Stepping out in faith must be balanced with common sense

Stepping out in faith can bring major improvements in a single person's life, but before you act, know that you have to make some crucial preparations.

For most singles, the problem is being overly cautious instead of being too reckless. Getting into a comfortable rut and staying there is usually the norm. It's very hard to take chances because the older you get, the more you have to lose.

That's why, whether you're in your twenties or your sixties, it's wise to proceed as much with your brain as with your heart. This doesn't imply lack of faith. On the contrary, it protects you from irrecoverable losses.

Fortunately, the Bible includes many examples of frightened people who were able to move forward only with God's help. Their stories were put in to teach us how to overcome our natural fear.

Stepping out in faith: Two extremes

One thing that can bring painful results is impulsiveness. Many people confuse it with spontaneity, but the two are not the same. Impulsiveness is plunging ahead without thinking, giving no thought at all to the possible consequences. Spontaneity, on the other hand, is a spur-of-the-moment decision that will not have harmful results.

We all need to fight our natural tendency toward impulsiveness. Rash, thoughtless words and actions can lead to broken relationships, personal injury, job loss, even arrest and imprisonment. "Wisdom consists of the anticipation of consequences," said writer Norman Cousins.

Another cause of pain is what I call thrill-seeking. Today we see people engaged in all kinds of risky behavior to get an adrenaline rush. Every time they get away with it, they feel encouraged to try something more dangerous. Sooner or later, however, the odds catch up with them. The eventual reward of foolishness is suffering. None of us needs more suffering.

At the other extreme, however, are people who are too cautious. They want every aspect of life to be predictable. They slip into a cozy routine and feel threatened whenever something happens to upset their plans. I think we've all been there.

In my own life, I tend toward being too careful, but I have learned from long experience that stepping out in faith can be an exciting time. All of the good things I possess happened because of it. But I temper that with a backup plan in case things go wrong.

Trust in the Lord but lock your car

We learn best from our losses. Pain is a sharp reminder. When I failed to exercise caution in the past, I had things stolen. When I trusted the wrong people, I got hurt.

My natural reaction to those losses was to pull back, to keep from stepping out in faith in the future. I didn't want to get burned again. My mistake in that attitude was, consciously or subconsciously, blaming God for the bad consequence instead of the people responsible.

Thieves are a reality in this world. So are dishonest people. We can't anticipate every consequence, nor can we swear off trusting people because we've been hurt. Nothing drives a single into a shell like overreacting to betrayal.

The right attitude, I think, after you've taken reasonable precautions, is to build a thicker skin. In other words, if you suffer a loss, it's not the end of the world. Yes, it can be incredibly painful and disillusioning, especially in a romantic relationship, but eventually you can recover and life will go on. You work to reach the point where you can try again.

Let's be practical. You don't impulsively quit your job without having another job to immediately go to. You don't give ultimatums to people expecting them to change their behavior, unless you're prepared to end the relationship. And you don't take unnecessary risks that might cause you financial ruin, serious injury or death. You just don't.

Stepping out in faith is not about being stupid. It's about trusting God and wanting to serve him better.

Your plans vs. God's plans

We Christians are obsessed with God's will for our life. However, sometimes we get our own plans mixed up with God's plans.

I can't tell you how many talent competitions I've seen on TV in which a contestant says winning that particular competition is God's plan (or substitute "God's will") for them. Later in the show, when they're eliminated, they are crushed. What happened?

When we're stepping out in faith, we often think God will bless our efforts because this a) job; b) relationship; c) accomplishment; or d) material item is something God wants for us. Then, just like that talent contestant, we're disappointed when it doesn't come to pass.

It's hard to be discerning. Our selfish desires can seem to be God-given. We sincerely believe they'll not only be harmless, but will advance The Kingdom. How can we tell the difference between God's goal for us and our own goals for our self?

Your purpose in life may not have anything to do with becoming rich and successful, contrary to what the Prosperity Gospel says. God's goal for you, after your salvation, is to conform you to the character of his Son, Jesus Christ. Instead of the road to riches, that can be a painful, humiliating process.

Some important guidelines to consider

God has no objections to our being successful in life, provided we keep it in perspective. The First Commandment warns us not to let anything else be our god. God is our God, and as long as we remember that, we can pursue other things in their rightful places.

Stepping out in faith is difficult because of our fear of failure, but if we look to God for our source of courage, we feel more confident.  Any effort like this must be based on sincere prayer. These simple guidelines may help.

  • Make sure your desire is godly and does not break any of the Ten Commandments. God will not support you in sin.

  • Do your homework. Plan, prepare, study. Consult someone who has already done what you want to step out on. Jesus said if you start a project, make sure beforehand that you have the resources to complete it. (Luke 14:27-29)

  • Have a Plan B—and maybe a Plan C and Plan D. Be prepared for setbacks. Things rarely go smoothly. Adversity is inevitable, but perseverance can overcome it.

  • Learn from failure. When you're stepping out in faith, you can have the best intentions but that doesn't guarantee you'll get what you want. If you fail, give yourself time to grieve, then when you feel more objective, review the whole process. There are valuable lessons for you in it.
  • Don't give up. Life is messy. Don't despair. Try a different approach or totally different goal. The more we trust God, the better we're able to handle defeat because we know he has our best interest at heart. 

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