In my last post, Luke Skywalker was getting schooled by Yoda in some basic truths about faith… and we applied this conversation to our own lives realizing that, like Luke, it is our lack of belief that brings our failures more than our lack of ability. It is our lack of belief that God can and will come through for us that causes us to hesitate, shy away from action, stand back and “wait to see what happens”. It is why we “try” instead of “do!” It is a faithless way to live… a belief-less way to see the world and our role in this story in which we live.
Some of you will argue with me, you will struggle to accept this, you will instead cling to a belief that it is our ability that matters most and that “faith” is more like motivation than power. But that view isn’t consistent with the story God has been telling throughout the ages.
Am I saying that “talent” or “ability” does not matter at all? No. I believe God uses these things and, in fact, He spends a great amount of energy developing, training, instructing, initiating, and nurturing our abilities. But, a lack of ability is never the main point. Our role is perpetual, and our true success is far more related to God’s work in us than our own striving.
Gideon (who, by the way, was referred to as “Mighty Warrior” before he had done a single thing) doubted God. He asked for proof after proof to reassure himself. He watched, shocked, as God answered his doubts not by beefing up Gideon’s abilities and support, but by reducing it, taking his fighting forces down from thousands to 300 men. And even then, it wasn’t powerful fighting skills that won the battle, but God. (Judges 6-7)
I won’t bore you with more examples, there are story after story throughout the bible just like this one. The theme is clear and consistent — “’Not by your own might or power, but by my Spirit’”, says the Lord Almighty”. (Zech 4:6) We simply struggle to accept it for ourselves. But, we must not let our struggle bury the truth of it.
And, if it is true, then there is a response needed… a question that must be asked. We must ask a question full of potential and faith and hope… we must begin to ask, “What if…?”
“What if…?” is a most powerful question.
The question, “What if…?” has the power to both sink every endeavor in your life… or to guide you toward a life of passion, enduring freedom, adventure, and great purpose.
When many of us hear the question, “What if…?”, we think of it with a sense of dread, more like “oh no! What if this or that happens?!” We fear the question because of what it might bring and what we might have to face. We fear we “don’t have what it takes”. Or, we fear God won’t be with us in the challenge ahead. Either way, this form of response to the question of “What if…?” reveals something deeper. If this is your response, then I challenge you to pause the next time the question is asked… pause and ask yourself “What does this say about my belief in myself and my trust in God?” And, in that moment of discovery, shift your heart back to God, toward trusting Him.
While it is true that the question “What if…?” is powerful because of the fear we’ve associated with it, its power does not lie in fear but in hope. The question “What if…?” is a hope-filled question, a passion-arousing question, a destiny-directing question.
Think of any great story you’ve ever loved. Can you see the question “What if..?” being asked? It is… again and again. In the Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien wondered, “What if there existed a place called Middle Earth, and What if Middle Earth were under threat?” And… a story came alive. In the movie The Matrix, Morpheus posed the great question to Neo, what if there was a place beyond what you know and you could play a role in saving it? That question launched a great adventure of discovery and rescue (and a multi-million dollar movie trilogy). Dorothy wonders “What if…?” there is a Wizard of Oz that can help me find my way back home.
In one of my favorite movies, Far and Away, Joseph and Shannon asked the question “What if…?” it were true that land was being giving away in America, and it launched an adventure that changed their lives forever. In the Lion King, Simba was asked to believe he was more than he had become. He was asked to believe “What if…?” it were true that he was the King and that he had a role to play? And he took back the savannah and rescued the lives of every animal in the kingdom. I could go on and on… the question is asked within every great story ever told. And, we know that a story is what we live in, too.
Our response to the question “What if…?” shapes our destiny. Erik Weihenmayer asked “What if…?” I could actually climb the mountain… and he became the first blind man to climb Mount Everest. Matthew and Tommy Barnett asked the question “What if…?” they could make a difference in the lives of the people of inner-city Los Angeles? What if God would come through? And, they launched the “Dream Center”, a place of hope and healing and rescue for over 40,000 people each month. Martin Luther King, Jr, pondered “What if…?” in his famous “I have a dream” speech and birthed a hopeful belief that changed a nation’s destiny.
Every good story begins with some form of this question, WHAT IF…?, and so does every life.
I have a challenge for you. Gather together with your small group or a few close friends, read this blog to the group. Then pass out index cards and ask them to write down five “What if…?” responses. Once everyone has written their responses, have each person in the group share one or two aloud. Then, issue them the challenge: Each of you must follow through on at least one item on their list by the next time you meet. Schedule another meeting at which you will all report on what happened.
Note: It can be a bit tricky… people are going to write down stuff they can’t control, like what if I hadn’t lost my job or what if my wife hadn’t left. Those are great questions to process, but they aren’t helpful for our experiment. The questions you are looking for are “what if I popped the question” or “what if I found my father” or “what if I held a fundraiser” or “what if I broke up with my bad boyfriend.” Those are the questions you are looking for. **
Learning myself to ask “What if…?” and be hopeful,
** I’m grateful for the influence of others in my life, and so I give credit to Don Miller as this blog was inspired by, and ‘the challenge’ borrowed from, one of his posts http://donmilleris.com/2010/04/13/the-what-if-challenge/