Utilitarian Christianity

(Image source: Adobe Stock, Licensed)

Utilitarianism tempts us to sit in the judgment seat over God. Could it be that as we pursue sophisticated efficiency and numbers (the two pillars of utilitarianism) we miss to discover the heart of God?

Today’s Christian thinking is deeply saturated with and trapped by utilitarianism. We’ve adopted our society’s moral normative of maximizing happiness and good (money, time, resources, opportunities) for the greatest number of people. Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill’s moral code completely saturated our thinking and our decision-making process. Today churches, mission organizations and donors widely operate based on utilitarian principles as they seek how to maximize every invested dollar with other resources and turn them into the most number of saved souls. Utilitarianism created a deformed version of Christianity where EFFICIENCY and NUMBERS are the two idols by which the will of God is decided and by which stewardship is measured. Most times – out of good intention – decision-making processes in the churches and missions are only considering utilitarian aspects: where can we get the greatest return for our investment and resources? (Efficiency to maximize results is the mantra of our whole society.) And at many cases that could be the wise and good thing to pursue.

The Word of God encourages us to maximize our God-given resources as good stewards (see Mt 25:14-30 – The Parable of the Talents). However, this “maximizing” doesn’t always carry the utilitarian meaning of the word – which is maximizing the resources to benefit the greatest number of people. As we’ll see below, simply following utilitarian aspects in our decision-making processes might lead us far away from the heart of God.

In the following two stories from the life of Jesus we can observe how he addresses that spending money and time (two very valuable assets) should NOT only be decided by simple utilitarian aspects.

“Wasting” money – Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8

These stories in the Gospels are recording the anointing of Jesus. Mary poured a very expensive ointment on Jesus. The cost of that in today’s money is app. $40,000. The disciples – being (seemingly) so concerned for the well-being of the poor – immediately outraged and scolded Mary. They’ve used a utilitarian argument: “this resource could have been used much better to benefit the many most needy”. With this argument they’ve placed themselves to a morally superior position and subtly they’ve judged Jesus who allowed and supported such waste of a potentially valuable resource. (See how pure utilitarianism can place us in the judgment seat even over God.) They have a strong moral argument: a lot of people for a long time could be fed from this money that was just wasted.

Mary was isolated, bullied, judged, misunderstood and misrepresented for her costly, loving sacrifice just because it didn’t fit in the disciples’ utilitarian thinking. There are times when our obedience and sacrifice doesn’t make sense and it comes with a cost.

The disciples were very much like us: they knew how someone else should spend her money. They made moral judgement on her sacrifice. It was not their money, they didn’t work for it, it was not given to them to make a decision about it, yet they were bold enough to place themselves in the judgment seat just because it didn’t fit into their utilitarian “superior morality”.

Jesus not only rebukes them and corrects their false thinking, but makes a promise to Mary as well: “wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her”.

She was the only person who has captured the moment and understood what will happen to Jesus. She was the only person who were so intimate and close to the heart of Jesus that she understood what she needs to prepare Jesus for. It’s ultimately more important to prepare Jesus for his saving death than to feed the poor.

But simple utilitarianism failed to understand the heart of God and to reveal such secret. Simply listing pros and cons and prioritizing needs do not always lead us to the heart of God. God’s heart can be only discovered in the intimate solitude by someone whose heart is silenced and is deeply connected to Jesus.

The number one question is not what benefits the most, but what glorifies God.

What is the will of God and how can I express my love for him the best way? – are more important questions and motivations than any utilitarian aspect.

We constantly fall back to rely on our default utilitarian decision-making process. Because to discover the will of God requires more than a simple list of pros and cons. It requires solitude, silence, humility and obedience at all cost. All these demands – as Henri Nouwen writes – “daring to stand in the presence of God”. We are afraid to do that, because probably it would demand too much to change in our life, in our churches and in our mission.

“Wasting” time – Luke 10:38-42

In this passage above we find Mary again now wasting her time at the feet of Jesus INSTEAD of doing something that benefits everybody in the community: helping Martha to serve the food. What Martha did benefited the maximum number of people: she fed the whole group. What Mary did – listening to Jesus – benefited only one person: herself.

Martha complained that Mary has not maximized her time for the benefit of others. She was not serving, not producing, was not creating tangible, measurable results for the community (at this case, food). We are also much like Martha, we are good in knowing how others should spend their time, right?

Jesus is rebuking Martha saying that sometime there are better ways to spend time than only meeting the needs of others and chasing tangible, measurable results. The “good portion” that Mary has chosen is solitude, is listening to Jesus, “which will not be taken away from her”. Our ministry, our services and our activities can be taken away. What Jesus did for the one, Mary, was better, then what Martha did for the whole group.

When we have moved to the U.S. many people told us that we are wasting our talents, our opportunities, our resources, we are putting unnecessary burdens on our kids and family, and that we could have been much better used, if we would have stayed where we were. We had the relational network, we had the language, we had the experience, we had the reputation, we had an established ministry, we had access, we had the knowledge and the know-how. Many people knew better how we should spend our time, life and resources.

Our decision was born from spending years in solitude and silence before the Lord. We knew we had to do the seemingly irrational, non-utilitarian sacrifice to leave our homeland. As Mary was willing to “waste” what she owned, we knew God wanted us to do the same and bare the misunderstanding, the misrepresentation, the disappointment and the anger of many.

If we don’t want to fall into the trap of utilitarianism, than we need to dare to stand in the presence of God and bare the consequences of it.

Living in The Age of Decay

Apples in various states of decay isolated on white
(Source: Adobe Stock licensed picture)

The past 100 years we’ve experienced and continue to experience the decay of cultures and empires in a faster and larger scale than ever before in human history. 100 years ago the Austro-Hungarian empire collapsed, then Germany, Great-Britain and Russia (Soviet-union) lost its hegemony. After WWII the U.S. aspired to become the new “Rome”, but that role is greatly challenged by new empires arising in Asia. We witness the stumbling of the EU and the power-struggle between the U.S. and China. Conflicts of interest and crises are popping up daily everywhere.

