I Am The Way: Vision & Calling

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During Lent my church is posting a weekly reflection on Facebook around our ‘I am the Way’ Easter theme. Here is a repost of the one I was asked to write this week on the topic of ‘Vision & Calling’. It was originally posted here.

VISION & CALLING.

There’s a lot of song and dance about vision and calling. There’s a lot of fuss; a lot of noise. You hear it all the time: I don’t know what I’m called to do. I can’t see where I’m heading. God hasn’t told me what to do. I don’t know what my vision or direction is.

I hear it in my own life. It’s endemic in church culture. I hear it in the attitude of the 18-30s I work with. I’ve heard it from older people and I’m hearing it from some teenagers. A modern entitlement to a personal and specific ‘call’ or ‘vision’.

In some ways, it is quite right to focus on vision. Without vision the people are unrestrained (Proverbs 29:18). They wander aimlessly in many directions. If the church is a body, it won’t get very far if its limbs are pulling in different directions. We become sheep who have forgotten they have a shepherd. We don’t get very far.

I am a sheep in that crowd. Time wasted pondering my life’s calling, formulating the perfect, grand vision and missing the point. It becomes all about me. My vision. My calling. Me, me, me. I am a sheep who has forgotten the shepherd. An aimless wanderer, never truly committed, waiting for something specific, something clear, something shiny, something for me. In the song and dance, in the fuss and the noise, perhaps we dismiss the visionary words of Jesus: love God, love everyone, make disciples. Maybe he was pointing us to a vision and calling that isn’t just about me, me, me.

The writer of Hebrews tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus as He is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). That’s the way to live. We spend a lot of time obsessing about vision but forget what this truly means. Vision is what our eyes see. Am I looking at myself? Or will I look to Jesus? Not just a casual glance, but a fixed stare. Fix your eyes on Jesus. The Good Shepherd. The head of the body. The one who is the author of all life. The one who perfected it all. The pioneer of our faith. The completer, the finisher. The beginning, the end.

What is He saying? What is He doing? Let’s get involved with that.

Our vision is Jesus. Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Nothing more, nothing less. Our calling is towards Him. Fix your eyes on Him. He is the way.

Embracing the Journey: My Story of Worship

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I have a story to share. It is a story that began 16 years ago. It is a story that began when I was 10 years old.

It’s funny which moments you remember from childhood but I remember two moments of a certain week in the summer holidays. The first was this: I was at New Wine in one of the children’s groups when Holy Spirit showed up in my life for the first time. It was quite an overwhelming experience – the only other clear memory of that day was my sister who was two years younger came to meet me so we could walk back to our tents together and I basically shouted at her and ran off because I was overwhelmed by what had happened! A hilarious first move for a 10 year old who had just become a Christian. Thankfully my parents explained to me what had happened and encouraged me in the early days of my walk with God.

A few days later the team had invited Scott Underwood, a worship leader, to speak to the children. That, in itself, it turns out was pretty generous as this man was a well known worship leader and author in the Vineyard movement. Anyway, I don’t remember any of the session but I do remember at the end there was an invitation to anyone who felt God might be calling them to lead worship. I was only 10 years old but for whatever reason, I felt compelled to respond. We went forward to the right hand side of the stage and I remember Scott Underwood praying for us.

After the session I recounted to my parents what had happened. Now, my mum has since said that when I told them the story they laughed to themselves – this was a small boy stating he was going to lead worship… a small boy who had never shown any interest in music, had practically failed playing the recorder and couldn’t really sing. They didn’t really think it could happen. I don’t blame them!

The good news is my parents are fantastic and have always invested in us. This time they bought us an electric guitar. The only problem? I didn’t play it. It collected dust in our downstairs hallway. I had a go here and there but never really got into it. To this day, I’ve never really played that guitar.

