Before jumping into my next series of posts I wanted to spend today sharing a personal experience I had last week. It’s a story that in some ways is painful for me to tell, because as you’re going to see it’s all about a real failure I had for God last week. I didn’t immediately think of blogging about this, because let’s be honest, it’s not really the funnest thing to broadcast your weaknesses and your shortcomings for the world to read. But, the more I’ve thought about it the more I’ve come to realize the importance of sharing this. I’m not perfect, I’m just not. I’ve been deep in study in my Bible for a while now, I’ve been communing with my Lord in prayer, I’m plugged in at church and going multiple times a week, and yet, I still came up short for God last week. I don’t know why exactly but it feels important to me now to write about it. Part of breaking the stereotype on Christians being hypocrites is to stop acting like we’re perfect. We’re not perfect. Just like everyone else in the world, sometimes we come up short, sometimes we don’t live up to the standards we’ve set for our life. So I share this today hoping that it will encourage someone else out there who’s also come up short recently. As you’ll see, God’s shown me a lot through this and has used it not to break me down, but to build me up.
So, one thing you’ve likely noticed on the blog in recent weeks is my focus on boldness. I blogged about those two words in the book of Joshua, strong and courageous, and it’s been the cry of my heart. God has been showing me those words and putting this desire for boldness in me. And I know why. For pretty much the entirety of my life, I’ve been a person who avoids confrontation. I’ve been downright cowardly. In the past, I’ve lied to avoid confrontation, I’ve straight up fled out of buildings to avoid confrontation! It really has only been this past year when I rededicated my life to God and started putting Him first in my life that this desire for boldness started to grow inside of me. Because God’s word tells me that I’m not a coward. It tells me that I am strong, courageous, a mighty warrior, a victor! And it tells me to share Jesus, to go out and live like Jesus did. And friends, it takes boldness to do that. The boldness to not be afraid of what others will think, the boldness to not be afraid of being attacked verbally or maybe even physically, the boldness to care more about sharing Jesus’ love than anything else in the entire world.
God’s built a bolder heart in me day by day, and it’s been such a blessing. The steps have been baby sized, but that’s because I had a long way to go. I started approaching more people in church, started playing on the worship team, started not wanting to run out of the sanctuary when it was time to pray with others. As I’ve grown in boldness, I’ve also grown in ambition for the Lord. It’s great to feel more confident and bold in the church, but I want that confidence everywhere. I want to share the love of Jesus everywhere I go. I want to tell people about Jesus on the cereal aisle at the grocery store! And it’s that kind of desire that led to my failure last week.
On Tuesday of last week I was preparing to go cover a City meeting for my job at the newspaper. Before I left, I got into prayer and asked God for opportunities to share Him and His love at the meeting. I didn’t always pray this prayer, but as my heart of boldness has grown it’s become one of my daily cries to the Lord. When I got to the meeting a thought occurred to me out of nowhere. I wanted to do the pre-meeting prayer. I feel in my heart that this was a God inspired thought, that He was speaking to me in that moment. The problem is, members of the audience don’t do the pre-meeting prayer at the City meetings. Either the Mayor or one of the Council members handles the prayer. So while I entertained the thought of how cool it would be to do it, I didn’t figure it was even feasible. And yeah, you can imagine what God does next.
We all rise to pray, and the Mayor pauses before starting the prayer. And for the first time in the nine years I’ve been covering city meetings for the paper, he says this. “Does anyone in the audience want to lead the prayer tonight?” My heart jumped, my blood pressure spiked, and I did something that I deeply regret. I completely froze. There were thirty or forty people there, and no one spoke. And I knew, this wasn’t just an offer for anyone random to lead the prayer, it was God answering my prayers from earlier in the day. It was an offer for me to lead the prayer. I asked for opportunity, and He gave it. And yet I remained like stone. Unmoving and silent. After a long silence, the Mayor led the prayer himself, and I spent the entirety of the meeting feeling like total crap.
When the meeting was over I got to my car and cried. I haven’t felt that devastated in a long time. I asked my God for something, and He gave it. He held it out to me, I looked upon it, then shook my head no. While I’ve dealt with this in prayer already, writing about it is a little painful, because it was such a moment of weakness, it pains me. I felt like I had spit in God’s face. I felt the opposite of strong and courageous. I felt weak and cowardly.
As I went to God in prayer there in my car, I told Him how sorry I was. And I have to tell you, I didn’t feel condemnation or judgment or even really disappointment. I felt love. I came up short for Him, I essentially rejected an answered prayer from Him, and yet here He was, loving me and comforting me through the aftermath. And in that love and comfort, I felt a question laid upon my heart from God. He asked me, are you gonna give up? I love that God asked me that question. I took it seriously, and reflected on it. Was this the limit of my boldness? The answer roared up inside of me. The answer was absolutely not.
In those moments in the car, a lot happened. God showed me the difference between where I’m at with my boldness and where I think I’m at. The difference between where I’m at and where He needs me to be. In those moments in the car, I made a decision not to be defeated by my failure, but to be motivated by it. In those moments in the car, I prayed a bold prayer to God. Lord, tomorrow give me double the opportunities, and give me the wisdom, strength, and courage to follow through on those opportunities. Give me the boldness to meet them head on, to delight in them.
