I am in Oklahoma City. Last night I spoke at the Memorial Road Church (a part of their summer series featuring a different speaker each week). The church is located next to Oklahoma Christian University where my daughter Jamie is a student. It was nice to be there and be a part of her world for an evening.
While in the hotel room yesterday, I was flipping through channels on the television. As I passed by one channel, Dr. Phil was signing off. He said, "Life isn't a dress rehearsal." Hmmm. That is good. Life isn't a dress rehearsal. Life is what is happening right now.
Maybe I ought to think of faith in the same way. Faith is not what you have when you finally get everything in your life worked out. Faith is what you have right now in the middle of life.
When the "creek bottom" is dry, it is important to start small. The first few drops of rain will not cause the creek to flow again. However, it is a beginning.
I remember going through a period of time early in our marriage when I kept looking for what I didn't have.
Instead of taking small steps of faith and trusting God, I spent my energy wishing. I wished for a better church, another academic degree, more elders, a new car, a better house, and on and on. In 1985, I received a Doctor of Ministry degree from Harding Graduate School of Religion (Memphis, Tennessee). That represented five years of work. After graduation Charlotte, our little girls, and I came home. Several days passed and then I said to Charlotte, "You know--I'm thinking about going to law school."
At that point she asked me, "Are we ever going to be happy?" It was a painful question to hear because I knew she had seen something in me I didn't want to see. I was trying to deal with a dried up creek bottom by wishing it away. Yet, wishing is not the same as trusting.
Maybe I need to just take a first step -- no matter how small the step might seem.
- Maybe I need to pray for power to resist doing something I know to be wrong.
- Maybe I need to do something that might be both thoughtful and helpful to someone. Some small act of service.
- Maybe I need to read my Bible. Perhaps I could begin with the Psalms. I can pray through two Psalms today. (Try praying them aloud.)
- Maybe I need to simply pray to God, "Lord have mercy."
- Maybe I need to pray, "I can't do this Lord, I give up. I've tried for too long to do what only you can do."
I really don't know what small step you might take. I'm just suggesting that you and I resist the lure of being passive. It is far too easy to remain stuck. The main idea is to take a small and practical step of faith. Begin somewhere.
One day, I was thinking about a person who was in a nursing home in our area (a member of our church). I thought about needing to visit him/her. In fact, I thought about this several times during the day. Yet, I kept finding reasons not to go (too busy, don't really want to, need to get some other things done, etc.). Going back and forth with this really bothered me. I prayed about this situation and then got in my car and drove to that nursing home. Driving over there was a small -- but important -- step. After all, for some reason, I was trying to avoid this ministry opportunity. Later, after spending a few minutes with this person, I was glad I went. Choosing to go anyway was a small step, but important.
Faith does not come about through wishful thinking. Contentment does not happen by finally wishing for and receiving the right thing. No, I've learned that I make progress by taking small steps of faith.
After all, today is no dress rehearsal for a future life. Today, my life is happening. I want to learn to trust God today, even though my life at this hour or this day may not be exactly what I would have planned.