This week I finished up a teaching series I was doing at STORYCHURCH called “88MPH: Overcome the past, embrace the present, change the future.” (You can listen to the series by subscribing on itunes here.) Every so often I finish a particular teaching or maybe a particular series and I feel like there was more to be said. As I’ve been reflecting on the way we ended the series I feel like this is one of those times. So here are some bonus thoughts.
There’s this guy named Paul in the New Testament who faced all kinds of pain and trials and difficulty. But through it all, his mentality was this:
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:13-14
For Paul, there were plenty of reasons for him to quit. There was lots of opposition. If he was looking for an excuse he had plenty to pick from. But what’s clear to me is that despite everything else – Paul was focused on a particular future. He had a goal in mind (to “know Christ” as he tells us a few verses earlier). Nothing was going to keep him from that goal.
I think too many of us treat life as though we are simply along for the ride. It’s as if we are a ship at sea that’s lost it’s rudder – falling victim to the waves, the winds, and the tide. We act as though our circumstances dictate our future and that we can’t do anything about it.
Even worse, some followers of Jesus do this and then over-spiritualize it and say that whatever happens “must have been God’s will.” I’ll be honest, I don’t buy it. I believe God gives you and me WAY MORE room to shape our future than we sometimes want to believe. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely setbacks and obstacles and opposition. I’m sure there are even times when God redirects us. But I think that more often than not the future that we end up with has way more to do with the choices we make than something outside of our control.
People often talk about having vision. Vision is a picture in your mind of a preferred future. I have a vision for a particular future for my marriage. For my family. I have a vision for my church. I can guarantee that as life happens there will be MAJOR obstacles to those specific visions. As opposition and obstacles get in the way I have a choice to make every single time. Do I forfeit the vision I have for my marriage, my family, my church – or do I fight through that obstacle? When it gets hard do I say “Well it must not be God’s will” or do I do whatever it takes to overcome the obstacle? No story worth telling develops without opposition and setbacks.
What’s the vision you have for your marriage? Even if you are single today – what’s the dream marriage? How many losers are you willing to pass up in order to wait for the vision that’s in your heart? Do pictures of old couples holding hands move you on some level? Then what will you push through to make that a reality?
What’s the vision for your family? Do you want kids who love you and respect you as adults? Then what are you willing to do to see that become a reality? What job or promotion will you pass up because of the time it will require you to be away from your kids? What will you sacrifice in order to create the memories for them?
Your future isn’t decided for you. Sure, circumstances and sickness and pain will come along. But it’s up to you. You create your future. In spite of opposition and obstacles – your vision is worth the fight. It’s worth the struggle. It’s worth pushing through the pain.
A brief word for STORYCHURCH:
The future of our church is up to us. We get to decide how it goes. Kimi and I have committed our lives to see a church for people who don’t go to church. A church that helps people embrace the story they were meant to live. It’s why we get out of bed in the morning. Every so often we see glimpses of the future we are pushing toward. Every time someone who gave up on God shows up giving God one more chance – the future peeks through. Every time someone goes from death to life and chooses to follow Jesus – the future breaks in. Every time someone is baptized and we see a life transformed – the future comes crashing in around us. Every time a couple does the hard work of rebuilding their marriage rather than letting it implode – the future shows up. Every time a village gets clean water because our community decided it mattered – the future looks bright.
None of this will come easy. There will be challenges of every kind. Spiritual, financial, relational. It will be messy. There will be conflict. There will be tough decisions and difficult seasons. But it’s worth it. Because we have a vision of thousands of people finding life and embracing stories they were meant to live. I hope you share that vision. I hope you have similar dreams for our city – for your coworkers, your neighbors and your friends. And I hope you’ll do whatever it takes to see this vision become a reality.