Five Leadership Tests

(The following is a transcript of Bill Hybel’s “Five Leadership Tests” message, part I of our Expectant series. The video is also available to you here.)

Shortly after I became a Christian when I was seventeen, a wiser person—older, wiser person—told me to read the book of Luke. Slowly. Deliberately. Reflectively. For fifteen minutes a day. And I asked, “Why Luke?”

And the response came: “You’ll see.”

So I did. I spent the first several months of my new life in Christ establishing my faith by reading the book of Luke. And I’ve been partial to this book ever since. You’ve all heard me at holiday services, baptism services, Christmas—whenever. When I’m challenging people to open their life up to the work of Christ, I say, “If you’ve made that decision, get a Bible. We’ll help you if you don’t have one.” And you’ve heard me say this for decades: “Start reading the Bible, and I suggest that you start reading in the book of Luke.”

I also challenge Christ followers who are stuck to read the book of Luke afresh. Because Luke shows Jesus in action. Luke in particular captures stories of Jesus. And the stories often are of Jesus interacting with the weak, the powerless, the tempted, the poor, the marginalized—it’s about Jesus interacting with people. Luke also contains eighteen parables that are unique from all the other Gospels, including such classic parables as the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son. Filled with stories. Riveting reading.

Luke pays special attention to women and the role that they played to help Jesus move His mission ahead. Luke underscores the values of worship and community more than the other Gospels. And, finally, in the book of Luke, almost every time Jesus arrives on the scene, there is a palpable sense of expectancy in the air. Something memorable is probably gonna happen. Someone’s gonna be healed or restored, redeemed or reconciled. Someone’s gonna be loved or liberated or forgiven or empowered to go into their future with a new vision. One thing is for sure: things will not stay status quo.

So when Steve organized the series. And anchored it in my favorite book of the New Testament—the book of Luke—I said, “I’m in. I’m in a 100 percent. I’ll teach as often as you want me to teach.” And I hope you’ll be in, too. All of you. For this whole series. And I really hope that all of you will recommit yourself to this chair time that Steve just talked to you about.

From our survey data from just last month, about 50 percent of you said that you, either every day or almost every day of the week, you sit down for fifteen minutes with God’s Word. Fifty percent. That was not thrilling information for me. Because it means 50 percent of you... do not integrate into your life this powerful fifteen minutes that could be so transformative. And it makes me want to ask, is it time for you, the 50 percent of you who don’t practice this, is it time for you to commit and make a decision to, fifteen minutes a day... okay?

Have a business friend of mine who lives out of state. He’s heard me talk about this forever. And just about a month or two ago, he said, “You wore me down. I decided I am going to start this fifteen-minute practice in my life.” And just last week, he emailed me, said, “Wh- Why didn’t I make this commitment years ago?” He said, “This changes how I feel throughout my day.” So I invite you into that.

Of course, small groups. I can’t imagine trying to live a life following Christ without other people in my life encouraging me and challenging me and so. So take up Steve’s challenge about a small group.

This table... I think the reason I actually am standing before you today, primarily, is because I had a father, in particular, who insisted that our family, my siblings—five kids in our family... my dad, very successful businessperson, very entrepreneurial, all the rest. Leadership-oriented. Busy guy. He said, “We’re gonna gather around this table. And before we leave the table, I’m gonna read God’s word to you. And then we’re gonna pray together as a family.”

That was my whole orientation. I can’t think of what it would’ve been like to grow up in a family without a leader in the family who was saying, “Hey, kids, listen. God’s word matters. And I’m under its authority. And your mom’s under its authority. And we’re all under its authority. So let me read it to you.” And all five of us walk with God these days.

When Lynne and I were raising Todd and Shauna, you know, lot of our peers never insisted on a, like a table time. And we just said, “You can raise your kids any way you want. We’re gonna make a special event for dinner time. We’re not gonna have dinner around the TV. We’re not gonna let the kids run around with sandwiches, stuff like that. We’re gonna sit down. And we’re gonna talk to each other. And then we’re gonna read God’s word and pray.”

