Endurance, Season 3, Episode 7, Against the Grain.
Endurance is your weekly spiritual workout, whether you think of yourself as a beginner, an intermediate, or advanced!
Explore with us as we talk about the idea of going ‘Against the Grain’.
As usual, we have #GoDeeper with Andy B and #GoDo with Steven and Nathan.
Go Deeper with Andy B, as he explains the concept of going against the grain.
He expands some verses of Scripture, Romans 12:2, James 3:4, and Acts 3:19.
He explains that going against the grain isn’t something we ought to try and do, but it is often unavoidable when we’re walking in the direction God calls us to go.
He gives some examples of going against the grain, such as when he and Jo sold their house, in obedience to God. It may have been rather controversial, and they may have suffered much grief from friends and family as a result, but it was worth it for the sake of following Christ.
He looks at 3D printing, river currents, ships and rudders, and more…
Read and Remember:
Steven reminds us of the truth of James 3:4 – friends of the world are at enmity with God.
Likewise, if we ‘go with the flow’ of the world, we are at enmity with God.
Reflect and Respond:
Nathan challenges us to avoid conforming the pattern of this world, or, in other words, trying to be popular and fit in with the crowd, because becoming more like Jesus is our primary goal.
He encourages us to follow Jesus even if it means being controversial. Jesus died for us to be forgiven and so that we could live forever, so our suffering for Him is worth it.
Welcome to endurance. This is your weekly spiritual workout!
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This week we’re looking at, erm, Going Against the Grain, or Going Against the Flow, er, which Andy B will unpack for us after the break.
GoDeeper with Andy B
So today we are looking at Against The Grain. Going Against The Grain. Going Against The Flow. There may be a few phrases that you’re also similarly associating with this idea.
And we’re looking at, the world wants you to go in one particular direction. And yet, as Christians, some of what God is asking us to do is to not go in the direction the world is going, but to go against the direction of everyone around us.
It isn’t necessarily a logical thing to be a Christian when you try and look at it from certain perspectives.
As a believer in Jesus Christ, it makes absolute sense to live by faith. It’s the most certainty I can ever have, doing things that might seem crazy to the world. If that’s what God is asking me to do, then it’s the right thing to do.
Sometimes what looks good is not. And sometimes look, what looks bad, is not.
We had a business that grew really, really well. We had a recession. The business was forced to close because of spiralling debts, due to the fact, nothing more than the fact, the bank closed our bank account, got rid of our overdraft and we were done. And this was happening to lots of businesses, sadly.
What we were doing was going against the grain, however, because during a recession we were making increasing profits. Our business was growing, and thriving, and getting stronger. Bank didn’t care. Close the bank, like so many small businesses, and that was it, end of our business.
It was really tragic!
But up to that point we had been going against the grain because our business model was thriving, through a recession. We were growing.
We went to, erm, some business lenders, and an accountant looked at our figures. He’s like ‘wow, how are you growing through this recession’?
The business lender for a massive, Main Street, High Street bank here in the UK was ‘wow, this is a business growing through a recession, we’ve got to support you!’.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t allowed to get any money for u. Because they wanted to, I guess, get rid of small businesses, and it’s a very effective way of doing it. That’s my cynical side perhaps?
But going against the grain means you don’t go with what everyone else.
As a family, we’ve done this many times.
So, we sold our house. We had our house. We owned our own home. Erm, I was 19 when I got married to Jo. We had a mortgage. I’m now 44.
If life had gone the way that we wanted humanly, we would have paid off my, I would have paid off my mortgage.
But we sold our house as we said to God, we want to honour you, and obey you, and we’re gonna obey you and we’re going to step out in faith.
God teach us faith
The kind of prayer that God wants.
We’re going against the grain.
We had people that were so cruel to us, “how disgusting of you to throw away your house for this”.
Right, well, God’s asked us to do that, so there’s nothing bad about that. And we did that and it was an amazing experience! I wouldn’t trade a second of it, even losing our business, and having to deal with all that mess at the end of that process, I wouldn’t have missed any of that stuff, because what that did was teach us faith. We went against the grain.
As a family, as a couple, we are frequently going against the grain.
