Last weekend I co-led a conference designed for younger men which I call the Challenge. This is the eighth Challenge event I have led in Canada and the UK over the last few years. Over eighty men shared in fellowship, tears, love, teaching and even a baptismal service in the frigid waters of an adjacent river. That made me pine for the Presbyterian mode of baptism by sprinkling I was raised in!
Every one of the men comes with an assignment describing a challenge he has faced over the last year, and how God has helped him through it. Then I get as many as possible of them to share, which leads into prayer for those still experiencing the type of challenge described in the assignment. The result has been a massive impact on mens’ lives which again and again has left me in amazement.
My son-in-law Josh walked into the conference centre and dropped his assignment into my lap. It was a minor miracle that he made it, as his wife (our daughter Katie) is eight months pregnant with their second child, and experiencing some complications. In addition, he was trying to meet a deadline for his MA thesis, and look for a job. But Josh and Katie decided his meeting with God took priority. How much of a priority do you make meeting with God? Just a thought.
In his assignment, Josh talked about how the magnitude of the financial challenges facing them as a family had begun to rob him of his peace with God. He had begun to learn how God increases our capacity to receive peace not in spite of, but through times of pain and tears. And he shared how the Lord was drawing him to become “greedy” for his presence, for the tremendous riches of love flowing from the throne of grace.
He shared how in the process of drawing near to God, the Lord had exposed areas of rebellion in his life. He shared his discovery that fighting God’s ways was in the end pointless. And he shared that as their bank account got lower day by day, he made a critical strategic decision: to collapse into God’s will.
I think that is a remarkable and profound statement for anyone, let alone a young man, to make. We can fight God’s will through disobedience. We can ignore God’s will through apathy. We can pay lip service to God’s will through religious exercises. Or we can collapse into his will through radical obedience.
The statement reminded me of the prophetic words spoken by Moses shortly before he died: “The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27). We often use these words in funeral services, but in context they are about life, not death. They are about the God who rides through the heavens to help his people (verse 26), and who thrusts the enemy out before them (verse 27). They are about a people “saved by the Lord, the shield of your help, and the sword of your triumph” (verse 29).
The time of crisis is not a time to rush out and do all sorts of things on your own initiative and in your own wisdom. The time of crisis is not a time in which your disobedience, apathy or religious exercises will help you.
The time of crisis is the time to collapse into God’s will. And if you’re a wise person, you might even learn to collapse into it before the crisis comes.
When I was at university, we used to challenge each other to a “trust exercise,” in which one guy had to fall backward, not knowing whether the other guy would catch him or not. Most of the guys were not Christians, and the results were interesting. But God is not like that. God is all-powerful and he is all-merciful. His arms are underneath you, not so much to sustain you in death as to strengthen you in life.
Try collapsing into his will today. Those results will be interesting too.