A few years into secondary school I got significantly stuck into the music scene. I loved music. All my money was spent on CDs. Music spoke to me in a way nothing else did. I was inspired by it and challenged by it. I met God through the lyrics and the sound. It expressed what I felt on the inside but couldn’t find the words to describe. When I was 15 I borrowed an old acoustic classical guitar and taught myself some chords. It was a ridiculously hard guitar to learn on with a really wide neck. I still couldn’t sing but with a small bit of input from an older guy from church I taught myself the basics.

I kept going, never really investing in learning in any meaningful way, but trying to pick up a few songs here and there. I started trying to write some of my own (most are awful). Along the way I found that I could actually sing.

I kept playing in my room. Since I was 10 I always had an intense passion to be in the presence of God. I worshipped my heart out in my room whilst I was at college and then at university. I went through some hard times but I felt close to God when I sang. I poured my heart out before him, strumming and singing to myself. Me and the creator of the universe. Looking back it was like King David in a lonely field. I give Him my all. I learnt to lay down my life before Him with a sacrifice of praise.

I never played in front of people but people who didn’t know me very well kept giving me prophetic words about having a worshipping heart and leading others. I rationalised that this wouldn’t be in a music way as I wasn’t good enough for that kind of thing. I couldn’t sing properly, I couldn’t play guitar properly. It’s a heart thing, I thought.

I did Form (discipleship / leadership year) and ended up involved in our ministries for 18-30s at my church in Sheffield. Somewhere along the way, leaders who I trusted started saying I should lead worship. They were gentle but forceful. They were patient as I was very opposed to any thought of me being at the front of church, let alone playing guitar. I was nowhere near good enough to play the guitar in a church!

My leaders encouraged me and started giving me opportunities. My parents bought me an electro-acoustic guitar. I started leading in small groups with students and young adults. I was asked to sing at a friend’s wedding and played a song I had written. More importantly I kept pouring my heart out before God in my bedroom. I worshipped Him in a quiet and secret place. I wasn’t great at the guitar, I didn’t have the perfect voice but I knew He loved to spend time with me.

The first big opportunity I had to lead was at a worship event called His Presence. The organisers rang me a day before saying the person they had to lead couldn’t make it and could I play. Erm…?! I led with another guitarist (also called Tim) and my sister on keys. It was the first time I had played plugged in. It actually seemed to go well. I still didn’t think I was good enough. I kept putting off joining the worship team at church. Nicole Brown asked me a number of times. I avoided the opportunities. I wasn’t good enough.

Throughout this time I would speak to my mum on the phone and she would always remind me of this prophetic promise that a little boy received at New Wine when he was 10 years old. Every time she spoke of this it sounded as though she was convinced God has spoken. I did not believe in myself but my mum believed in me. More importantly, she had come to believe in the word from a loving Father over my life.

Over the last two years I have had more and more opportunities to lead worship. I finally joined the worship team and Nicole has always been generous in helping me to learn. As everything I’ve learnt was self-taught it has been a steep learning curve! Since September 2015 we have been having Worship Nights at our church and Andy Stone (church leader) has basically forced me to play with him! He saw something in my heart, encouraged me and believed in me.

Since the beginning of this year I’ve had the beautiful opportunity to lead worship with my lovely wife-to-be. Honestly, this is a dream come true. She has a stunning heart and an equally gorgeous voice. Her desire to pour out her praise to Jesus is contagious and inspiring. I have been very fortunate to meet a girl who I get to sing with. I have been very fortunate to meet a girl who believes in me – who sees things written on my heart by God and stands with me to say them come to pass. All praise to Him!

Finally, last Sunday morning – Sunday 28th February 2016 – I led worship at church during our Sunday gathering. 16 years since a boy heard an impossible word. 16 years of getting to know the heart of the Father in an empty bedroom.