Sir John Glubb in his essay, the “Fate of Empires” identifies 6 stages of the rise and fall of great nations. The final stage before a nation collapses is “The Age of Decadence”. The Age of Decadence is marked by materialism, consumers who become a burden on the state, extreme display of wealth, loss of sense of duty, a weakening of religion, massive disparity between rich and poor, obsession with sex, the debasement of the currency, overextended military and the worship of sport-idols and celebrities.

Jesus has promised that we will witness the intensity of signs of decay as we get closer to His second coming. In Mark 13:3-13 He warns us that we will experience moral instability by being exposed to ongoing lies (“false teachers will come”), political instability by seeing wars and hearing rumors of wars, environmental instability by seeing increasing number of natural disasters (“earthquakes”), economic instability (“famine”) and animosity against Christians (“they will deliver you over…“you will be hated by all”, “brother will deliver brother over to death and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to them…”).

Jesus describes the decay of environment, of nations, of cultures, of communities and of families as something that is a natural outcome of the future. The way He sees the natural flow where humanity is heading is a complete decay and disaster. To him it’s like 2 + 2 equals 4. He sees that our sinful, selfish nature creates sinful, selfish cultures and sinful, selfish cultures conflict with each other and consume and destroy things around them. He has not promised to stop the process of decay, yet He clearly states that there is hope to live life through this with a great prospect of a different personal outcome.

Jesus gave 2 commands and 1 promise of how we should live in The Age of Decay. These commands are for our protection and preparation. If we don’t follow these commands, we will be consumed by the decay of our culture.

The Command to See.

“See that no one leads you astray.” Mk 13:5b, says Jesus and repeats that in 13:9 as he says “be on your guard”. Basically he is using the same greek word: ‘blepo’ which means: ‘see, watch’. The only way you can protect and guard yourself if you have the skill to ‘see’. If you don’t ‘see’, then you are unprotected, defenseless, naked and unguarded. Your sight, your vision on the truth is your #1 skill to protect yourself. That’s why Jesus warns us to ‘see’.

The command to “see” means, to watch, to be mindful, to live our life with careful consideration, to observe everything with care and understanding. Jesus warns us that many influencers will want to blind us. Yet, the overwhelming flow of lies around us and the cultural pressure is not an excuse not to have clear spiritual sight. There is no excuse for not seeing. Our ability and responsibility is to see.

Gertraud “Traudl” Junge was the private secretary of Hitler. She was young and naive. First, she gave herself an excuse why she didn’t ‘see’ the evilness and horror of what Hitler did:

“Of course, the horrors, of which I heard in connection of the Nuremberg trials; the fate of the 6 million Jews, their killing and those of many others who represented different races and creeds, shocked me greatly, but, at that time, I could not see any connection between these things and my own past. I was only happy that I had not personally been guilty of these things and that I had not been aware of the scale of these things. However, one day, I walked past a plaque on the Franz-Joseph Straße (in Munich), on the wall in memory of Sophie Scholl. I could see that she had been born the same year as I, and that she had been executed the same year I entered into Hitler’s service. And, at that moment, I really realized that being young is no excuse, but that it might, perhaps, have been possible to find these things out.”

There was no excuse not to see when others saw what she didn’t. Sophie Scholl died with his brother because she saw the truth and acted.

So few have the ability to ‘see’ clearly today. People are blinded and lost their ’sight’ and follow the many ‘false teachers’, cultural influencers and self-proclaiming ‘saviors’.

Here are 5 major reasons why people are BLINDED:

  1. Pleasures – it’s easy just to focus on personal gratification. We are happy until some of our basic, simple needs are met. C.S. Lewis said it well: “We are way too easily pleased.”
  2. Ignorance – it’s convenient to live our life in the little bubble of ignorance and indifference. Most people keep their heads in the sand.
  3. Pain – it’s too painful to face the brutal reality of our world.
  4. Fear – it’s too fearful to face that the brutal reality around us would demand a personal change, it would come with a price. We don’t want to change our life or the way we think; we don’t want anything to disrupt our personal space and challenge our security or identity.
  5. Hate – it’s too hard to face our past, our failures, it’s easier to blame and hate others for the problems around us. It sees that nothing united people more in the course of history than shared hate. Hate creates a bound between people, releases them from the “burden” of personal responsibility and frees their conscious. Hate gives people a way out from owning their life and their problems and from living with maximum responsibility, while at the same time it gives them a sense of belonging: “we are together in this”.

No one, but you are responsible to not let hate, fear, ignorance and pleasure blinging you! Otherwise these things will control you and consume you.

The Command to Trust.

“Do not be anxious!” – says Jesus (13:11b). In the midst of all the moral, economic, political, environmental and relational chaos our natural reaction is to panic, to be anxious, to worry and to lose hope. We are commanded not to go there. We are commanded to trust in the Ruler of History and the Creator of this Universe – trust in the One keeps everything under His control. The decay doesn’t surprise Him. He told us that this will happen 2000 years ago.

The Promise of Words.

“Say whatever is given to you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” (13:11b).

He has NOT promised that we will not be hated, that our life will be spared, that we will live a peaceful life, that we will not experience betrayal, losses, pain and disappointment. Matter fact, He has promised the opposite: trials, betrayal, isolation, persecution, etc.

The only thing that He has promised in the hour of abomination is the POWER of WORDS: the Words of the Holy Spirit spoken through us! God created the universe with the power of His Words. The creating power of words spoken through us by the Holy Spirit is the way how we can defend ourselves in the age of decay.

Words create wars and stop them. Words cause wounds or heal them. Words destroy relationships or build them. Words separate us or bind us.

When the power of WORDS, the SPOKEN TRUTH is taken away, then we become completely defenseless.

BE A SEER AND A SPEAKER OF THE TRUTH WHILE YOU KEEP YOUR FIRM TRUST IN GOD – THAT’S HOW YOU LIVE IN A DECAYING CULTURE.

Hope in our traumatized world: a traumatized God

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

2Cor 4:7-11

Evidently Paul has experienced a lot of traumas.

