What does an adventure with God look like? When I was a kid, I loved to listen to true stories foreign missionaries would tell when they came to our church. To me, an adventure with God looked like going to an exotic foreign country, South America or Africa, or some remote Caribbean island.
I actually did listen to the missionaries when they came to church. I was so convinced and convicted about the need that at one point I felt I was called to be a foreign missionary.
Back then, I felt an adventure with God would involve seeing all the places I'd never seen and having all the people who didn't look like me flocking around to hear more about Jesus.
Not for Everyone
After serving in the public relations department of a foreign mission board for a couple of years in my 20s, I got a much better idea of what being a missionary is like.
That kind of adventure with God is full of perils, near disasters, close calls, political upheavals, unrest, war, death and disease, not to mention family, climate, language and cultural adjustments. It's not all fun, games and excitement. It's not for everyone.
I've finally come to understand that dream I had of a great adventure on the foreign mission field has been translated into the greatest of all adventures, that of following God with every part of me—body, soul and spirit.
This is the adventure of daily walking with God even when things may not seem grand and glorious. As a matter of fact, they may seem very dull, ordinary and mundane.
How Not to Navigate the Journey
It's in these moments when we are likely to run to something else to bolster us up instead of God. I don't really know why it happens with us humans, but it does. When we are living what I'd call a basic life of marriage, building a family, pursuing education, crafting a career path or climbing the organizational ladder, we cease to believe we are on mission for God.
It's then that we seek other things to fill our desires. For some that becomes the desire for more and more money, working endless hours to buy a bigger house, better cars or sending the kids to better schools.
Then, an opportunity comes to make more money. It's not exactly legal, but who will know? And then, we are off down a path we never saw coming. We are so far into it, we can't get out and we are drowning in our own desires to continue to rake in the money. Our ordinary life has turned into a nightmare.
For others it is finding a listening ear in a co-worker who begins to become more than just a friend, and before long, their marriage is in jeopardy because they felt they needed something more than the normality they had.
It happens in what seems like a blink of an eye. Everything they have built—their marriage, home, family, job—falls apart and they, too, are living in a nightmare, all because they just wanted something different.
For others, it is drugs and alcohol. Of course, no one starts out to be a drug addict or an alcoholic. It begins innocently, but for some it morphs into an addiction that leaves them penniless and alone, so very alone. And they wonder, Where is the adventure in that?
The Slow, Steady, Silent Killer
For me, it was comfort foods. You may think that given all of the choices we've mentioned food isn't such a bad choice. The problem with overeating, bingeing and eating out of addiction to certain substances like sugar is that it is a slow, steady and silent killer.
First it takes our health, then our jobs, our mobility, our relationships and eventually our lives. We are still the same person; there is just more flesh on our bodies.
It takes all of our time and effort just to move, much less work a normal job, do housework, laundry, cooking, errands—and forget having sex with our spouse. That's the very last thing on our list.
Eating out of addiction is a silent but deadly killer of joy and everything necessary for survival. We aren't even aware it is at work in us until the cardiac surgeon tells us we have five years to live unless we lose weight and keep it off.
Let's go back just a minute, though. The reason we started down this trail of thought was because we were after a great adventure with God. What happened to detour us? Where did we get off base? After all, we were just living the American dream, weren't we?
I am very supportive of our foreign missionaries, and I know they do a great work. The truth is we are not all called to go to a foreign country. However, we are all called to have a great adventure with God, even in the ordinary sameness of our everyday lives.
Let me say it a different way. We are all commanded to have that great adventure with Him wherever we are, whether we find ourselves in a far-away land or in the city where we grew up.
Surrender Comes Before Adventure
Admittedly it is much harder to have that great adventure when you are in a very familiar environment. We don't see what we do every day as an adventure, but it is if we are committed to following God every step of the way.
An adventure is defined as an exciting or unusual experience—a risk. In order to be able to take a risk we must surrender every part of what we want to God every single day. We have to surrender our neat and tidy idea of what life is going to be like.
We have to be willing to take a journey into the unknown. Each step with God isn't a step that is known or even comfortable. It's a risky step of faith. We have to be so in tune with God's heartbeat that we understand what He's asking us to do at any given moment.
Should I go to this grocery store or the other one? It doesn't seem like it matters, but God may have a person He needs you to encourage at that other store, the one you rarely go to.
Should I spend money on this program or not? It might not be something you usually ponder because you have the money to get it, but what if God wants you to save the money to help someone in need, someone you don't even know about yet?
Should I take that job, look for another or stay where I am? Decisions don't always have clear-cut answers from God, but when we are committed to doing what He wants things become much clearer.
I Trust You, God
God longs to hear us say, "I trust You." Even more than that, He longs for us to show Him by the choices we make and by stopping to inquire of Him when we have a nagging feeling that something isn't right with a decision we are about to make. We defer to Him in order to show Him that we trust Him to lead us.
As Americans and Christians we always want a definitive answer and a reason why we are making a certain choice. Friends, here's where that great adventure with God comes in.
By saying yes to traveling this journey, we must realize that we are saying yes to something that has no definitive boundaries or outcomes. Our plans have to go out the window for His to take over.
Total Surrender Is the Key
This is why total surrender is an integral part of this great adventure. We cannot take the journey without surrendering every single part of us.
If we have a propensity toward wanting bigger and better and nicer things, we must surrender our desire for money and possessions.
If we have an inclination toward needing more and more people to validate us, we must surrender our desire for popularity.
If we feel like we have to have something to make us feel more powerful like drugs or alcohol, we have to surrender our desire for being important, famous and powerful.
When we fail or get overwhelmed and crash and burn without something to comfort us, we have to surrender our desire to be perfect.
We lay all these things at the feet of Jesus and ask Him, "What do You give me in exchange?" And He gives faith for embarking on His great adventure.
More Scary Than the Jungles
This adventure is even more scary than the jungles of Africa. Whether we are there or here, we should never be afraid because God promises to be with us when we are sold out for Him.
"Just think—you don't need a thing, you've got it all! All God's gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God Himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that" (1 Cor. 1:7-9, MSG).
Give Up to Get
Surrender what is standing in your way, especially if it happens to be a food addiction, in order to take that great adventure with God.
When I surrendered sugar to God, everything changed for me—everything. I'll tell you about that sometime.
Just understand this: When you give up something to get God, you get everything you need.
You won't regret it.
Teresa Shields Parker is the author of five books and two study guides, including her latest, Sweet Journey to Transformation: Practical Steps to Lose Weight and Live Healthy, and her No. 1 bestseller, Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds. She is also a blogger, spiritual weight loss coach (check out her coaching group, Overcomers Academy) and speaker at TeresaShieldsParker.com.
This article originally appeared at teresashieldsparker.com.
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