The Hand of God {Book Club}

Anyone else relate to Moses from today’s reading in Chapters 3 and 4 of Facing Danger: A Guide Through Risk by Dr Anna E Hampton?

Author Dr. Anna exegeted part of Exodus 17 and said, “Apparently, Moses at first did not realize the role he was to play in the battle.” So, when we do not realize our part, apparently, that can be part of the process. She goes on to say, “He had planned to go and stand at the top of the hill overlooking the valley where the battle was to take place. It seemed there must have been a process for him, Aaron, and Hur to realize the significance of Moses’s hands remaining lifted with the staff of God in them.”

Reflecting on her observations, I wonder what the process was like. Did it dawn on Hur first? “Hey, you guys, did you see what happened when Moses took a break?” Was it Aaron’s idea to use the rock for Moses to sit on?

When it comes to risk and battle, it is a comfort this story was included in the Bible. It frees us up from the myth of having to get everything right the first time and opens the door for some experimentation and observation in ministry. In particular, for many of us from western contexts that value individualism, here we have a model of ministry in a stressful situation.

I hadn’t noticed the progression of the hands in the passage, culminating with “God’s sitting on his throne; he’s not wringing his hands, worried about the Amalekites. He knows the end plan.” Dr. Anna used the word comforting in that sentence, and indeed it is. Given the natural, political, and social “battles” going on around the world, God is not thrown by them. I do not want to offer easy answers here, but I echo Dr. Anna that it is a comfort knowing God is on the throne.

I cheered later in chapter three when she wrote, “Notice I didn’t say ‘just have faith.’ . . . that has never been a helpful phrase for me in times of risk or danger. How does one ‘just have faith’ anyhow?” One of the nuggets from this chapter followed. “Who or what do you look up to when things get stressful? This is an indicator of how you will respond in risk situations. It many not be a nude woman on the mountain in the form of a wood pole, but is it a nude woman on the internet? Is it overeating? How about alcohol? Whatever our coping mechanisms for normal ‘stress’ in our home cultures, this will automatically be magnified a hundred-fold in risk situations.”

This chapter included four spiritual principles that can apply to us today as well:

  • Steadiness of Actions
  • Stay in Community
  • Understanding our Enemy
  • Look Up

She also listed five principles for Warfare preparation. I appreciate the modern application of why someone(s) may not go “into battle” due to unfinished business back home with the house of work responsibilities. I wanted to applaud the entire conclusion to Chapter three.

I was reading along in Chapter four and Dr. Anna’s use of the parable of the talents to look at stewardship followed up by the woman with the alabaster vase. She asks, “Do we increase the Master’s talents, or do we break the vase and pour out our lives for him? Both take risks, but one appears calculated and responsible and the other is more like gambling, wasteful, risking it all recklessly.”

In the same section she writes, “Those in the West are from a cultural worldview that demands a formula, a process, or a three-step guide. . . . Prophets like Jeremiah were faithful their whole lives, but in the end the stewardship of his ministry, if measured by Western church metrics of investment and return on investment, would have virtually nothing to show. Sadly, I suspect Jeremiah wouldn’t have been able to pass the modern Western church’s threshold for success.”

This section challenged me to consider how coming from the West has formed my sense of success and stewardship. (Also, I have to throw in here, how reading biographies of so-called famous cross-cultural workers and what their lives looked like. I was formed by that as much as by the church. That is why places like Velvet Ashes and A Life Overseas are needed!)

On the day I wrote this post, a couple of the Connection Group Facilitators shared in a secret Facebook group for leaders that their groups were not as responsive as they had hoped. It is easy to understand why they might feel like a failure. But is it a failure if they are faithful to be present to their group? To tag group members and reach out to them? While it might not feel as “fun” as a responsive group, others in the group encouraged them that they had been faithful in stewarding that which had been given to them.

These are important discussions to keep having because our ideas of success, failure, and stewardship are not calibrated once and then set for life. God keeps working in each of us to conform our thinking and understanding to be more like his.

I’m grateful to be reading this book with you and discussing risk, warfare, and being custodians with you. What stood out? I’ll see you in the comments.

Amy

P.S. Next week? Chapters 5 and 6

6 Comments

  1. Raven October 17, 2017

    These chapters were so full and rich I plan on reading them …for a third time. I don’t even know where to start.