Am I an amazing guitarist? NO! I still struggle to play in time! In fact, last Sunday was the first time I had led with a drummer and it was a new challenge. I am still learning. But this is what I have realised: God has given me the heart. I may not have the skills that others do, I may prefer to revert back to the same four chords, I may struggle with tempo, I may not have the best singing range… but I have the heart that God put in me a long time ago. 16 years ago in fact. It’s a heart that grew in a similar way to David, in the quiet places, alone in a bedroom. It’s a heart that has been encouraged by the generosity of my parents and amazing leaders. It’s a heart that was invested in year after year by New Wine. And it’s with that heart that I am able to lead worship.

Let it be a sweet, sweet sound.

I’ve often written about the process of discipleship and I hope that this story encourages you to hold on to the promises God gives you. In this instant culture we expect quick fixes, immediate answers and instant breakthrough. This is not the way of the kingdom: “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” (Mark 4:27) Sometimes (and I’m going to argue more often that not) it is a slow burning journey to the promised land. Patience is a valuable gift. Little seeds take a long time to grow. We can do things to nurture them but it is a mystery how they grow. Some seeds take many years to become tall trees. Make the little decisions along the way that invest in your heart. Get to know His heart. There is no logical reason for me to have ever led worship in a church service. It is all through the grace of God, combined with the little decisions to get to know Him in the secret place.

Last Sunday felt like a culmination of a long journey. It is a time to give thanks for all God has done. But it is a journey that is only just beginning.

 

#allin surrender

“Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead.” – C.S. Lewis

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Ever sung any of the following lyrics?

  • “Lord, I give you my heart, I give you my soul, I live for you alone.”
  • “Take the world, but give me Jesus”
  • “Strip everything away, til all I have is You, undo the veils so all I see is You”
  • “I’m giving you my heart, and all that is within, I lay it all down for the sake of you my King, I’m giving you my dreams, I’m laying down my right, I’m giving up my pride for the promise of new life, And I surrender all to you, all to you.”
  • “I’m falling on my knees, offering everything, Jesus you’re all this heart is living for”
  • “Be the fire in my heart, Be the wind in these sails, Be the reason that I live, Jesus, Jesus”
  • “Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would call me”

Full marks if you recognise all these lyrics. Here are the lyrics of some great, great songs! I love these songs and I love the heart behind them. But sometimes it is so easy to sing these lyrics without thinking about the inherent cost and sacrifice that is contained within them. These are songs of surrender. I’m sure you can think of other Sunday songs that contain a similar heart cry – to give Jesus everything. I’m sure you can think of similar prayers that you have prayed. What I am realising is that there can be a disconnect between the words that come from our lips and the actual action of surrender. It’s easy for me to sit and pray “Lord, I give you everything, take my anywhere” and for nothing to change in my heart. How many times have I prayed “take everything” but held on to every single thing that was holding me back from the depth of the Father’s heart? Wow, I am so very challenged just writing that sentence.

Here is a simple truth: surrender is not a fuzzy feeling we get singing these lyrics or praying these prayers on a Sunday. Surrender is Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday abandonment. Surrender is giving Him control of every single dimension of our life every single day of the week.

Surrender is realising He is the king and He therefore has absolute control. Surrender is laying down our control at the feet of Jesus. Surrender is giving Him everything that you have, everything that you could be, everything that you desire and dream about… it’s allowing Him to take it all – even if you never see it again. That’s #allin surrender. That’s the heart of a disciple. I am learning this every single day. And it is sometimes very painful because I really want to hold on.

Surrender is largely opposite to the mentality of our culture. Our society says fight for everything and be in control. You are entitled and you should battle for what you deserve. Surrender, therefore, can often be seen as a weakness. You don’t want to see an army going into battle with the mindset of surrender. You don’t want to see the England football team lay down without even trying! How countercultural is it that Jesus goes against this. The majority perspective is to fight for your promotion, hold on to your security, get to the top. We should not worry about the people around us. Don’t back down, seize every opportunity, win. Is this not one of the undercurrents of our culture? There is not much value placed on surrender, on going lower, on letting go of control. However, despite this surrender and sacrifice are core values for the Jesus follower.