  1. He was “afflicted in every way”: physically, mentally and emotionally. Such affliction would crush most of us. But not Paul: “we are afflicted…, but not crushed”.
  2. He was “perplexed”: experienced a lot of losses. When we loose wealth, health or space, we also loose hope. Yet, Paul says, that all those losses didn’t lead him to despair.
  3. He was “persecuted”. Persecution is a violent way for the society or community to isolate, cast out, marginalize or punish a person or a group of people. It comes with loneliness, isolation, separation and with the feeling of not being understood, or not belonging. A persecuted person will always feel forsaken, left alone, cast out, not wanted, but not Paul.
  4. He was “struck down” meaning pushed down, oppressed with the purpose of being destroying. Regardless of all the oppression and pressure, Paul was not destroyed.

Living in a traumatized world, what hope Paul offers to overcome such traumas?

I have my fair share of traumas in life. Some are still impacting me today and are influencing my reaction and view of life and people. The way Paul went through traumas, helps me to face mine. Here is what I’ve learned from Paul’s cited writing on how to maintain mental, spiritual and emotional health in the midst of traumas and what should our stand, as believers be as we see traumas in our world.

(NOTE: Professional help needs to be given to those who are seriously traumatized. The following are just a few observations from Paul's personal description which I found helpful and encouraging as I face my own traumas. In no means the following serves as a substitute the necessary professional treatment.)
1. Embrace that you are infinitely valuable and treasured in the midst of your brokenness.

“We have this treasure in jars of clay” – says Paul. Changing the way how we think about ourself is critical to overcome any traumas. Many times when we are traumatized we feel devalued, betrayed, lost, forgotten, worthless, lonely, depressed and hopeless. When trauma happens, our sense of personal value and territories (belongings, body, space, health, etc.) are brutally violated which many times followed by the feeling of being worthless. A special knowledge that comes from an outside source needs to change our thinking about ourselves. That’s what has happened to Paul. “This knowledge” equipped him with the conviction that he has a special value, a “treasure hidden” in “this jars of clay” (v.7.). He knew that his body might just be a fragile jars of clay, but that broken, fragile body contains an infinite, incomparable value. He didn’t identify his value with the brokenness and fragility of his body. This treasure was not a product of his own self, but it was given to him from an outside authority. He identify this treasure this way: “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (v.6b). Basically he is saying this: “I have received the knowledge that I’m valued, I’m special, I’m worthy, I’m treasured because the Son of God has died for me. No-one would die for something worthless! So I’m so valued and treasured by the God of the Universe, that He was willing to sacrifice the life of His own Son!” A key step to overcome a trauma is to embrace the reality that you are loved, valued and treasured by your Creator and Savior, regardless of what what you’ve went through, what your nationality is, who your parents were and what your talents are.

2. Embrace the power that is given to you to overcome the trauma.

A “surpassing power that belongs to God” (v.7.) is available to us as it was available to Paul. This knowledge (that we are valued and treasured) is not only an intellectual position, but a life-changing power. There is power in the knowledge that God treasures us. Power can be given to us not to be crushed when we are going through afflictions, not to be hopeless or paralyzed when we loose things or relationships, not to feel lonely when we are forsaken and not to be destroyed when we are pushed down. The more we embrace how God views us, how He loves us and values us, the more powerful we become to overcome our traumas.

3. Look up to the Cross and see the traumatized Son of God.

Paul talks about how he carries the death of Jesus in his body so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in his body (v.10). There are so many traumas we can’t explain and can’t find reasons for it. There are so many injustices that happens to people. Too many times we see that evil people are having a great and easy life and good people suffer out of proportion. If there is any hope in this unjust, unfair world, than this is it: our Creator is not a distant spectator who doesn’t care about our suffering, but He became just like us and voluntarily endured the most horrific injustice and was willing to be tortured to death. The absolutely innocent, infinitely perfect and good God was willing to be tortured and traumatized by His own fallen, sinful, wicked creatures. That’s the biggest crime and most outrageous trauma humanity ever committed! On the Cross we see a traumatized God!

The ultimate hope in our traumatized life and world is the traumatized God on the cross!

He walked in our pain and losses! He identifies with our sufferings! He knows our despair. (Phil 2:7, Heb 4:15, Is 53:3) He experienced all of it so He understands it! He wants to bring the good news to the poor, he cares for the needy and for the outcast. (Is 61:1-2) He is upset and angry when He sees injustice, corruption and abuse (Is 1:17. 23b. 3:15). He is ready to act. He wants to bring justice (Is 5:7), wants to bring comfort, wants to wipe away all tears.  And one day He promised to do that. (Rev 21:4) But until that day, the Church is God’s hand to wipe away the tears of the broken. The Church is God’s hand to embrace the outcast. The Church is God’s hand to protect the refugees. The Church is God’s hand to bring healing for the sick. The Church is God’s hand to feed the poor. The Church is God’s mouth to stand up against the oppressors, the corrupt leaders and destroy the lies of this world. The Church is God’s mouth to represent God’s Kingdom, His values and His good news. If the Church doesn’t do that, who else would?

If the Church truly wants to represent her traumatized Lord whose heart is for this traumatized world, than she has no other place than to stand with and to protect those who are traumatized. 

“We carry the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”

“Stop Deceiving Yourself!”

Apostle Paul knew psychology 1800 years before Freud was born. Matter of fact, he understood it better than many modern psychologist. His writings are very revealing about today’s popular topics: self-deception, self-worth, self-love, healthy self-image. Let’s look at one of that.

“Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, ‘He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.’  And again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise; he knows they are worthless.’ So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you—whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.” – Apostle Paul in 1Cor 3:18-23

The media is full of articles, bloggers, celebrities talking about the importance of knowing, loving, accepting and expressing ourselves. Our world is obsessed with emphasizing self-love, self-knowledge, self-expression, self-worth, self-image, everything that starts with “self”. Every weird desires, twisted thought, insecure identity are encouraged to be expressed, lived out and is demanded to be accepted. This wrong emphases on embracing and accepting our desires and thoughts without an outside control and guidance is extremely dangerous. It leads people, especially youngsters, to believe that:

  1. all of our desires are equally good for us and others,
  2. we have the right to fulfill our desires,
  3. the ultimate decision-making factor in life is seeking the fulfillment of our desires,
  4. the source of happiness is when our desires are fulfilled, and that
  5. our desires determines who we are and who we become, it’s our identity. (It’s especially prevalent as people identify themselves with their sexual desires, they pridefully brag about it and they want everybody to know about it.)

