The first speaker at Catalyst West Coast this year was Andy Stanley. The theme of the conference was “Take Courage,” and he admitted resisting the temptation to preach a sermon encouraging us to be brave like David or Gideon or Noah. While sermons along those lines have truth in them, it can be a challenge to relate to them when the chances of you having an army you need to whittle down to the faithful few are pretty small. There’s also the fact that if you’ve been around church long at all, you’ve heard plenty of sermons like that. Andy took a different route, and I’m glad he did.
Before he got into his message, though, I could tell he was bugged by the inability of this room full of alleged adults to control themselves with the little poppy things we’d been given. You remember those little boxes from when you were a kid – they were full of little bags of powder or something that would *bang* when you threw them at the ground? Somebody thought it would be a good idea to put one of those boxes under each seat. So many people couldn’t help themselves and kept messing with them long beyond the time they should’ve been. I found Stanley’s lack of amusement with them amusing. And he was right on. Anyway.
Here are a few of the highlights I got from his message:
The person engaging in an act of courage usually has no idea what the ramifications or impact of that decision will be. We’re not living in movies, and the orchestra doesn’t tense up when we’re about to make a climactic choice. We go through life and make the choices we’re presented with. Some have big impact and others little – but we don’t know which is which.
While our stories aren’t likely to be on the front page of the newspaper, we’ll face moments/opportunities/challenges that will require us to exercise the extraordinary courage we so often shrink from.
He then went on to describe three (he said four but ran out of time) faces of courage – times when courage may be required for us to move forward into God’s best plan for our life.
One of those situations was having the courage to ask for help when it would be easier to pretend that everything’s okay. The secrets you have influence the way you lead. You compensate for your secrets in ways you don’t notice but the others around you do. He called those who needed help but didn’t get it chickens.
We don’t ask for help because we’re afraid of what others might find out about us, or what we might discover about ourselves. But the real thing we need to fear, according to Stanley, is waking up one day and realizing we are outside of God’s will for our lives. If we are to lead, we need confidence that God is with us. If I’m not confident I’m where God wants me to be, how am I going to lead with confidence?
Do I fear being out of God’s will more than poverty? Irrelevance? The opinions of others?
I think what stuck with me most from his talk was something he said toward the end:
One day, everything I’m going through right now will just be a story. All the stresses, pressure, hopes, worries, doubts, fears, responsibilities – all of it will be a story. When this chapter of my life is over, what story do I want to tell about it?
“It would’ve been easier to X, so I did.”
“I was afraid of Y, so I didn’t.”
For some reason that really resonated with me. I can think back to so many situations and times in my life where I was consumed with one thing or another, worrying about this decision or that decision – and now they’re stories. I wonder how many stories I missed out on because I wussed out? I do not want to wuss out. I want my greatest fear to be that I’m out of God’s will for my life. I’m not sure it is. But I want it to be, and I will be praying for God to make it so.