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When I was 4, my dad was training a group of young men teaching them rappelling techniques (vertical descent). When I saw what they were doing, I asked my dad if I could do it as well and he said, "Yes." He explained to me how the system worked and I practiced in a flat area. Then he took me to the place we were going to descend from; it was only a 17 ft drop, but for a 4 year old kid, it felt like the top of the highest mountain! As soon as I stood on the edge, I was overcome by fear and I froze, "Is the rope strong enough? What if the harness breaks? What if I do something wrong and fall?" My mind was filled with all these questions. I started to cry and told my dad, "I can't, I can't do it." My dad fixed his eyes on mine and said, "If you believe you can't do it, you are right, the same way you'll be right if you believe you can. You can do it, I'm here, I'm holding you." His words and conviction filled me with courage and confidence, the fear diminished, and I took the first step into the void believing I could do it. With every step I took I was less afraid; I didn't just believe, I knew I could do it.
When Jesus calls us to follow Him, to leave everything behind and step out of our comfort zone to serve him in missions, the feeling we get is pretty similar to the one I had standing on the edge all those years ago. When you see what God is doing through missionaries all around the world, you get excited, something inside you starts burning, and all of a sudden you find yourself wanting to do that, too. You start to pray, asking God, "Can I do it, too?" and to your surprise God answers, "Yes, come and follow me." You start serving at your church, perhaps in your youth group, or with the worship team, maybe teaching at Sunday School; and you start feeling your relationship with God and your passion for Him grow and grow every day. Suddenly, you reach a point in your life where you feel that you could do more, that you could still go deeper in your relationship with God and the way you serve. Then you hear His voice saying, "You practiced in a flat space, now get closer to the edge."
It's in that moment when doubt and fear start trying to get a hold of your mind and questions start to rise. "Are you really calling me into missions? What if I can't raise enough money? What if no one, not even my pastor supports me? What if they think I'm crazy? What if..? What if..?" There are so many questions and very few answers; some of your doubts even start to make sense when you start paying attention to the voices around saying you're not ready, it's not your time yet, that wasn't God it was just an idea. Then you start to see the reality of what it takes to be involved in missions and you just can't make sense of it. You know you want to do it, or at least try it, but little by little you start to believe that you can't, allowing doubt to take over above God's voice and you know what? You could end up being right.
When I told my dad I couldn't make the jump, I was absolutely right. As long as I had an "I can't" in my mind, fear and doubt would stop me doing it. Fear leads to doubt, doubt to unbelief and unbelief to the death of your calling. We can see this in many parts of the Bible, but there's one case in particular that I like, and it's the story of the twelve spies that Moses sent to scout the promised land. "But Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. 'Let’s go at once to take the land,' he said. 'We can certainly conquer it!'. But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. 'We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!'" (Numbers 13:30-31). If you know this story, then you know how it ends. The people of Israel heard the bad report of the 10 spies and decided that they could not conquer the promised land, and that's exactly what happened. Because of their unbelief, God made them wander through the desert and no one in that generation lived to see God's promise fulfilled.
When I took the first step down, I didn't know I could do it because of my strength or my capacity, but because I knew my dad was holding the rope and he would never let me fall. I knew I could trust him and the tools he had chosen to equip me to descend. The same thing happens with God's calling on our lives. We can't follow His calling simply because we're really good preachers or evangelists, or because we have all the resources and strength needed to make it. We can follow the calling because God goes with us. Joshua and Caleb (two of the twelve spies) knew they could conquer the promised land because they had seen the unbelievable things God did to take them out of Egypt and free them from Pharaoh. Just like my dad looked at me and said, "You can do it, I'm here, I'm holding you," God looked at Joshua and said, "Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them... Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:6,9). It's that same God looking at you and saying, "You can do it, don't be afraid, I am with you till the end!"
21 years later and I'm still rappelling!