In this Sermon from Samoa, I share the two aspects of the Christian walk that for decades have really got to me – the fear of being sent to a foreign country as a Missionary and the concept of “Walking by Faith”. Since the 2009 Tsunami in Samoa, I’ve found myself doing both!
I shared previously in my book Lipstick on a Pig how I had feared for years being sent to a foreign mission field with people around me speaking a language I could not understand (For some reason*, I simply cannot learn a second language) and who didn’t want to hear what I had to say.
Finding myself in the middle of post-Tsunami Samoa, I had an encounter that turned my life upside down and sent me into that which I feared. It wasn’t an ego trip where I deliberately chose to face my fears (like choosing to Bungy Jump). It was more that this was the right thing for me to do. I was called and I wanted to go.
[Pic: Tuigamala (Inga's brother) and me at Fagaloa Bay saddle, a compulsory stop-off on the Tsunami Tour. Tui's faith walk is essentially the same but manifests differently to mine. I speak it. Tui feels it. A strong team-member, like a brother, Tui may say after a strategic meeting "I wonder if XXX" and we'll connect, agree and then act on it. Walking by Faith outworked, unspectacularly, but over time a pattern can be seen. Standing back waiting for God to reveal all and waiting for the time when everything is perfect is not exercising faith.]
So that dealt with my first bogeyman, good and proper!
Now, to the second one.
The phrase “Walking by Faith” to be quite frank, has really “p*ssed me off” for decades. It has always wound me up because when ever other people used it, I felt small and a second-class Christian, and it seemed that no matter how much I read in the Scriptures that God loved me, these people seemed to subtly teach me that my walk of faith should be seen as a lesser value walk than theirs.
The typical context in which I would experience this pain would be in a church setting where a missionary would be hailed as a “great man (or couple) of God” and they would share how angels visited them and saved them from danger, and how God spoke to them or gave them words of knowledge, and how doors miraculously opened for them when they prayed. All good rah-rah motivating stuff, but basically leaving me for dead.
Our Pastor would go to where ever and “get touched by the Lord” or “experience mighty things” or go somewhere to “get blessed by Mr X” and so on. It all really left me for dead to be honest.
I understand their excitement. I understand the “wow-factor” in the miraculous. I understand the zeal and the way that the passion behind an experience. I respected but never really engaged with them at their own “level”.
As a working man, I produced food and shelter and security through work, not prayers and “spiritual stuff”. I knew that food came when I worked. That houses got built when I hammered and nailed. The idea that food falls out of the sky, and taxes came from the mouths of fishes was not my world.
So with that background, I will now share how I have come to experience this mysterious world of “Walking by Faith”, hopefully in a way that my enthusiasm doesn’t spoil the fun for you and your walk of faith!
There’s no question that the Lord has been doing something pretty cool in me and the people around me in the last year and a half in Samoa. I think that this really has to be the starting and finishing point. I didn’t generate a desire of myself to emigrate to Samoa, nor to do great and wonderful things here.
I did respond to the call. I did go with the flow. I did decide to push on even when things were pretty jolly tough, but in a strange sense, it wasn’t that hard to decide to do these things. I definitely had a choice in the matter, but given my personality, skillset, giftings and situation, it was really a “given” all the way that I would continue to push on.
I think the best way to describe things up here is that by being obedient to the Lord’s calling, and exercising faith that the visions given to me are from Him, that there is a blessing upon us, particularly me, as people around catch the vision and all chip in and help. Doors are opening, and we are now used to this, even expect it. And this enormous vision shared with passion, tied in with supreme confidence seems to be acting as a lightening rod to others.
There are definitely times that I believe the Lord “talks” to me. Not the verbal audible word, but more what they call a “quickening of the spirit” as in maybe a conversation of half an hour, just a key phrase or sentence settles, and feels right, and makes sense. It is quite often a random thought that “settles” into something more than just a mere thought.
Intuition, gut feel doesn’t really cut the mustard to describe this. I just have to say that over the next hour or so as I talk about it with others, it grows on me and then I know that I know, and it becomes a fact upon which the future decision-making is based.
There’s nothing ookey-spookey about this with stuff in your mind appearing out of the spirit-world. It is the same thing that we do in business all the time, taking a conversation and processing it into business, but there is an aspect of faith that says “When he said XXX, I think that is/was the key thing”. And then having the faith to act on it.
In the first period of intense revelation (October/November 2009) that basically set up our entire work in Samoa, I definitely got caught up in a series of strange events. I had a good five days of intense backwards and forwards with hundreds and hundreds of thoughts, prayers, ultra-creativity, revelations, coincidences and experiences that at the time I wondered whether I was going mad and had “lost it”.
At the time I had self-assessed my life that there was a 50% chance that I had flipped out, it was that extraordinary.
But on the other hand there was also a 50% chance that the Lord was engaging with me, downloading options and ideas, and biblical principles. Even a 50% chance that He was the one teaching me how to think, taking my life’s experiences of engaging with people, of my faith journey, and of course in business all for a vision for a country that I thought needed me, was enough to tip the balance.
The thing that I have found about “Walking in Faith” is that when I focus on what the Lord has called me to do – specifically to share the vision, share the vision, share the vision – is that the other matters are in His care. That’s the door opening that occurs. People arrive, do, say, help, enable and so on.
I’ll put this another way . . . having faith requires us to believe in something, and when that something is personalised then faith comes naturally. It is not something that has to be forced.
