For the past couple weeks MPC Youth has been working through a series called “Into the Wild.” It looks at the life of Abraham and how God called Him to pack up his belongings, leave everything he knew, and start walking into the wild until God said he had arrived (Genesis 12:1-4). It had to have been scary for Abraham to trust God, but he did it anyway. As Christians we can learn a lot from Abraham. Abraham had faith that God would provide for all his needs and would fulfill His promise to make Abraham the father of a great nation. We can have the same level of faith in God when it seems that He is calling us to go into the wild.
The question that we asked ourselves at youth group was, “What ‘wild’ might God be calling me into?” There were some great insights. Someone said that God might be calling us to follow our passions even when they seem difficult or impractical, and trust that He put that passion inside of us. Another suggestion was to treat everyone we bump into at school, work, or even our family with love and grace, which is often very difficult. We talked about some other small ways that God might call us into the wild, but we also recognized that it is important that we don’t assume God will only ask us to do small things; we need to be ready if God calls us to do something BIG. We need to trust that He will go before us and fulfill the promises He has made to us.
We also talked about how Abraham, who is renowned for being a righteous man, screwed up too. Abraham was not perfect. He made mistakes and sometimes thought he was doing the right thing. We see this in Genesis 16 when, after waiting ten years to have a child Abraham and Sarah decide to have a child through Sarah’s servant Hagar. It was Sarah’s idea but both Sarah and Hagar end up hating the situation. Abraham and Sarah tried to solve the problem themselves instead of trusting that God would follow through with His promise. Nevertheless, God blessed Abraham and his family. God did not cast-off Abraham because of his lack of faith. We can learn a lot from that story. Just like Abraham, we often try to fulfill the promises of God by ourselves. The reality is we are selfish, impatient, or misguided. By our actions we often hurt ourselves and others around us, but God doesn’t give up.
I volunteer at Strath Haven High School as a Coach for Ultimate Frisbee. At the beginning of each game I circle up the players and one by one I look them in the eyes and tell them, “You are going to screw up.” After I am done telling each of them this, I then tell them all that it is okay to screw up, learn from it, and be gracious with yourself and your team mates, and always shake it off. The players always laugh like it is silly, but when they are playing and screw up, they all say to each other “shake it off!” By giving them permission to screw up, it leaves room for grace and improvement for everyone. At the end of the game, no matter if we won or lost, I again circle up all the players and one by one I look them in the eyes, shake their, hands, and say “I’m proud of you.” I always like to end on that note because I want to make sure every player knows that winning is great, and we should try for it, but at the end of the day it’s about playing the game, playing as a team, and finding joy in the sport. I also want to make sure that youth hear that as much as possible, because you never know if a teenager ever hears those words.
I told that story at youth group and did the same thing. I looked at each student there and told them they would screw up. Then I recited to them Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” I told all of them that we should not let our failure keep us from the love of God, because it does not keep God from loving us. I then looked each of them in the face and said, “I’m proud of you and God and I love you.” We will never be famous for our righteousness like Abraham, we should not try to earn our faith through works. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). We should turn back to God after we screw up, and pursue Him with all our hearts, mind, soul and strength and I believe He will say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” aka “I’m proud of you.”