Monday, December 20, 2010

Are You on the Bench or in the Game?

A little over two years ago on labor day weekend of 2008, unknown to me, my husband was down on his knees with a question for God. “Is this all there is to following you, Lord? I go to church on Sunday, I attend my men’s bible study group once a week, I read my Bible daily, I try to memorize some verses, and I pray. I share my faith with others. I try to incorporate your word into my life. But, I am bored in my faith. Is this really all it means to be a Christian?” I didn’t know about this prayer until earlier this year when Jake spoke at a church regarding our adoption and Ghana projects. At the beginning of his sermon he shared the details of how he felt about his faith at this point in his life. He explained that for 4 years in college, he had gotten to play basketball in front of exhilarating crowds of 14,000+ people a few nights a week. He’d been cheered on by the Cyclone faithful, he’d been spit on by opposing fans, his mug had been in the newspaper on an almost daily basis announcing his broken records and achievements, he’d been the face of the ISU men’s basketball team for 4 years, he’d been the target of ridicule and mean jeers during the games. He faced adversity on and off the court, he was challenged, he triumphed, he failed, and yet every day his life was filled with excitement and energy. In 2003 Jake had put his faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior. And yet 5 years later on that day in September, Jake had come to a crossroads. The daily hum drum of living the Christian life seemed boring compared to all the other things he had encountered in his life. Yes, he had salvation and an eternal hope. But what about the here and now? Wasn’t there more to this life? Wasn’t there more to living for God?

Little did we know that less than 3 weeks later, God would answer Jake’s prayer by beginning to open up our eyes to a world of desperate need, and give us an open door to be launched in. On September 21st , 2008, 20 days after Jake’s prayer, I had the experience at church when I felt God clearly speaking plans into my heart for our family to adopt. I know I’ve shared it a million times. But, the point is, that the adoption was only the first step for our family to be given opportunities to step out of our comfort zone, and start putting our faith into action. From the adoption came the idea for Jake to use the platform of basketball to begin helping the less fortunate in Ghana, from there the development of the Kingdom Cares 501c3 foundation, from there the international student hosting program started, from there the courage was born for our family to begin an ‘open doors’ policy for our home, from there stemmed the the Ghana projects that have been started with Kingdom Cares International. This was the type of faith-inspired adventure Jake had been longing for. God became bigger when we had to rely on Him fully and completely. God became bigger when we purposely had to decide whether or not we would venture out of our comfort zone. The scriptures came alive in our hearts because we were truly experiencing what it meant to walk by faith, not by sight. When Jake gets to speak at churches or to youth groups, he now makes the following distinction: There was one point when he understood Jesus' work for him on the cross, and put his faith in Jesus as his Savior. But, there has been a different point in his life when he consciously decided to give his life over to Christ to be used however God would use him. To Jake, these each happened differently and separately in his faith walk. He says, "When I put my faith in Christ I was then and there on God's team. But, I chose to sit on the bench. But when I eventually went all in for Christ and allowed God to use me for His purposes, I was no longer on the bench, I was playing in the game."

It is estimated that 70-88% of teens who profess Christianity walk away from their faith by their freshmen year of college (~Family Driven Faith~ by Voddie Baucham). Could the reason be because they have never experienced the adventure of what it means to totally go all in for God? To get off the bench and in the game? To trust Him so fully and completely that if He doesn’t come through for them, they will be in big trouble? There is a spiritual high that comes from being in these sorts of situations, because you see and experience the power of God in ways that you never have before. There is a deeper intimacy level in your relationship with God when you must fully depend on Him, even for your next step. But, if you’ve never found this with God, then it makes sense that at some point you will abandon your faith and try to seek this sort of exhilarating adventure elsewhere.

Do you say the Lord’s prayer at your church? Do you know what you are praying for when you say this part: May your kingdom come, may your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). How can God’s perfect purposes, His will, be accomplished on earth? Well, if we are in Christ, God has given us HIS SPIRIT so that He can USE US to accomplish His work on this earth. We are not the ones however to get the glory for this work because it is God working in us. However, we have a choice as to whether or not we allow ourselves to be used as God’s instruments. More on this immeasurable power of God’s Spirit at work in us tomorrow….

1 comment:

Diers said...

Jake and Janel,
We are so glad that God has allowed us to get off the bench with you all and become part of those in the game. It is weird to read this post this morning because I was literally on my knees this morning during my devotional with arms open, saying,"Lord...I am willing!" Wow! Thanks for the confirmation today! Love you guys!