Pushing and pulling: the discipline of faith (4/7)

The Overboard Life is so rewarding, yet so challenging. There is such a pull to living life in the comfort of the boat, and very little push to get outside the boat, on the water, where Jesus is building His Kingdom. It seems like so many aspects of our lives are geared for our comfort, and “safety” — not for our growth and personal development.

That pull to stay close, to stay safe and to stay in the boat can only be offset by our ability to push beyond. Zig Ziglar has a great saying about this, “If you have enough push, you don’t have to worry about the pull.” How much push do you have?

Like any gift, skill or talent, you can only make improvements by exercising the appropriate “muscles”. Musicians play better music by…playing better music. Pastors become more effective preachers by…preaching more effectively. Athletes develop skills by working hard to develop skills. Seems circular, but stay with me.

By contrast, a musician doesn’t improve her musical talents by spending hours on the tennis courts working on her forehand volleys. Her Musical talent is improved when she works hard at improving her musical talent. I do not know a good preacher who would correlate the quality of his preaching with the improved quality of his cooking. Preachers who spend their weeks developing their culinary skills will find they leave their congregations hungry after morning messages. Preaching gets better with better preaching. Music improves with improved music. It’s redundyclical.*

In the same way, your faith will only deepen when you exercise your faith. “Faith becomes stronger, when you exercise your faith” — It’s redundyclical. It’s an issue of discipline.

Too often though, I think most of us want our faith strengthened by God zapping it. We want to wake up more eager to push ourselves out of the boat, and less eager to give in to the pull to stay put. Despite our desires and even God’s ability to zap us (which He can if He chooses), the truth of growing faith boils down to exercise: You must step out of the comfort of the boat if you want to learn how to step out of the comfort of the boat.

How disciplined are you, when it comes to exercising your faith muscles?

Here are three ways to work out your faith:

  1. Create opportunity to grow. You can actually create your own opportunities to grow your faith. Create a service project that forces you out of your comfort zone, or participate in an activity that demands you exercise faith and trust in others. I often take my students to a local ropes course that forces them to trust God, trust the craftsmanship of the course-makers, and to trust their friends. Standing on a tower 50’ above the ground while your friends are holding your weight on a safety rope is faith-stretching! You can create opportunities to grow your faith.
  2. See opportunity around you. If you look at the opportunities around you every day, I’m confident you’ll find chances to stretch your faith. When I was in college, I came home for Christmas and was heading over to my friend’s house to hang out after work. On my way to their place, I passed a young lady who was walking on the side of the road. Not that big of a deal right? Except that it was dumping buckets of rain that night, it was cold and windy and she was in the middle of nowhere in shorts and a small t-shirt! I passed her once, and then was struck by God that I needed to go back. So I did, and offered her a ride. She lived about 3 miles from where I picked her up, and she was headed home after her boyfriend kicked her out of his house because she wouldn’t sleep with him. She was only 15 (he was 20!) and she was left hoofing it back to her place. That girl had some serious issues (why is she dating a 20-year-old? why is she walking on a dark street in the rain at 11:30 at night? Why is she getting in the car of a total stranger? Where are her parents in all of this?!?!?) But in the 7 minute car ride to her house, I was able to share God’s love with her and stretch my own faith. I’m not saying picking up strangers is always (ever?) a good idea, but in that moment I followed God’s prompting in my life, and my faith was stretched big time!
  3. Serve in your church and community. If you make it a habit to use your gifts and talents to serve in your church and community, I promise that you will have chances to stretch your faith. Serving others is always messy and always faith-stretching, but as you try to meet the needs of others, you will have the chance to step out of the boat.

Growing our faith needs to be a regular discipline. God will always give you opportunity (count on that!), but it’s up to you to seize it.

So go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!

*”Redundycle: It’s a compound circular word comprised of redundant and cyclical. Something that is cyclical is by nature, redundant, and to be redundant is to be cyclical. For example, the phrase, ‘working with middle school boys is crazy’ is redundyclical. “Working with middle school boys” is crazy. To say it “is crazy” is to say what is already known and to therefore, reinforce the obvious question: What is mentally wrong with the person you are talking with, to make them want to work with middle school boys? I know, because my wife and I have worked with middle school boys for over 16 years and have often been asked this question, in pity, by many a concerned friend or family member.

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