by Michael J. Klassen
God, what in the &*%! am I doing? I prayed early New Year’s morning as 2008 welcomed me with the force of a WWF wrestler throwing me into the ropes and then body-slamming me to the floor.
Twelve months earlier I was living on Easy Street. Working my dream job and enjoying a regular paycheck. A manageable number of writing gigs on the side. Life was safe, but deep down I knew it would eventually (soon?) come to an end.
As 2007 progressed, elements of my secure working environment began falling apart. Funds were running dangerously low. Coworkers were being laid off. But I felt pretty secure because I had recently been granted tenure-type status in my church.
Then the week of Christmas, I was told that my salary would be cut in half…beginning in two weeks. Such a happy alternative to a lay-off!
“But how can I replace my salary in only two weeks?” I asked the team of people burdened with informing me of the decision.
“You can just make it up with your writing,” they answered.
“But the publishing industry is dead until the end of January!”
As I left my meeting, a deep, gnawing feeling inside told me that I was being pushed into the life of faith. Kind of like pushing the baby bird out of the nest.
The Life That’s Pleasing To God
Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Did you notice the first part of that verse? Without faith it’s impossible—IMPOSSIBLE!—to please God. As a writer, I do my best to avoid extreme words like “impossible” because I can usually find an exception to any hyperbole. But I pay attention to words like that in Scripture because they often communicate a powerful truth that shouldn’t be overlooked.
In case you’re tempted to assume it’s hyperbole, a different person–Paul–wrote in Romans 14:23, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.”
Something tells me this faith thing is pretty important. Extremely important.
The writer of Hebrews defines faith for us: “Confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).
My most trusted theological resources tell me that faith means “to believe to the extent of complete trust and reliance—‘to believe in, to have confidence in, to have faith in, to trust, faith, trust.’”
In this context, I spell faith R-I-S-K.
Faith includes a semblance of assent on our part, but if it doesn’t translate into everyday living, it isn’t faith.
Abraham Knew How To Please God
Abraham is the paragon of faith in the Bible. Although plagued with poor judgment—especially in regard to his wife Sarah—he deeply believed in God’s ability to take care of him.
The writer of Hebrews points out that God called Abraham and Sarah to leave their home and move to another country. And Abraham obeyed, even though he didn’t have a clue as to where he was going. Imagine inviting all your friends to help you pack all your possessions into a moving truck.
“So where are you moving to again?” your friends ask you over and over.
“I don’t know. We’re just going to take off and see where God leads us.”
Reading about Abraham through 21st century eyes, we often overlook the risks Abraham and Sarah were taking. Moving from one place to another in our modern society is a hassle but doable. In Abraham’s day, it was life-threatening. Family and tribal agreements ensured a semblance of safety and security. Venturing into new surroundings meant that you were extremely vulnerable to attack. Murder, robbery, rape, drought, floods, ignorance of your surroundings, ignorance of customs, wild animals, injury, and sickness were constant threats.
Nevertheless, Abraham left his comfortable life on Easy Street for a life of risk—and the world has never been the same.
So January 1, 2008, I decided to resign my position. I felt like I had jumped off a cliff and now I was free-falling–which can be terrifying or exhilarating.
The first order of business: figuring out how to make up for the salary shortfall.
January 2 I received a phone call from a man living in the Midwest. He told me how much he enjoyed my book Prayers To Move Your Mountains (pretty ironic title, huh?). Then he said, “I’m speaking at a large church next Sunday and I’d like to sell your book to anyone there who wants it. Do you have any extra copies you can sell me?”
And with that 10-minute phone call, my salary shortfall was met for January. The next weekend I resigned my position and embarked on a new life of faith.
Within the month, I knew God was calling me to plant a church. He eventually led me to Eugene Scott, my co-pastor who also contributes to this blog. Month after month, we somehow paid our bills.
Three years ago today—July 1, 2008—I sat in my office at home and realized I had zero prospects of any income for the month. And our family was scheduled to take two weeks of vacation.
“Lord,” I prayed. “You’re going to have to do something or we’re in trouble.”
Later that day, my phone rang. A publisher needed me to help three co-authors finish a book. Because it was a rush job, they would pay me well—and fast. And with that 10-minute phone call, our bills were paid.
Three years later, I can look back and see how God strengthened my faith.
Here’s the clincher, though. The life of faith is the only life that is pleasing to God. But there’s only one way that faith grows: we must be in a position where faith in God is necessary. Unemployment, hardship, sorrow, and grief are optimal environments for faith to flourish.
God wants us to live in such a way that we’re completely reliant on him. He wants us to take risks on his behalf so we’re forced to depend on him. For one person, it might look like giving sacrificially to a worthy cause. To another person, it might mean befriending and helping a homeless person. To another, it might mean sharing your faith.
He does this because he wants to be a vital part of your life. In fact, he loves you so much that he wants to be your life.
God invites us to a life of risk and reliance. It isn’t comfortable nor is it easy. I still stumble and fall.
But I never want to return to life on Easy Street. It’s so boring. The life of faith, on the other hand, is an everyday adventure.
Michael serves as co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.