And, you know, Todd and Shauna are well established in their faith and living for Christ these days. And I think maybe part of it was that table time that we had. So please, please rethink this. And September’s always a good time to say, “Hey, why don’t we... why don’t we turn a new page and start a new journey?” So I just leave that challenge with you.

I get to teach the first two installments of this series. And Steve said, “You can preach on anything you want as long as it’s from Luke.”

So I said, “Well, I wanna teach from one of my favorite passages before you teach on it.” So that’s from Luke 5.

In Luke 5, Jesus is teaching by the seaside. And there’s such an air of expectancy, hope, and power in the air, you see. The text actually says the longer Jesus was teaching, the larger the crowd was growing. The longer He preached, the greater the crowd. I don’t know if... the longer He preached. The greater the crowd.

Now, that never happens to me. If I preach too long, it all starts thinning out. I’m very well aware of that. Don’t thin out yet. I’m just starting.

A while back, I went down to visit our children’s ministry, Promiseland. And there was a veteran woman—she’s been around the church for a long time. She was in the toddler area. And she about fainted when she saw me cause I don’t get down there that much. And she put one of the kids down. And she started walking toward me with such intentionality that one of my security guys, you know, was worried.

But she stopped in the right place, and she said, “Pastor Hybels. I just want to tell you something.” I thought, oh, oh, here we go. And she said, “When you think it’s the Holy Spirit prompting you to speak longer than your allotted time, I’m telling you, it’s not. And when you don’t stick to your time, you don’t understand what goes on down here. These toddlers go bananas. And they tie us up. They start trashing the rooms and all that. So I’m telling you, stick to your times!”

I said, “Well, God bless you.”

She’s kind of in my head today, so. I’m gonna kind of keep going.

But, again, Jesus is teaching. And He’s running out of space on the beach. He has nowhere to go, and He sees a man named Peter, who’s just fished all night, dragging his nets in his boat up to the very beach that Jesus is teaching from. And an idea pops into Jesus’ head. And He says, “Maybe if I sit in a boat in shallow water, it’ll open up space on the beach for more people to come and sit and be able to see in here.” Problem solved, right?

But one day, I was reading this text from my chair. And I had the sense. And I know you’ve had this sense before—that you’re reading a portion of the Bible, and you say, “I think I’m missing something.” The obvious is going on here, but there might be a sub-story going on here that I, I’m not aware of.” And I had that sense about this text from Luke 5. And I said, “God, would You reveal to me if there’s another slant on this or meaning from this text—would You reveal that additional thing to me, whatever it is?”

And He actually revealed something to me.

What I started to understand is that, in this text, Jesus was actually attempting to solve two problems at once. High-capacity leaders do this over time. Many of you do this almost subconsciously. I do it from time to time.

Jesus has to solve the immediate problem, which is where to preach from. And He had recently decided that He needed to select some team members who would become His disciples, who would further His mission when He was gone. And He sees Peter over there. And this text actually reveals that Jesus is gonna solve His preaching problem, and He’s going to test Peter’s metal. He’s gonna run Peter through five different tests to determine if he has the right stuff to make the short list of candidates that will eventually become His disciples.

So the first test catches Peter totally off guard. After a long, frustrating night of fishing, out of nowhere, Jesus asks Peter not only if He can use his boat, but He says to Peter, “Will you man the oars? I know you’ve been up all night. I know. But will you man the oars and row me out to exactly the right spot where I can finish my sermon?”

So this is His first test, and I call it the “Bias for Action Test.”

Now, you have to understand, Jesus was no stranger to boats. He could’ve easily rowed Himself out into position. He was experienced and able bodied. But He wants to find out what Peter’s made of. What kind of person is he? How does he respond to unexpected challenges? Does he jump in quickly to help solve problems? Or does he slink back into the shadows and say, “Hey, you know what? That’s not my problem. You have a preaching location problem? You solve your problems. I’m done for the day”?

