This weekend we watched the movie Jesus Revolution. It’s the story about Chuck Smith and Greg Laurie, two men who were integral in the Jesus Revolution movement in the 1970’s. I won’t wreck the story, but too surmise the movie, Chuck Smith, a pastor, is faced with one major life changing choice, to stay in the comfort and confines of religion, tradition and ritual, or the choice of doing the right thing and opening the doors of his church to a generation who was hungry for God. Chuck knew his decision would come at a great price, his reputation, friendships, and finances all would be affected, but he also understood the price of not doing the right thing. He chose to open the doors and he became a major player in the Jesus Revolution. Understand that doing the right thing is never easy. There will always be consequences and great cost. Though Chuck saw major success after making his choice, that is not always the case. Often doing the right thing brings pain, misunderstanding, and hurt. Doing the right thing may cost you your reputation, friendships, and often means times of uncertainty. It often cost more than we want to pay. It often goes against the grain of tradition. If you question that, take a look at the cost Jesus paid for going against the grain. In my early years of ministry, a situation developed where I knew I was going to have to make a decision, whether to defend a friend or allow a wrong to continue. It wasn’t easy, but I decided to defend my friend, knowing the cost would be heavy. Near the end of the story, I stood in the office of a minister who I highly esteemed, unwilling to compromise my integrity. I knew that my character would be attacked, that I would lose my job, and that my future held a lot of uncertainty. I had a young wife, two kids, and no idea of how we would survive, but as I walked out the door of his office that night I walked out with my personal integrity, self-worth, and dignity. I had done the right thing. I lost my job, but gained the attention of God. There are critical times in our lives when we must choose to do the right thing. There are seasons when we hurt our spouses. There have been times when I’ve hurt Mary and she could have ran, but she stood by me. Though difficult, she did the right thing. There was a moment in our life when Mary was incredibly fearful I was going to abandon her. She was sick, broken, and very afraid I was going to leave her, but I reminded her of the vow I made to her, “that for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, I would never forsake her.” Unfortunately, in difficult moments, too many people do what is convenient, not what is right. A few years ago, God challenged me to make a change at the church we pastored. I had prayed for months, fasted, and poured over scripture. I knew the challenge God laid before me was going to come at a heavy cost, but I also knew that if I didn’t obey, I would be living outside of what he had asked me to do. As I walked into the board room that night, I knew I was going to lose family, close friends, and it there would be financial implications. It would have been easier to bow to tradition, but that night I knew I had to do what God had challenged me to do, to open the doors of His church to more hungry people. It was one of the most painful and difficult seasons of our lives, it has cost Mary and I so much more than we wanted to give. We lost close relationships, were abandoned by ministers, and shunned by many, but we’ve watched the church go into another dimension because we did what was right, not what was easy. I must warn you, the challenge of doing what is right never ends. Two years ago, after a Wednesday night service, God spoke to my heart and said, you are finished, you have completed your task at Life Connections. I remember getting in the car and sharing my heart with Mary, we wept, there was unity, and even though we were filled with uncertainty, we knew instantly it was the right thing. We left the campus, called our kids, and asked them to meet us at our daughter’s home. We shared what God had spoken to us with them; we all wept, it was a painful and difficult moment. Even though they didn’t totally understand, they agreed to pray with us and said they would support our decision. The next day we began to pray for God to direct us on how to proceed. As the process began to unfold, we began to realize it was going to cost us more than we wanted, and it was going to bring more change than we anticipated. We knew the right thing was going to come at a great amount of personal financial loss. We began to understand that there was going to be a tremendous void in our lives, and that it was going to leave us with no certain future or direction. Truthfully, it would have been easier to meander along, to stay the course, to hold on, but it would have also meant we would have been out of the will of God, that we would be living selfishly, and so many in our community would miss experiencing what God had for them. We had no choice but to do the right thing. So, we did. We left comfort for uncertainty. This weekend, after being away from our church for two months, we were able to go back for the celebration and installation of the new pastors, Phil and Annie Daigle. It was absolutely amazing! The foundation we had built was being built on. There was so much life. So many people who were growing. So many new faces. We left confident that the future is bright and knowing what is hard for us is good for others. Know this, in your career, your life, and in your family it will always be easier to do what is convenient over what is right. When you do what is right there is no guarantee of success, no guarantee that it won’t be painful, difficult, or lonely, but we can attest to this, that when you obey God, you will always be able to lay your head on the pillow of your bed and say, I did the right thing. There is no greater peace.
Payton Manning. He doesn’t have as many Super Bowl rings as some. He didn’t have a canon for an arm, and he may not have looked like some kind of physical specimen, but he will go down as one of the greatest to ever play the position of quarterback. What he lacked in strength, he made up for in preparation and study. No one knew their playbook or the opposing defense better. He would spend hours on end studying, not only his playbook, but watching film of opposing teams’ defense. He knew the subtleties of opposing players. He could tell if a blitz was coming by which hand a player put on the ground. He knew how teams would disguise their coverage to the point, that he often told opposing teams’ players that they were out of position before snapping the ball. When a game started, he had scripted his first 25 plays, knowing the opposing team’s tendencies. His intellect of the game was and still is, incomparable. But probably his greatest ability was to call an audible. Regardless of what he had scripted, how much he had prepared, if he noticed a nuance in a defense, he would instantly change the play. It didn’t matter how much he had practiced or scripted, if he saw a weakness in a defense, he audibled. His code word was “Omaha.” If his teammates heard it, they knew Payton was changing the play, if the opposing team heard it they knew they had been exposed. At the word Omaha, defenses would panic and scramble to try to make a change in their scheme. Payton’s ability to go off script allowed him to destroy defenses, and sometimes it seemed, he could score at will. We as Christians, in church services, in our daily walk, we need to know when to call an audible. We need to know when the Spirit is leading us toward a defining moment. As they would each day, Simon Peter and John were on their way to prayer, but this day would be different. As they were walking, they heard the Spirit say, today I want you to stop at the beggar’s station, speak a word, and pick up the beggar. By obeying, by audibling, a miracle took place and an explosion of growth moved through the church. Plan your day, plan a service, but once we’ve got it all together always be ready for a “Omaha” moment. It’s often when we go off script that we see the miraculous and experience the supernatural!
I recently read of a feud between to neighbors in California. One got upset with the other over a landscaping issue and has proceeded to continually play the Gilligan’s Island theme song over outdoor speakers just below the acceptable decibel level of the city ordinances. There is now a lawsuit. The power of persistence is amazing. In Joshua 6, God tells the people to walk around the city one time each day, with the priest continually blowing trumpets. The battle plan makes little sense, but Israel’s consistent obedience brought an indescribable victory. Jesus speaks of a widow in Luke 18 who consistently asked a judge to grant her protection, she was so persistent that the judge says, “I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.” Want to know something else, God is consistent in His love for us. In Luke 15 we read the story of the prodigal son. While the son walked away from the father, the father never gave up on his son. Day after day he was watching, hoping and believing his son would return. In Luke 15:20, it says, “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” We have a God who consistently looks for ways to love us and show mercy and grace toward us. It’s important that we realize that when we are not consistent, when what we say and what we do at church does not match up in our daily life, the gospel and the power of the Spirit loses credibility. Live a consistent Godly life. Live it before your spouse, your children and the world you are called to reach.