We don’t tend to fit in very well with people, because we’re the wrong shape, because we’re not interested in fitting in! We just want to do what God is asking us to do!
And that’s what we’re looking at.
Let’s dive into a little bit of scripture. Excuse me. Er, we’re going to start with Romans, chapter 12, verse 2 which says this,
"Do not be conformed"
"do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is. His good, pleasing and perfect will."
When we decided to sell our house, er, bricks and mortar security for the future. When we decided to sell that in a step of faith towards God it was a huge, human risk. We still don’t have a house. We probably never will own our own home. It’s very, very unlikely unless God does something supernatural.
I don’t regret a single moment of that, because going against the grain of what you’re supposed to do, is get a good job, and you get a good house, then a better job, with a better house, and a good car, and a better car, and then a really good pension, and a much better pension. And then you have.
That, that’s good. And there’s nothing wrong with any of those things. But if that’s not what God’s calling you to do, then that is bad. And God heard the cries of our heart, a married couple with, at that point 2 really, tiny children. ‘Lord we wanna go out in faith. Can you please teach us faith?’
How do you learn faith? God doesn’t impart faith to you. You learn faith by learning faith! You learn faith by having to trust in God.
How do you trust in God?
Well, something’s going to happen that’s gonna force you into having a dependency upon Jesus Christ.
Some friends of ours lived, in faith, they lived by faith too. We had a very similar journey for quite a few years.
They sold their home and they lived in an, in an RV in the UK. And, erm, they, they worked their way round. ‘Where we want to live?’.
And God honoured their sacrifice to Him. And they ended up with a home and someone helped them buy a house. And they were really happy, and settled, because they followed God.
But I do remember a conversation with them when they said ‘but we miss that dependency on having to rely on God, ‘cos now we’ve got jobs, and the house, and we still want to rely on God, but we don’t have to rely on God in quite the same way.’
And they were going against the grain too.
In fact, she had an amazing business. Er, an amazing art thing, where she would go, that was the name of her business, Against The Grain. And she did amazing pieces of artwork, using the grain of the piece of wood, to create a 3D picture. It was amazing to see what she did.
We saw them.
You could touch the paintings.
You could touch the image.
You could see it was amazing. It wasn’t normal. It went against the grain!
If you want a photo, you print it on photo paper and off you go. Maybe a painting.
Going against the grain doesn’t necessarily make sense. But if you’re Christian, living by faith and going against the grain should be a normal part of your daily life.
Erm, if you think about the current of a river. I did Geography A-Level, and we went out to see some streams, and brooks, and rivers, and what’s the difference?
And one of the things that struck me, and it was quite scary, in a really helpful way, was if you see a river, and you can see lots of splashing bits of white water everywhere, the chances are it may be fairly fast flowing, but it’s also probably quite shallow, for the most part.
If you see a river that looked perfectly glasslike and still, it’s actually far more dangerous for you, because the water is gonna be much, much more powerful. Much, much faster . And we used to stick these propeller things in the river, and you could measure the speed, and it was quite shocking to see how much faster the smoother parts of the water were
Because there’s more power. It’s smoother. It’s easy just to get dragged along by the current.
And in life we can get pulled in all sorts of directions too, can’t we?
Things where we think, well, there’s a challenge at work, and, well, I’m not going to say anything, because if I say anything I could lose my job. And I want to have the ability to witness to my colleagues.
And that’s a really, erm, good thing to have that heart.
But we also need to make sure in that willingness to wait wisely to speak when we need to, that we don’t stay silent when we must speak.
And we are replete with examples in the UK of people who are so busy trying to retain their ability to be employed, that they’re not stepping out for God.
Now we need to exercise some wisdom here and, erm, with compassion and love. And we need to understand that we’re not supposed to go into our jobs and just try and convert the whole place, and lose our job. And scripture always has to be understood and interpreted by scripture.
If you’re being mocked for your faith and God is with you!
If you’re being mocked because you’re being foolish, then God is not gonna be with you!
If you’re in a work situation, and you’re so desperate to get people to be Christians, and you’re offending everybody around you, by the way you are, then you’re wrong.
However, there is a time for being, waiting, sorry. For there is a time for waiting, silently, and patiently, and letting the witness of your life speak.