This Bias for Action Test was very important to Jesus. Jesus did not wanna surround Himself with sleepy types who turned the other way when challenges arise. He knew He only had a few short years to launch His redemptive movement that would need to spread all across the Ancient Near East, so the team He assembled would have to be action-oriented people. Get-it-done types. High-energy people. People who would spring into action when needed.

So on the beach that day, He says to Peter, in Luke 5:3, “Will you row the boat out from the shore?” Will you do this right now? Cause I have a problem to solve. Will you help me right now?

And Peter, amazingly, he says, “Yes, I will help you right now!” Pretty cool. Quick time out.

Willow, last week, you all—or the vast majority of you—passed Jesus’ Bias for Action Test with flying colors in your response to the flooding in South Texas. Last Wednesday, middle of the week, I sent an email out to everybody across the Willow family. And told you that you could help us if you had the heart to wanna help. In five short days, you filled five semis, as Heather just told you, with supplies that arrived just a couple days later to the affected areas. And someone did some work and figured out the supplies in those five semis came to a grand total of about $745,000 dollars-worth of supplies and a $100,000 gift on top of that.

What differentiates this congregation from so many other congregations that I’m aware of around the world is that we didn’t wait a month for an Elder’s meeting. The chairman of our Elder Board took a vote with our Elders and got that done in a phone call in less than an hour. We didn’t have to take three congregational votes, have a Town Hall meeting, assemble the finance committee. Our senior leaders jumped into action to figure out the best way that we could all respond quickly, and then you responded quickly. And that was awesome. You get a straight A in my book on this Bias for Action Test, and I’m so proud of you.

And Peter got a straight A on his Bias for Action Test. So Jesus proceeded with His second test, which is what I call the “Obedience Test.” The Obedience Test. When Jesus finishes His Sermon, He turns to Peter, and He says in verse 4, Hey, now I have an assignment for you. Thanks for helping me with the boat and so. My sermon’s done. But here’s what I want you to do: “Put out into deep water and let your nets down for a catch.” Straightforward, simple command from Jesus. Go do this. The right answer would be, “Certainly, I will.”

But Peter is tired and frustrated. And He knows that fishing is not Jesus’ specialty. He has no experience in this. He was a carpenter. So he vacillates, okay? He doesn’t jump right in with a yes. He vacillates. Now... I don’t know about you. I vacillate from time to time... even when I get a clear directive from the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes the Holy Spirit gives you or me a crystal clear prompting. Say something. Do something. Serve someone. Meet a need. Whatever. Crystal clear direction. And sometimes I—I don’t know about you—sometimes, I’ll go, “Uhh... I’m not in the mood.”

“I’m busy.”

Or: “That would take more effort than I want to expend.”

“I don’t know if this... you know, is all that wise, you see?”

And Peter’s vacillating. But, to his credit, in the nick of time, Peter says these famous words, in Luke 5:5: “Because you say I will.” Not because You’re an expert about fishing. But because of who You are. And if You tell me to, I will.

Heather mentioned this verse a few weeks ago in her fantastic sermon on this in another text. She didn’t know this, but about twenty years ago, I was vacillating between a yes and a no on a very important decision—like, life-altering decision. And God had spoken clearly to me about what I needed to do. I just simply... sat on a fence for probably too long. And I was reading in my chair time one day. And I came across this text. And that little phrase: “Because you say so I will.” ...Just penetrated my vacillating heart. And I wrote the initials: BYSSIW. Wrote it down in my journal. And said, you know what? I’m gonna start using these initials. Because I don’t wanna be a guy who vacillates when God speaks clearly to me. I wanna pass every Obedience Test that God brings my way. I wanna be a Because-You-say-so-I-will kind of Christ follower. In every area of my life, all across the board. I can’t tell you how powerful these little letters have become. I still use them. BYSSIW. Write them down somewhere. Put them as a screensaver. Journal about, with these little initials. If you live them out in your daily life, you’re gonna see the favor of God following your life.

