Launching Into the Unknown
Topic: Christian Living Passage: Genesis 12:1–12:4
Launching Out With God
Grace Community Church
May 6, 2018
Launching Into the Unknown
Let’s turn together to the book of Gen, chapter 12. As most of you know that we just got back from a two week vacation in Florida and during that time we stayed in Matt and Siobhan Slack’s condominium which happens to be on the 9th floor of their building. They have a beautiful view of the bay and the bridge that takes you over to Lido Beach. But right across the street from their condominium is an equally high condominium building that and one morning we noticed that on the roof of that building a window washer was getting ready to drop himself down on this little seat and wash the windows. That fascinated me cause I am afraid of heights and couldn’t imagine dangling from a little seat attached by a couple ropes to the roof some 100 feet off the ground.
At one point he sat on the edge of the roof, with his legs dangling over the side and it looked like he was aabout to get on that seat and lower himself down, but then he must have wanted to double check something because he got back up and fiddled around with something on the roof for a couple minutes and then he once again dangled his legs over the edge getting ready to commit to that little seat and whatever safety harness he had hooked up. That would be the hardest part for me. That moment when you leave the solid security of the roof and trust that little seat and harness to hold you. That’s kinda true in much of life; the most difficult step of any new venture, any major decision, any new direction, any change, is the first step. The choice or the decision or the action that launches us from this place to that place.
For the next several weeks we’re going to be in a topical series I’m calling Launching Out With God. I like that word launch cause it conveys the movement from this place to that place. I felt the Lord put it on my heart to consider the challenges, the fears, the obstacles, and the rewards that come from our having the courage and faith to launch out in new areas in life. Most of us will probably never launch out from a structure hundreds of feet in the air (except for Jeff, who does it all the time), but as we follow Jesus, there is no doubt the Lord will give us constant opportunities – some large, some small – to launch out with faith in God.
So what do I mean by launching out? Like that guy who launched out from the security of the building to do what he was up there to do, launching out is that moment when we leave the security of what we know and the comfort of what’s familiar to us, to begin any new venture or life choice we feel the Lord leading us into. At times in our lives all of us have major launch opportunities like changing careers or moving to another city or state or asking someone to marry you. If you’re facing one of those major launch decisions, I pray these messages will be a help to you. But I don’t want to limit this to just the major, life changing launches. God gives us countless opportunities to change and grow and take on new challenges and each of those have a scary moment when we launch out from the familiar into the unknown. Things like:
Taking steps to initiate a new friendship.
Lifestyle changes such as eating more healthy or exercising, getting organized or setting the alarm earlier to get some quiet time with God before you start your day.
Making a commitment to get financially healthy: getting out of debt, curbing spending, making a budget, tithing to God’s work.
Launching can be something like going back to school at the age of 29 or 42 or whatever.
Sharing your faith with someone (speaking those first words about Jesus are usually the hardest)
It can be speaking out against an injustice you’re aware of.
It can be launching out into a new way of thinking about things. A new attitude and mindset. I read this week about a believer who woke up angry every morning for most of the first 40 years of his life – his wife of 18 years and his children never knew what might set him off - until one day he stopped blaming the people around him for his anger and began facing the things going on in his heart. He launched out in a totally new mindset regarding anger.
My hope is that these sermons will be interactive sermons. None of us are necessarily launching out in the same area at the same time so I ask that you consider where and how the Lord might be calling you to launch out with Him right now, and then overlay these messages over it.
Launching into the unknown
Launching out when you’re afraid
Launching out on the Great Commission to a world that doesn’t think it’s very great anymore
I have several goals that I hope the Lord will help us accomplish through this series: 1) to stir our faith to see opportunities all around us (some small, some large) to launch out with faith and with God by our side. 2) To encourage us not to settle into non-launching, non-changing, lifestyles. We want to be “launchers” not “settlers”– people of faith who are courageous and ready to launch. And 3) to massage wisdom into the process because it is possible to launch out foolishly and that pay a painful price for it.
So I thought it’d be appropriate to launch this series by visiting what is possibly the very first launch pad in the Bible which is all about launching into the unknown. Gen. 12:1-4
God speaks to Abram and calls him to launch out – leaving everything he knows, everything he’s grown up with, his country, his people, his father’s household, his customs, his religious upbringing – and go forward with no idea where he was going. Other than promising to bless him, God doesn’t tell him anything about his destination. Just “Go…to the land I will show you.” Abram launched out from the familiar into the totally unknown. Hebrews 11:8 confirms this:
 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. (ESV)
We see this same thing with Paul when he says in Acts 20:22 "And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.” (NIV) Paul was going, not knowing.
Going, not knowing.
When the Lord calls us to launch out, there’s almost always some degree of unknown. What if things don’t work out? What if I fail? What will people think? What will it be like at that new (you fill in the blank) school, job, city, relationship?
