When Bill and I decided to move to Grand Rapids, we had just come through a season of signiﬁcant marital strife, Bill had been laid off and had since landed a job where we could live anywhere. We picked Grand Rapids because we needed healing, we needed to do life differently and it seemed like a safe place to get close to family and where we knew we could be obedient to God.
When we came here, we knew that ﬁnding a church was critical. We visited dozens of churches in the Grand Rapids area. And I have to tell you, I didn't want to join Vineyard because I felt vulnerable, anxious and awkward when I came to church here. I saw people during worship putting their hands in the air - giving it up for a God that they clearly knew intimately. People walked up to people they didn't know and prayed for them.
I felt vulnerable here. And I didn't like that feeling.
I have come to learn that God wants to get us to the place where we are ill-equipped, feeling awkward, uncomfortable...where we feel vulnerable. I believe that's where God can truly move... that point when we are at the end of ourselves, when we're at our weakest.
2 Corinthians 12:10 - That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difﬁculties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Four of us recently went to Thailand to meet with churches and non-proﬁts to explore ways we could potentially partner with them to stop child prostitution and human trafﬁcking. We had a series of meetings. It was a packed schedule. One of our stops was with a Canadian missionary with a nonproﬁt called Night Light. They help women in prostitution leave the business and learn a trade to support themselves. She said that when you're a missionary, you're a big fat zero. You're nothing.
I have thought a lot about that. The young mothers sitting in the dirty gutters in Bangkok with their newborns on their laps begging for money so they can eat don't care what degree I have, who my dad is, where I have been. Sheʼs not wondering if I attended the latest Beth Moore conference or what books I have read. I am nothing. When I am nothing, God is everything. The mission ﬁeld is ﬁlled with people who are doing what they're called to do, roles that are - in most cases - way beyond their capabilities.
I learned what it looks like to die to self, to give it all up for God by meeting pastors and missionaries on our trip. It made me feel like my faith should be posted on the extra value meal menu at McDonald's - kind of cheap and not a lot of sustenance. I don't feel condemned, but I see that I have a long way to go to get to the point of laying every part of my life down.
Our last meeting in Thailand was with a pastor named Sukit. He worked with Jackie Pullinger in Hong Kong. Some of you know who she is. For those of you who don't, she's a legend in the Vineyard. She works with drug addicts under some of the darkest conditions and has had incredible success freeing people from their addictions. She has kind of a tough reputation which I'm sure comes from working in such a challenging environment. Sukit is cut from the same cloth.
Sukit is the toughest coach you've ever met. He reminded me of the those difﬁcult professors in college that command your respect. They're tough. You end up learning the most from those kinds of people because they don't mince words and they don't have time for nonsense. We met with Sukit for a few hours asking him questions about his church and toward the end I somehow had a courage to ask if he would pray for us. What was I thinking?! Where did I get the nerve to ask that?! I hadn't asked anyone on our trip to do that for us. He quickly agreed and pulled three people in the room, but they didn't pray for us. They began to prophesy over each of us.
I broke down. It was too much. I had been traveling for nine days. I was tired and dehydrated. I was hungry. And now these people who didn't even know English, who had just met me, were reading me like the telephone book.
Some of you know Jenny Kuritar. She used to go to our church and she now is a missionary with her family in China. She joined us on this trip. When Sukit and his team had ﬁnished praying over us, Jenny said... “Why don't we pray for you?” Sukit immediately said, “not prayer - prophesy.” I told him light heartedly, “That's not really my gift, but I am great at prayer. How about we pray for you?” He said no, you prophesy as he thrust his pointer ﬁnger in the air and then he turned to me and said, “You go ﬁrst.”
After a little while, he then got down of the ﬂoor next to me and started strongly encouraging me to prophesy over one of the people in the room. I remember praying, “Lord, I have nothing. I need you.” I started to feel surges of compassion and words of encouragement came out of my mouth. It was a miracle. I cried the whole time. Even then, Sukit wasn't satisﬁed. He said sternly, “There's more. Keep going.” So I
When I had said all that I had to say, I glanced at Sukit, and he said that I was spot on. Thank you Jesus. When I am weak, you are strong.
Hebrews 13:5 - God has said, “Never will I leave you; never with I forsake you.” So we can say with conﬁdence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
The Lord met me. And He will meet you too. We are called to be reliant not on ourselves, but on Him. For some of you, getting uncomfortable and becoming less self- reliant will mean joining this church. For others, it will mean going on the next mission trip. Perhaps you will join the other missionaries and live overseas. What does that mean for you? How can you get to a place where you need God to show up? I have learned that comfort stiﬂes the spirit. When you rest in our own strength and your own giftedness, you don't need God.
Jenny said something else on our trip. There are people who are being called to mission trips and to be missionaries who are not being obedient to the call. After seeing all of the work that needs to be done in Thailand, I believe that to be true. Is God calling you? Have you stiﬂed that leading by reminding yourself of all of the reasons you shouldn't or couldn't go?
Marcia Vela from our church felt led to go to Thailand with us. She didn't have the money to go and she felt God saying that she should not ask anyone for money. Can you imagine? Think about it. Marcia has her own business. She doesnʼt have a staff to ﬁll-in for her. If she doesnʼt work, she doesnʼt get paid. And God tells her not to ask for money. Marcia walked through that tension. And God met her. He brought more than enough money, and He worked it out with her clients. For with God, nothing is impossible.
So I ask you again... What is God asking you to do? Where is He asking you to go? I dare you to get to a place where you are desperate for God in your life, that place where you don't have it all together, to do things that make you feel awkward and vulnerable. If you feel God has called you to do something and it makes you sweat and your heart starts pounding, it's probably right where God wants you.