Parenthetically, had Peter failed this Obedience Test, I’m not sure we would even know his name today. My guess is Jesus would’ve taken a pass on him that day. That’s just my opinion. He would’ve maybe drafted someone else. But whenever Jesus finds any follower of His who says, “Because You say so, I will, Lord, in any area of my life,” what He does in and through a person who has that kind of attitude about obedience is incredible. He will use your life in ways you never imagined.

Before I move on to the third test, maybe some of you, I don’t know how many... maybe some of you right now are vacillating. In some area of your life where you have heard God speak to you clearly. Or you’ve read His Word clearly. You know precisely what He’s asking you to do. And you’re vacillating, you see? In my experience, if you say no to what God’s clearly asking you to do, if you go down that path of disobedience, my experience only, that path, in my life experience, that path usually ends badly or sadly. It’s more likely a train wreck than a pot of gold.

Put another way, I don’t carry a single regret for the time in my life or the times in my life when I have obeyed God and did whatever He was asking me to do—not a single regret for obedience. And I carry truckloads of regret and remorse for the times that I thumbed my nose at God and just flagrantly disobeyed Him. Ugh. Whew.

That might be your experience, too. So maybe now would be a good time to recommit. And I’m not gonna ask you to say these words publicly. I’m just gonna ask you, for one second, to maybe say, in your heart, “God, it’s time for me to re up. I wanna be a Because-You-say-so-I-will. No fence sitting. No vacillating. Because you say so, I will. And I will trust.” And that will be music to God’s ears. Really.

 

So you all know what happens next. Peter lets his nets down in the water. And fish from all over the lake race each other to get into the net, okay? They’re crawling over, swimming over each other to get in the net. Or so it seems. Because so many fish are caught in the net that the nets and the boats are imperiled. And then comes the third test.

I call this the “Who Deserves the Credit? Test.” Who Deserves the Credit? Test. If Peter puffs out his chest when he’s transporting all these fish to the market... if Peter claims to his colleagues that it was his superior knowledge, it was his skills, his special technique that resulted in this once-in-a-lifetime catch... I think Jesus would’ve put him on waivers. Just said, “I’m not sure I need you.”

But Luke 5:8 says that Peter “fell on his knees.” Runs up to Jesus. “[Falls] on his knees and [he says] ‘go away from me Lord ... [I’m] a sinful man.’” Translated: “You’re in a whole different league, Jesus, than anyone I’ve ever met. Even the fish obey you! You have powers I didn’t know existed. And this amazing catch... I understand. Hear me well. I’m on my knees in front of You. This catch was all You! So I’m giving You all the credit.”

And when Jesus saw Peter pass that test, the Who Deserves the Credit? Test, I think Jesus figured that Peter was special. Not perfect. Peter was never perfect. But he was special. He was usable. He was honest. He was humble. And he was grateful.

Similarly, when we credit God for what He does in and through our lives... when we are quick to fall on our knees when He gives us a blessing of some sort and say, “Thank you, God! You opened that door for me that I couldn’t open for myself—that was all You!”

“You arranged that provision for me—that was all You!”

“You had my path cross his or hers—it was a miracle. It was all You.”

“You averted that disaster. That was all You.”

“You gave me the words to say in that difficult conversation—that was all You.”

Gang, heaven’s heart melts when people like us fall to our knees and are quick to give God the credit for His acts of kindness and mercy toward us. Pass the Who Deserves the Credit? Test as often as you get the opportunity. Fall on your knees from time to time.