It looks like the more the mainstream influencers are pushing this “self-talk”, self-love, self-expression agenda, the bigger our problem becomes with self-image. Regardless of how loudly and broadly our society encourages self-love, self-acceptance and expression of every desire or idea a person has, we witness an unprecedented spread of depression, an epidemic of phycological problems, and a wide-spread disability of building and maintaining intimate relationships.

The Western world lives in exceptional wealth in human history (running water, abundance of food, access to information, etc.), yet we have more crippled souls and relationships than ever before. Our technological, scientific and economic improvement didn’t bring us the desired outcome we hoped for: happiness and a healthy societies.

Could it be that our desires, ideas and wants need to be controlled, guided and maybe some of them should never be expressed?

Could it be that some of our desires and thoughts are misleading us as we are searching our true identity?

Could it be that our own desires and pursuit of happiness becomes our own enemy?

Apostle Paul warns us: “Stop deceiving yourself!” (v.18.) In the passage above he talks about the road that leads to self-deception and how we can avoid it by acquiring a healthy self-awareness. Reading in between the lines of Paul’s quoted warning to the Corinthians, we find an alarming description of the self-deceived person, someone who is having a distorted view of self.

The self-deceived person is someone who:

  1. thinks he is something he is not, because he is driven by a desire to be praised. “If you think you are wise…” says Paul, think again. You think you are wise, because you desire to be praised and accepted for it, and want to be known by it.
  2. assumes that he knows better. He thinks  he is wiser than others, he knows what is best for him, he knows what he wants and needs, because he “thinks he is wise…”.
  3. determines what is right and wrong for himself, because “he is wise” and doesn’t accept that there is an outside control and authority that is above his own mind. The concept of an outside authority who – for our best interests – sets guidelines to our desires, is unacceptable for the self-deceived person. He doesn’t embrace that there is Someone bigger, higher, wiser who sets limits to our knowledge and give guidelines to control our desires.
  4. is bragging and boasting. Pride is always a sing of insecurity. When someone is bragging about his performance or about his relationships, or about his lifestyle, than person is deceiving himself. “Don’t boast about following a particular human leader” (v.21.), or group, or community, etc..
  5. looking for other people’s praise and acceptance. (“I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos” v.4.). Acceptance from a particular group or people in that group becomes the identity to a self-deceived person.
  6. relying on credentials (also v.4.) and association with certain people and particular groups – “I’m a member of this or that community, board, club and I’ve this or that degree.” While these are not bad things at all, that is not who we are.
  7. always compares himself  to others (“I’m Paul’s, so I’m better than you who are Apollo’s”). When someone identifies himself this way with a group than he can’t tolerate when someone expresses a different opinion or say no to them. Today’s pornified, over-sexualized, mainstream, gender-focused message is a sad example of this lack of tolerance and self-deception. If anyone raises concerns about gender issues, or about the promotion of sexuality, especially among young people, and talks about the possible danger that it represents for the future for our society, or simply just wants to follow his/her Christian values and conviction, than that person very well could face legal and economical retributions.
  8. is not aware of his potential identity in Christ. He is not embracing that he could be fully loved, accepted and known by Christ.

Paul also gives us a path to a healthy view of self:

  1. Accept your limits: you have limited knowledge, wisdom, understanding and skills. (v.18.)
  2. Humble yourself – admit that there is a higher knowledge, a Greater Mind, an ultimately wise God above you, who “traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness”, who knows all and knows better than us. (v.19-20.)
  3. Don’t look to other people to give you value and identity. Stop comparing yourself with others, stop looking for other people’s praise, don’t anchor your identify in other people’s confirmation. Your identity is not that “you are Paul’s or Apollo’s”.
  4. Embrace that you have it all in Christ.For everything belongs to you—whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.” (v.21-23.) You have everything in Christ you strive for: the group you fought to be a part of, the world you wanted to gain, the presence and the future that you wanted to secure. In Christ you are known, you are fully accepted, loved and appreciated. In Him you have dignity, value and worth.We are so valuable that He gave the most valuable to us: His own life. No one can love us more and better than the One who gave His own life for us.

The only way how we can develop a healthy self-image is growing in our understanding of how God views and values us. We couldn’t be more precious and valuable for Him.

Spend more time on what He says about you, and spend less time on than what celebrities, popular books, mainstream influencers are telling about you. Many times they are lying to you about you! They don’t know you and they don’t love you. They never died for you. They wouldn’t do anything for you! They only want to extend their power over you and get money from you. 

Love yourself enough to listen to the One who loves you the most!

God’s painful interruption multiplies joy

solution

Acts 8:8: “…there was much joy in that city.”

Acts 8:39: “…went on his way rejoicing…”

I hate interruptions. I’m especially irritated when my plans are interrupted. A flat tire messing up my daily schedule, a sick child changing my travel plans, an email requiring immediate attention. I loose focus, I become upset, I feel wasted and immediately I turn into problem-solving panic mode.

Foreign mission was born out of God’s intentional and continuous interruption. We see in Acts 8 that God twice interrupted the success, the fellowship and the comfort the church has built and enjoyed. Interruptions came through various means – once through unwanted circumstances (Acts 8:1-4) and later through an unexpected voice of God (Acts 8:26). Through these interruptions one person planted the seed of the gospel in two nations in a very short period of time. None of that would have happened without those interruptions. The person was Philip. The nations were Samaria and Ethiopia.

God used various means to force his people to multiply his mission and placed them where He wanted them to be and where they’ve never planned to be.

God’s interruption came through unwanted circumstances. Acts 8:1-4.

God used the change of the political environment to multiply his mission. God didn’t use a very gentle way to interrupt their peaceful success. Persecution and suffering is a pretty harsh way to force them to multiply. The force of circumstances is used by God to advance His mission. They’ve experienced growth, stability, success, fellowship and fruitfulness. But the goal was multiplication: multiply that in other places.

