People don’t think I see them.
For whatever reason, the people in my church consistently are shocked I notice them on Sunday mornings. I see them come in early. I see them come in late. I see them singing. I see them not singing. I see them yawning. I see them wearing faces full of frustration, anxiety, apathy and fear. I see their posts on social media, ranting and posturing, engaging with one another in ways that can at best be described as unhealthy and unhelpful.
I do see them—and my heart breaks for them.
These are troubling times. I’m only 31, and it might simply be due to the fact I’m getting older and becoming more aware of the world, but I just can’t seem to remember a time when fear ruled the day more than today.
Fear of election results.
Fear of church giving going down.
Fear of social agendas.
Fear of each other.
Anxiety-riddled, crippling, immobilizing fear. The church certainly is not immune to fear. In fact, in some areas, we seem to be leading the way, and that wounds me deeply.
It shouldn’t be a shock to us that life is difficult at times, right?
Jesus said this plainly in John 16:33: “In this world you will have trouble ….”
Three phases of life
A professor in grad school would always tell me: “Life consists of three phases, and they repeat perpetually. You are either heading into a storm, in the middle of one, or coming out of one.” We’re going to get knocked down. We’re going to get beat up. This world has plenty of trouble for all of us to pass around.
Thankfully, Jesus didn’t put a period at the end of that statement in John 16. Instead, he continued on to offer an immense, immovable assurance to all who follow him by adding, “Take heart, for I have overcome the world.”
So it seems when faced with trouble, we have a really important decision to make. We can tremble in fear before it, or we can grab ahold of Christ’s wonderful assurance to us and take heart that he has overcome it.
So what exactly does this look like in the life of a follower of Christ? How can one choose to “take heart” when facing the most terrifying of opponents?
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or imagine, according to the power at work within us …” (Ephesians 3:20).
I’ve always had an active imagination. In fact, my mother loves to tell stories of how she would walk by my bedroom when I was a child and think it was full of children, but upon further investigation would discover it was just me—giving voice and life to every Ninja Turtle or Transformer at my disposal.
I often imagine what my future will look like in 10 years, 20 years, 50 years. I dream of retiring to Italy with my wife, of my daughter passionately embracing Jesus, of my ministry bearing eternal fruit for Christ’s kingdom. It’s easy for me to dream. I can imagine quite a bit.
These also are attributes of our heavenly Father. He is a dreamer. His imagination is unsearchable. Think about it. Everything we see, smell, taste, touch, experience—he thought that up!
The Rocky Mountains? He thought those up. The duckbilled platypus? All him. The flavors of the chocolate chip cookie? Praise his name, he thought that up! What’s also amazing is that he not only thought of everything, but he had the power to turn those thoughts into creation. What he imagined, he then created—from nothing. What power!
This is not news. God’s incredible imagination and indescribable power are literally the very first things we encounter in Scripture. The creation account in Genesis shines a spotlight on an almighty God who speaks and things come into being. He created the universe without lifting a finger but by simply saying, “Let there be …” and then filling in the blanks.
This is a power that should transform and fundamentally shape our prayer life. Our prayers should echo the immensity of that imagination and power. But more often than not, they become quite the opposite.
We struggle in praying for big things because we grossly underestimate the power at work within us. The same power that raised Christ from the grave now indwells us by his presence and Spirit. We do not have a little nine-volt battery of spiritual power inside of us, but an entire nuclear power plant of divine might.
We should anticipate with great confidence that God will overcome big sins, knock down insurmountable walls, and make us into radiant images of his Son. He is the calmer of the storm. He is the mountain mover.
Nothing is more powerful than a hand raised in worship when the water is rising, the enemy is closing in or your heart has just been ripped out.
If you don’t agree, read about Horatio Spafford, the author of “It is Well with My Soul,” and try to be unmoved by a man who lifted his soul to the Lord in worship as the horrors of hell danced around him.
Worship is the response to who God is and what he has done.
In the darkest of nights, worship is the wrecking ball that shatters the gates of our enemy.
Charles Spurgeon said, “Prayer and praise are the oars by which a man may row his boat into the deep waters of the knowledge of Christ.” The mind of Christ is at peace in the assurance that there is none in heaven and earth like our heavenly Father, who is full of perfect strength and perfect love. And we know from 1 John 4:18 that perfect love casts out fear.
Follower of Christ, as we face of the cares of our day, the mountains that seem insurmountable, and the giants that shake our souls with fear, let us anchor our hearts to this: As long as he desires to get glory through the church and in Christ Jesus, we can be sure that God, in ways that are beyond our imagination, will magnificently exceed our expectations—to his everlasting honor and to our everlasting joy.
Jason Dunton is the contemporary worship arts pastor at First Baptist Church in Bryan, Texas, where he lives and loves with his wife, Joanna, daughter, Penelope, and English bulldog, Grubby.