I think I’ve told you before... and this is just a window into a practice of mine that’s probably... pegging your weird meter when you hear about it. But... I’ve tried to cultivate the practice of gratefulness. Cause I don’t wanna be a whiner or a complainer. I don’t wanna be someone who’s discontent and, you know, half-ticked at God for not doing more, giving me more, something like... I don’t wanna be that guy. I wanna be someone who watches the goodness and kindness of God all around me and when He expresses that into my life, I wanna be quick to pass that Who Deserves the Credit? Test and say, “It was all You!”

So when I’m in private... and I don’t do this in public. I’ll tell you why in a minute. But when I’m in private and aware of a kindness that’s come my way from God’s gracious hand... I often will raise my hands as high as I can, and I’ll say, “God, that was all You! And I want You to see my hands raised because I’m telling You I’m stretched out... it was all You.”

Now, you rarely see me waving my arms in public worship. Cause I’m Dutch and screwed up and stuff. But... and I love to see other people do, I love to see you guys do it. But one time, I was on the other side of the world in a Charismatic worship service. And everybody had their arms up. I mean, it was... there was a lot going on there. And the worship leader said... (and I didn’t. I was just standing there.)

Worship leader said, “There’s a few of you who don’t have your hands in the air.” And I had to speak after this, and I’m like, “Oh, jee,” you know, so. I’m like, “I hate it when someone makes me do something.” And I had my arms... so I’m like, bad attitude, arms in the air. And someone, when I had my eyes closed and could not defend myself, hugged me. And I was like, “OH!” I couldn’t fend that off. So in public worship, I always keep my arms where I can fend... someone off in case they get such a notion in their head.

 

Another thing that I do, in all seriousness. Sometimes, when a major blessing has come my way... I lay flat out on my face with my arms extended on the floor of my study at the house. It helps me... it reminds me, I say, “God, every fiber of my being... is prone before You right now. Giving You the credit for what You just did. And I want You to see how grateful I actually am.”

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried that before. I turn on worship music. When no one’s around. And I sing with ungodly volume levels. I write thank You notes to God. And then I read them to Him.

But if I don’t cultivate this... practice of gratitude. I can sink into a What’s in It for Me? and How Come God Isn’t Doing More? I can forget who He is and how kind He’s been to me. Well. Just wanna say... Peter passed this test. He comes running back, falls to his knees, and he goes, “That was all You!” And when you learn how to do that and practice that... heaven notices that. And you pass that test. And God just starts pouring additional amounts of favor on your life because He realizes you know who deserves the credit.

Okay. Two more quick tests, and then we’ll be done. Test four is the “Grander Vision Test.” Peter’s still shaking his head in disbelief at all the fish he’s gonna be able to sell at the market very soon. Now I’m gonna paraphrase some of the words of Jesus here a bit, quite liberally, actually. But I imagine this conversation. I’ve studied this text for years. I think Jesus said something like this to Peter:

“Wasn’t that fun, Peter? I mean, really. The catch of a lifetime. Wasn’t that a ball? And now you’re gonna get a huge payout when you take all these fish to market. This is really fun, isn’t it?” And then He says, “You know, there is actually something... believe me on this now, Peter, there’s actually something more fun than a big catch and a big paycheck. It’s partnering with me to bring about transformation in people’s lives and destinies. I know that doesn’t sound all that exciting when I’m telling it to you right now... and I want you to know there’s nothing wrong with a fishing business, Peter. Absolutely nothing wrong. But the people business! Oh, Peter, if you ever got your head around, and your heart around, the thrill of the people business! If you would partner with the Father and partner with my plan... when you see people’s lives changed as God uses you... to spread His love, and so... it’s even more fun and thrilling than a big catch and a big check. It really is.”

So then He says those famous words: “Hey, Peter, would you consider, from here on out, being a fisher of men and women?”

Peter could barely wrap his head around what Jesus was saying that day. But he started catching on as his life went on. And the people business became more central to him increasingly as his life unfolded. And most of you know, later on in his life, the only thing that mattered to Peter was the people business. And Rome, the Roman leadership, said to Peter, “If you continue to proclaim this message publicly, we’re going to kill you.”