God will always interrupt our success for the sake of multiplication. He interrupts because He wants something else.

We read in vs 4 that “those who were scattered went about preaching the word.”

This unexpected change was not a small change. It forced families to move and to leave behind houses, jobs, carriers, businesses, schools, relatives and future promises. They had to replant their whole life somewhere else building new communities around them. It represented a total, major life-change. Everything that defined them, they had to leave behind. There were grief, fear and losses involved. Yet God used these painful circumstances to force them into the right direction.

Bad things has happened to them yet the good news has spread through them.

God’s interruption came through an unexpected voice. (8:26)

Philip went from success, community, fellowship and fruitfulness (in Jerusalem) and built a new success, community, fellowship and fruitfulness (in Samaria).

Again, at the peak of his ministry where he saw great success, incredible fruitfulness, where he was extremely useful, where ”the city was full of joy”, the Lord, again interrupts. An angel appears and gives a command: “rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. This is a desert place.”

He is called:

  • from the success to the risk,
  • from being well-known, celebrated, honored to be unknown,
  • from the familiar to the unfamiliar,
  • from the multitude to the individual,
  • from the city to the desert,
  • from something he started, built and led to success to start something new again,
  • from being the top leader to be the level one evangelist,
  • from great impact to great risk.

And he is called to all of that without knowing WHY!

God took away the useful and the successful person from his place of success. He took away Philip’s ministry and everything that defined him in that environment. But it’s not Philip’s ministry, but it’s God’s mission. It’s His garden and he takes the hose wherever he wants to water with that hose.

God rarely reveals his reasons when he gives us commands. The reasons behind of God’s commands, interruptions will be understood on the journey of obedience. Philip understood it as he has obeyed. We understand looking back why God interrupted the church through unfortunate circumstances and why He interrupted Philip’s success. It was all for the sake of multiplying His mission.

We need to embrace God’s interruptions. We need to embrace that either through unexpected circumstances or through unexpected changes or through the unexpected voice of God, He wants to advance His mission. He is not interested in our ministry, He is interested in his mission.

The best part is this: both of these interruptions from God led to JOY! First, the city of Samaria was full of JOY (8:8) and then the Ethiopians went away with JOY (8:39). When we walk through God’s interruptions with obedience the end result will always be God’s Joy multiplied.

Wilderness: an awkward reward for a godly life.

IMG_6406

“Jesus had a different vision of maturity: It is the ability and willingness to be led where you would rather not go.” – Henri Nouwen

Like it or not, our journey sometimes takes us through a wilderness: a place of need, a place of unrest, a place of loneliness. A place where we would rather not be.

What is common in the story of Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, the Israelites, Jephthah, David, Elijah, John the Baptist, Jesus is that they all had a “wilderness experience”. Most of them didn’t get to the wilderness because they did something wrong, so they deserved a punishment, but because they did something or all things right. It’s an awkward reward for a godly life. So a lot of good people of God were taken to a bad place by God. Yet a bad place can serve God’s good purposes.

WILDERNESS IS NOT FUN (not meant nor designed to be) so it’s not a self-choice, but it’s always God’s plan. (Yes, God’s plan is not always fun, but it’s always good. Good doesn’t equals fun.) Those Heroes of Faith listed above didn’t go to the wilderness because they wanted to. They went there, because they had to. They were either forced to go there (cast out, driven out) or were called to go there. It was not their choice. Even Jesus was taken by the Spirit to the wilderness and then later He chose to go there regularly to pray.

WILDERNESS IS WHERE WE BECOME POWERLESS AND LEARN TO LOVE. It’s a place where we loose control and become dependent. Wilderness is where everything is taken from us (position, past, future, influence, relationships) and we are left with nothing (as Moses), yet that’s the place where God shows up and will meet with us. It’s the place to learn dependency on God and to learn to give up control. It’s the place where God becomes our only source of life (security and provision). As we give up power and control of our life we learn to love, because the highest form of love (says and models Jesus) is to give up control over our life. It’s essential to learn to give up control and power in order to learn to really love. “Power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love.” writes Henri Nouwen.

WILDERNESS IS A PLACE OF PREPARATION to be ready to serve God’s purposes. (See Moses, Jephthah, Jesus.) Without the work of God in us in the wilderness, we can’t do the work of God through us in the community. Wilderness is the place where we change. (See Moses, the Israelites.)

WILDERNESS IS A PLACE OF GOD’S REVELATION. It is where God speaks to us, where God meets with us. (See Moses, Elijah, Abraham.) Without the revelation in the wilderness there is no revolution in the community. The revelation received in the wilderness changed the course of history (see Moses) and changes our communities.

WILDERNESS IS WHERE FAITH IS TESTED (see Jesus). Wilderness is a place of sacrifice where we put our dearest on to the altar (Abraham/Isaac). It’s the place where our heart will be truly revealed.

WILDERNESS IS A PLACE OF SOLITUDE, SILENCE AND PRAYER. (See Jesus, Abraham). The place where the true power of life comes from: being alone with God in prayer. Wilderness is a place where we are forced to listen to God (Moses, Elijah), even if we don’t want to.

Wilderness will become the place where we minister from. (See John the Baptist.)

BUT… wilderness is NEVER a place where God’s story ends. So go through with hope and a teachable heart!

On the other side of your fears

Mk 4:35-41

We are at the beginning of a new year. We have no idea what this year holds for any of us. But we do know Who holds our year in His hand.

We all have dreams and desires for our year and future. But God has plans. Often his plans don’t match our dreams. Sometimes His plans surprise us, sometimes take us through terrifying experiences, sometimes put smiles and joy in our hearts. Regardless, I’ve found that almost 100% of times God’s plans are taking us toward our fears just to show us something on the other side of our fears.

The passage that God used recently in my life to teach me about my own fears and my own journey is Mk 4:35-41.

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”

And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.

And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.

But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Unusual command at an unusual time

First, we notice that there is an unusual command Jesus gives at an unusual time.

