When we’re making major life decisions or are faced with a huge change, planning our next move can be challenging.
David Brinkley is credited with having once said, “She took a leap of faith and grew her wings on the way down.”
This advice seems in the same vein as popular “empowering” messages that Western media figures, celebrities and even some Christians toss around, pointing to the wild success stories of a few and neatly sidestepping all the shattered dreams of many others who inexplicably didn’t manage to sprout feathers.
The dark side of this saying is its implication that whoever doesn’t achieve their goals is at fault for the failure.
The Master of Our Destiny
Secular messages that sound good on the surface sneaking into religious messages and trendy Christian thought are nothing new, and some believers are definitely calling out the popular attempts to dress up secular self-help and sensationalistic "inspiration" in Biblical clothes.
These efforts to motivate others usually have little or nothing to do with God or his plans for our lives.
In them, our heavenly Father transforms into a celestial vending machine. Just find the magic combination, and he will produce whatever you deem best for your own future!
Worse yet, they encourage us to cut God out of the picture almost entirely. “It’s up to you,” they howl. “You are the master of your destiny.”
While Jesus certainly condemns passivity in his parable of the talents, his life right up to a gruesome death on the cross is a resounding rebuke to anyone’s plans to wrestle the trajectory of their future away from God’s guiding hand.
Choosing or Given Freedom
In his book Have You Felt Like Giving Up Lately?, David Wilkerson pointed out a crucial and uncomfortable truth.
“I hear some ministers today who continually preach only a positive message. To hear them tell it, every Christian is receiving miracles; everybody is getting instant answers to prayer; everybody is feeling good, living good, and the whole world is bright and rosy…
“But that’s not the way things are for a great number of very honest, sincere Christians.
“How sad to hear such shallow theology being pushed from pulpits today. It’s an insult to a lowly Jesus who became poor, who died a failure in the eyes of the world. It is this kind of materialistic preaching that has so ill prepared an entire generation to endure any kind of pain…”
Believers like Simonetta Carr, whose life was abruptly redefined when her son was diagnosed with schizophrenia, live with burdens that are the result of no one’s deliberate choice. Certainly not Simonetta’s or her son’s.
To tell her and many others in similar straits that they simply need to “choose” success and freedom from their troubles would not only be untrue but also cruel.
So When Do We Leap?
Is a leap of faith unbiblical then?
By no means. Many great biblical figures took enormous chances based on the Lord’s call, and others thought they were mad. Abraham left his home and settled in a new land. Gideon attacked an enemy nation far greater than he could have ever reasonably defeated. Peter, an uneducated fisherman, followed the Messiah into becoming one of the church’s first leaders.
Within all of these examples lies the absolutely essential element: God’s direction.
“You see, there’s a mental discipline that’s required of us if we’re going to live in God’s favor,” writes Gary Wilkerson in his book, aptly titled God’s Favor.
“By discipline, I don’t mean some rigid work apart from God’s grace. I’m talking about communion with the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, who brings to our remembrance all truth about our Savior.”
Abram, Gideon and Peter had two notable things in common. They repeatedly sought God’s direction, and they all made serious mistakes while pursuing the path God called them to walk.
Leaps of faith often don’t produce blessing in our lives without the Father’s call, and they usually don’t come without tumbles or bruises.
The latter doesn’t surprise God. He lovingly picks us up, helps us dust ourselves off then asks us to trust him and jump again.