Step Out for God

duane brownBy Duane E. Brown-

“Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him…,” (Genesis 12:4).

When was the last time you risked something for God?

In Genesis 12, God appears to Abram and promises to bless him and the world through him. All he must do is leave everything behind. Abram likely underestimates how catalytic this venture will be.

“These are perhaps the most unifying verses in the Bible; the whole of God’s purpose is encapsulated here,” John Stott says of Abram’s story in his book, The Living God is a Missionary God. The creator of the universe offers us the amazing opportunity to help shape the created order. By venturing out for God, we become characters in the story God began with Abram, a story of risks and rewards for us and all peoples of the world.

Two truths from Abram’s responses to God’s call deserve attention. First, God’s call to bless others must always be held in tension with man’s volitional response – to go God’s way or not go God’s way. At first, Abram chooses to trust God and depart Haran into the unknown. Later in the story, however, he lies about his relationship with Sarai to protect his skin. Despite such terrible decisions, God uses Pharaoh to bless Abram (Genesis 12:16). Later, he encounters the most difficult test of his walk with God and passes it when he obediently responds to God calls to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22). Twice in that passage we observe his responses to God’s call: “Here I am.” God’s mission to bless the world happens in spite of imperfect persons who sometimes make terrible choices. God redeems what seems to be the worst about us to accomplish his best in us and for others.

Second, God’s call to Abram to be a blessing encompasses the entire human race, “…all the peoples on the earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:3c). The call starts with Abram, the father of the Jews, God’s elect. Their election isn’t to a privileged status; it is an election to become responsible agents of God in bringing about his redemption for the world.

God’s call to bless the world now involves us, the church. Peter said to Jesus, “We have left everything to follow you (Mark 10:28).” Like Peter, by God’s strength we endure trials and tribulations for his mission. The blessings of salvation God grants to us through Jesus are not privileges we hold tightly. We’re responsible to give them away.

During my middle-school years our pastor, the Rev. Richard Bennett, led our church to adopt a family and relocate them from Asia to our hometown. It was especially unique for a small town church in upstate New York to take such a bold step of faith. The church fully supported the family as they moved to town. The family attended our church and lived in our community for many years. This indelible impression of what it means for a church to make a difference for Jesus in the world will always abide with me.

Journalist Frank Scully said, “Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?” When faced with the decision to launch out into full-time vocational ministry, I felt like I was stepping out on a limb. After all, when we are accustomed to living in fear about the future, the first step into God’s plan is often the most difficult one. So, instead of viewing this as an opportunity to bless others, I sought a way of escape to follow my heart’s desire. After a rather long decision-making process, filled with uncertainty and some trepidation, I relinquished the comforts of my country, family, and familiar surroundings to lead a small, struggling church in a fishing village in Nova Scotia, Canada. I planned to stay for two years and then return to the United States. However, as it turned out, I remained in Canada for 12 years, continued in ministry, got married, and started a family. Reflecting on that experience now 25 years later, I see God’s blessings on me and through me by the choice to step out and risk for God. Saying “yes” to God is more potent and pleasing than perhaps anything else in life.

What stands in your way of stepping out on a limb in a risk-taking venture to bless others? Fear? Past failures? Faithlessness? Disobedience? Do not retreat from God’s call. You may never know the rewards that will come to you and others by your risk-taking obedience.

Duane E. Brown, PhD, is Senior Director of Church Ministry of the The Mission Society (www.themissionsociety.org). 

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