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The adventure of faith (1)

God calls us to an adventurous faith!

I’m not arguing for the reality of that as reflected by our experience.  In fact, it is because of our experience and status quo that I think we need to be reminded that Jesus calls us to adventurous living.  When Christ called His disciples, they left everything and followed Him (Matthew 4:18-22).  They were constantly reminded of the risks involved in discipleship (8:18-22,10:37-38,16:24-25,24:9-13).  After His death and resurrection, they courageously went throughout the world to make disciples and spread His kingdom.

It’s just a little bit different today, isn’t it?

Today someone becomes a disciple and what does it mean?  It means we clap, they get a baptismal certificate, and they get to take communion.  Can it mean the same thing now as it did then?  In cultural ways, it can’t.  In kingdom ways, it must.  And part of that is recognizing the nature of what God calls us to.  He does not call us to be wimpy, weak-kneed people, ready to stop the world for prayer on our behalf every time something doesn’t go exactly our way.  He calls us to be strong, vibrant, and courageous (2 Timothy 1:7).

Perhaps the place to start in understanding the nature of the life we’ve been called to is to get rid of the cultural baggage associated with the word adventure.  In our consumer culture, adventure inevitably becomes a thing to be purchased.  Do a web search on “Top Ten Adventures” and you’ll find things like the “Top Ten Adventure Trips,” and “Top Ten Adventure Vacations.”  When we think of adventure, don’t we think of things like hang gliding, bungee jumping, parachuting, swimming with the whales, rappelling, whitewater rafting, etc?  Most of our associations with adventure have to do with either going somewhere exotic or doing something exciting.  And all of them involve money.  It’s no coincidence that in the movie, “The Bucket List,” one of the two main characters is a billionaire!  He had to be to pay for all of the adventure! 

Now contrast this with what you see in Hebrews 11, where the writer brings before us a select group of people who possessed, by anyone’s definition, an adventurous faith.  As you scan through the chapter you find:

*      Abel offered a better sacrifice,”

*       Noah “built an ark to save his family,”

*      Abraham “obeyed and went.” 

*      Rahab “welcomed the spies,”

*      the Israelites passed through the Red Sea and marched around the
      walls of Jericho,

*      Moses’ parents hid him when he was a baby,

*      Moses “refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter.”

Rather than a thing to be purchased, adventure is truth to be practiced.  It is character (rather than consumer), driven.  The adventure of faith is about living life for Him.    

A word of warning is in order here.  Before we jump to the conclusion that their lives were non-stop thrills and chills, we need to note that their experiences involved extraordinary amounts of the ordinary.  Think about walking around Jericho for seven days.  Remember when the Israelites marched around the city they weren’t allowed to say anything (Joshua 6:10).  They had no cell phones to text with, no iPods to listen to, or PSP’s to play with --- it was a solid week of silently putting one foot in front of the other.

Then there was Noah.  It was about one hundred years from the time God told him to build the ark until the rains came.  What was Noah doing during this time?  He was building and ark and preaching (2 Peter 2:5).  No power tools or power points, just pounding and preaching.  Then the rains came and he and his family spent over a year together in the ark with all of the animals.  (I’m guessing the air freshener didn’t last too long).

Abraham and Sarah were on the road.  They didn’t know where they were going.  They just traveled on, mile after mile. 

We learn from all of this that we must resist the temptation (as strong as it is), to define vibrant living as being exclusive of anything monotonous or boring.  Those things were a part of the lives of the people in Hebrews 11 and they are a part of our life as well.  We are better off recognizing that there’s glory in the ordinary when it’s offered up to God.  Raising your children, working honorably at your job, treating others as you would like to be treated; these things might not occupy glamour slots by our culture’s standards, but they qualify as special when they are offered to God!  In fact, it is the very act of offering our routines up to God that puts them in the adventure zone.  It is this basic conviction rather than our circumstances which makes for an invigorating faith.

Perhaps the greatest challenge in reframing our thinking about adventurous living is understanding that it is not to be measured in personal terms or by personal achievements.  We live in a culture that is fixated with individualism.  To think of life as being primarily about ourselves is wholly American, but woefully inadequate.  After all, life isn’t lived that way --- it’s lived in community.  Since it’s lived in community, it makes sense to view it from such a perspective. 

We had a great example of this in the Olympics.  In the 4 x 100 men’s freestyle relay, the anchor was Jason Lezak.  In the individual freestyle event, he swam 100 meters in 47.67 seconds.  That’s not a bad time and it was good enough to win third place and a bronze medal.  In the team freestyle, he swam the fastest split ever (46.06).  He started behind the world record holder, and caught and passed him --- enabling his team to win the gold medal.    He came through for himself by coming through for his team.

 We’re not going to be able to experience the enriching life that God has in store for us if we insist on approaching life from our tiny, little individual perspectives.  It is only when we look at life from the perspective of community that it becomes what God meant it to be.

So what have I said about the adventure of faith?

*      I’ve said that it’s character, not consumer, driven.

*      I’ve said that it’s about possessing the conviction that there’s glory in
      even the ordinary when it’s offered up to God, rather than being about
      any special set of circumstances in our lives.
*      I’ve said that it’s about looking at life from a community, rather    individual, perspective.

I guess you could make the point that all of this seems to take the spontaneity out of faith and makes it look orchestrated, but I don’t think that’s the case.  What we should see is that faith is nurtured and thrives under certain conditions (remember Jesus’ story about the different kinds of soil?).  Where these things are present, faith will be genuine, healthy --- and adventurous!

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