclaimed that bit about drinking his blood and eating his flesh (John 6:53-66)? He knew full well that would deeply offend any self-respecting Jew’s sensibilities. But he did it anyway. What if God does things that shock and offend your sense of right and wrong?
- He may ask the impossible. We sometimes forget that the God we serve actually told Abraham to sacrifice his son–an act that was an abomination of religion then and now (Genesis 22). What does that tell us about what God is actually like? What would you do if God asked you to do something that goes against everything you have believed about Him and His will up to this point?
Don’t be deceived. Our God remains untamed. He is good, but he is anything but safe. He will not abide by contracts he has never signed. And if you have one, He will, at some point, bust it up.
How has God busted up your paradigm lately?