By Bola Olu-Jordan
Spiritual maturity does not come cheap; it comes with [steep] costs. Separating from the familiar and stepping out of our comfort boat are not in the last of the list. These require not only faith, but action.
It is often difficult to leave a familiar environment, habit, people, routine, or belief. But we cannot experience new things in the confines of our familiar zone. We cannot see the miracle of God while living in the fear of being swayed, or in the fear of losing what we already have (although this is real). The things of God are not for the fearful, the unbelieving or those who cannot go all out with God for more of Him (Rev. 21:8). God’s secrets and mysteries are often for those who can step out in faith with Him into the unknown, to discover heights impossible to imagine in our comfort zone.
It is true that what we know is an obstacle to what we don’t know, and what we have is a deterrent to what we don’t have. We must not only be bold to step out to experience more of God, but also encourage others to do so. There is always a fuller proportion of God yonder, beyond the realm of our current fulfillment. Faith and action is the key.
Why is it difficult to get out of our comfort boats and glass houses, out of the fenced and secured barns we have built round ourselves? Our cultural, traditional or religious defenses are so solid and impregnable that God would have to appear in a familiar way; otherwise, we will miss him, just like Elijah did (1 Kings 19:12). Israel chose Moses’ familiar voice to God’s because they could not pay the price.
When God, in a trance asked Peter to eat “all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air” (Acts 10:12), his cultural, traditional and religious defense came strong: “not so, Lord,’ (vs 14) he said, despite that he knew it was the Lord. When he stepped out in obedience from his comfort zone of tradition, to the command of Christ to go to the house of Cornelius, other disciples perceived later that ‘indeed, God is no respecter of persons.” (vs.34). The cost to was a personal revelation of God. He could have been convinced otherwise if he looked for others’ support. Sometimes, to walk with God, we go solo.
How many times have our comfort boat prevented us from exploring the miracle of walking on the water! We are comfortable with paddling our canoes, but God is calling us to walk on the water with him.
To experience spiritual maturity, we must be bold to ask the Lord for more. Miracles come on unfamiliar terrain. Walking on water requires more than doctrine, it requires action and blind trust (faith) in Jesus. The water may appear to sink us, but it’s better to sink with Jesus than to cruise alone.
Comfort is good, but not while on duty. Our boat will carry us without any miraculous experience. But if we need to experience more than the ordinary, we must step out. That is why Jesus often stepped out to secluded places and mountain to pray in order to experience the power of God. We don’t need any less. A separate place, devoid of familiar voices, sounds and thoughts; only there can God can show us his power as He did to Moses on the mount. We must not be too much in love with our bed, house, family, group, etc., as not to be able to sacrifice time for retreat to seek his face in unfamiliar place. That is where He reveals His secrets and mysteries.
When we step out in faith and we experience a greater dimension of Him, we do not need to tell people we have been with God. There is a miracle they can see in us. Moses eyes glowed so much his people begged him to put a veil over his face because the glory of God shining from his face was blinding to them. Peter did not need to tell other disciples he experienced God’s miracle, they saw him walk on water. They were encouraged. When we step out in faith, we teach others about the power and miracle of God without words.
In our gatherings, our doctrines, teaching, etc., can only ‘excite’ and keep the church for so long. The church needs the demonstration of the teachings in a practical way. The church is familiar with the dynamics of the revelations, truths, doctrines, etc., and at a time, it no longer resonate much spiritual meaning as to experiencing it. That will not come by our familiar routine of service, teaching, study, etc. There is indeed increase in the spiritual knowledge of the people, but too much knowledge without a demonstration or an avenue to pour out or share it is like a dam that continually receives water but does not channel it out. It stinks. How can we talk about evangelism or missions in the comfort of our boat
From the time of John the Baptist, the kingdom of God comes with power and it is accessed by action (Matt 11:12). There will always be Peters within every gathering. Although, all provisions are within, but more experience for some are without to complement within. As every good parent is always afraid of the child falling while learning to walk, so are many leaders afraid to allow some Peters to step out into the water for fear of drowning. As long as the focus is on Jesus and not self or to stage a show, they will not sink (Heb. 12:2).
There are many reasons why many leaders are often ‘afraid’ of allowing brethren who are called into outreach functioning within the gathering to step out: fear of losing them, sincere ignorance of such functioning, reservation towards outsiders, fellowship, among others. But keeping them within, without allowing them to experience the power of God without is like an eagle preventing its young from flying for the fear of falling. They will not experience the fullness of God they yearn for and the greater dimension and proportion of the experience of God according to the measure of the grace given to them and working in them. They become unstable, unfulfilled, disoriented and may cause confusion within the gathering.
When there are people with such urge to step out of the boat for more of God, a delicate balance must be observed. First, such experience is a testimony of the power of God for the assembly, not for the individual. Secondly, everything God is doing is about His church, using individuals. The experience is for the church to rejoice and be encouraged together. It does not give such vessel a license to abandon the gathering for a personal new ‘ministry’ or vision. They are simply the extension of the church to the world, otherwise, the local assembly becomes cultic; nothing or no one goes out or comes in. The assembly becomes hostile towards those who are outside or those who do not share same belief with them and critical to those within, while trying to keep them from the world. Such assembly will fall short of the Great Commission, only learning to care for those within, but no passion for those without, i.e. the lost.
The True Church is supposed to be both fellowship for the saints and outreach for sinners. The church is not where sinners meet or where sinners are converted. It is where saints meet and where converted sinners are discipled. If the activity of the church is only either of the two, the church is at ease in Zion (Amos 6:1): it’s either they have a mixed multitude or undiscipled saints.
In the five fold, Apostles and Evangelists are the ‘official outreach arm’ of the church and must not be localized. The church give the right hand of fellowship must accord all support in order for them to be effective in their call. The church at Jerusalem recognized this grace in Paul and Silas and they prayed for them, releasing them to the grace of God in their lives which was evidenced to all. (Acts 13:2; 14:26; Acts 15:40). They were still part of the local assembly, but their work extended to other lands, (not necessarily other local gatherings Rom. 15:20), but new frontiers. They still belong to the local assembly. The Apostles only appoint elders in places where new gatherings are formed and such local gatherings are autonomous on their own (Titus 1:5).
The call for all others in the five-fold ministry is to build the saints within, thus the church is fulfilled both within and without. This calls for great responsibility on the leaders: to recognize and challenge all to fulfill their ministry. Only then can the church be fulfilled.
God allowed persecution as a wake-up call for the early church, many of whom were too comfortable with their functions within and were not too willing to reach out. They were satisfied with the doctrines, fellowship, breaking of bread, etc, but God wanted them to reach out to other lands, just as He wants the church to do right now, beginning from our Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria and to the uttermost part of the world (Acts 1:8). He has given graces to achieve this among the brethren. Rancor within might signify need to reach out, same with feeling unfulfilled for some.
It’s time to step out of our comfort boats to experience the miracle and the power of God and encourage others to. It’s time we ‘push’ the Jonas in our midst out of the boat to fulfill the assignment God called and gave them grace to fulfill, otherwise, there might be turmoil and losses in the boat. Our boat may be fine, good, sailing smooth and sure to take us home safely, but we will never experience the power and miracle of God and will never reach out to others that he died for. The power of God is revealed on the water, not in the boat.
Fulfill your ministry: step out of your boat without fear. You can experience the power and miracle of God when you take the step!
Bola Olu-Jordan grew up in Africa where much of his spiritual development was birthed. He is a prophetic teacher with apostolic and early church pattern imprint. When he is not writing, he is busy on a mission trip across the world. Aside from God, his family comes first.