Whenever they go to the pool, Sharon’s three year old daughter likes to play “jump, catch, and release.” This is where her daughter jumps into the pool, mom catches her, releases her, and the same process continues . . . over and over again. (I know all about this since my daughter does the same thing!) One day, however, after this game had gone on for quite some time, mom decided she needed a break, and turned to head off into the deep end to swim by herself. When she came up from under the water to catch her breath, she noticed her three year old daughter flinging herself into the deep end of the pool. Sharon immediately swam over to rescue her, grabbed her daughter and said, “Honey, what are you doing?” And “with a look of pure joy,” says Sharon, her daughter exclaimed, “Mommy, I knew you would catch me!”
Such a story warms the heart because it reminds us that whatever happens to us in our lives, as followers of Christ, we can trust our heavenly Father to catch us.
Before I became a pastor in Iowa, I worked as a teacher in a private Christian school in Florida. When I announced to my students that I was leaving to pastor a small church in rural Iowa, they were shocked. They wondered why I would leave sunny central Florida in order to serve in a small town where the winters can be quite harsh. Not only this, but in 2008 there was an EF-5 tornado that destroyed much of the town, including the location of the house we currently live in.
Although there was some fear in my heart, I read an article by J. R. Vassar that God used to speak to me. Here’s why: For years Vassar and his family felt called by God to start a church in New York City. After he and his family visited New York, talked with friends and prayed, they felt they had confirmation to move forward with their plans. But then 9/11 happened. All of a sudden, Vassar was overcome with fear. He wondered if he should really move his young family to New York. Why make the move at this time? Isn’t it too dangerous?
While praying over this monumental decision, Vassar says he felt God say something like this to him: “The longer you play it safe and avoid risk and the potential of loss, the more you will accept the present and lose your capacity to dream about and shape the future. When you give your fears more authority than the Spirit of God, all chance of God-exalting valor and generational impact is lost.”
When I read those words I instantaneously uttered under my breath, “That’s what God is saying to me. I cannot—I will not—give my fears more authority than the Spirit of God.” After all, Paul clearly says that God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Tim. 1:7).
And yet the questions remain: What will happen if I do this? What will happen if I take this course of action? What if I move to Iowa and the church flounders? What if another tornado hits? What if people don’t like me? What if I look like a fool? What if? What if? What if?
But that’s when Vassar spoke to me again. He asked, “Will you choose to quench the Spirit by cowering under the tyranny of the what if? What if I fail? What if I suffer? What if I go without? Will you let an unsanctified imagination stir up potential scenarios that argue you out of obedience to the Scriptures and the Spirit’s promptings?”
What is winning in your heart? The what if or the if God?
What does that question mean? Well, prepare to be dazzled by God because when the if God is on your side, you don’t have to live in fear. Here’s what the Bible says: What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom. 8:31-32).
But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! (Luke 12:28).
So, jump in with both feet. Jump into the deep end. You already know God will catch you.
I’ll let Vassar have the final word: “If God is holy, sovereign, wise, good, powerful, and abounding in love, let us resolve to no longer ascribe greater authority to our fears than we do to God.”
Father, in place of my faithless need to control, give me a watchful heart full of expectation and wonder. Amen.