I reached out to my brother, and we talked about the whole thing. He helped me work through my disappointment, shared some great Biblical wisdom and personal experience on similar situations. I talked to my best friend that night and asked him to pray with me. He said something in that prayer that I’ve been holding onto ever since. He asked God to grant me strength and courage beyond what I can even imagine. Let me tell you, I have a huge imagination. So to really think about this idea, the idea of God building my boldness to a level beyond imagining, it filled me with fire, man. It burned within me like a promise. A promise I hold to this day and keep close to my heart.
I was really disappointed and hurt by my lack of action at the City meeting. But I wasn’t defeated by it. Like everything, God found a way to turn it to good, to use my weakness that night to build me up, to encourage and train me. I continued to pray for more and more opportunities to share His love throughout the week.
Three days later I was at the young adult church service at my church (I’m young at heart, give me a break), and we were about to start worship. The pastor paused and he looked at me and he said “Aaron, would you lead us in prayer before we get started?”. And I smiled and my eyes filled with tears because in that moment I was overwhelmed with God’s love. He didn’t forsake me, He didn’t give me a single chance at that City meeting and then decide I wasn’t ever going to get another chance. He again heard my prayers, and He again answered them. And this time I said “Absolutely” and led the room in prayer.
I know this is much longer than most of my posts, but I want to close out with a few thoughts. Our past failures don’t determine our future successes. Leading prayer at church isn’t exactly the same as leading it in a secular setting where many of those present may be non-believers, I get that. Let’s be real honest. If the City prayer opportunity was a fastball pitch of an opportunity, the one at young adult church was a softball pitch. But guess what? The Coach still has me in the game. That success at young adult church was a confidence builder, an answered prayer on multiple levels. The speed of the next pitch might be a fastball again, and I’m excited about that. I’ve seen one whiz past me already, I learned from it and I stand ready to swing hard at the next one. My past failure didn’t limit my future success because I didn’t let it. God asked me in that car, are you done, was that all you have in you, have we already hit the limit of your boldness? I could’ve said yes, and I shudder to think where that would’ve led me in life. But I said no, and I immediately asked Him for more opportunities. I shook it off, and stepped back out in boldness, ready to be tested and to put my boldness into action.
The other thing I want to say is that we need to be ready to receive what we’re asking for from God. I kept asking for opportunities in my prayers, I kept asking for boldness, but never once did I also ask for the wisdom to handle the opportunities should they be given. I word my prayer differently now, because when I have an opportunity to share God, I don’t want my own words to come out, I want His words to come out. I ask for the chance, the boldness to seize it, the wisdom to handle it, and the endurance to see it through. There’s an old saying, be careful what you wish for because you just might get it. Prayers and wishes aren’t the same thing, but on this day I feel like the concept is similar. If you’re going to approach God and ask for something, prepare yourself to receive it. Ask for any accompanying strength or wisdom you’ll need to handle what you’ve asked for. Get ready to receive, fully and completely ready, so that you won’t find yourself frozen in place like I was last week.
Finally, I just want to thank you guys for loving me, weaknesses and all, and I want to ask for your prayers. Pray boldness into my life. Pray that I’ll have more and more opportunities to share Jesus with those who need Him. As humans we try to hide our weaknesses. Is that really the best way? Why not highlight our weaknesses, so that we can ask those who love us to help us turn them into strengths? A lifetime of avoiding and fearing confrontation built within me the tendencies of a coward. But my God has revealed to me that this is not who I’m called to be. And what my God says about me is my identity. I am mighty. I am strong and courageous. I am bolder by the day. I am victorious. And I am ready for more opportunities to put these words into action.
PRAYER AND CLOSING
Father God, I thank you for everything today. Thank you for putting it on my heart to share this. I’m not ashamed at my imperfection, because it just points towards your glory. It shows that when I rise up victoriously in future opportunities, it’s because of you and not because of me. Have your glory through my life, Lord. I ask right now for more opportunities. I’m excited for them, because I know you, Jesus, and what better thing to share with others than you? Please, continue to build my boldness, deliver on the promise I felt in my heart when Chris prayed over me. Grant me a level of boldness beyond my imagining. Be glorified when this man who’s avoided confrontation and has been a coward for so long stands tall for you. Challenge me, Lord, test my heart in these matters. If I’ve got more lessons to learn, more temporary setbacks, I accept them, because I know it all builds towards your glory. Thank you for loving us. I ask today that you use my example to help others. You didn’t condemn my weakness, you embraced me and loved me through it. You gently instructed me, you turned my dark moment into an explosion of bright motivation. And three days later you gave me another chance to open a meeting in prayer. Three days, Lord. And now that the number of days jumps out at me I’m reminded of your sacrifice for me on the cross. Three days in the grave, and then you came back to life. You are the resurrected king, who lived and died and lives again. I’m in awe of you, Jesus, of your power and your presence and your magnificence and your goodness. Your love changes lives, it saves souls, and I’m so thankful for all of it. I’m so thankful for you, Lord. Be glorified on this day, and give me the vision to see any opportunities you’re putting in my life today to share you with others. I pray all these things in the precious name of Jesus, amen.
I know this was crazy long, and I do apologize for that. But it just wouldn’t have worked to break this up, so I thank you for indulging the length of today’s blog. I love you guys, and I’m excited that we’re headed into the weekend. I hope you all find rest and relaxation this weekend. I’ve got a heart for encouraging others today that’s just so full of encouragement I feel like it’s going to burst, so if you have any prayer requests please send them my way. Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org), comment on the blog, send me a Facebook message, call, text, write a letter, whatever. I really want to pray with and for you guys. God loves us so much! What a thing it is, to be loved by God.