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”

And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.

What is so unusual about that command?

  1. He gives this command at evening, an unusual time. Jesus after a busy day, working with thousands of people in the crowd, healing, teaching he is not giving his disciples a bed, but a boat. Bad timing. You don’t stress your followers even more after they’ve worked all day hard. They needed rest, they needed regrouping, they needed regaining their strength. Yet, when they are the most tired, they will find themselves even more stressed out and in more difficulties. I have found that true in my own life: many times God’s command came when I was not ready for it, I was already exhausted, already too buys and tired. God’s demand never comes at our timing and at our capacity.
  2. He gives a command to get away from something we all would want to run to. Jesus is leaving the crowd. Every single minister, preacher I know – including myself – wants more crowd, more influence, more impact, more opportunities, more fame, more name. And Jesus walks away from the crowd. Walks away from the needs of the crowd. Walks away from the more. He walks away and takes his disciples away from the broad impact, because he wants to do something on the depth of impact. The depth of what he is going to teach them is way more important than the broad impact they could have.

Let me reflect back here for a moment on my own journey now. When we have announced in Hungary that we are turning over the leadership of Cru to another leader and we move from Hungary for this period of time to America, people were shocked. There were pastors who called me and said angry things. People said that you have great success, some that very few had, you are respected, known, you have great influence – why are you waisting your life going to America where nobody knows you? Why are you leaving 50 years of all you’ve built, all the name and fame, all the needs? You had been so effective, so useful, so needed, so great, so, so, so.

But, this is exactly the temptation Jesus had. His second temptation was when the Devil took him up to the temple’s parapet and told him to jump. Do something spectacular. Every leader’s, every pastor’s, every minister’s temptation is to be spectacular. We all want to prove ourselves. And when you have proven yourselves many times, there is even more temptation: be even more spectacular. Jesus walked away from being spectacular. He didn’t want to win people’s applause.

Jesus clearly told us, that we need to get into the boat to go to the other side, to walk away from being spectacular. There is something on the journey he wants to teach, to show us and to form us through that. There is something on the other side he wants to do.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the pastor-martyr who had been killed by the Nazis said this:

“The disciple simply burns his boat and goes ahead. He is called out and has to forsake his old life in order that he may “exist” in the strictest sense of the word. The old life is left behind and completely surrendered. The disciple is dragged out of his relative security into the absolute insecurity, from a life which is observable and calculable into a life where everything is unobservable and fortuitous, out of the realm of finite into the realm of infinite possibilities… No other significance is possible, since Jesus is the only significance. Beside Jesus nothing has any significance. He alone matters.“

Unexpected result of faithful obedience

As we continue in the text we see an unexpected result of faithful obedience.

And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.

The disciples did nothing wrong, they just followed Jesus’s command. Their obedience were life-threatening for them. Their obedience took them to situations they didn’t want to be. When they got into the boat out of obedience they had no clue, no idea what is going to happen. They just followed Jesus. They had only positive expectations. So far, they saw him doing unbelievable things: healing people, feeding people, teaching people. Great success, great results, great impact. Then suddenly, they have to walk away from that. Of course they are ready to obey.

And out of the blue, a storm hits. And they find themselves loosing everything: every control, every stability, every security. Their known realities turn into a nightmare.

Have you ever experienced that you did everything right, you followed faithfully the command of God and suddenly all your life is turning into a nightmare? You walk in obedience and suddenly a storm hits and turns everything upside-down.

I’ve experienced that more then I wanted. The unexpected reality is that when we obey to Jesus, many times, first, things get worse, not better. Think about Moses, who after debating with God finally gives in and obeys. He enters into the presence of the Pharaoh and suddenly everything gets worse. The people didn’t get released, but their life got more difficult. Moses is upset and he says this to God: “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”

“I’ve obeyed and you betrayed me. I’ve obeyed and you’ve left me alone. I’ve obeyed and my friends, relatives are upset with me. I’ve obeyed and I can’t find a mate. I’ve obeyed and I have less money. I’ve obeyed and my life became harder and harder.”

They didn’t expect a storm from Jesus. They only expected healing, feeding, teaching, understanding, grace, forgiveness, love, kindness, gifts. But storm? Problems? Pain? Difficulties? Struggles? Losses? Fears? Exposures to our own ugliness? Who wants that?

If we are in a boat with Jesus, storms will hit for sure.

Hurtful realities: fear, loneliness, shame

With the storms comes hurtful realities.

But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

And when you think things can’t get worse, they got worse. The disciples are desperate. Their obedience to follow Jesus led them to a place where they questioning Jesus: “don’t you care that we are perishing? Don’t you care that we are dying? We followed you Jesus, obeyed to you Jesus, did all what you’ve asked us to do and yet you don’t even care!

Obedience leads to the crises of faith.

Henry Blackaby writes this: God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crises of belief that requires faith and action.

Have you ever felt the way the disciples felt here? You obey and suddenly you find yourself very alone in a storm. Even Jesus doesn’t care. Did you ever feel that? I did. Even recently. In my past 2-3 years I felt that many times. “I’m just obeying you, I’m just trying to follow you, I’m just taking a leap of faith, I’m just serving others, I’m just risking everything I have. And you don’t even care. You don’t even care Jesus that I’m loosing everything. You don’t even care what will happen with our kids. You don’t even care what will happen with our parents.”

Obedience forces you to face your inner reality: the disciples’ disbelief and fear were exposed. They couldn’t hide it anymore. They couldn’t play the “spectacular” role anymore. They were exposed to their own brokenness, to their own limits, to their own fears, to their own disbeliefs, to their own weaknesses.

True obedience leads to humbleness. You will be humbled. You will be exposed. You will be vulnerable. You will be naked. You won’t be able to pose in the spectacular role anymore. And nobody likes that. Everybody wants to feel secure, feel strong, feel covered. Vulnerability, weakness is something we run from.

Jesus left the crowd and all that the crowd offers so he could expose the disciples. He wanted to work on their own reality. He was more interested in who they are then what they can do for him. Jesus is more interested in who you become than what you will do for him. Jesus can’t shape you until he exposes you to your own realities, sins, problems, fears and forces you own your knees.