And, actually, our witness. Who we are as Christians. How we live our lives. How diligent are we to support that business? And help our colleagues and not ourselves?
Those are the things that will get noticed, and win, will win people to Christ.
But it’s a really easy excuse, isn’t it to say ‘well, I, I’ve got to keep in the job, and if I stay in the job, and say nothing about this really evil thing, then, then I’ll be in the job and I can make a change later’.
And before we know it, we’re so much further down the line and we’ve said nothing, ever, because we just want to keep our job.
We’ve been there. We know what that feels like! And it’s really easy to be swept through that really heavy, powerful, current and to be swept along, with everyone else, trying to fit in. Because we don’t want to live through pain.
We don’t want to unnecessarily bring pain upon our lives, and that’s a very wise thing. But make sure we don’t use that as an excuse.
There’s a song, er, Matthew West wrote, and one of the lines is “Sorry is just another word for regret”.
When you’re feeling sorry, it’s just regret. Because you had the opportunity to speak about Jesus Christ to your neighbour, your work colleague, and you stayed silent. Because you didn’t want to risk losing your job, or causing offence.
But the gospel is offensive to those that don’t want to hear it.
That doesn’t give us licence to be offensive!
James Chapter 3 verse 4. Gentle James. Ah. Not necessarily gentle in the words he says, but gentle because if we follow the words then it’s better for us. So James, James chapter 3 verse 4 says this,
"Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large, and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go."
No matter how strong the river and the torrent around us is, forcing us to go along with what everybody else is saying or thinking, as Christians, that rudder, the Holy Spirit in us, might be small in comparison to what we think we can see, but it’s far more powerful!
That’s how ships are able to steer against the wind, and against the tide. It baffles and blows my mind, but actually they’re going against the tide. Why? Well, they’ve got a rudder, and they’ve got some skilled sailors, and they’ve got the sails. And all that works that they can go against the flow, against the current.
So let’s not mistake being silent, for wisdom. We need godly wisdom in our, in our workplaces, in our colleges, in our schools.
Acts chapter 3, verse 19, says this, when I can find it,
"Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord."
And it goes on to a slightly different verse in my my translation.
Repentance, really simply, in Roman army speak. Repentance is to do a 180, it’s a handbrake turn. It’s to go the other way really quickly. It’s, it’s not to think about, ‘do we slow turn?’. It’s no, no. Stop. Turn around. Go the other way.
But you think about a soldier, singular, repenting when none of his other soldier mates are gonna repent, as in nobody else is turning around, he’s now going against the flow of all of those people.
If that’s what God asks you to do, then that’s what you must do!
And as a family, as a couple, Jo and I, we live our lives as best we can by going for what God is calling us to do.
We sold our house. People were cruel because we were ‘stupid and foolish and unwise’. Well, no, we’re living by faith and God honoured us every single time.
I remember as part of that faith journey we had, I think it was about £2.00 left in our bank account, our business bank account. We had to pay bills!
Money that was supposed to come in, hadn’t arrived. Er, the, the debit card machine hadn’t sent money as it should do and, and, the cash had been delayed by the, by the, the, by the bank we put it into.
And we had this situation where money’s gonna go out on Direct Debit, so we’ve got no control over that. And yet we’ve got £2.00.
And all of a sudden the bills we paid? Well, they didn’t actually go out. There was a delay in the banking system. And the monies that were due that were late, well, they didn’t arrive. But they arrived before those bills went out, even though those bills were late.
God orchestrated that situation as we got on our knees and prayed, and said, ‘Lord, we have faithfully served you, to the best of our ability, as righteously as we can, please help us’. And He did. So many times!
No food in the cupboards over our lives. We’ve been unemployed. God always honours those who are faithful to Him.
What that honouring, might look like, may not be what we choose for it to look like!
If I’d chosen how it would look like, for God to honour us in our business, and selling our home, that business would still be thriving, and we’d have a chain of shops now.
That wasn’t God’s best for us. Because He wanted us to get closer to him.
Repent means going against the grain. It means going against the flow. It means you’ve got a sin lifestyle as a Christian, and, you think, I’ve got to stop doing this.