    The part regarding the parable gave me a new perspective. “the servant who hid the talent and did not attempt to risk increasing the master’s money listened to his internal fear and buried the money…The servant had good intentions, and the proper desire, but the wrong picture of his master,…” He had every intention to do well, but his fear led him elsewhere. They both took risks, though.

    “If people knew my pain and the deep grief I carry in my soul, perhaps they’d be shocked. Some might think I’m too broken and flawed to be useful to the Master. But the secret is, and I’ll whisper it here, he delights in using me. And I delight in his delight of me. And I am continually healed on deeper and deeper levels the more I walk in his presence.” This. So much in these words…still chewing on the section on what is means to steward oneself.

    I know my comment isn’t a lot of my own words but still trying to work through some of it. This is such a good choice, Amy. I’m enjoying it.

    1. Amy Young October 19, 2017

      I know! They are deep and it can be hard to even know where to start :). And if you notice, often a post isn’t a lot of my own words :). I get it!! I’m enjoying this book too!

  2. Kiera October 18, 2017

    I second Raven, such richness in these chapters. Here’s what stood out to me:
    1. the four principles you re-capped, especially “strength of soul in battle comes from steadiness of acting in faith.” As Dr. Anna said, it’s more than “just have faith,” sometimes it means acting or continuing in actions that demonstrate faith. Examples that comes to mind from my life are leaving for the summer without the visa to return and packing for an upcoming planned trip even though I didn’t yet have my passport with my new visa back in it yet (twice it came at the last minute the day before we were to leave).
    2. She mentioned “understanding the enemy” in the four principles, but unpacked it more in Ch. 4. in the section on pain when she pointed out that times that were most painful were often on the heels of other weakening events. I certainly relate to that in my own life. At the same time, in the section right before on fruit, she mentions how some of the hardest times bear fruit both in opportunities it creates but also in our own lives, and I can relate to that too.
    3. Interesting to note how both approaches – pour it all out…or not are both correct in different contexts.
    4. I also like that she included ourselves in what we need to steward. An earlier question in connection groups this week asked us to name areas of life we are custodians of and I didn’t think of myself, but I agree. That is an important area to steward.

    1. Amy Young October 19, 2017

      Like you, Kiera, what I appreciate about this book is that she shows how there isn’t one “right” response and repeatedly talks about how we need to be connected to God and discerning. I’m thinking of various churches I have been a part of and I can see why it is tempting for a preacher to preach more simple sermons (meaning there IS a right way or to make a formula) — they are easier to communicate!! I think part of why I like this book is because I too see the importance of discernment and growth.

      Stewarding ourselves is also not a common idea. I hope it catches on 🙂

  3. Rachel Kahindi October 21, 2017

    What stood out to me in chapter 3 was the “I Will and You Shall” section. God will defeat the Amalekites, and we do have a role to play. I appreciated when she pointed out that often what is required of us is not more prayer and Bible study, but doing the right thing, which could be washing the dishes in the midst of chaos. I tend to have a certain idea of what qualifies as good works, and as “faith without works is dead,” I want to do those things. But practical work, ordinary life, practical things can also qualify. The work God has for me today may just be cleaning my house and laundry, and I can do that to his glory.

    Chapter 4 was so much “yes!” for me, especially coming after reading The Curious Christian with its binary thinking alerts. Pouring out and increasing are both pleasing to God, and the Holy Spirit leads me to which is right at this time. Discussing Jeremiah’s lack of “success” was uncomfortable. I think my organization’s financial supporters would find it uncomfortable, too. Usually, when efforts for Kingdom work don’t produce measurable results, the assumption is that maybe that’s not what God wanted us to do after all – or that those serving messed up. The only pouring out that seems valid is martyrdom, but there are many other ways that ministry turns out unsuccessful. Could that “wasted” time, resources, energy (or whatever it may be) also be a fragrant offering? This causes me to pause my judgments. I need to keep this on my mind for awhile.

  4. Anna November 1, 2017

    Catching up on the reading and commenting 🙂 The things that really stood out to me from Chapter 3 were the reminder to look up, and the Spiritual Principles. I really appreciate having the chapter summaries at the end to look back at and remember. They also make good discussion points. I also appreciated the reminder that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. I know this, but so often, I forget it. Those people doing horrible things are not really our enemy.

    In Chapter 4, the explanation of stewardship was very helpful, especially that it might look different for different people at different times. Maybe it’s a Western thing, but I find we tend to want a formula to follow. It’s harder when it’s vague and there are lots of variables and unknowns.

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