Jesus states in the Amplified version of the Bible:

“If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also].” (Matthew 16:24)

Jesus is clear. The cost of discipleship is death. It is laying everything down. Surrender is death every day of the week. Death to my desire, death to my passions, death to my dreams. When He calls you, it is a call to die. It is disregarding and losing sight of myself and my interests and it is pursuing Him above everything else. And you know what? Death is damn painful. It hurts. My dreams are amazing. He put them there! I really want to see lives transformed, I want to see things grow, I want to see people come alive, I want to get married, to pursue the heart of Jesus alongside a girl, I want to be secure with somewhere to live, enough money to pay the bills… it is painful surrendering these things. None of them are bad – but am I going to pursue these things above Jesus?

On Tuesday morning during a talk at Form, Jesus specifically said to me, “will you give up everything to follow me?” He’s said it before, He will say it again. On a Sunday morning it’s often easy to pray that prayer. “God, I’ll go anywhere, I’ll do anything.” But when you put it in the context of letting go of my dreams, the deep desires of my heart, it suddenly becomes harder. Let me be honest, there are things that I want that I sometimes want a lot more than I want Jesus. A lot more. Still! And so that is why I got down on my knees and I cried. I cried longer than I’ve ever cried before. Some of the aforementioned hopes and dreams came to mind and I painfully laid them down. Is this what taking up a cross looks like? Is this death? Is this #allin surrender?

#allin surrender is a process

I’m not telling this story to draw attention to myself – I’m telling it as dying is all I feel qualified to talk about at the moment. This is my story every day at this time. And that’s the truth – the reality of a life of surrender is that it is a continual process. God is moving in my life at the moment, removing all that hinders love so that only He remains. The reality is that I still need to let go of some things. A lot of things. There are still things that I am pursuing above Jesus. There are still things where I cling desperately to control. Surrender is a process that lasts a lifetime.

But it is a process that is worth it. It costs everything, but there is nothing that is worth more than the priceless privilege of intimately knowing Christ Jesus. He is beyond worth – His love is of infinite value. In the process of kneeling before Him, heart laid open with all my dreams, tears and snot pouring out, I knew His love so close to me. My dreams were put there by Him, but He wants to lead and guide me. He wants it to be a relationship with Him first and foremost. His will, not mine. Will you give up everything to follow Him, to cleave yourself to Him in the most close way, even if you never see those dreams and passions realised? It is hard, but it is worth it. It is the call of Christ. Come and die. He is the God who prunes us back in order to see us produce fruit. Not just fruit, but fruit that lasts – fruit with eternal value (John 15). This is what CS Lewis was talking about! We have to let every part of us die before that part can bring resurrection life. Nothing that has not died will be raised to life. It starts with surrender. That’s why Romans 12 urges us to be “living sacrifices”. We are to live from the sacrificial altar of #allin surrender – it is a place of refinement, death, sacrifice, but also a place of holy fire and therefore a place of intimate connection and closeness.

The ultimate surrender

The context of surrender is that Jesus has already done it. We do not have a dictatorial king who harshly gives us dreams and then snatches them from us. No, we have the true king who in all His splendour humbled Himself to the point where He surrendered everything, first by becoming human and living as us and then by surrendering His life, forever uniting Himself with us on the cross. That is #allin surrender. He set the standard. There was no greater price, no greater surrender. His desire for us was worth dying for. His desire for you means He would do it all again. In that context, surely giving up everything to follow and be with Him is so unbelievably worth it? He has made a way! We surrender in His strength. We pick up our cross, disregard ourselves and cling to Him. God, we want to chase after You with everything we have. We want to lay aside all that holds us back and fix our eyes firmly on You. Where You go, we will follow.

Keep nothing back.
Surrender everything.
Go #allin. It’s worth it.

Who will join me on this endeavor?

  1. Is your life a life of daily surrender?
  2. Are there any areas of your life where you need to surrender today?
  3. What steps do you need to take to surrender?