One simple example, for, for this one, so you’ve drink too much alcohol and you become addicted to alcohol. How do you gently stop drinking alcohol? Well the only real way of doing it, is to stop drinking alcohol.
We’ve seen with drug addicts, drug addicts. They’re given things that are supposed to help them come off the drugs, and they get addicted to those drugs.
The only real true way of getting off drugs, is to stop taking drugs. But that withdrawal has to be handled sensibly, and it can kill you! But there isn’t really a simple way of taking drugs, and then not taking drugs, other than to not take drugs.
And if you’re addicted to alcohol, or pornography, or your work, there’s only really one proper way of doing it. And the Bible, again, the Bible has to be able to interpret through its own self. It doesn’t, it cannot conflict, or contradict itself!
Well, if something’s there, you’re supposed to cut it off, says the Bible. Now that doesn’t mean to say you quit your job. Might do, if that’s what God’s asking you to do, to put your hands into His trust.
Repenting means going against the grain, going against the flow. As Christians, we’re not supposed to fit in. We’re supposed to stand out.
And how do we stand out? Well not by being offensive. I’ve met plenty of offensive Christians, so I really wish would just shut up! Instead of telling people what they should do, why don’t you start living the life that God wants you to live?
Let them be attracted to the Holy Spirit in you!
An,d I’ve met many of those!
And, I hope that in my own walk, and in my own life, and we try model this to our children. That, actually, the way we live our lives should be something that is peaceable. It shouldn’t be going around to offend people.
The Gospel, the Bible, the Word of God is offensive to those who don’t wanna hear it! That doesn’t mean to say that we need to defend it, or not speak it.
Going Against the Grain.
Going Against the Flow.
There is a cost! But that cost is worth it. Because Jesus has already paid the price. We can pay no more than Jesus has already paid. Jesus allowed himself to be taken to that cross, to be murdered, for a crime that he could not have committed.
We don’t have to pay that cost.
So, whatever cost we have to pay, selling a house in faith, losing your future financial security. If God ask you to do that, that’s not foolishness! That’s called godly wisdom!
Let’s ensure that, in our lives, that we are not seeking to be small people who don’t get noticed, so we don’t offend anybody, so no one knows that we’re a Christian, because we, we want to stay in our situation so so we can influence people later down the line.
Let’s not miss those opportunities to influence when God asks us to influence.
That may well mean you need to be silent for a time. Absolutely. Full of wisdom in there. God may not want you to speak out right now. But make sure that doesn’t become an excuse long term.
So, how do we live going against the grain?
What does that look like for us in exercise?
Well, quite often in exercise, you have to go through pain barriers. You have to go through the wall, which we talked about previously. In our Christian walks we need to make sure that we’re not just deliberately trying to go against the grain, which is really hard work by the way! But we’re going against the grain because God is leading us that way. And if God is leading us against the grain. If God is cause, causing you, or rather is asking you to go against the grain, to repent against all the people walking in the same direction, He will. I can promise you, because the Bible promises me He will give you a path. And He will show you the way to go.
So, let’s go Against the Grain, where God is calling us.
Let’s go against the flow, as God leads us.
Let’s not go out of our way to be offensive.
Let’s go out of our way to be people who can reflect the love of Jesus Christ, to those around us.
So we can show them the path that they need to be on. Not because it’s our path on, and our path is the right path. But because they need Jesus Christ, just like we do!
And let’s let, let’s let Jesus Christ’s love in us, and through us, shine out to the people around us by the way we live our lives.
Er, James chapter 4, verse 4, says that, erm, the friend of the world, is to be an enemy of God. In my head that means, you’re going with the flow, is to be an enemy of God. Perhaps that’s a bit blunt. But, basically!
Erm, so, we need to be following God, following where He leads us. Where he leads us will often go through, er, go against the flow, erm, but not always.
And of course, as Christians, just as it says in Romans 12 verse 2, we are not supposed to conform to the pattern of this world.
In other words, we shouldn’t try to be popular and fit in with the crowd. Because our primary goal as Christians is to become more like Jesus.
So even if that means going against the flow, going against the grain, and losing our popularity, er, losing acceptance with others in this world it is worth it because Jesus is the one who who died for us to give us eternity with Him, and so that we could be forgiven.
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