The healing reality.

The final scene in this story brings healing.

And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

The disciples had a journey from fear to fear. They were afraid of dying, loosing everything. They were afraid of loosing total control. Now, they’ve traded that fear to another kind of fear: to the fear of Jesus. They’ve realized that there is someone greater here to fear then their object of their own fears. They taught that their greatest fear is loosing control, loosing everything, loosing life. Now they’ve realized that there is Someone Greater then the object of their own fears.

What is the object of your fear? Cancer? Money? Loneliness? There is only One you should fear: God. God is bigger then money, bigger then loneliness, bigger then health, bigger then death. Be always more afraid of disobeying Him then you fear of what could happen if you obey. It’s never a good reason to turn your back to obedience because it’s too hard, it’s too risky, it’s too fearful, it’s too costly. One day, we all have a little private conversation with Jesus and he will ask us: how were you obedient to me? And you can’t tell to him that “I was afraid to have that difficult conversation I should have had” or “I was afraid to break up that relationship” or “I was afraid to make that change”. You don’t want to hear from him that “You were more afraid of loosing money, loosing friends, loosing fame and impact, than you were afraid of me? You were more interested to please others, then me?”

And here comes the healing reality of true obedience: you’ll start seeing Jesus in such a way you’ve never saw him before. The disciples wondered: who is this that even the wind and the sea obeys to him? The most rewarding and healing reality of obedience is that moment when you bow down in fearful worship and say: “Who Are You Jesus? I’ve never dreamed that you can do that! I’ve never ever dreamed that you have such power?” You stand there naked, humbled in awe of Jesus! That’s the whole purpose of our journey: He wants to show himself to us in ways we have never seen him before. So we would bow down in worship and would say: you can even do that?

If you truly obey, you’ll see Jesus in a way you have never saw him before. But if you are not willing to get into the boat with him and go through the storms, you don’t have any chance to see him for who he really is.

My own journey in the boat

Let me close with a personal note. Every time I’ve obeyed, there was a storm. And I saw Jesus in ways I’ve never dreamed of.

When the doctors told us that we have to abort our first baby because as they’ve said she will be born with serious mental handicap, then we’ve obeyed to Jesus and said no to abortion. That baby is now graduating from a very highly ranked university. We obeyed when professionals installed fears in us and now we stand in awe worshiping Jesus!

When we’ve started Youth at the Threshold of Life and everybody around us said that it’s crazy and we shouldn’t do it, and installed fear that we are not qualified to train educators, we decided to obey. And now we stand in awe to see that God used this program to spread the gospel to millions of people.

When I took over the leadership of a ministry with significant financial debt and staff were leaving, almost everybody around us installed fear and said that this is crazy, you shouldn’t do that. But God said, do it. And almost 13 years later we saw new leadership raised up, no debt and the number of staff grew significantly. We stand in awe of how God did that.

Jesus has one very important question for you. The same question he had for Peter. Jesus is about to leave this Earth, he died and resurrected from the death. He has a huge plan for the world. Everybody should know that he is the Savior. But he is not talking about those grandiose things. He decides to have a final, personal conversation with Peter and asks him 3 simple questions: “Do you love me?” Everything, your future and the future of the church will stand on you answer: “Do you love me?” Do you love me more then these? Do you love me more then you fear your fears?

“If you do, then be ready for something Peter. When you were young, you made decisions for yourself. But if you follow me, you will become like an old person: you won’t make decisions for yourself. I’ll make decisions for you. I’ll take you to place you don’t want to go. I’ll take you through experiences you don’t want to experience. I’ll stretch you in ways you don’t want to be stretched.

“So, do you love me? Do you really love me?”

Are you ready to love him through the storms of this year?

Restless? Tired? Anxious? Me too.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Mt 11:28-30.

The traumas of our past, the business of our present and the hopelessness of the future blends our soul with the poison of the restlessness and anxious tiredness. It’s a deadly poison that gets into our guts and slowly kills us. Too many times I drink that poison. But I’m not alone in that “pub” where that drink is so masterfully tailor-made and served for us. Most people around me drinks that and some even serve that. It’s enough to open Facebook or the news to be faced with constant angst, anxiety and restlessness.

It is very demanding on the soul to live in constant anxiety. It influences everything: our body, our relationships, our thinking, our emotions, our decisions, our communication.

Jesus offers rest for our soul without offering a change in our circumstances. Rest must be available then without changes in the circumstances.

We are invited to find rest. Jesus offers 3 things for our restless souls to find rest:

1. A safe place. 

We go home from work to find rest. The home is the place where we all should find rest. It’s only true though if the home is safe. Home is safe when relationships in the home are safe. Feeling safe and secure is the precondition of rest. You can’t rest when you are not secure. A safe place is where we find a safe relationship. We are restless because we don’t find our true home. We don’t find our true home because we don’t find a safe relationship. That’s what Jesus offers first: “come to me“. Jesus invites us to our true home, to our safe place where we have a safe relationship with him. In that relationship we are known, accepted, protected, enjoyed and provided for – all a true home provides for true rest to happen.


2. The right burdens
.

Rest will not come from not having anything to do, instead having the right things to do. Rest doesn’t equal being lazy. Jesus says: “take my yoke“. Jesus doesn’t promise to be “burden-less“, but he puts burdens on us that is good for us, made for us and strengthen us. His burden is light because it is HIS burden.

  • Are you carrying burdens you should not; burdens Jesus has not given you to carry? What will you tell him why did you do that? Do you think you are more compassionate and loving then Jesus is when you take on burdens you see but are not for you to take on?
  • What are the burdens He has for you?

The burden given by him is also resourced by him. That resource is not available for the burdens you chose without him giving it to you. 1Pt 5:7 commands us to cast our burdens, anxieties on him, because he cares for us. So many times I carry burdens I shouldn’t; burdens He has not entrusted me with. The burden of the political future, the burden of other people’s life, the burden of my staff, the burden of the future, the burden of the ministry, the burden of providing, etc.. Doing that we forget whose ministry it is and who has the power to control everything.

