Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Evolve or Die

I think it's high time I shared something with you, that I've kept reasonably close to my chest for some time now.

I've been making plans.

Earlier in the year I had some discussions about which way forward I should take my life... and there were a couple of surprises in there for me, I can tell you.

Anyway, suffice it to say... I was advised that I needed to go on a completely unjustifiable adventure (at least in terms of rationalisation). You see, due to a couple things that happened in my distant past, I developed into an individual who shunned risk as much as possible.

For a Christian though, this is something that doesn't add up... and should be faced.

We are told in one of Paul's letters that:

"For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."
2 Timothy 1:6-7

Furthermore, we are we are both encouraged and warned that:

"We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."
1 John 4:13-18

So it is clear that fear is an emotion that we must take every opportunity to overcome. It's okay to have fears... but it's not okay to let them have mastery over your decisions. Jesus said you cannot serve two masters... and although he was referring to money on that occasion, the same is true about anything that comes between us and God, for God is love... and you cannot serve both love and fear.

So we come to the crunch. I've always been an expert at self preservation, one severe example is that I won't fly because I'm scared about putting my life in the hands of another human being and a glorified tin can. Recent tragic events both at home and abroad would seem to justify this philosophy... but then:

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done."
Matthew 16:24-27

Oh dear!

It kind of leaves me in a pickle doesn't it? What is more, as I said in the previous paragraph... this one is a biggy for me. However I truly believe if I crack this one... it will be a major step in living a liberated life.... unencumbered by worry or fear of failure.

The passage from Matthew sounds a little harsh... it's almost worded like "give me your life or I'll take it from you." The truth as always is a little more deeper than that - does the man drowning in quicksand feel threatened by the man shouting at him to grab his hand if he wants to live? No.

You see the truth is, we are designed for a life with God... not just with him alongside or above us... but actually actively at work within us. Whilst our stubborn desire for independence, interprets Jesus' challenge about losing our life, as restrictive, or a threat; if we paused for a moment and were honest, we'd realise that actually "losing" our life liberates us in so many ways. You might think that without God, you are flying, but sooner or later you'll discover the hard way... that you were actually doing nothing more exhilarating than falling with style.

It's quite a culture shock when you feel like you've been trapped in a prison cell with many locked doors... and after begging and pleading for God to open one of them, you catch a glimpse of your jailer and discover that the person who had kept you locked in all along, was yourself... and God was the one who was pleading with you to wake up and get out of there!

When I talk to people who have been missionaries in a foreign country in service of God, I'm always quick to spot a recurring theme in their testimonies. Nearly always, the person speaking talks of finding themselves in a place of fear and inadequacy. Eventually, that which cripples them... forces them to turn to God... because that's all they have.... but what a resource to have. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians describes God as being able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. He even goes as far as to say that this power is at work in us.

However if we want to receive God's power, we have to recognise that we are actually powerless ourselves.

Last year, I quoted a Spider-Man tale called "The Other", and spoke of how it referenced a Chinese philosopher who posed the question of whether a man was dreaming of being a butterfly or a butterfly was dreaming of being a man? At first I took my feelings toward that, as just being about calling or vocation... but it's more than that. I felt drawn to buy the graphic novel and go through it... and it has proven a source of inspiration to me. A subtitle to the story is "Evolve or Die." In the plot, Spider-Man is slowly degenerating from a mysterious illness. Nothing works and eventually his impending death is accelerated by a vampire-esque enemy who maims him and pretty much pounds him to death...

... but it is not the end.

Peter Parker finds himself in a dream where he is confronted by a personification of the source of his abilities. This character rebukes Parker for accepting the obvious gifts he was given... without daring to dig deeper and find out just how gifted he was, how much potential he had for more. Parker embraces "The Other" and is returned to life completely healed (he had been in a web cocoon up until this time, as his body was renewing itself), and with exciting new powers (which were foolishly retconned out of existence by Joe Quesada).

Anyway... as Peter Parker (mis)treated his powers, we can be the same with God. We can take what he gives us naturally accepting the odd supernatural kiss... and live our lives with only a deposit of our true potential. We need to embrace the source of our power - the Holy Spirit.

So I'm going.

Boarding a plane will put me in that powerless place (albeit for about six hours a go). I've gone as far as booking a holiday and setting myself an objective while I'm out there. I've even got myself a passport.

Maybe deep down, you feel the same... you've got a fear, a worry or a burden that is holding you down... and you know that you are in the quicksand. You are finally in a place where you need to act... where you either continue as you have always gone about things... and eventually falter, fall and die; or you choose to turn around and embrace God in a new and exciting way. What that means for you personally, I leave to you. It may mean coming to faith in Jesus for the first time... it may mean taking your existing faith to a new level.

Whatever it is don't just leave it.

God bless


1 comment:

  1. I found this a quite stimulating post but, there are one or two provisos.

    We must not take risks simply for the purpose of testing our faith (a kind of self-gratification)!

    We must never confuse testing ourselves and testing God.

    Our faith may lead us into taking risks but, we must be wary that the temptation to take an irrational risk/ adventure does not come from another source.


The ideas and thoughts represented in this page's plain text are unless otherwise stated reserved for the author. Please feel free to copy anything that inspires you, but provide a link to the original author when doing so.
Share your links easily.