Why do we talk so much in America right now about Mark Zuckerberg? Why was Steve Jobs treated like a secular Pope while he lived? Is there a reason the guys who founded Twitter are soon-to-be-billionaires, and–unless something unusual happens in my little corner of things–I’m not?
There’s a common answer to all three questions: vision. The inventors in question all had vision in spades. In other words, where other talented people stalled out, they pushed forward. Where the folks around the table threw their arms up, these leaders dug in. Over the years, they refined their vision, their sense of greater calling propelling them on. But they did not lose sight of the bigger end in sight that they sought while others slept.
A Vision Injection
Christians today need a vision injection. Many of us are doing great at the whole “plug away and get through the day” life. We’re not doing so hot at the “charged up to give God maximal glory by every breath he gives us” kind of existence. So how can we get from the first to the second? How can we ramp up our faith? How can we overcome discouragement and fear and a pervading sense of small, malnourished spirituality?
I think we can get there by a fresh vision of God. Think about the Parable of the Talents. In Matthew 25:14-30 we find a contrast of these two ways of living. We meet a faithful servant whose master is gone and who is determined to reap a profit in the master’s name. He knows the master is great and deserving of this. He understands the master’s great reputation, but that doesn’t scare him. It fires him up. He ends up bringing in a windfall.
We also meet a faithless servant who knows all the same information but who goes the exact opposite way. The master’s greatness scares him. He’s intimidated by it. He’s also lazy; he figures, “No sense in working hard today, because when my boss gets back in town he’ll make a mint anyway.” When his leader does return, he throws down on this lazy, fearful servant. The lesson from the parable is clear: God is the master. He wants us to risk our fear. He wants us to put everything on the line and trust him. That’s the only way to glorify him. More than that, it’s the only way to live.
Maybe we see ourselves more in the faithless servant than the faithful one. If so, we have impossibly good news: we can change. We can grow. God will renew us and reinvigorate us through his gospel. The key is this: to see that God’s greatness doesn’t crush us. It empowers us. God saves us, restores us, and gives us the Holy Spirit. Every Christian in every place has constant and unbroken access to the Spirit’s power. When we see this, we can kiss defeat goodbye and own our God-given role as “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37).
What Gospel Risk Really Looks Like
This is awesome news. We don’t need to be a techno super-genius to glorify God. Success for us is not the cover of Fast Company magazine or a speaking gig on the TEDx circuit. It’s using every aspect of our lives to honor the Lord. It’s building a big life filled with gospel horsepower. Instead of just holding down a job, we can build a vocation. Instead of half-hearted church attendance, we can plug in and build our church. Instead of letting fear overwhelm our witness, we can clear our throat and share the good news with our neighbor. This is what “gospel risk” looks like: exchanging a small life for a grand one.
But don’t misunderstand me. You don’t need to go overseas to build a big life driven by gospel vision. You don’t have to sell your shoes and socks and move into a cardboard box. You can drive an SUV, live in the ‘burbs, and buy Caramel Macchiatos from Starbucks and live just like the faithful servant from the Parable of the Talents. God wants some of us to take the gospel to the nations; that’s a glorious thing to do! But he wants many of us to support that work, and to be missionaries wherever we are. He’s not opposed to ordinary life; he just wants us to make sure that our day-to-day lives, which may never qualify for the cover of Christianity Today, are lived on mission with maximal purpose for God.
This is a message for all of us. It’s for stay-at-home moms and engineers and PhD students and baristas and electricians and artists and everyone in between. Gospel vision is for everyone. That’s the super-cool thing about the kingdom of God. It’s not just the super-duperstars who matter. It’s all of us. Every Christian has a specific life given to us by God. We’re the one who can glorify God in this little corner of things, not anyone else. This is exciting news.
So, Christian: leave that defeated, faithless-servant style of religion behind. Trust a great savior. Set your eyes on the risen Christ. Find power in the gospel, and embrace a new life driven by making Christ known. This is the vision you need. It will take you far past this world and send you soaring into all the ages to come.
About Owen Strachan:
Owen Strachan is executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood and assistant professor of Christian Theology and Church History at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky. He also teaches for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Risky Gospel: Abandon Fear and Build Something Awesome, which you can read more about at the site for that book: http://riskygospelbook.
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