And Peter said, “That would be just fine, because nothing can stop me from proclaiming this message that was so transformative to me. And I’m gonna be in the people business until... you take my life from me.”

And most of you know that Peter was martyred for what he did. And it doesn’t say this in Scripture, but in church history and in church tradition it says that when his time to be martyred came around, they said, “We’re gonna execute you via crucifixion.” That was the... preferred fashion in that day. Form of execution, I should say.

And, so, Peter said, “Only one request.” Remember what it was? He said, “Would you crucify me upside down. Because my leader and Redeemer was crucified right side up. And I don’t even deserve to be crucified in the manner that He was. So just flip me upside down, if you will.” And church tradition said that’s how he died.

But, man, Peter saw... he got the grander vision. A vision for people over products. People over profits. People over pleasure. People over fame. He got that right.

Before I mention the fifth and final test... one of my dreams that dates all the way back to the theater days was that someday Willow Creek Church would be filled with people who excelled in their professions. Excelled as teachers and doctors and contractors and accountants and developers and real-estate people and auto mechanics and so. Everybody excelling in their professions, giving God the glory. But beyond that, the dream that I’ve carried all these decades... has been that every Christ follower who calls Willow their home... would also have a Grander Vision. A purpose beyond their mere profession. A purpose that would involve the thrill of the people business. And introducing people to the love of Christ. And helping struggling people grow in their faith and so.

And I... I have carried that with me all these years. And at a Leadership Summit many years ago, I cast what I call the Grander-Vision vision. And there was a guy from Oklahoma who happened to be in the room that day. And we played this, his story at the recent Leadership Summit. But I want all of you to see it now. So please watch this.”

Alright, so before we get started, I just want to make sure I’ve got all this straight. You planted underground churches in China...

You traded wells to free pygmy slaves in the Congo...

And now you’re part of the biggest well project in the world.

And you did all of this out of your small pump shop in Oklahoma.

How did all this happen?

“It’s a long story.”

“My wife, Terri, and I were living pretty conventional lives.”

“We were an ordinary family. Two kids. A dog. A cat.”

“We worked at our water-pump company—Pumps of Oklahoma—for our entire life. We were the experts on water pumps in Oklahoma... We pretty much had it locked in for the next thirty years on what exactly this was gonna look like. Building the company. Have a little bit of extra money. And then just set our lives up for this easy glide path into retirement.”

“One day, one of our customers came into the shop.”

“He said, ‘Well, I just flew in from Taiwan.’

And I said, ‘What were you doing in Taiwan?’

He goes, ‘Well, I was planting churches.’

And in the most sanctimonious voice and tone that I could muster, I said, ‘Well, I’d like to go on a mission trip some time.’ Knowing that I really didn’t wanna go on a mission trip ever.

He said, ‘So, Dick, you have solar-powered pumps. We could go into mainland China, and then we could go plant churches. And we could end up getting water to these people.’

It’s scaring the heck out of me right now, cause I don’t wanna go to China and plant churches. I was just saying that, cause that’s what church people do. Four months later, I’m in Southern China, in a really remote village, we’re able to install two solar pumps where they’ve never had running water. To see what happens when people get clean water. Where little girls can go to school because there actually is sanitation facilities at their school... transforms the whole community.”

“When Dick got back, it was obvious that there was so much need in the world. God had placed us where we were in the kind of business that we were in. We knew that it wasn’t accidental.”

“From that point on, the safe, easy glide path to retirement wasn’t gonna be there... So after one of our trips, we determined that solar pumps were too high tech. We needed to invent a new type of hand pump. And so I thought of my old college roommate, Steve. And I hadn’t talked to him in probably two years. I came in Monday morning, checked my voicemail, and it’s Steve. And he goes, ‘Well, my pump went out in my granite shop.’

