This post is written by Jack Gross, a recent graduate of our Advanced Leadership Training program.
My family and I are enjoying our local community pool this summer. My sons like its expanse compared to the relatively confined 15-foot diameter backyard “puddle” we’ve set up in summers past. For one of my sons, this is his first experience dealing with water over his head. I thought it might take a long while for him to venture into the five-foot-deep section, and much longer to even consider the diving boards which offer the delight of flinging oneself into the 12-foot depths.
But during one of our first few visits to the pool I looked over and there he was, swimming in the center of the deeper section making his way to the far end. Later I asked him why he was able to venture into what was, for him, uncharted waters. Grinning widely, he said, “It was a challenge.” That simple and honest answer masked the profundity represented by his action. Only a couple years ago, my son feared just allowing his head to go under the surface. Now he’s unafraid to enter the deep!
In fact, just the other day after a brief assurance from me, he jumped off the low diving board into the seemingly unfathomable 12-foot-deep bay, then the medium board, and then the high board. I was amazed. Where did that initial “challenge” come from, and what was the source of this newfound confidence? Nobody coaxed him to go deep. Nobody pushed him off the boards.
Apparently, my son understood that he could navigate deeper waters because he had learned some basic skills as he swam in the shallows. It’s like his thinking flipped a switch. He’s not an expert swimmer but he saw the challenge, he saw others doing it, he became emboldened, felt the confidence, and swam beyond the safety of feet touching the bottom.
Sometimes, driven human conduct seems inscrutable. In 1923, George Mallory said he wanted to summit Mount Everest for a simple reason: “Because it’s there.” I saw a glimmer of that same achievement-impulse in my son. His conduct was fueled by both the challenge and a measure of confidence; the deep end and the diving boards had beckoned and a response was called for. A simple equation.
Sometimes, the human response to challenges are not so straightforward. We need counsel from a friend or guidance from a mentor, as exemplified in Scripture by Paul encouraging Timothy to stay in Ephesus and fight the good fight, even though some people had rejected a good conscience and had shipwrecked their faith (1 Timothy 1:3, 18,19). The prospect of adversity tends to intimidate us into giving up the fight rather than challenging us to confidently soldier on through exhausting trials. But that’s one of the reasons God has given us leaders who help us when we can’t touch the bottom any longer. As Timothy’s pastor and mentor, Paul reminded Timothy that his education in the truths of the faith had been important training toward living out the calling of serving Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 4:6). He called on Timothy to shun profitless myths and “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11). God’s truth is stronger than the opposition’s lies.
The deep waters and high dives of life can take many forms. Currents of error flow with allurements for the flesh. Selfishness, pride, and fear push us backward despite our calling to swim out into the ocean of God’s will. Yet all the while our confidence need not be shaken. Leaders must encourage followers to be diligent in their callings and give themselves wholly to them so that everyone may see their progress (1 Timothy 4:15). Everyone should pray for their leaders (1 Timothy 2:2). God is glorified when we trust Him and believers are encouraged when they witness the good example presented by one another. God is the source of our confidence; for the sake of others we display it.
I loved seeing my son progress into deeper waters. It’s gratifying to watch him respond to the world with increasing independence. His outward actions are divulging his internal growth. What are the deeper “pools” in your life in which God desires you to thrive, not just survive? Have you considered that your willingness to trust God and go deep can be an example for others who themselves might be wavering in their response to God’s calling? His call is a far more compelling reason for action than “because it’s there.” Others are watching us as we answer challenges; it’s for their sake as well as ours that we train and work with diligence and perseverance. As we respond to the opportunities each new day brings, let’s offer those who are watching us a picture of Jesus’ followers striving together, resolute and embracing the challenge as we push onward into the depths, always relying on God’s power to bring us safely to the other side
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Each Thursday we send out our Training Resources Newsletter, which shares a new ministry tool and an encouraging story about God’s Spirit preparing someone for service.