Our church was called into 21 days of prayer and fasting last Sunday. The prayer part, I figured, would be pretty easy. I pray every day, several times a day, and usually enjoy doing so. Of course I could always pray more, and my prayers could be more focused, varied, and intentional. My prayers could also be less selfish, and could be wider in scope and more hopeful in expectation. So I was looking forward to joining my church body in a specific prayer every day for 3 weeks.
When I pulled up today’s prayer point, though, something in me immediately resisted the words. “Growth in courage to take faith-filled risks for God’s glory.”
It’s funny—this wasn’t my first time seeing these words. Part of my job was actually to create the graphics that we’d share on social media with each days’ prayer point. So I’ve seen all of them, and for each one, I’d think, “Yes! Our church so needs to be praying this.”
But now I’m the one praying it. And I don’t want to.
Why can’t I pray this in earnest? Why don’t I want God to hear me utter these words?
I sit on my couch, prayer journal open in my lap, and start to let myself get distracted by a pile of laundry and the falling snow and the ticking clock. Maybe I can avoid this.
But I shake my head. I don’t want to avoid this. I just want to know why I’m tempted to.
I know I’m afraid of what “faith-filled risks” means. If I tell God I want to do this, what might He ask me to give up? And notice the end of the sentence: for God’s glory. Not faith-filled risks for my own entertainment or adventure or good or appearance. For His glory.
I’m used to living in the Kingdom of Bailey, where comfort and self-preservation reign. My own glory—or, to put it more accurately, my own image, security, and desires—is often the driving motivator of my actions and decisions.
But when we’re living in the Kingdom of God, He rules and reigns and has His way, and we get to be part of it. But it means letting our own kingdom become less so His can become more.
I twist my ring around my finger. I grab my hair and search for a few split ends. I’m avoiding again.
So I open my Bible. I’m on Luke 13 today. I read about a fig tree producing no fruit, and then a crippled woman who was healed on the Sabbath. After that, I read about how the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.
Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is like a tiny seed that a man planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.
A tiny, fragile seed grew into a sturdy tree: a place so welcoming and available that it even offered shelter and respite to the birds who flew by.
So what I have to remember as I read the words “faith-filled risks” is this: God never said the Kingdom started out as a giant tree. He said it started as something even smaller than a grain of rice. So rather than assuming all my acts of faith must produce an immediate harvest of giant oak trees, perhaps I can give myself permission to ask, “What seed can I plant today?”
I’m not saying God never asks us to take huge, seemingly impossible risks. What I amsaying, though, is that a faith-filled risk isn’t necessarily synonymous with big, huge, giant, and sure-footed. It might mean small, unseen, underwhelming, humble, and wonky.
What if today’s seed means asking forgiveness from a friend who you hurt months ago and you’ve been avoiding since? What if it’s finally baking that banana bread for the “new” neighbors across the street who have lived there for two years now? What if it means being honest about something you’ve been covering up? Checking in on a friend who has been on your mind? Inviting someone to dinner even though you’re just planning on ordering pizza?
Because today, maybe that’s all the courage you have. But after planting that one tiny seed, maybe our courage grows into something a little bigger tomorrow.
And before we know it, we’ve scattered seeds around our little kingdoms, and God starts making them grow into a forest of faith, a bountiful harvest that comes from small daily acts of obedience with His glory in mind.
So that’s what I’m doing today. I’m praying for greater courage to take faith-filled risks for God’s glory, and I’m choosing not to fear what those risks might ask of me. I’m choosing to believe, as challenging as it is, something Jesus said prior to the story about the mustard seed: “Seek first God’s Kingdom, and all else will be given to you as well.”