And I go, ‘Forget that! I’ve been to China three times. I’ve been to Sierra Leone. I need help inventing a hand pump.’

We met for lunch, and I told him it had to be able to pump water eighty to a hundred feet deep. Be built in country. Less than $100 in cost. And, oh, by the way, I needed it in three months.

And he goes, ‘Yeah, I’ll start tomorrow.’

So Steve finds a drawing from Leonardo da Vinci, from 1498. Couple days later, he finds a patent from England from 1675.  He combines the two drawings. And we end up with the Access 1.2 hand pump, which is the pump that we’re using today. And the cost is $20. At that point, we created a new manual drilling method made in country by the in-country people.”

“We started training and mentoring teams all over the world. If we could help people start their own drilling businesses, their own pump-repair businesses, as soon as they were trained, they would just take it from there and solve the water crisis in their communities.”

“We said yes to every project that we came across. And we just kept seeing God show up in every place. Over the course of ten years now, we’ve gotten water to a million people. We’ve drilled 3,200 wells. We’ve spoken at the United Nations. We’re working on the largest fresh-water project in the world. The 7,000 Well Project. We’ve been to 32 different countries. We have 350 business partners that we work with around the world every single day that get up and start drilling wells so they can feed their family, so they can be the solution to their own villages problems. Quite often, we ask ourselves, how did we get here? It all started just with saying yes to the things that were right in front of us—that are in our everyday life.”

“The only reason it works is because God makes it work. He takes... the little that you have and makes it much.”

You know, that’s Grander-Vision living. It’s a guy who had a profession and heard the Holy Spirit say, “There’ more than the pump business. There’s the people business.” All of you are in professions. And this is one of the most talented congregations on planet Earth. We have so many high-achieving... really excellent professionals all across the Willow family, all of our campuses. And some of you know... you’ve already achieved a certain amount in your profession, but there’s something that aches inside of you for more, and what that more probably is is figuring out your Grander Vision. Your part of the people business.

Now, it’s not my job to figure that out for you. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job. And He’s able. Your job is to partner with the Holy Spirit. Use your chair time, your small-group time, your table time... to say, “God, how do you, how do You want the Grander Vision to look in my life?”

And every person I know who has prayed that prayer consistently over time, the Holy Spirit has revealed a step to take, a step to take, a step to take, and, pretty soon, you understand with clarity what it is. And then you’re living that grander life. And Peter got that. And he lived a life that changed the whole... Middle East. Because of his leadership and planting churches and leading churches and so. And God will use you in some fantastic way, too, you watch.

Alright, final test. And I call this the “Will You Leave It All Behind? Test.” The Will You Leave It All Behind? Test. Luke 5:11 says, “So they pulled their boats up on shore, [and they] left everything and followed Christ.”

So I wanna be real clear about this. Sometimes. This isn’t the normal course of events. But sometimes... in the course of the journey of your walk with God... sometimes, God will ask you to make breathtaking sacrifices. Leave-it-all-behind sacrifices. Sometimes... for some of you... as He did with me in my early twenties. He will say, “Leave your profession.” I left a family business that was lucrative. It was financial suicide. And I knew it. and God was clearly saying, “Leave that behind. I want you to do something else.”

And he doesn’t do that regularly or even for most people. But, sometimes, He tells you to leave a comfortable thing and to move into the discomfort of not knowing exactly how He’s going to use you, but He says, “Trust me.” Sometimes... it’s not the normal agenda or program for everybody, but sometimes, God will say, “Leave your country... cause I need you in an under-resourced country somewhere around the world. And I need you to plant roots there and live there and do something for Me over there.” Sometimes He does that.