When I teach the principles that the Lord has shown me, I MUST abide by them myself, and that requires faith. If I teach that we should use what we have in our hand (and not borrow to get something we cannot afford) then go out and secretly borrow myself, the Lord cannot bless it. But if He has told us to use what is in our hands in faith, and we do that, then it is up to Him to bless us and bring us increase and success.
This aspect of faith borders on obedience. It is listening to what He has to say, doing it and then watching as the miracles occur.
There’s another aspect to this all that I’ve seen as a key. Faith as I have experienced it requires a sacrifice. Something usually has to “give” in order for us to experience the blessing of an open heaven. The biggest and most common challenge I see for both myself and those around me is pride.
If I have been called to share the vision, I cannot do that without explaining what I just have: that the work we are doing is in response to the vision that the Lord has given me. It is not about Dennis. If the Lord has called this work into being; if He has resourced it through partners, politicians and people who believe in the vision, then He will enable it.
My sacrifice, the price I have to pay, is embarrassment if it all falls over or shame if unbelievers mock or if I get something wrong. I only have one role in it all and mine is to share the vision. I have seen that as I exercise faith, pay the price personally, that there has come an increased blessing upon all I do and experience up here in Samoa.
I’ve also seen that the more people who engage, get involved, and believe in the vision, the greater the blessing.
This all has an edifying effect. While things are moving forward and onwards and upwards, we all get caught up and lifted. I pray that this living by faith continues forever. I believe that it will until the people involved forget to humble themselves, and forget to acknowledge the source of the vision – God.
When that happens, and living by faith stops, God help us.
So last of all the how to. How to Walk by Faith like I have been experiencing in Samoa?
How does one enter into a life of Walking by Faith which is apparently so contrary to our natural inclinations?
Well don’t shoot me please when I say this; I’m just the messenger. It comes from relationship. It comes when you can hear the Lord. When you know that you can be obedient.
My personal theory is that everyone knows – if they want to. It’s just that most don’t (want to, that is).
Someone living in sin; someone doing something they know they shouldn’t be doing; someone to whom the Lord has previously spoken but has rejected or ignored it is not exercising faith and probably never will, unless they grow up and choose to do the right thing.
I have friends who reject the possibility that there is a God – certainly the Christian God. I believe that most people in that situation have chosen this in response to an encounter with Him at some stage. If that is the case, then they must turn back to that point of rejection (called repentance) and set things straight. It’s a humbling thing to do, but it is the price to pay for being in the sweet spot.
Another thing that I’ve experienced is that Walking by Faith actually has no correlation to attending Church, or organised religion. In fact I would even go as far as to say that there is an inverse relationship to faith and religion.
The more the religion, the less the faith, and visa versa. The more I see of the church nowadays the less I feel comfortable in their outworking of the biblical principles of faith. This is especially so in Samoa but also the mainstream denominations where tithing, group-think and outcome-based religion tends to stiffle true faith. I don’t want to especially knock here, but the further I see people away from institutionalised religion the greater the depth of faith I see.
The last thing is that Walking by Faith requires a Rhema (specific, direct, personal) word. The general guidance that the Scriptures give, such as “Do not Steal”, “Love your brother” and even the very concept itself, “Walk by Faith”, simply set the foundation for us to apply faith.
Faith in a biblical principle is just that a foundation but hearing and obeying in a specific situation and event is the real application of faith. It is more than hoping. It is acting in faith on what we believe is His prompting to us.
Seeing a pretty girl and hoping that she will like us and respond to our advances is not faith. It is hope. Even praying “Lord give me favour!” or “Your will be done!” when approaching her is not exercising faith. Waiting until something special happens like perhaps a thought coming out of the blue “Contact XXX person”, and then phoning them trusting that the random thought was from the Lord IS however faith.
Listening to twenty men talk and want to work for you, and responding to the still small voice that says “Maybe he’s the one?” is faith. Selecting the best candidate and praying to the Lord about it as you make the decision in your own capacity is again, mere hope.
What I’ve noticed is that as we exercise that faith, we come to expect the unusual, or good fortune or the miraculous. We expect God’s favour because the Scriptures talk ad infinitum about his generosity and capacity to enable blessing. It’s not about money. It is NOT the prosperity Gospel rebadged, naming it and claiming it.
When challenged by people to justify big plans and goals, especially in terms of financial resources, I think inwardly, “Just leave the money things aside for one minute and focus on the vision”. And then I think to myself, my Boss can afford it! One day once people see the things happen this will be our catchcry whenever new projects are devised . . . “Go and see Dennis. His Boss can afford it!”
And the reason is nothing to do with me. It is just that he has called me to do something. I’m doing it, and so He will resource it.
* I think I suffer from a mild form of Aphasia (sound-to-brain disconnect) and perhaps a very strong visual learning bias and a weakness in auditory learning. I can hear a pin drop at 100 paces, and can pick out a French Horn harmony or a Cor Anglais in an orchestra of 50 instruments, but if someone says “Have a nice day” in Samoan as they ALWAYS do, after more than a year I still have to guess what they said using context, because I sure-as-eggs can’t work out what they said!
I can learn little bits of a language, very slowly but painfully. I did get 6% in Latin at school so I’m not a total clux! It took me five weeks of trying for example to hear and remember the words in Samoan, Faafetai (Thank you). Even a year later I was still confusing Thank You and Good-Bye (Faa). I’m sure that’s one of the reasons living in a foreign country put the wollies up me!