It doesn’t take a lot of courage to skydive from an airplane…it just takes one step. The step between leaving the airplane and leaping into the clear blue sky is the essential step to skydiving. You’ve got to be a little bit crazy to skydive in the first place, but jumping from a moving airplane while in flight and landing safely on the ground may be one of the greatest thrills I’ve ever experienced in my life.
You have to understand how to fly with a parachute before you jump out of an airplane. Of course, you must know how to control your body in the air before planning your first jump. There are a lot of other things that need to be factored into skydiving if you’re going to land on the ground safely… but understanding these things completely doesn’t help you make the first jump from a moving airplane.
I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve seen stand on the ramp of an airplane in flight, look over the edge with total terror in their eyes, and decide not to make the jump. These folks understood everything they needed to know before their first skydive, but knowledge alone couldn’t get them over the edge of the airplane. Something else was holding them back.
I’m using the imagery of skydiving to set up what it looks like to be a Christian who’s willing to follow Jesus wherever he leads. I’m convinced Jesus doesn’t call his people to live a tame, safe faith. Following Jesus and holding nothing back will be both an exhilarating and terrifying thrill ride. It might get a little bit scary when Jesus is completely calling the shots in your life – but it’s also thrilling.
Here are three things that usually hold a Christian back from displaying a courageous faith. Chances are, one or more of these things might be holding you back from doing something “crazy” for Jesus:
Let’s face it, some people just get comfortable where they are in life. Some people get so comfortable with their standard of living, they are not willing to give that up when Jesus is clearly leading them to do something different with their lives. There’s a guy just like this in Luke 18:18-23.
This guy is referred to as a rich man, or a rich young ruler because he has a lot of possessions and a lot going for him. Let’s give this guy a little credit; it appears from the story he is genuinely interested in what it’s going to cost him to follow Jesus. However, when he hears the costs, he’s not willing to pay the price to follow Jesus. He was unwilling to give up his standard of living and step off the edge of the airplane and follow Jesus wherever it took him. His place or possessions in life held him back from skydiving for Jesus.
Sometimes it’s your perspective in life that’s holding you back from going all in for Jesus. As a pastor, I’ve seen this most often when God is calling a person to do something that clashes with hopes for the future. In other words, you have a plan for the future. Your plan is working to perfection. Everything is falling into place the way you wanted it to. You’re heading exactly where you want to go, and then God throws you a curveball!
Many people are going to miss that curveball. Many Christians are going to refuse to take the last step of faith because they already know this is not the direction they want to see their life go. In other words, they get into a tug-of-war between their dreams for the future and God’s plans for their future. This happens in Matthew 8:18-22. The guy in this story really wants to follow Jesus. By the way, the Bible describes him, this guy seems to be pretty sincere, until Jesus explains what this future might look like for him. When he starts to see the cost of following Jesus, he starts to look for excuses. That’s when he decides to remind Jesus he just had a death in the family, and he’s got a lot of stuff at home he still needs to take care of before he is willing to step off of the ramp of the airplane. It’s fascinating to me that Jesus doesn’t cut this guy any slack! In fact, he throws it back into this man’s lap. In essence, Jesus is saying, “After stepping off the ramp of the airplane, there’s no turning back! Let someone else bury your dead father while you fly through the clear blue sky with me.”
Your place in life and your perspective on life can easily hold you back from going over the edge with Jesus. But did you know a person can hold you back from going over the edge with Jesus as well? Sometimes people are more committed to a friend or a family member than they are to Jesus. Their relationship with another person holds them back from being courageous and stepping off of the edge for Jesus.
Jesus deals directly with this in Luke 14:25-27. In these verses, Jesus refuses to allow another person to come between you and him. In fact, Jesus says if you are allowing somebody else to be more important to you than Jesus, you’re not worthy to call yourself a disciple. These are hard words for all of us who love somebody else deeply.
I don’t think Jesus is asking you to personally hate everyone you’ve ever met. Rather, I think he’s challenging you to put him first and everyone else in your life second. Perhaps that never becomes more difficult than in a Christian marriage, because, within the confines of marriage, you have to honor your spouse and follow Jesus at the same time. These two things can be very challenging, but they are not mutually exclusive. It is possible, but difficult to put Jesus first and honor your spouse at the same time. Let’s face it, single people have an advantage on married couples when it comes to following Jesus. The relationship responsibilities on a single person are much easier than the relationship responsibilities on a married Christian.
For those of you with a safe, boring faith, what’s holding you back right now? What’s preventing you from going all in for Jesus wherever that leads you? Are you standing on the edge of life, looking down at the earth from the ramp of the airplane, terrified about taking the next step? If so, close your eyes and take the leap! If you will take the next step and display courageous faith, Jesus will meet you there. If you will take that step of faith, I promise you the ride will be anything but boring!