Bringing the Umbrella

The last rain was a month ago, and that wasn’t near enough.  Hot, dry wind whips dust along the roads and across the fields, where the scraggly remnants of this year’s crops cling to life.  The church has called an emergency all-night vigil to pray for rain.  People shuffle in, faces somber, heads bowed, hands empty.  Except for one little girl, who marches through the blowing dust toward the church, her small hands clutching a pink, kid-sized umbrella.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  Faith is the concrete thing you do right now because you expect God to hold up His end of the bargain.  Faith is bringing an umbrella to the prayer meeting.

Faith makes you look like an idiot sometimes.  Like Noah did, building an enormous boat on dry land.  Like Abram did, leaving his city behind to go…where, exactly?  Like Gideon did, taking on the armies of Midian with a mere three hundred men.  Like Elijah did, stacking the altar with wood, drenching it with water, and then asking God to supply the fire.

When we insist on real results, and we focus on the things that God told us to…that takes faith.  Because the things God tells us to focus on aren’t things we can control.  They just won’t happen if He doesn’t show up and provide.  Do we think He will?

Faith is acting like He will.  Doing the things that don’t make any sense unless God is going to show up and do something.  And that’s pretty crazy, unless…

…unless we have some sense of what God wants to do, and we’re willing to align with it.  Or at least we know what God wants us to do, and we trust Him to do something useful with it, however crazy that may seem at the time.

In Psalm 25, David prays, “O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed.”  It sounds kinda fancy when you say it like that, but what it means is, “Please don’t let me look like an idiot for trusting You here.”  The key to the request is the first part: “I trust in You.”  Very often we don’t trust in God.  Very often, if we were honest, the more appropriate prayer would be, “God, I didn’t even bother to ask You what You want to do.  I just think my plan is a great idea, but it’s pretty high-risk.  Please don’t let me look like an idiot for taking this risk on something I just decided to do on my own.”  I’m not sure how excited God would be to answer that prayer.  

For many years now, I’ve built my ministry projects around a core of obedience to the things God told us to focus on.  I don’t claim to have the way to do it, but I take it as an article of faith that there must be some way to do what God told us to do, and do it well.  I am partnering with other believers who want to know what obedience looks like. We find out together — not usually on the first try. It’s a messy process, difficult to program and impossible to control.  How do we live with it?

I set goals, but all my goals are prayer requests. When I say the goal of the Victorious Bible curriculum project is to help people understand the biblical story and live in terms of it, I understand something of how the process will work…now.  Even now, I know that if God doesn’t show up and grant clarity and repentance to the people we are teaching, all of it will be for nothing.  But when we started, all we knew was this was something God wanted to do.  Stating the goal was saying, out loud, that we heard what God was saying and we were willing to receive it. We postured ourselves to receive the blessing that would come, and trusted God to deliver whatever we lacked along the way. 

In other words, we brought our umbrella.  What we are doing is taking a posture of reception.  We believe that obedience is the best posture of reception.  If we do what He says to do as far as we can, and trust Him to supply what we cannot, He will.  And we believe we’ll get further that way than we will if we wait for Him to ante up first.  “You bring the flood water, God, then I’ll start building the boat” doesn’t work so well.  

We are preparing to receive what God will give — whatever that will turn out to be.  If God does not give fruit, then we won’t have it, and there’s nothing we can do to change that, because we can’t manufacture Kingdom fruit anyway.

***

Prayer Exercise

Ask God to show you something He wants you to shoot for this year.

It could be something big, like finishing that book project, or something small like striking up an acquaintance with your neighbor. See what God might put on your radar.

Then ask what you need to do to receive that thing. Schedule time to receive, whether that means inviting the neighbor over for coffee, scheduling alone time to sit down and write, whatever. Commit yourself to taking that posture of reception once a week, and see what God will do.

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