Some people stay where they are and refuse to launch out in anything simply because where they are is familiar. They may not even like they are, but it’s familiar. It’s what they know, it’s comfortable. The new is unfamiliar. It’s uncomfortable. Dave Ramsey talks about how important it is to have a budget if you’re ever going to have financial health – a budget is you telling your money where it’s going, rather than wondering where your money went – but he also warns that when you start to put a budget together at first it’s going to feel weird and uncomfortable and you’re going to make mistakes. Launching into the unknown can be uncomfortable, awkward, even a little scary. Especially that first step.
As a small example of this, I had the privilege of preaching at Bridgeway Sarasota the past two weeks, and I was surprised to notice how much more comfortable people were with me the second week than the first. The first week, there was this slight “you’re not familiar” kind of stiffness. When I walked in the second week, there were some guys that I had talked with the week before and as I went up to them, the comfort level to talk and joke was much higher. Why? There was a little bit more familiarity. New and unknown can be exciting, but it can also be a little uncomfortable and even scary.
It can’t have been easy for Abram to pack up his family and leave everything he ever knew, especially without a game plan on where he was going, but God didn’t want him trusting the plan, He wanted Abram trusting his God. God’s promises were all about what He (God) was going to do to establish and bless Abram. Abram was leaving a pagan hometown with pagan roots to follow God into a new land and more importantly, a new walk of faith with the living God.
God wants all His children to walk by faith, and sometimes that will mean launching into new lands that we don’t know. For some of you, there is some first step that the Lord has been putting on your heart: reaching out to someone, applying to that school or educational program you’ve been thinking about, sending your resume to that company, sitting down and making a budget, getting serious about paying down debt, giving to the Lord’s work, sharing your faith more boldly. We want to stir up our faith and be people who are courageous enough to launch out with God into the daily new things that He has for us. God doesn’t mean for us to be settlers, He calls us to be launchers!
This message is to stir up our hearts, not just this morning but as a lifestyle, to walk with a faith that is constantly ready to launch into new opportunities and adventures with God. Again, don’t just think major 100 foot high stuff, but more often than not, it will be more like10 or 15 foot high launches, but they are so important and can make such a difference in our lives. But we also need to launch with wisdom, because if we aren’t wise there is a lot of potential for damage to be done in the name of faith.
Years ago, in a message entitled Expect God, I shared this illustration by John Emmons:
The African impala can jump to a height of over 10 feet and cover a distance of greater than 30 feet. Yet these magnificent creatures can be kept in an enclosure in any zoo with a 3-foot wall. The animals will not jump if they cannot see where their feet will fall. Faith is the ability to trust what we cannot see, and with faith we are freed from the flimsy enclosures of life that only fear allows to entrap us.
Afterwards a dear couple came up to me and told me I couldn’t know how much that message spoke to them, and how that illustration hit home. They then proceeded to tell me that they had made a decision to launch in a way that didn’t sound all that wise to me. The launch they were proposing wasn’t wrong, but it seemed to me that there could be some important preparatory steps they could take before launching that might make it more likely to be a successful launch. I sat with them for an hour appealing to them to take some preparatory steps before launching but they were convinced it was God to launch immediately. It’s not for me to say whether it was the Lord or wasn’t, but I can say that they had a really hard go of it, and the steps they took didn’t work out and they were left bouncing from this to that for years. God met them, as He always will with His children, but it was a hard and disjointed journey.
I appreciate John Emmon’s point in this illustration, but the truth is, faith has to be more than trusting what we can’t see, cause there’s a lot we can’t see and there are a lot of jumps we can make into the unknown that we don’t want to make! Faith isn’t a blank check to do anything we want to do believing that God will catch us. Sometimes launching into the unknown is a faith thing and sometimes it’s a dumb thing! If possible, we want to know which is which before we launch! But how do we do that?
There’s no formula, but the key is found in verse 4: The Lord said to Abram. Faith isn’t trusting what we can’t see, faith is trusting what God says. God will often call us to launch into the unknown, and walk by faith not by sight, but the key is that we hear from the Lord – especially in the bigger, life-changing decisions. But Christians often say they’ve heard from God – that couple I met with did – is there a way that we can know when it’s the Lord speaking and when it’s just our own thoughts?
The window washer wasn’t trusting that little seat and his grip on the rope for his safety. There were safety harnesses attaching him to the strength and security of the roof. When he pulled back from launching out to double check something, I was thinking he probably was double checking all the safety harness equipment cause the time to check that is before you leave the roof and dangle 100 feet off the ground. Likewise, God doesn’t want us to be attached to our own subjective feelings and thoughts when we launch. He wants us to be securely fixed to His will and His purposes. Wisdom double checks the harness before we launch to make sure it’s secure.
