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I remember as a teenager watching the popular television action series Mission: Impossible. Every episode began with a secret agent and a tape. The anonymous recorded voice would say, “Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is…” And then the mysterious spy-master would describe some wild and dangerous assignment, with little chance of success or survival.
The agent always chose to accept the challenge. I can’t ever remember him turning it down. Well, of course. It would put a bit of a damper on the episode if the hero said, “Are you kidding? Are you crazy? A guy could get hurt doing stuff like that!” and then just walked away.
But thankfully the spy always said yes, launching all of us in TV Land into an hour (minus commercials) of fast cars, dangerous women, exploding attaché cases, and daring deeds.
There is a parallel, I believe, with what God offers His sons and daughters throughout our lives. At various points along the way (you never know when) God opens the door to unique experiences, opportunities, and challenges. Like the spy in Mission: Impossible, we can choose to accept these undertakings, these call-ings, or we can walk away.
The choice is real. You can walk on the adventure side of life and be an individual God selects for urgent kingdom missions, or you can close the door and close your life to experiences and memories that might have been yours — but now never will be.
If You Don’t, Someone Will
There’s an intriguing bit of dialogue in the book of Esther that stands out to me each time I read it. Esther is the only book in Scripture that never mentions God’s name even once — and yet you see the hand of God at every turn in the narrative.
You probably remember Esther’s amazing rags-to-riches story. She was a beautiful Jewish girl in Susa, the capital city of Persia, in a day when the Medo-Persian Empire ruled the world. Selected to become the replacement queen in a nationwide beauty pageant, Esther had to leave her home, and Mordecai, her uncle who had raised her. Now established in the royal palace as queen, she learned of an evil plot to destroy all the Jews across the empire. Mordecai heard about it, too, and in great distress sent an urgent message to Esther. He urged her to approach the king and plead for the life of her people.
But Esther hesitated.
Who wouldn’t? The penalty for entering the king’s presence without a specific invitation was death. (I wonder how he would have handled telemarketers calling during the dinner hour?) Under extraordinary circumstances, the king might extend his golden scepter and spare the petitioner’s life — but the prospects of taking that sort of chance were terrifying.
The young queen reported all these things in a message to her guardian, and he sent back this word … this small slice of dialogue I can’t get out of my mind.
Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Es t h e r 4:13–14, NKJV)
Notice the second sentence in Mordecai’s message:
For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place.
In other words, Mordecai was saying, “I have faith that the God of our fathers will not allow His people to be totally destroyed in this way. Somehow, He will step in. Somehow, He will spare a remnant of His people. If you sit back and remain silent, Esther, God will use someone else to achieve His purposes. But you are His first choice, and it’s up to you how you’re going to respond.”
Esther, of course, took her uncle’s message to heart. She determined to step into this God adventure — this opportunity to save her people. After calling all the Jews in the city to fast and pray for her, the young woman said, “And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” (v. 16, NKJV).
When God wants something done, when He has some kingdom “mission impossible” to accomplish, He goes looking for a man or woman to take the assignment. The Bible tells us that “the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (2 Chronicles 16:9, NASB).
He’s looking for people who will take on risky operations of love and mercy. He is looking for men and women who will put His will above everything else in life. And every now and then, perhaps even today, His eye rests on you, and He offers you that opportunity.
You can take it, or you can let it go by. If you don’t do it, He’ll probably select someone else — “relief and deliverance will arise … from another place” — and the job will get done. But you won’t even be able to imagine what you’ve missed!
A Fork in the Road
Another story that haunts me is Jesus’ encounter with a nameless wealthy young man as He made His final journey toward Jerusalem.
Here was an important civic leader, a youthful climber with prestige, bearing, and a bank account that would have been the envy of many older men in Judea. But there was a hollowness in his chest that led him ever so close to the God adventure of a lifetime.
For all his status and personal wealth, this man had a hungry heart. The Gospel of Mark tells us that he ran to Jesus, falling on his knees in the dust before Him. You know the story. He asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life. He knew the commands, and he’d kept them all since he was a boy.
