I want you to finish this sentence. “If I were to step out in faith today, I would…”
It will look different for each of us. Maybe it’s showing compassion to a stranger. Initiating a conversation. Hugging a parent. Caring for a child. Forgiving an enemy. Helping out a widow. Maybe it’s as simple as smiling. Listening. Getting out of bed. Or even resting. Whatever it looks like, stepping out in faith requires courage, love, and often prayer.
A friend of mine told me a long time ago that faith is like a muscle that has to be exercised. I’m learning that if I do not look for ways to exercise my faith, then I will atrophy into a state of miserable selfishness. This has happened many times. It’s not pretty. It’s actually quite depressing. But the good news is that faith expressing itself through love is powerful. It makes the wonder of life more wonderful. And I believe it makes God smile. I had an experience a long time ago that helped me understand this better.
To properly set this story up, you need to know three things:
- God’s love changed my life.
- Many years ago I spent two weeks overseas with a group of missionaries who live “by faith,” which means that they travel from nation to nation sharing the message of God’s love with people and trusting that God will provide their daily needs.
- I am not one of these missionaries.
For two weeks, I watched these missionaries initiate conversations with strangers. Love them. Pray with them. Look for ways to serve them. I also observed a lifestyle, a boldness, and an intensity of prayer I had never seen before. Every meal and every night’s rest was dependent on God’s provision. This group did not carry money with them. So I didn’t either. I had never lived my life that way before (or since). For this group, every day required stepping out in faith. Their effectiveness and even their survival was dependent upon it. This challenged and inspired me to say the least.
The week after I got back, I moved to New York City for a job. I wanted to incorporate this new evangelistic fervor into my life, but didn’t know how. One night I walked to Union Square determined to start conversations with strangers and see where it would lead.
“Will a stranger open up to me? What will we talk about? Will we talk about God? How do I even begin?”
So many questions were going on in my mind as I headed down 14th street that evening. As soon as I saw all the people congregated in Union Square, these questions turned into fears.
“This is weird. Seriously weird. What’s weird? This!”
I was supposed to turn right. I still remember telling my feet to turn right to where everyone was hanging out. My feet didn’t listen. My fears got the best of me and I kept going right past Union Square. So now I was just walking aimlessly. I remember feeling foolish as if every New Yorker knew I had just chickened out. Of course this was not the case. But that’s what it felt like.
I had just passed the Diesel store when I stopped walking. I stood there frozen not knowing what to do next. All one would have visibly seen in that moment was a 20-something guy standing on the sidewalk while hundreds of pedestrians passed by. Strange but not that unordinary.
In the invisible realm, however, there was a battle going on. There were two voices inside my head. One of them was saying, “You failed. No big deal. Go home.” The other was saying, “You’re wasting time. Go back.” I knew which was the voice of fear and which was that of faith. Knowing the difference did not make it any easier though. I closed my eyes and prayed a desperate prayer of “Help!”
In my spirit, I heard a whisper, “Turn around. I’ve got you.” With my eyes still closed, I turned around. I opened them and took a few steps towards Union Square. I’ll never forget what happened next.
A middle-aged black man tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Young man, tell me about God.”
I believe my exact response was, “Um, what?!”
“You are supposed to tell me about God,” he replied.
He was right. I was. Not because he needed to hear me talk about God’s love poured out through Jesus (though maybe he did). But because I needed to step out in faith. We talked for a bit. Prayed for a moment. And I spent the rest of the evening talking to strangers in Union Square fully aware that I was not alone.
One of the most memorable nights of my life. I believe it made God smile. Maybe even chuckle.
Your turn. Finish the sentence. “If I were to step out in faith today, I would…”