When life is safe and comfortable, there is no real need to trust God.
That’s as true for your small group, your church, and your family as it is for you personally. It’s when you step out of your comfort zone, count the costs, surrender your own preferences, and obey God no matter what that you will most need to trust God … and, by the way, that’s when God will make the biggest impact through you.
This was another discovery in my recent trip to Brazil to train cell pastors and leaders.
This was the first time I spoke outside of the United States, the first time I spoke with an interpreter, and the first time I’ve traveled abroad outside of one mission trip to Guatemala several years ago. It also involved a lot of firsts for my nineteen-year-old son Dru, who went along with me on this trip. Both of us learned to trust God on the journey, and sometimes that trust was learned in unexpected ways.
Jesus Take the Wheel
In Brazil, the lines on the road don’t mean much. Neither do posted speed limits, stop signs (where there are stop signs–they are mysteriously absent in the cities) or other traffic laws. They are more like suggestions than rules. But their system works. Often four vehicles across will occupy two lanes, especially in the cities, as drivers use every available open spot on the street. If a spot opens up, someone will fill it, even if it means moving ahead of someone else who was there first. Meanwhile, hundreds of motorcycles and scooters zoom between the cars and buses, just barely missing the mirrors of the other vehicles. Brazilians use their horns quite a bit, not in an angry way as we Americans do, but as a warning: “Here I come!” Motorists constantly cut one another off, which would drive me crazy as an American driver, but in Brazil it’s just part of doing life together.
On our way from Águas de Lindóia to São Paulo, a curvy two-and-a-half-hour trip down from the mountains into the city, the driver, whistling the whole way, constantly crossed double-yellow lines around curves to pass slower (slower, meaning they were going about 65 miles per hour I’d guess) vehicles–sometimes passing several trucks at a time.
As we rode along, I was often praying, begging Jesus, to take the wheel. I had to learn to trust these drivers, that they knew what they were doing, but even more, I just had to relax and trust that God really was (and is) in control.
Jesus Take the Stage
At the end of the first conference in Manaus, the senior pastor of the church where the conference was held was wrapping things up. My interpreter, Robert Lay, was sitting right next to me, telling me some of what the pastor was sharing in Portuguese:
Robert (translating): “… and Michael will be preaching tomorrow morning here and tomorrow night at our other campus.”
Robert: “You didn’t know you were preaching tomorrow?”
Me: “Uh, no.”
Robert: “Well, I guess you’ll be up late tonight writing a sermon!”
Yikes. I knew God would use me to speak what he wanted me to say, but I had no idea what that message was, so I went back to my hotel room and prayed, and the words came. I don’t want to sound like Abe Lincoln, but I wrote out an outline and some notes longhand, and trusted God to speak through me. Days earlier, the senior pastor had told me how his people struggled to be truly authentic with one another (see my post on this), confessing their sins to one another, and I sensed that was something I could talk about from Scripture, but I also sensed God wanted me to go deeper. I began by sharing my testimony of how God reached out to me and then how he led me into my first small group where I experienced true community, and then I shared from Scripture and my experience the vitality of living in truly authentic community with one another.
As Robert interpreted, I noticed that people were leaning in toward us–a good sign, they were engaged. I sensed God was at work, speaking through me and Robert. At the end of the evening service, the pastor asked people to respond to the good news. He told me later that a number of people gave their lives to Christ that evening. That wasn’t in my plans. But,
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:20-22).
Trusting God is an everyday, lifelong pursuit for me. He keeps teaching me in many different ways. Sometimes I think I should have this down by now, but God is so patient, and he never gives up.
Read the rest of the posts in this series on Brazil HERE.