Back in the late 1960s, three US servicemen commandeered a massive piece of very expensive government equipment and took it for a joyride. After only a few minutes, they had succeeded in destroying the majority of it. Even so, they successfully made it away from the heavily-guarded compound and outside the reach of authorities.
Eight days later, after a massive effort to track their location, when government agents finally caught up with the three, they had utterly ruined the last bit of equipment and had to be rescued by the US Navy. Nothing was left to show for their big adventure but a nearly $2 Billion bill to the US government (in today’s dollars), a few bits of unusable equipment strewn in their path, and far-out stories of a wild ride.
Sounds like the plotline for the next “Hangover” movie, doesn’t it? What do you think happened to these three thrill seekers?
Would you be surprised if I told you they ended up lionized as some of the greatest heroes of all time, and their adventure inspired a generation?
That might make sense if I gave you two more bits of information: The equipment they destroyed was a Saturn V rocket, and their joyride was the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.
There’s a vital spiritual lesson here.
Before the launch, these three men were sitting on top and in control of the world’s most sophisticated asset, built at a cost of millions of man hours and billions of dollars. They had worked tirelessly and played their cards right for their entire careers to get to this point, where they were respected as the elite of the elite and in the center of international media attention.
And then came the moment when they had to make the conscious choice to push the launch button. They knew that single decision would destroy the rocket that carried them, use up every last drop of their fuel, put their very lives in jeopardy and – if they survived – inevitably leave them stranded and helpless in the middle of a vast ocean. All to plant a flag on a far-away rock.
When God calls us to do something, this is what He is asking, and it is a conscious choice we must make. For the astronauts, they had the full support of the US government behind them and they understood the Big Picture purpose of it all, so I’m sure they didn’t hesitate to launch when it was time. For us, all we have behind us is an invisible God and promises of eternity, and we often lose sight of the Big Picture. As a result, I’m ashamed to admit, we often don’t push the launch button when called upon.
Have you ever noticed that it’s the young, relatively inexperienced entrepreneurs who seem to hit all the home runs in business? Why is this?
I’m beginning to see that there’s a negative, worldly version of “wisdom” that can hold back the most capable of us.
When a young person sees a vision, he sees nothing but the potential, whereas older ones often see nothing but risk.
Sadly, the folks who have been around the block a few times – the ones who have learned the most, and in theory are the most capable – often fail to answer the door when opportunity knocks. We can let our own idea of “wisdom” – we may call it “experience,” “due diligence,” or “caution” – drown out the call of God. Now, there’s nothing wrong with real wisdom, but fact is this thought process is often really a cloak for, “I’m wounded, jaded, tired, prideful, afraid, and/or I have too much to lose.” When this happens, we are allowing all the good aspects of our life experiences to be negated by the bad ones. I admit, I’ve fallen into this trap.
Imagine how Moses must have felt after his first encounter with Pharoah after returning from the wilderness. “Let my people go,” he’d said. Pharoah’s response was not only “heck no,” but he harshly added to the forced labor of the Israelites, who of course loudly complained to Moses.
So here’s this 80-year old man who had once again failed. I’m sure there was a part of him screaming to himself, “I knew it! Last time I tried to help these people, I lost my place in the palace and ended up spending forty years in the wilderness. Now I’ve screwed it up again!”
And then guess what God did? He told Moses to go back to Pharaoh and try again. When that failed, He did it again … and again … and again … and again. Nine times in a row, God called Moses to failure, and each and every time it made matters worse for himself and his people.
Thank God Moses didn’t refuse to hit the launch button the tenth time. Had he let his “wisdom” get in the way … well, who knows how many more generations of Israelites would have lived in slavery?
The early apostles didn’t hesitate to lay down their nets and follow Christ, and they eventually lost everything as a result. Think they’d do it again if they had the chance? Or, do you think their “due diligence” would lead them to make another choice? (“This fishing business isn’t so bad after all! We should just make a lot of money and give it to the ones on the front lines…”)
Paul was influential and upwardly mobile in the Jewish hierarchy when Christ called him. He could have refused the call, and may well have ended up as High Priest. Instead, he didn’t let his “wisdom” hold him back.
Think of all the towns where he ended up beaten or imprisoned, only to launch off to the next town and start over again, and again, and again. He could have given up at any time and retired to Tarsus as a successful tentmaker. But he lived all-in, and never looked back.
Paul knew that the things we build on this earth will all burn someday, and he knew that the trials we face exist to build our character and faith, and so – despite all the times he was broken and hurt – he was not afraid of being broke or hurt again.
The only things we can take from this world to the next are the character, people and relationships that we build in Christ. God gives us everything else – wealth, fame, followers, facilities, reputation, etc. – for this one purpose: To serve as our own Saturn V rocket, to launch us to new places to plant the flag of His Kingdom.
So you’re one of the elite. So you’re at the top of it all, and the whole world is watching. Guess what? You can’t take it with you!
You have a choice, and if you’re afraid to push the button, and put it all on the line, every time God calls, He will eventually pry you from the command module and put in a new crew who will use it for His purposes.
God wants to plant His flag somewhere new. He’s calling you to do it.
Are you willing? Or, like the rich young ruler, will you refuse?
I’m not telling you to abandon wisdom. Instead, I’m imploring you to reject the false “wisdom” of the world that keeps able men and women bound up in the prison of “risk aversion.” I’m encouraging you not to lean on your own understanding. Don’t let the fear of trouble or persecution or failure, or the cares of this world and deceitfulness of riches, hold you back from hearing the Lord’s call and pushing the launch button when it’s time.
Yes, God tells us to count the cost, and that’s like a “due diligence” of sorts. But He also tells us not to worry about tomorrow, or what we will eat, drink or wear. As Christ said it, such worry is the opposite of seeking the Kingdom. “Counting the cost,” as He means it, is simply being conscious of the quantity of poker chips you have, and then pushing them all-in to the center of the table anyway.
You know what? He may have another lesson for you at the end of this assignment, and it may be one that He knows is best learned by abject failure. Do you trust Him? Are you willing? You have a choice.
Whether you have a lot or a little to your name, fact is you have nothing to lose and everything to gain, because God is still real and His promises are still true — the same as when you were young and reckless, and the world was yours for the taking. He doesn’t change. Have you let the world change you?
It may be a relationship, or a business venture, or taking your ministry in a radical new direction. Whatever it is the Lord is calling you to do, the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt ring true: “The only thing to fear is fear itself.”
(And fear by any other name is just as bad.)
— You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
Holding you, I held everything
For a moment wasn’t I the king
But if I’d only known how the king would fall
Hey who’s to say, you know I might have changed it all
And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end, the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance
— From “The Dance” by Garth Brooks
Don’t let the fear of pain keep you on the sidelines when God calls you back to the dance floor.