I put together a soundtrack of five songs of surrender on my music blog. Listen here.


If you’re wondering where the #allin hashtag came from you’ll need to read this blog I wrote. I’ve also written a blog about #allin compassion here.

2014: #allin or nothing

People often tell me I need to write more blogs. I really appreciate this. Thanks. I can be a good writer and I probably have some good things to say. But at the end of the day, if I don’t live out the words that I type then it’s just empty and hollow. In the last ten years, I’ve written a lot of empty and hollow blogs. This is the reason that I don’t write as often as I did when I was at school, college and even university. I think I’ve realised that at some point you actually have to do something. You can’t just talk about it. Words are empty without action.

I have the ability to inspire and convict with words in equal measure. However, the fact is that we still all are glued to the computer screen and we’ll just check Facebook and Twitter one more time before doing anything remotely worthwhile. At some point we’ve got to do something about it. In this case, the same thing that has the ability to inspire or instill change actually neutralises it – let’s be honest, we’ve all spent time reading about change rather than instigating change in the situations around us or, indeed (and perhaps more importantly), the change needed in our own lives. In the blink of an eye, I can both inspire the depths of your heart and distract you from doing something about it.

So with a new year, I pose the following question: what would the world look like if we actually did something about it?

No, scrap that, here’s a better question. There is too much wonderful irony laced in the first question when it comes directly after that opening paragraph. (“Everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy) The question is this: what on earth would my life look like if it wasn’t just words and I actually did something about it?

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A few days ago at a football match I noticed an Adidas advertisement campaign and the words that I saw have resulted in this blog. The slogan was as follows:

“Game on or game over.
#allin or nothing.”

#allin or nothing.

Maybe, just maybe, this is what we’re called to?

Showing commitment.
Giving everything.
Leaving comfort.
Taking risks.
Going all in.

At some point you just have to get out of the boat. #allin. Step out of the boat. Even if that means getting wet. Even if that means falling flat on your face. Even if that means getting your heart broken. Even if that means getting it wrong. Even if that means failing. Even if that means facing fears. Even if it’s impossible.

What would happen if I went all in?

That moment where Peter steps out of the boat is so audacious. It’s one of the best biblical examples of going all in. There’s no logic to it. The figure (Jesus) upon the waters (that the disciples thought was a ghost) tells Peter to come because Peter asks the figure to tell him to come. How much sense does that make? And Peter does it. How much sense does that make? He gives everything in that moment. He climbs out of the boat, clothes on, eyes fixed upon who he thinks might be Jesus. It might not have been. He might have got it wrong. He might have looked like a fool. A cold and dripping wet fool. But he ignores the doubts, he ignores the wind and the waves and he steps out that boat. He goes all in. It might not have made sense on the surface, but in fact, it’s the opposite that’s true for Peter – #allin or nothing. It made no sense to him to stay in the boat! If he couldn’t go all in, it wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth a fisherman dropping everything because a man said “follow me”.

2014 and I’ve heard those same words. “Come, follow me”. It’s the call of Jesus. “Nothing else is worth it, nothing else can satisfy like I do, no love even comes close to the love that I am and that I give.” Nothing compares. And so I’m convinced that the walk with Jesus is meant to be one where we go all in. Going all in is what is required to see our God-given dreams burst into life. Sometimes it involves sacrifice. Wars don’t end without someone taking a stand. The starving are not fed without radical effort and without someone going further. Lasting social change doesn’t happen overnight. Books don’t write themselves. Songs are not composed if you never took time to learn the instrument. Water isn’t walked on unless you get out of the boat. Safety and security must be left behind. At some point you have to nail your colours to the mast. You have to go all in. Lukewarm living is not life to the full (ask the church in Laodicea – Revelation 3:14-20). There’s a choice. There are so many things that we put our hands to with no real commitment – there’s little desire and little heart. And what have the results been? It makes no sense to stay in the boat! If we’re not giving Him everything, it might as well be nothing. If we try to hold onto our life, we end up losing it (Luke 17:33). What if we followed Jesus with our whole hearts? What if we gave Him our whole lives? What does it look like to go all in?

