Author | Steve
[This is the fourth post in a series of posts on “Better than…” If you haven’t already, check out the first three installments: “Better than More” “Better than Appearing Responsible” “Better than Appearing Responsible (Pt 2)“]
For years I have been fascinated by the story told of a tight-rope walker who was displaying his abilities by walking a rope suspended over Niagara Falls. To the glee and amazement of the crowd, he walked safely over the treacherous falls. Turning to the mass of people, he asked if anyone believed if he could push a wheelbarrow across the rope. The throng cheered and assented their belief, and he adeptly pushed the wheelbarrow across.
Having performed these two amazing feats, he inquired of the crowd if they believed he could push a full-grown man across the rope in the wheelbarrow. Voices called out with enthusiastic confidence in his ability. Abruptly, he pointed to a man in the front row who was bravely voicing his faith and said, “You, sir. Please, get in the wheelbarrow.”
Believing something about someone is far different than believing in someone – trusting them with your own life. This is what James was getting at when he wrote:
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. ~ James 2:19
A Gracious Persistence
I have been writing about three different areas of my life where Jesus has graciously, yet persistently, invited me to something better than what I was currently believing and living. The last of these three has been, and continues to be, the most difficult for me to let go of and trust that Jesus has something better – my safety nets of my own plans and money in the bank.
Jesus has graciously, yet persistently, invited me to something better
Up front, let me say that I don’t believe planning or money are bad or evil. In fact, they are gifts of God that can be used to bless people. But as I wrote in my last post, when a gift of God wiggles its way into God’s place, it no longer functions as a gift, but an idol. This is what Jesus has been taking aim at in my life, inviting me to the thrill of living life in His wheelbarrow, so to speak. I suspect that these two things – my plans and money in the bank – are areas of distrust for a lot of people, causing them to miss the amazing things God has in store for the exercise of their faith.
when a gift of God wiggles its way into God’s place, it no longer functions as a gift, but an idol
Better than My Plans?
Jesus has been frustrating my plans for over four years now – even the ones that are righteous and good. I know that is a bold statement, but I am left with only that conclusion. It was a hard journey of banging my head against wall after wall after wall, to realize that the wall stopping me was actually put their by God.
When it finally dawned on me that this was the likely reason, I was confused…and then mad. But in time, I discovered that God was pursuing me with love in this. I rarely, if ever, talked to God about “my” plans. My plans sought to avoid all suffering and pain. And when my plans didn’t go according to plan? I felt attacked. I was easily filled with resentment and anger. On top of all this, most of my plans, unbeknownst to me, while being about Jesus, sought to execute the plan without needing Jesus very much, if at all.
I discovered that God was pursuing me with love in this
Jesus has something far better than this for me. I’m slowly learning that His way is a great exchange. Jesus says:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30
My scared self, who clutches to my control through my plans, is not living the free life I think I am. I’m actually stuck in the crowd, feet glued to the ground, unable to move, waving my hands in religious fervor at the thing I believe about, but not in. Jesus, knowing I’m trapped (even when I don’t know), invites me to live life where He bears me, and my “burden” is to trust Him for everything, even more than my plans for the future.
Jesus, knowing I’m trapped (even when I don’t know), invites me to live life where He bears me
Better than Money in the Bank?
The rubber of this wheelbarrow meets the road in the most gut-wrenching, palpable way in my finances.
I have always been proud of my handling of and relationship to my finances. I’ve never had a huge desire to buy lots of things. I’ve been a good saver of money. For as long as I can remember, I have given generously (though often times without much thought) to the Lord – always giving a tithe, and often more than that. I enjoyed living this way. The only debt we lived with for most of our married life was our house. We were able to provide for our family and give to all kinds of good causes. Most of the time, I gave God the credit for all of this (though, sometimes I lived as if I was the one who provided all of this financial blessing).
What I wasn’t aware of was how much I was trusting the money we were saving. Slowly, over this past year, Jesus has been dismantling this idol, blow after blow. Graciously and ferociously, He is inviting me to trust Him more than money in the bank.
Graciously and ferociously, Jesus is inviting me to trust Him more than money in the bank.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my plans and my money in the bank were my number one way of navigating the uncertainty of the future. Not Jesus, the Way and the Truth and the Life – but my thoughts and “my” money. These would help me avoid difficult circumstances, or be able to handle them when they came. What I actually ended up avoiding was experiencing the provision, care and mind-blowing action of God’s Spirit in my daily faith walk. I was trusting Jesus to beam me to the other side of the chasm at the end, but until then, I had things covered pretty well where my feet were firmly grounded.
I was trusting Jesus to beam me to the other side of the chasm at the end, but until then, I had things covered pretty well where my feet were firmly grounded.
At least, that’s what I thought. The thing was, I was in a slow torment. I preached and taught about faith all the time, but I kept it at a safe distance from my daily plans and finances. Now it’s not as if I didn’t trust Jesus with any part of my daily life, it’s just that this one was deceptively slinking into Jesus’ place – an idol that was keeping me on the sidelines in my faith.
To the man glued to the ground, the guy getting in the wheelbarrow appears crazy. To the man in the wheelbarrow, the place he used to be standing pales in comparison to being carried across something he could never navigate alone.
To the man glued to the ground, the guy getting in the wheelbarrow appears crazy.
Jesus was inviting me to something better.
Amazed by the One Who Is Able
I’m not really sure how to wrap this one up. I don’t have any nice neat points on this one. I’m still very much in the middle of this with Jesus. This is a lifelong journey with Him, where I will need Him to give me the strength and the faith to put me in the wheelbarrow day after day.
As I shared in my last post, one of the things I’ve found most helpful is to regularly pray about these things. A good friend at PrayerCare has taught me how to take a dream about the future, or something I’m scared or confused about (like “how are we going to pay for that?”) and to hold it in my hands as if it is a tangible thing and then picture myself putting my hands in the hands of Jesus. Then, while Jesus is holding my hands that are holding that thing, I share with Him my excitement, my fear, my questions, my anger – anything I want about that subject. At the end, I break my hands apart and let that subject fall into Jesus’ hands and trust that He is the one to direct it.
It doesn’t clean up every decision I have to make. It doesn’t even keep me from making mistakes. What it does, is keep my eyes on Jesus about that thing, rather than on my success or failure. It allows me to hold my plans loosely and be able to change direction a little better when the inevitable change comes. More than anything, it reminds me who is pushing this wheelbarrow across this world of darkness. And that is an incredibly freeing realization – way better than seeing dollars in my bank account!
If this post got you thinking, you might enjoy “God Against My Plans“