January 6, 2010

Year One as a Weak Fighter

It was exactly a year ago that I chose the path of foolishness. Only by God’s grace are my family and I, who naively agreed to accompany me, still alive on this same path. The decision the Lord lead us to was one requiring obedience of the sort which is “greater than sacrifice,” though in this case, the two seem to have tangled. Obedience required a new-found trust in God, and we have found ourselves uprooted from what seemed to be a near-perfect life in the Pacific Northwest to what has felt more like a rocky, narrow road, lined with thorns, here in the South. Obedience was required in laying aside a wonderful job, consistent paychecks, a solid career path, and of course, the much sought-after financial security. Obedience required in believing that I actually was hearing the whisper of God and not the voice of the devil. There have been days where I question. Days where my wife questions the fact that I question. Days where I have wondered if God altogether left me for a more gifted prospect, one that might require less time, less effort, and less refining. Thankfully, God has proven Himself as a patient friend to this weary straggler on the journey of faith.

Many have come before, many will come after. Many make this journey we are on seem like a short walk in the park on a brisk spring day. The examples I read of “men of faith,” which I read regularly as a double-shot of inspiration and as a glimpse of hope, remind me that I’m but a boy at heart with years of trials still to be discovered, still to shaped by, and yet to overcome. I have found wonderful companions in my mind as I daydream on what it would have been like to have watched Peter step off the boat, and consequently take his eyes off the Savior and begin his quick descent. To have witnessed Jesus, in a perfectly timed extension, reach down His hand to hoist the sputtering church back to life. Peter was called the rock upon which Christ would build His church. But before the church was birthed, it nearly drowned....and then denied Christ three times before it really started showing any true potential. I’m far from a theologian but that seems like sheer unexplainable mercy. I’ve read countless stories over the past year of simple faith stirred into bold action by men who have suffered imprisonments, beatings, near death experiences, betrayals, financial hardships, and every sort of trial known unto man. Yet, there is always a recurring theme throughout each story, in that the Divine hand of grace prompted, and kept them all, moving forward. Of most inspiration to me have been the life and times of men such as George Muller, Smith Wigglesworth, George Whitefield, D.L. Moody, the Apostle Paul, Joseph and his dream, not to mention modern day instruments of God’s heart such as Francis Chan, Bill Johnson, Brother Yun, and John Piper.

At this point, you may be under the impression that I’m about to compare myself to these great men of God, who overcame, through faith, the impossibilities that surrounded them. There once was a time when I may have been so prideful to consider the idea. Thankfully, God has humbled me so (as suggested in 1 Peter 5:6-7) that any early notion of being recognized as a “man of faith” seems to escape me as I am daily reminded of just how insignificant and weak my faith is. On the other hand, don’t think that I’m trying to throw, and attend, my own pity party. There should be no pity for the man who leaves everything behind to follow God, and then wonders why the road is so difficult or narrow. Nor should there be a party. What there should be, and what I feel I can honestly say, is that there should be a change. There should be progress on some level. I used to say that this experience would be worth the while if only one life was encouraged to discover Jesus for the first time or at least to seek Christ with greater diligence. By God’s kindness, this has happened in countless lives this year already! Little did I know, though, that I was referencing myself. I was that one person that needed Jesus. Did I (or do any of us) really think that our mustard seed of faith would accomplish the relocation of mountains? Probably not, at least not for very long. What Jesus was getting at in this well-known parable was that it took such an insignificant morsel of OUR own faith, by comparison, to the colossal depths of God’s faith in His own ways, His own abilities. The mountains will throw themselves into the sea, not because you or I give the command, but because God is able to match our tiny seed with His unending forest, and then, and only then, is anything possible. All forests are birthed first by planting helpless seeds that require ingredients only God can provide. We are saved by grace, through faith, because faith is the seed that God uses to implant His eternal power of grace into our lives.

God has stretched my family and I, along with all those who have joined me on this mission. I think when we’re really honest with each other, He’s stretched us way beyond where we thought He would. Way beyond our comfort, anyway. I once had childish faith that God would just drop a check of abundance out of the sky on us, giving us every penny (in one lump sum) needed to run a ministry focused on turning heads and hearts towards His Son. It’s taken nearly a year to realize that my priority was entirely misguided. Our greatest need to deliver us out of every fiery trouble has not been, nor will be, money. We don’t need a financial bailout package; the slowing growth of wealthy western Christian church can show quite clearly that money does not equal permanent solution for the soul. We need a real Savior who has been down these dirty roads before, someone who can guide us, regardless of the circumstances. Someone who knows that the roads aren’t always dirty and knows that we will suffer for a short while, only to spend all eternity sharing the intimacy of the bride with the glory of the groom. Jesus said it like this, “man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).” If all we needed were money, we wouldn’t truly need God. This has been huge revelation for me. Maybe it will provide the same enlightenment for you. Of course we need provision, but won’t He who knows every hair on our heads, who knows our needs before we even pray them, also prove faithful, and provide in His perfect timing?