But there was something more, and he knew it. He deeply wanted that something. But with all his heart? Not quite.
Mark tells us that Jesus looked at him and loved him.
“One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell every-thing you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” M a r k 1 0:21
It was a wide-open invitation into a God adventure from the lips of God’s Son. “Your mission, should you choose to accept it.…” We know that he didn’t accept the mission. We know that he “went away sad” (v. 22). The original language seems to indicate that this was something more than feeling a little down. He grieved. His heart was very heavy. Everything in him told him he was making a wrong choice … but he made it anyway. Jesus wasn’t asking him for his money. He wanted to change his identity. He was inviting him into a new way of life. It’s quite a picture, isn’t it? That invitation is still extended to each of us today.
But what if he’d made a different choice? What if this young man whom Jesus loved so dearly had taken a deep breath, agreed to the Lord’s terms, went back to his beautiful villa, and sold everything he owned except the clothes on his back? What if he had turned those assets over to a steward with the instructions to distribute everything, right down to the last denarius, to the poor people in the towns and villages across Judea? Then let’s imagine he came running back to Jesus, fell at His knees again, and said, “Teacher, it’s done. Everything’s gone. Everything’s sold. Lead me, Lord!”
What would his life have been like from that point on?
We can’t know that, of course. But maybe we can speculate a little. Would he have savored the close companionship of God’s Messiah, as Jesus walked toward Jerusalem and Calvary? Would he have become disciple #13, and then one of the mighty apostles, carrying the word of Christ out into the frontiers of civilization? Would he have experienced the very power of God flowing through him, healing the sick, raising the dead, and opening prison doors? Might he have written a book of the Bible that would touch bil-lions of lives over thousands of years? Would his name have appeared on the foundation stones of the New Jerusalem, in place of Judas (Revelation 21:14)?
And then what of eternity?
Jesus specifically told the wealthy young man that he would have treasure in heaven. To who else did He reveal such a thing? No one! When had Jesus ever spoken directly to an individual about his or her eternal destiny on the Other Side?
Something unimaginably significant awaited this young man … if only he would have responded in that moment, at that fork in the road. When the One who created the glories of the universe and set galaxies spinning into the void tells you He has something special in mind for you, well … who can even conceive of such a thing?
It was all right there for this young man. A life of transcendent joy and purpose. It was all within reach at the crossroads that day.
And he just walked away. He refused the offer. “At
this the man’s face fell. He went away sad” (v. 22).
And I have to believe that for the rest of his hollow days, until he was an old, old man, he would remember that moment, remember those eyes that met his, eyes that seemed to open into an eternal vastness … and he would ask himself how it might have been if he had traded in his gold for Jesus.
The point is, we have no idea — not even the smallest notion — of what we are accepting or what we are refusing when we make a choice about a God adventure. The implications reach across the years of this life and send their reverberations into eternity.
Since we’ll never know, the wise choice is to always follow God, no matter what He asks, no matter where He leads.
Even if it’s to a cross.
A Bigger Perspective
For years I chose not to participate in God adventures by simply not choosing at all. That’s a decision, too. Not choosing is a choice.
Not long ago, we had former NBA great David Thompson on the 700 Club, talking about coming to Christ after years of superstardom in the incredibly bright spotlight of professional sports. As with so many other athletes in that intoxicating realm, David pursued pleasure and became involved in many things he shouldn’t have. By his own account, he was really all about himself in those days.
In the interview, he used the word EGO as an acronym for Edging God Out. And so it is for all of us.
When we steadfastly close our hearts to God’s invitations, when we neglect to acknowledge His presence in our lives, we’re pretty much living in an “ego” mode, edging God out simply by staying in the center of our own universe. After years of living that way, it becomes more and more difficult to see things from a bigger perspective.
I think we’re born staring at our navels — and continue to live that way until we hear the voice of God speak to us in some fashion, through some channel or avenue, and we say yes to a deeper walk with Him. Now that might sound soft, warm, and spiritual, but it can be very frightening. It’s not without a price tag. But the blessings — both here and in the world to come — far, far outweigh that price tag. And once you get a taste of walking with Him, living with Him, hearing from Him, and being empowered by Him, nothing else will ever satisfy you again.
