Sometimes I've thought, maybe hope and maybe these longings I have are just the very things that cause discontentment in me. Maybe I need to leave them behind!
There's this verse in the Scriptures that goes like this: "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" -Matthew 6:33. That word "kingdom" is talking about God's reign. It's telling us this - focus on his reign, his reign over your every day, his reign over your thoughts, your desires, your relationships. Let his presence overwhelm you - guide you, direct you - may your focus be on his leading - he will animate you by his very spirit. Focus on that and then he'll do something - you will not only have his kingdom but, he will actually take care of all these other things.
Many moons ago I worked for a guy who wouldn't allow me to speak outside of our church. I had this strong desire to help shape people's thinking, to inspire, and point others to Christ. Offers would come in and I would have to turn them down. Honestly, I felt a bit hopeless and frustrated, with a strong overwhelming sense of stuckness - yes that's a word.
But it came to a boiling point when I made an appointment with a spiritual director. I remember sitting there and confessing what I thought was pride or ego - I confessed this awful desire to be a speaker and a writer. I felt guilty, I felt heavy hearted, like these desires were sins or something. This spiritual director looked at me and said, "Have you ever thought that maybe God actually placed those desires in you? And if he did, there's nothing that can keep you from them. If you can just focus on his leading, he will lead you." No duh. "If you let him lead, he will lead you." Uh yeah. But it was revolutionary to me! It changed everything!
I left that meeting with a new resolve. I was going to trust God with my future. I would focus on today and let him worry about tomorrow. I was filled with hope.
Now, I do have to clarify something - there are times when where you are working is doing nothing but keeping you small, boxed in, and controlled (I've been in this situation more than once). Its an environment where you can't grow or develop or become everything you were meant to be.
Leave that place.
Now don't leave right now, but begin to plan an exit strategy. It might even be a two or three year strategy, but plan it. Here's a good article for an exit strategy. But surrendering to God's reign doesn't mean staying small or being squashed at work - that my friends is called abuse.
But let me sum up the last 10 years in one run-on sentence. I was STUCK in that job, but attending a conference where the president of a company running the conference, who I didn't have a relationship with, walked up to me and asked me to apply for a job, and then a while later a publisher asked me to write a book, actually two different publishers asked me to write 3 different books (I still haven't written a book proposal), and the rest is history.
God led me from where I was, to where he wanted me to be.
Was it easy? Heck no! Do I have this worry free, live by faith, I'm so full of hope I can't stand it kind of life figured out? No way! It's why I'm writing about it in this blog. I need to be reminded!
But here's Matthew 6:30-34 in the Message - read it slow, soak it in:
30-33 If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. 34 Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
You may want to read that one again. And thank you Eugene Peterson!
So recently we've ventured out to start a new ministry called, Generation514, and I am full of optimistic hope. Actually, MOST days I am full of optimistic hope. People in the know have told us that we've got a really good and unique idea, but occasionally there are some hard days when I am overwhelmed with the thought, "What in the hell are we doing!!??" On those "difficult to hope" days, I hear voices in my head. Voices of the skeptics and the doubters. Voices that Brennan Manning called, the Imposter. I hear the Imposter saying that I don't have what it takes or that our idea won't work. Those voices in my mind are speaking bad things about me, spreading lies or half-truths to people, or even worse, they've forgotten all about us. In these weak moments I think that maybe no one will fund our vision and that I'll need to go back and work for an organization that won't let me use my gifts or reach my potential. Pessimism and worse case scenarios come easy to me. But then, like clock work, something happens - there in the quiet, hope comes breaking through. My wife or daughter, my parents or a good friend will remind me of the beautiful truth that comes flooding in like a refreshing stream on a hot and humid day - and it always seems to be at just the right moment. "If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?" In those moments I breathe in deep. I close my eyes and breathe in the goodness of the one who called us to a marvelous life! And he's got an amazing plan, guaranteed!
If you'd like to read more about Hope - I highly recommend my friend Marko's brilliant new book, Hopecasting. You can order it here. If you want to read more about our new ministry (which, by the way, is a really good idea =) you can click here. Also, don't forget to subscribe to this blog - I promise, it will be... decent.