  • What would happen if I loved people to the point where I couldn’t walk past a hungry stranger without providing them food?
  • What would happen if money wasn’t ‘mine’ but was a good gift from a good Father that could be used for radical generosity at any moment?
  • What would happen if I actually prayed for every person with physical need to be healed?
  • What would happen if I didn’t just drift along in life but actually seized opportunities to make a difference?
  • What would happen if I put the work in to see my dreams fulfilled? What if I didn’t just have good ideas and pipe dreams but tangible goals that, with determination, focus and effort, could produce lasting fruit?
  • What would happen if I opened up my heart so that ‘community’ and ‘family’ were not just concepts but realities to explore and embrace?
  • What would happen if I went all in? If I got out of the boat and got a bit wet? If I took a few more risks? If I believed that impossible could become possible with a bit of motion and a lot of fixing my eyes on Jesus?

It is so easy for me to give up before I have even started. But here’s to 2014, a year where more and more of these words are no longer empty and hollow but are rooted in the light and life of a heart that went all in. And we’re bound to miss the mark once in the next 365 days so here’s to each day given over to Holy Spirit’s leading and to pursuing the best Dad who loves us relentlessly and to awakening more and more to the fact that we are one with Jesus, united in His death and resurrection. Or here’s to the next hour where we will go all in – where we will choose to give Him our whole heart and embrace the opportunity or risk that brings about in the next sixty minutes. Moment by moment, day by day: chasing dreams, taking risks in love, giving Him everything, going all in and getting a bit wet.

Because if we’re not going all in, how much do we believe?
If we’re not even aiming at going all in, why bother?
It might as well be nothing.

It makes no sense to just stay here.

#allin or nothing. Happy New Year.

The Problem with Comparison

“But muuuuuum! He’s already had more of that!”

I was greeted by this familiar complaint about a month ago as I sat eating with a family. Immediately I was transported back to my childhood when sometimes life just wasn’t fair. Growing up with a younger sister and two younger brothers means that sometimes they get things that you don’t. Sometimes someone gets more. When you are little the pain and heartache of seeing that extra slice of delicious dessert ending up in the tummy of a younger sibling is hard to understand.

“But muuuuuum! That’s not fair!”

But here’s the interesting thing – it didn’t end around the table when I was ten years old.

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Fast forward to the year 2013 and it’s still the same story. Twenty-three years old but still comparing myself to the people and situations that are around me.

Sometimes it’s as superficial as my (poor) fashion sense or the fact I’m only working nine paid hours each week (which is not always easy on the bank balance). Sometimes it’s the fact that other people are seeing lots of people being healed or encounter Jesus when they pray, but I’m not. Sometimes it’s because the groups I lead aren’t growing how the groups others lead are growing. Sometimes it’s jealousy that other people across the city have had the opportunity to teach somewhere or step out and do something big and cool and I haven’t (when I think I deserved those opportunities more). Sometimes it’s the reality of having a massive heart to see students in this city encounter God’s love and then getting frustrated when I see other churches or other leaders bearing a lot of fruit and seeing a lot of breakthrough in this area, when I haven’t seen any students get to know Jesus for the first time.

I’m just being honest. I compare myself to other people a lot.

The Process

And here’s the problem with comparison – it suffocates you! It blinds you from seeing the potential around you. It prevents you from seeing the fruit and growth in front of you. And it stops you from seeing the heart of a loving Father that cares for you more than you could ever know. When we compare ourselves to others, we’re looking at the world through our perspective and not the perspective of our Dad in heaven.

You see, what I have noticed is that there seems to be a process. God doesn’t just plonk us at our final destination right away and leave us to it. Instead, there’s a journey that we need to go on to get there. Comparing ourselves to other people ignores this process. But this is a process that you cannot rush.