“One More Thing”?
Perhaps as you read these words, you’re thinking, This
sounds good. A God adventure may be just what I need in my life. Then again, the thought of adding “one more thing” to an already overcrowded schedule might strike terror in your heart. You may already feel on the verge of losing control to a schedule that is trying to swallow you alive.
It’s true that as believers we war against principali-ties and powers in the spirit realm — and I would never make light of that. But we also war against cell phones, fax machines, deadlines, homework, soccer schedules, and a seemingly endless list of commitments and distractions in our lives. It is so easy to get in the mode where life runs us, rather than the other way around. It’s all going by so fast that we can almost feel the wind on our faces as time flies by.
If I could give a peek inside my apprehensions and worries, this one rates pretty high. I don’t want to go through life having my life live me. I want to stand fully in the midst of it all on the rock of Truth and make choices that cause my life to matter.
Yes, it’s a constant battle. But I can tell you this: If the pace and busyness of life has overwhelmed me to the point that I can’t respond to the call of God — or even hear His voice — something has gone terribly wrong. Perhaps the reason some of us never hear the summons to a God adventure is because we never give Him a minute of our time. He can’t get a word in edge-wise. His still, small voice is drowned out by turmoil and noise. The psalmist writes of a proud, arrogant individual who was so full of himself that “in all his thoughts there is no room for God” (Psalm 10:4). May that never, never be said of me!
No room for God? No heart for God adventures? Why else are we here? Why else are we alive?
I think it must grieve God so deeply that He has prepared such an incredible journey and adventure for us during our years on earth, and so many of us choose not to tap into it. Sometimes we treat God as if He’s there for our convenience — as if He’s some kind of celestial Santa Claus.
We had an e-mail sent to the 700 Club last week from a lesbian. She wrote to Pat Robertson and said, “You’re critical of my lifestyle as a homosexual, and yet since I’ve come out of the closet I’m so happy. Isn’t my happiness what it’s all about? Isn’t this what matters to God?”
I don’t think this woman’s reasoning is all that unusual these days. Many people — including Christians — have bought into this creed. Isn’t my happiness the most important thing? Isn’t this what God’s interested in above all else? I’m supposed to be happy, aren’t I? Isn’t this what life is all about?
No, as a matter of fact, it isn’t. God’s primary inter-est is not in our happiness. He’s interested in our knowing Him, obeying Him, loving Him, being shaped by Him, and getting over the finish line to spend eter-nity with Him. At different points in life, we’ve probably all railed at God, saying, Why did You allow this to happen? Why didn’t You give me what I asked You and pleaded with You for? Why do You leave me in this terrible situation? Can’t You see it’s breaking my heart?
The ironic thing is that in the midst of difficult, heart-wrenching circumstances, we find Him in a deeper, more profound way than ever before. We find His presence and His strong help. We experience His comfort, provision, and whispered encouragements. And little by little, joy begins to seep into our soul — in ways we could have never known apart from those trying situations.
So often we allow ourselves to be content with the tiniest fraction of what God intended us to experience. We talk about God more than we talk to Him. We pas-sively participate in the adventures of others — in
stories of adventures — rather than living those adventures with Him.
There is more to life than this.
There are real-life rescue missions behind enemy lines. There are captives to be found and released. There are doors that will open at the most extraordinary times in the most extraordinary places. There are voyages of faith and expeditions of God-supplied courage with your name on them … should you choose to accept them.
Yes, the job will get done one way or another, with or without you. The eyes of the Lord, roving to and fro throughout the earth, will find someone else to step into the gap He had intended for you.
Don’t let it happen! Don’t walk away sad and live out your life with that most desolate of companions…
What might have been.
Throwing caution to the wind and choosing to live outside my comfort zone wasn’t something I just randomly decided to do one day. God’s invitation to come “out into the deep” with Him actually came at one of the lowest points in my life.
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