I don’t want you to get the impression that I’ve grown bitter or jaded, quite the contrary actually. I’ve grown more steadily mature and fearfully passionate. I am learning to trust God like never before, because I’ve been forced to. When I felt the Lord first whisper the instruction to go start a ministry to raise disciples out of artists, I didn’t fully understand that it would cost me as much as it has. As is the story for many, I have questioned this calling, doubted God’s provision, and even wondered whether He even existed. The reality is that financial provision has been sparse, especially to someone who was still measuring his success based on worldly standards. We sent out “support” letters, prayed a lot, and then waited. I still daily look forward to what the mailbox might supply, in faith that maybe that check of abundance will yet show up, and shock me. My family has been supported, not by a husband who has supplied for their every need, nor by a strong base of monthly supporters or churches hungry to help an inspired “visionary,” but by a strange combination of supernatural provision. Random “gifts” that always arrive at the perfect time, and that often come from people who don’t seem positioned to act with such generosity. A retirement plan cashed in for groceries and to help cover bills, a totally unexpected inheritance check from a Great Aunt, food stamps and health insurance generously offered by Uncle Sam. No, I’m not exactly proud to share how we’ve managed for these last twelve months, but I can tell you that God has been faithful to provide - even in ways I never would have considered. This has been a year of struggle for us all, and yet God is constantly working all things together for good.

The point, and the main reason I write this, is to tell you that God is love! He is just, He is faithful, He is friend, He is hope, He is joy, He is peace, He is bread of life. I have never had so much peace in my heart as I have now. Though there is not an ounce of natural probability of Come&Live!’s success, my family ever landing back on their feet, or any of these “musicianaries” actually surviving through the winter; I find myself holding firmer than ever to the God of the impossible. Without a “real” job my mortgage has, unbelievably, been paid every month for the past twelve. Every bill, other than three credit cards that I haven’t been able to pay for months, has been met. The Lord knows I desire, more than just about anything else, to be free from debt, free from the burden and the guilt of having trusted earthly plastic, for years, over God’s gold. But, as much as my pride and personal credit may suffer, there is no price that anyone could offer me for the lessons God has taught this year. Nor am I suggesting this is the end. It is only the beginning. And it’s only the beginning for many of you. I felt led to share, in vulnerable transparency, some of my own struggles, because I know that I am not alone. I know that many of you are questioning everything many things in life and I want to serve as a reminder to you that God will never leave you nor will He forsake you - even when everything around you is screaming otherwise. His will and His plans are to constantly grow us into the examples of Christ-like faith that will change the world. Not just because it sounds good on paper, but because it’s how He saw fit to prove His existence, through people, like us, that stumble around as much as Peter (and likely every other man of faith) did.

My prayers are no longer so centered on God’s provision, as I am fully convinced (save for a few really bad days where throwing in the towel seems the best move) that provision will come (as, in many ways, it has already) the very second God intends for it to arrive. My prayer has become centered along the lines of, “God, please grow my love for You and for others. Please increase my faith to believe You for the impossible. Please increase my joy and increase my peace. If you would just increase these areas, I don’t think anything could ever stop You from working through me.” I would love it if you would join with me, and the many already standing by my side, to pray, not just for us, but for the entire global church, that Christ would increase her love, her faith, her joy, and her peace.

For those of you who read this far, Thank You. For those of you who did not, Thank You.

May our lights shine before men so that they are compelled to cry out to Him.
He will hear. He will answer.



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Anonymous said...

...wow. This is a beautiful post, like always.

You don't know me, but I was introduced to your blog by a friend of mine when I was going through some very difficult struggles in my life. I have been reading since fall of last year, and I can honestly say that your thoughts and inspired posts have truly made an impact in my life.

I really don't know why I am writing this except to say: Thank you, Chad, for following God, and for allowing your readers to glimpse the glories He has performed in and through your life of obedience to Him. I wish I could help support you in a more physical [monetary] way, but being a college student, I'm living on borrowed money as it is. All I can really offer is my gratitude and prayers, and the hope that somehow this will encourage you when you need it most.

Blessings always, my friend.

Chad Johnson said...

Hey Rissa! Thanks so much for the super encouraging message. It's so amazing to see how God continually puts everything together exactly how He sees fit. Your message did encourage me, and I'm very grateful for you/your prayers. Praying the Lord blesses your year at school and increases your desire to seek Him with diligence. chad

cam. said...

I feel like I should've read this when you first posted it. It would have saved me from a week of apathy and wandering. I've been questioning for a while...well...everything. This was pretty encouraging. Such perfect timing. Thank you for this.

All That Remains is You said...

Hey Chad, my name is Raf and I've been following your blog since the day I heard you quit tooth and nail. I remember reading about you on absolutepunk, hm magazine and by browsing some of the blogs posted by bands you helped while you were A&R. Every single time I read your posts I feel God's voice speaking to my desperate and faithless heart. It's amazing the way God has used you so far, inspiring artists and people like me to stop for a moment and realize all we need is to follow Christ with all our heart and soul despite our doubts and fears. In this very moment I'm so desperate and I don't know what to do, I have prayed and all of that but still things are bad and it seems they will continue to go downhill as finances in my house have reached rock bottom and we are only days away from losing it all unless a miracle occurs. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ so that you may be provided spiritually and economically to continue with this calling you've been given by the Father in spreading the Gospel to artists and people in general. I've dreamed about being part of a ministry similar to yours where music and faith work together to bring change to our generation. Be blessed and may your heart continue to follow our righteous and savior Jesus Christ.

Devin The PoetWarrior said...

I once had to make a career decision like this... it led to one of the most difficult, darkest, and most painful valleys I have ever been in. Honestly, it almost destroyed me. But the friends and circumstances that it brought in its wake were second to none. I'm still healing, still deal in doubt, and am deeply scarred. However, I would do it all (almost) exactly the same. My prayers are with you.