Here’s the truth:

  • There’s always going to be people that are further ahead of you.
  • There’s often going to be times when you are worn out, down in the ditch and there are people around you where everything they touch turns to gold.
  • There will always be people who are seeing more people encounter God’s love through what they’re doing.
  • There’s going to be people who can walk up to any stranger on the street and have a spiritual conversation at the click of the finger.
  • There will be people that are discipling and leading more people than you.
  • There will be people who can sing better, dance better, play instruments better.
  • There’s going to be people who are stood on stages whilst you’re sat in the dirt.
  • And there will always be people who have more of that chocolate cake on their plate than you.

And guess what? It’s ok. Take your eyes off what other people are doing and fix them on Jesus – as you do this you open your eyes to what he is doing in you right now. In this very moment. If you follow him… if you are a disciple of Jesus… I can guarantee that even if you aren’t doing exactly what vision or dream he has put in your heart, he is doing something in you. Something that’s taking you forward. Even if it is hard. It’s a process. We’re learning.

Stop focussing on what other people are doing! Yes, we can and should learn from them! But don’t operate from a place of jealousy or a place of self-deprecation because you’re not doing what they’re doing. Engage with the process – do what he’s calling you do in this moment. Because in those moments we are taking those little, little, baby steps towards his heart. And we are growing. Don’t worry that you can’t always take the giant leaps. The little steps are just as important. You’re still moving forward.

I was listening to Paul Manwaring speaking the other day and he said the following: “God wastes nothing and he gets you ready.”

He wastes nothing.

And he gets you ready.

Learn to embrace this truth. Rest in his love. Life might be tough. It might not seem fair, but God is good – he wastes nothing and he is getting you ready.

The Older Brother

You probably know about the older brother in the story Jesus told about two sons and a father – the one who got really annoyed when his younger brother who had essentially stuck two fingers up at their dad and wished him dead then was welcomed home, given some new gear (a robe and a ring) and a party with a massive and presumably tasty fattened calf.

I can relate to his complaint: “Daaaaaaaaad, I’ve been here all this time, working hard, breaking my back, slaving away and you have never given me a new coat, let alone a party with a calf…” – it’s the typical tantrum. I had that tantrum when I was ten years old and to be honest, I still have the same tantrum every so often behind the closed doors of my bedroom. “COME ON JESUS! WHHHHYYYY? Why won’t you give me this? I’ve done this, I’ve done that, but you’ve not grown my group – what are you playing at? You’re growing other groups – why not mine?!!”

And what’s his reply? It’s there in Luke 15 and it’s the thing we always, always, always miss when we compare ourselves to other people: “my son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours”.

You are family.

You are always with me.

Everything I have is yours.

And this is the beautiful truth that has reverberated off the walls of eternity and echoed through time. It is demonstrated by the moment that God himself went to the cross and became all the rubbish you would do, just so he could have relationship with you. This is the message of a loving Father who is overwhelmingly for you…

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Simple as that. He loves you for you. Not for who you could become. Not for the people who are around you. He loves you as you, right now. Yes, he wants the best for you. But you are enough. You’re his son or daughter. He is always with you. Everything he has is yours. So you don’t need to worry. Because you are enough.

You are enough. You are enough. You are enough.

  1. Where do you compare yourselves to others?
  2. Can you recognise the process that God has you on to become more like him? How does this suffer when you compare yourself to other people’s successes, breakthroughs and achievements?
  3. What little steps can you take in this moment to engage with the journey Jesus is taking you on?

Encouragement.

“That is SO encouraging!!”

How many times have we heard someone say that? It is a very typical response to a range of scenarios. Maybe I gave you a generous compliment… or maybe I prayed for you after a church service. Maybe I gave you a prophetic word… or maybe I said I was here for you if you ever needed it.

“Thanks Tim, that has really encouraged me…”

…has it?!

“…that’s really encouraging to know”

…is it?!