Don’t take burdens you see but God has not given you to carry because you are not gonna be able to carry the ones He assigned you to carry.

Create a list of all the burdens that make you weary and tired.

  • What burdens on that list is given by Jesus for you to carry?
  • What are the ones you shouldn’t carry? With a smile and a joyful heart you should say no to these. Yes, it will hurt other’s feelings and expectations, but will give them an opportunity to go to Jesus with their burden and find rest.

3. A teachable, molding heart.

Finding rest for the soul is also a learning process. “Learn from me” – warns Jesus. Learning happens when students are teachable. It’s important what we learn and from whom we learn. To find rest for our soul we have to learn certain characteristic through following a model. Continuously learning humbleness and gentleness from Jesus will relax our restless soul. An arrogant and prideful person is a controlling person. A controlling person can never find rest because such person pursue security and identity through exercising control. Such control gives him stability. What he so eagerly tries to achieve through control can only be found through giving up control. The harder he tries the further he falls. Jesus offers that security and identity, so we don’t have to prove anything, we can be humble and gentle. Humble and gentle people are the most secure people. They don’t need arrogant control to prove anything. They are trusting in the One who controls everything.
We are secured, safe, protected, loved, known, accepted, enjoyed and provided for by the King!

Find rest my soul in Him!

 Our story was written before we started to play it.

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.”
Is 46:3-4

God planned our life and wrote our story way before we were borne.

It means that He had no intention to involve us in the planning & decision making process about our life-story. He has decided what our life is gonna be about without consulting with us. He never felt the need that we should be involved in planning what He want’s to reveal through our life. He is the Owner and the Author.

He wrote our story and invites us to play our part. His intention with our story is to reveal His character and power. The intention of our story is not to make it easy for the lead character, but to reveal the Author.

We can sabotage playing our role, but then we will miss out the purpose of our story: to meet, to know and to reveal the Author. Or  we can make the story, our life and the Author memorable with the way we play our story.

Sometimes in our story there are scenes we don’t want to play; there are places we don’t want to go to; there are situations we don’t want to go through and there are people we would like to avoid. 

There were many scenes in my lifestory I never wanted to go through. There were actually more of that then the scenes I really enjoyed. There were more pains, more brokenness, more sickness, more disappointment, more challenges, more neediness, more loneliness, more fear, more isolation, more disadvantages then I wanted to experience. Way more. There were and are places I never intended to be and never wanted to go to. But looking back I see God through all of those. Each time my stubborn, fearful, hurting heart understood a bit more of Him. Through these scenes in my story I’ve discovered that I’m no different then the disciples were. After they saw Jesus feeding the 5000 they immediately asked: “how will we have bread?” Jesus rebukes them: “why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?” Mk 8:17. Yes, the story reveals our faults, our sins, our weaknesses, too. It’s not the best feeling to be in your scenes uncovered. 

Yet through the storms of our life His plans and character shines.

Our status, our health, our physical shape, our financial state, our position, our placement, our family situation all changes. But behind all of those changes there is a God who planned everything for us, who loves, cares, carries, leads, protects, provides, corrects and saves. He planned everything way in advance and He will carry it through.

As we are changing from infant to old, God’s faithfulness, leadership, protection, provision, care, rescue will remain the same.

Too Much Freedom?

“To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Mt 25:15

The Master gives the talents to the servants and then he leaves. He doesn’t tell them what to do with the talents. He doesn’t give instructions how to invest them. He doesn’t leave behind a know-how, a strategic plan, a detailed description, an instruction manual of how they should invest what they had been entrusted with. But at a point he comes back and holds them accountable. And he expects a return. This Master is profit-oriented. It’s his talents, so he rightfully expects profit on his investment.

The servants have huge freedom. They can make a ton of decisions about how they will invest what they have received. They had to be active, they had to be intentional, they had to take risks. Just like any investors.

Freedom requires intentional work. We all are responsible to invest what we got, because profit is expected on our life.

It’s stunning the amount of freedom we got. It’s stunning how serious the accountability will be.

Sometimes I wish I would have received a more detailed instruction from Jesus on how to invest what I got. But all he wants is intentional, fearless, diligent, full of faith risk-taking. That’s what the two faithful servants did. That’s what we need to do, too:

  1. Know what we got – 5 or 2 or 1 talents. Know what God gave us: gifts, strengths, weaknesses, experiences, relationships, networks,  resources, opportunities. Have an inventory of what you got and what you need to invest. Be intentional to know your story, your strengths, gifts, experiences, relationships, opportunities, etc..
  2. Risk them for advancing His Kingdom: intentionally, bravely, with full of faith, maximizing opportunities.

Yes, it’s risky. Yes, it’s inconvenient. Yes, it’s fearful. Yes, it’s tiring. Yes, it would be much easier just to follow a check-list, a to-do list, a God-given personalized manual. It would be easier if we wouldn’t have to think, to struggle on our knees praying, seeking, hurting; to study His word, to understand our story, to search our opportunities, etc.. The responsibility of freedom is extremely tiring and scary.

The first two servant did well. They used the freedom given to them wisely and diligently.

The third one failed. He was not a bad guy at all. He didn’t waisted the talent. He was not out in the bars drinking and partying. He was not loosing the talent. He just didn’t invested it. He preserved it.

Why? He was fearful. Fear that came with the freedom paralyzed him to take risks. “What if I make a bad investment? What if I make a bad decision? What if I loose everything? Let’s preserve it, keep everything going the same way as it always had been. If we don’t change anything, then we are okay, we are safe. Don’t move, don’t change, don’t take risks, so when the Master comes, we can return everything to him.” Seems good, safe and fair. But it’s called evil, lazy and judged harshly. Status quo is not acceptable.

Fear is not an acceptable excuse not to take risks, not to change, not to walk by faith, not to be intentional about our life. Freedom comes with fear. If you were never afraid, you’ve never had been putting yourself into situations where the return or the loss can be huge.

You can’t play safe if you want to be faithful in following Him!

We got freedom because we got everything we need to use that freedom well. If that would not be true, God would not have given us freedom and would not hold us accountable.