I am thankful for the times in my life that God allowed a setback, which really was a setup, that empowered me to step up. You are not always able to label a situation like this until after it happens, because it usually just looks like disappointment when you are in the middle of it.
Let me tell you about an event such as this that I can really only tell you about after the fact. Let me disappoint you ahead of time because I can’t tell you the ending yet either, but I can tell you enough to give you perspective about where you are at, where you have been, or something you may be in the middle of one day in the future.
Right now I am in the middle of a season of transition of life. I can’t just give you the laymen’s terms and say I am unemployed, because technically I am not, I am an author of a book called Gospel Realities that I just released. I will tell you I am a pastor that got fired around four and a half months ago.
Lots of pastor’s get fired or step down for doing the wrong things (usually moral failure of some type), but occasionally they get fired for doing the right things.
To make a long story short I pastored a church that had a family that “ruled” the church. I say that in quotes because Christ is the only one that really rules the church, they just thought they did. The more influence I gained as a leader the more insecure they got about losing theirs. I taught the Bible and lived it. Things were beginning to turn around for the church, but when that happened those that held the influence in the church, when it was dying, began to feel like they themselves were dying.
I got slandered, accused, and eventually fired by means of a business meeting where people I had never met but were on the membership list were coerced into voting against me.
This was a shock to my wife and I. It wasn’t a shock that these people were capable of doing this (we were constantly attacked and ridiculed by them), but because we expected revival. As a matter of fact, we were seeing the beginnings of it every week. After the vote, the church split, the community ached, and my wife and I left the community. By defintion you could call this a setback.
If the story ended there though disappointment is all that it would be. Here is what I know, that God knew that would happen before I got there. He knew it the moment He sent me. It was almost like it was His plan for me. I say that sarcastically – of course it was.
Now God doesn’t create setups just for fun, He creates them so that by His grace, you will step up. There is a mountain of things that happened that completely transformed me as a leader, and laid foundations in me only possible through intimacy with God. I struggled with a few things, before coming to that church as their pastor (a lot actually but for the sake of length I will just name one).
I feared what people said about me, which will never allow me to be true to who I am in Christ and will greatly inhibit my relationship with God. You see fear is not something to be pitied over, but something to be violently removed from your life.
It is not so much poor me, as it is disbelief about who God is and His ability to carry out what He says.
It is a trap (Proverbs 29:25). Fear will keep you stuck and limited because you can’t operate in faith when all you can do is react to what you are afraid of. God allowed me to be put in a situation that completely exposed me to that. God was with me dynamically the entire time, and made me strong as an ox in the midst of that, far beyond my own capacities. He also exposed me to such ridicule and scorn because Christ first endured it (Hebrews 12:2), and to show me that it has no power over me.
This transformational experience would further lead me to step out in faith, and create Bridgeway Ministries, which is a movement centered around building bridges between God and people, and writing Gospel Realities. I have seen God continue to empower me to do these things, and the character instilled in me there has become so much of the foundation for my future vision of ministry that God has given us.
When you find yourself facing setback, you can bank on it being a setup. The character that you need between spotting a set up and stepping up is the bridge that God uses to connect you to your future. So next time when you find yourself in the midst of a setback and setup, look around and thank God for it. You can thank Him because you now know that when you continue to seek what only He provides in that moment, you know He is giving you everything you need to step up, step on, and step over everything that held you back!