Sometimes what God calls us to launch out in may not seem to be wise from a purely practical perspective. Some people equate wisdom with practical. If it ain’t practical, it ain’t wise. That will gut your life of faith cause faith will often not look very practical. Is it practical to begin to move when you don’t know where you’re moving to? Is it practical to walk into water expecting it to part after your feet get wet? Is it practical to look for your tax money in the mouth of a fish you catch? Is it practical to leave your lifelong vocation to follow some guy from Galilee? The Bible doesn’t always equate wisdom with practical. Faith isn’t always super practical.
The wisdom God wants us to attach our lives to isn’t so much launching in a practical direction as it is launching in a biblical direction. Look at Abram: it wasn’t super practical going not knowing, but he was moving out of the pagan culture he grew up in, and away from the pagan gods he grew up believing in, to follow the living God. His direction may not have been practical, but it was biblical. God doesn’t ever move us in ungodly directions, always in godly directions where we can love and serve His purposes. Sometimes (a lot of times) God’s wisdom is very practical, but sometimes it’s not. We should always double check the safety harness to make sure that it’s firmly attached to a biblical direction.
Check your motives
The Lord is our Good Shepherd. He loves to lead us safely and securely, and he is a better leader than we are followers. We may not have as direct an encounter as Abram did, but if our hearts are right and we’re sincerely seeking to hear from the Lord, the Lord will make sure we’re ok and He will guide us.
The thing that can mess this up is when we want something so bad that we’re not submitting it to the Lordship of Christ. We might slap a “the Lord is leading me to do this” label on it, but the truth is we’ve stopped listening to the Lord cause we want it so bad that we’re just hearing what we want to hear. We need to double check to make sure we haven’t secured our harness to pride rather than Jesus’ will. If I launch out in this it will make me look good, I’ll be successful, it will impress people, pride, pride, pride. We don’t say it like that, we slap a “God is leading me” on it, but really what is motivating us is pride. Pride is a lousy thing to be anchored to – it can’t hold you. I’ve done that, and I can tell you that God will still be faithful – He won’t let you be destroyed. But He may well let you fall hard.
So double check to make sure you’re not just launching out in what you want rather than seeking what the Lord wants. Often what the Lord wants for you, you will want too. The problem isn’t that we desire something, the problem comes in when we want it more than we want Jesus’ will. Check your motives and submit them to the Lord’s will. If you sincerely do that, the Lord will protect and keep you even if you get it wrong.
Proverbs has a lot to say about the safety and benefit of seeking wise counsel in our lives. Of course, seeking counsel from foolish people isn’t going to do you any good, but getting perspective from wise people who care about you is a good way to check the safety harness. Proverbs 15:22 says, Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. Prov. 24:6 says that in a multitude of counselors there is safety.
Wise counselors don’t try to tell you what to do, but they offer honest and well thought out perspective. If a lot of people are warning you not to launch, it might be wise to listen. At least slow down and make doubly sure that your motives are clear, that your direction is biblical, and that you feel the Lord confirming it in spite of their counsel.
In smaller, less consequential decisions, just do something!
I began by saying that we don’t want to limit this to major, life-changing decisions. Kevin DeYoung wrote a book titled Just Do Something and he warns against over-spiritualizing every decision and choice, as if we need a hand written note from heaven before we can do anything.
God gives us the ability to make decisions and choices and He expects us to do something with that ability. If your finances are out of order, you probably don’t need to pray about making some changes, just seek out the wisest direction and trust God will be with you as you launch into new financial habits.
Verse 4 says, So Abram went, as the Lord had told him…and they set out for the land of Canaan and they arrived there. God is the one who told him to go, and many times the Lord will confirm to Abram that He is with him. But in the day to day travels, Abram is just moving forward. If we continue reading we see that he arrives at Shechem and the Lord says I’m going to give you this land. So what does Abram do? He moves on to Bethel and pitches a tent there. Then he continues on to the Negev and then when there’s a famine in the land, Abram moves his family to Egypt. The point is, God didn’t micromanage Abram and Abram didn’t feel paralyzed not to move a step without a fresh word from God.
Overspiritualizing things can paralyze us from launching out. In the smaller, less consequential things, just do something and trust God will bless you.
God calls us to a life of launching – often into the unknown. Is there a first step, a launching moment that the Lord is calling you to right now? As we pray, lift that thing to the Lord and say “yes” to what He’s calling you to do and how He’s calling you to launch. Check your safety harnesses to make sure it’s a biblical and wise direction and then take the first step and launch out! If nothing is coming to mind, then ask the Lord to give you fresh eyes to see opportunities, large and small, to trust Him and launch out in new ways. Ask God to help us not be settlers, living life in an endless rut of familiar, but to be launchers, living out our faith by launching into the new opprotunities God gives to us each day.