I have been thinking about encouragement a lot recently. I am not discounting the above as examples of encouragement but I believe there’s a new depth of ‘encouragement’ that we are yet to grasp.

It comes down the actual word. Think about this: the prefix “en-“ means to “make” or “put in”. The word ‘encourage’ therefore essentially means “to put in courage”. When was the last time you thanked someone for saying something encouraging to you? Did it really put courage into you? Did it deposit something into your heart that allowed you to courageously step out as who you are meant to be?

Because that’s the kind of encouragement that I want to start to give. That’s the kind of encourager that I want to become.

Everyone Needs Encouragement

You see, everyone needs encouragement. At the moment I see a lot of people with a lot of training but they do not have the courage to step out and see their God-given dreams fulfilled. You can have all the training and equipping in the world, but you won’t do much without the courage to step into the person that you were created to be.

The great thing about being in relationship with the God who created the entire world is that He has the capacity to released massive dreams in people. This is great! We are each created in His image with God-given kingdom potential embedded in us. Sometimes these dreams seem impossible, but they are not when the creator of the universe is living inside of you! That’s why encouragement is so important – it’s calling out that God-given potential in people and giving them the courage to live it out!

Think about the examples above: if I give you a compliment or a prophetic word but you walk away the same as before, has it really encouraged you (put courage in you)? But if I give you a compliment or prophetic word that instills a sense of courage in your heart where you can walk out the room with a smile on your face, believing that you can see the Kingdom of God come in your situation and you can see your God-given dreams become reality, no matter how big or crazy… then that sounds like encouragement!!

Invitation and Challenge

The great thing about this kind of encouragement is that it encompasses both invitation and challenge. Imagine someone comes to me and says: “Tim, I believe in you. I believe that you can see both universities in Sheffield transformed by God’s love. Your dream to see broken students encounter God’s love will become a reality. Keep stepping out and taking opportunities because I believe in you Tim and I believe in the dreams God has given you.”

What a great thing to say to someone! Not only are they affirming what God has put in my heart, but they are inviting me into relationship and backing me as a person. However, it is also contains an element of challenge – it’s saying “I believe in you, so go and do it!” Step out and live the life God has called you to. Go!

Jesus was the best encourager. When I read some of His words I like to imagine what it would have been like to have been there. Can you imagine how courageous you would feel if Jesus said to you “all authority has been given to me, so go! Get out there and make disciples everywhere… and I’m going to be with you along the way, every single day, no matter what!” (paraphrase of Matthew 28:18-20)? That’s encouragement! There’s the challenge of chasing after an amazing dream and purpose – people from all nations being discipled! To get there, they have to go. Yet it is combined with the invitation and the reassurance that He will not leave them! No wonder these uneducated fishermen saw 3,000 people saved on day one after Holy Spirit showed up in Acts. They were left full of courage by Jesus (courage that is reinforced and increased by the wonderful Holy Spirit – Jesus in them!!)

If we just challenge people without the invitation of relationship, we end up beating them down. I don’t think the disciples would have been as effective if Jesus had just said “go and change the world and disciple people”. That sounds scary! How could they step out to be the people they were created to be without the reassurance that Jesus was going to be with them?! In the same way, if we only challenge people we do not release people to be who God has made them to be. And my guess is that those people will continue to struggle to overcome the areas of their life that you are challenging in them. However, if we grasp what it means to encourage, to put in and instill courage in the hearts of the people we are discipling, then we will see a courageous generation stand up who see and hear the dreams God has put in their heart and they believe that they can play a part in seeing them become reality.

So go! Find people that encourage you and go and encourage the people around you. We need to create a culture of encouragement by being encouraged ourselves and learning to put courage in the hearts of the people around us.

  1. Are you good at encouraging (putting courage in) people? Think of some ways that you can encourage people around you.
  2. Who are the people around you that give you the courage to be the person that you were created to be?
  3. Who are the people you feel God is telling you to encourage this week?