Sometimes, He’ll tell a college kid, “Take a semester off, and go work for an NGO. Just a year of sacrifice, or a half-a-year of sacrifice.” Sometimes God—and I’ve heard this all over our church—sometimes God will say, you know, “This family vacation that’s coming up? I know you wanna go to where it’s warm, I know you wanna lay on a beach. This family vacation, I’m gonna ask you to sacrifice your family vacation on the beach and work in a refugee camp for ten days. Take the kids. Live in a terrible hotel. And expose yourself to terrible suffering that’s going on that you would normally try to shield your eyes from—and shield your kids’ eyes from.”

And I hear about this happening more and more around Willow. Where families will come back from those kinds of vacations, and they’ll say, “Curiously, it was the most memorable family vacation of our lives. We talked more. We prayed more. We came back... different than when we left.”

For reasons I don’t completely understand... from time to time, God asks us to sacrifice something very near and dear to us because He’s trying to purify us. He’s trying to tweak something in us. He’s trying to say, “I can’t use you how I would like to use you until you pass this sacrifice test.” And every time God’s asked me to do it, I get as frightened as I did the previous time. And every time I pass this sacrifice test, I come out the other side really grateful that I obeyed and went through the sacrifice. And, inevitably, I feel more useful on the other side.

So... I don’t know what that is for you. I have no idea. But if the time should come when God would ask you to leave something very important behind so that you can do something He wants you to do instead, I would just ask you to do what Peter did. Pass that test, too. And I, on the authority of Scripture, can almost guarantee that what lies on the other side of that sacrifice is gonna be so much better than you could ever imagine.

Alright, now, we’re out of time, and that Promiseland volunteer is in my head and... you know, she might be packing heat today. So, would you stand now as we close? And what I’d like to ask you as we’re closing up here... which of these tests did you need most to hear about today? Just scroll down them real quick. And some of you go, “Oh man, I used to have a Bias for Action with my faith. I used to be... ready to go! God said for me to go, I’d jump into the fray.”

And here you are now just kind of... couching out. You’re passive now. You’re a spectator. Other people are in the game and... not you. This is a very important test to pass no matter what age, what stage of life you’re in. We need to be people who have a Bias for Action to whatever God asks us to do.

The Obedience Test. If you’re vacillating... one path of disobedience leads... to sadness. Train wrecks. The other... leads to a place of blessing and favor. Your call.

This Who Deserves the Credit? Test. Whew. Please, gang... grow in the practice of gratitude. Learn how to say, “This is all You, God. All You.” Because when God knows that you will respond to His blessings that way... He’s got a truckload of those things all ready to bestow on you. If you’ll acknowledge that He’s the Provider. He’s the one who blesses. When He sees the humility—you laying flat out on the floor just going, “I’m so grateful, God.”

He goes, “I’ll... I can bless that person. They’re not gonna get big headed. Not gonna get a big ego. They’re gonna return all of this and...”

Grander-Vision Test. Please don’t get to the end of your life and say, “I excelled at my profession. Never got involved in the people business.” Don’t just be a fisherman. Be fishers of men and women alongside with excelling at your profession.

And then, when He asks for the big sacrifice... and I don’t know what that would be, I have no idea, I’m not... you know, snooping around in any way. But... trust our good, good Father. Say, “If You ask me to sacrifice something, You have Your reasons. And something in me probably has to be changed and purified. I trust You with that, God.” On the other side of that sacrifice, God has something awesome waiting for you. You watch.

This series in Luke is gonna be amazing. And I hope you’ll be all in to every installment of it. And that you’ll get these materials as they come out next week. And you’ll use the chair time, table time, small-group time. You watch what God’ll do.

Now, God, we are so grateful for this guy named Luke who was a doctor. Who excelled at his profession in the medical field. And who used his writing skills to try to urge everyone to see Jesus clearer. And to understand a Grander Vision. God, we wanna be people who pass these five tests every day so that You can use us fully for Your glory. So work strongly in our church these next weeks and months. We pray for Christ’s sake. Everyone agreed and said? Amen. Blessings, everybody.