We’ve considered the legacy of mentors who’ve showed us how to live an adventurous life of faith. We’ve considered our response to the traumas and tragedies of the world, and how we need to turn toward need instead of turning away. We’ve considered how fixing our eyes on Jesus can help turn our burdens into passions. Now we are ready to get beyond considering to actually doing.
In The Yes Effect Book Club this week, we’re diving in to Invitation 4: Move Your Feet. Stories of faithful believers in the slums of Manila, the business sphere of Beijing, and the refugee camps of the Middle East show us once and for all that “our faith is not some ethereal belief system that rests merely in the spiritual realm. Our faith is meant to be active, visible evidence of God’s renewing work in the world.”
If you read chapter 1 of The Yes Effect, you’ll know that Luis Bush launched the 10/40 Window Movement almost thirty years ago at one of the largest student missions conferences in the world, Urbana. So, I’m especially honored to have Ruth Hubbard, VP of Intervarsity’s Urbana, share with us today about how to keep from getting stuck in our ideas and plans when what the world really needs is our active, faithful witness.
By Ruth Hubbard
It is not uncommon for me to have a dozen ideas before I climb out of bed in the morning, particularly when I am well-rested. I can be an idea machine. Imagine my delight when I discovered Pinterest, an ideator’s dream.
I have one board where I collect things that could be done on vacation and another for projects that would make my house and yard just that much better. I have a board that celebrates good ideas and one that celebrates color. I have another that is all about rocks. I love rocks.
Where Unactivated Ideas Multiply
Don’t ask me how many of these pre-dawn or pinned ideas I have actually implemented because I might be tempted to fabricate a more ideal reality. Surely, I should NEVER strive to do everything that comes into my head. Nonetheless, the highest value of a good idea comes from the action that idea launches. I have a tendency to get so tangled up in ideas that nothing gets done. Can I get a witness?
I can fall into the same ponderous habit, considering the eloquence of God’s design and mission without making a move to accept his invitation to join him. Perhaps it is a bit like someone who is born to dance spending a lifetime on the sofa watching Dancing with the Stars. In the same way, ideas which are never activated or implemented simply take up mental, digital or actual space. Faith without works? Dead, Jim. Dead.
Over the past months I have been leaning in to the description from Revelation of Jesus as the faithful witness. This journey has taken me to Psalm 89’s declaration of the moon as the faithful witness in the sky and of the great cloud of faithful witnesses described in Hebrews 11.
The image I see when reading Psalm 89 is of a full moon hovering near the horizon. When the moon “sees” the glory of the sun and reflects it back—not bringing attention to itself but to the sun’s light—it is being a faithful witness. The astonishing beauty of this relationship is most spectacular for the observer on the side of the earth that has turned its back on the sun who would be in utter darkness without the faithful reflection. But the faithful witness is not passive, and this is where the moon metaphor falls apart. “Good Night, Moon.”
A faithful witness is one who bears witness in word and deed. Jesus is the perfect model of the faithful witness, perfectly reflecting the glory of God in all aspects of his living. Jesus last directions to his disciples, he invited them (and through them, us) to be making disciple-making disciples as we go out into all the world. This is the non-biological version of “be fruitful and multiply.”
Those of us who have said “yes, please!” to Jesus’ invitation of gracious forgiveness and complete restoration are called to be disciple-making disciples, ambassadors of reconciliation. These are not jobs for the elite. These are not unique callings for the few. We ALL are invited to faithfully bear witness in word and deed—with every aspect of our lives for our whole lives—to who God is and what he has done.
This called life takes many forms. The most important aspect of this calling is that we act from a posture and position of faith.
After Jesus, our most clear view of faithful witnesses might be found in Hebrews 11. My summary of the chapter goes like this: People of FAITH respond to God’s truth, God’s invitation, and God’s direction with “YES” and put that YES into action even when critical aspects of the fulfillment of the YES are yet unseen (and often feel improbable or impossible).
“This faith race is not a sprint…. It requires an enduring faith which implies an exercised faith—a faith that has been pushed to the limits time and again until the limits are increased, and then the process starts all over again. An exercised faith is an activated faith. It is in the doing that we grow.”
– Ruth Hubbard, VP of Intervarsity’s Urbana
What do FAITH PEOPLE do? People of faith…
- conquer kingdoms
- enforce justice
- obtain promises
- stop the mouths of lions
- quench the power of fire
- escape the edge of the sword
- are made strong out of weakness
- become mighty in war
- receive back our dead by resurrection
Clearly faith people experience and participate in the kinds of displays of God’s might and authority that we easily categorize as conquering and victorious. But there is more.
People of faith are…
- face mocking and flogging
- face chains and imprisonment
- are put to death by stoning
- are sawed in two
- are killed with the sword
Sometimes faith people are victorious because they faithfully face temporary defeat. We have much to learn from our brothers and sisters living in particularly challenging contexts who pray not for comfort or safety but that they will be faithful.
Our relationship with God brings us into a community in which we are surrounded by a great cloud of faithful witnesses. Not a cloud of fans or spectators or judges, but of witnesses. For a long while I thought that this word was about the crowd witnessing our race—seeing us run our race. The Greek word translated “witness” speaks of one who can or does bear witness to something he or she has seen or heard or knows.
The author of Hebrews is very clear about what it will take for us to become faithful witnesses in word and deed.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV)
First-century runners had a choice to make when running. Runners could gather up their long robes and tie them around their waists to run the course ahead. This could work, but had its risks. The other option was to strip down to get more aerodynamic. This was not about looking presentable. This was about winning. When victory was at stake, runners would throw off those cumbersome robes and go au naturel. Yep, naked.
Too often, our faith-living is choked, tripped up, sabotaged by SIN. We are called to strip down rather than being entangled by sin, or even by good but cumbersome things that distract or slow us down. For me, this means my stuff, my relationships…and my Pinterest. What distractions are holding you back?
This faith race is not a sprint. It’s what Eugene Peterson calls a long obedience in the same direction. It requires an enduring faith which implies an exercised faith—a faith that has been pushed to the limits time and again until the limits are increased, and then the process starts all over again. An exercised faith is an activated faith. It is in the doing that we grow.
I think we sometimes try to make our lives of faith more complex than they are. That’s not to say life is easy—a life of faith is filled with challenges and struggle. But there is a simplicity to it, too. Want to know how to run with perseverance the race marked out for us? Watch Jesus.
Yes, we have this great cloud of witnesses, but we also have Jesus. Remember, he is the Faithful Witness, the perfect example for us to follow. We fix our eyes on him and then we start running the course he sets out for us. Stride by stride.
Ruth Hubbard serves as a Vice President with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and gives leadership to Urbana, one of the largest student missions conferences in the world. Urbana is a catalytic event designed to be a discerning space from which each generation of students is mobilized into God’s global mission. Before InterVarsity, Ruth invested 14 years with Wycliffe Bible Translators, first as a graphic designer and then in various leadership roles including six years as a Senior Vice President and her last gig as Chief Culture Officer. A graphic designer and teacher, Ruth is currently studying missiology, leadership, and an eclectic collection of other goodness at Fuller Theological Seminary, and will graduate with a Master of Arts in Global Leadership in June 2018.