• Amanda Strauser

Flying Against the Wind

"Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing." - John 15:5 NLT

I was driving home from work one incredibly windy afternoon when I saw a bird out of the corner of my eye. It was vigorously flapping its wings trying to fly directly into the headwind but it wasn't getting anywhere. No matter how hard it tried, it made no progress. I don't know how long that bird was there tiring its little body out, but as I watched its struggle I couldn't help but see the futility in its effort. It looked so odd, suspended there between heaven and earth, working so hard to fight against a force immeasurably stronger than itself. As I was driving away, John 15:5 came to my mind, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

The majority of people live their whole lives apart from God (broad is the way the leads to destruction), and many seem to accomplish great things. They build successful businesses, have lucrative careers, or raise beautiful families. They may own all the things and go all the places, receive great honors and accolades, they may even have names that go into history books, their legacy impacting generations to come. But Jesus said that they do nothing. How can all of these accomplishments add up to nothing?

When our perspectives are focused on earthy things, these people seem to have all the stuff that we have been conditioned to believe is important, but when we see things from a heavenly perspective, we know that none of these accomplishments can hold a candle to eternity. They are nothing because outside of this finite, temporal space these accomplishments mean nothing.

"Because of God's grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have--Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials--gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person's work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames."

-1 Corinthians 3:10-15 NLT

Notice that there are two types of people in the passage: not the hard-working and the lazy, but those whose work was burnt up and those whose work remained. Both groups worked, both strove, both put in effort, blood, sweat, tears. So what made the difference? The materials.

The amount of effort that we put forth in our lives or our ministries, isn't a trustworthy measure of a life lived for Christ. The question isn't “are you working” but “who are you working for and what materials are you working with?” Notice that the materials that were destroyed–wood, hay, straw–cost very little in comparison to the materials that endured the testing, even though they can create a much larger structure for the same cost. It is not the size of our achievements that matter. Lenard Ravenhill, a great general of our faith, was often quoted saying, “On [judgment] day you better hope you are not knee-deep in ashes.” Oh, how my heart hurts at the thought that I could be standing in front of my Daddy, showing Him the thing that I toiled my life away to build, only to find out that I built it with wood and straw instead of precious things. So how do we know what kind of builder we are?

I believe it comes down to two things. First, are we working for the praise of God or the praise of man? If the purpose in our well-doing is to be seen and applauded here on this earth then there is no heavenly reward (Mat 6:1-2), those works will be burnt up in the fire. Secondly, are we following God's will or our own plan? I could sell everything I own, move to Senegal, and start 100 churches, but if God's will for my life is to facilitate a small group out of my house in Lewistown, then it avails me nothing–it is a work that will not endure the fire. If I'm not walking in God's will and plan for my life, I will build with useless materials, I will fly against the wind.

I believe that most of you reading this blog are already familiar with my testimony so I will keep the back story short. My husband and I have been together for nine years, married for five, and he has been sober from drugs for two and a half (hallelujah). Jesus got a hold of my heart while he was still in the active throes of drug addiction. My life began to change, his did not.

I knew that it was God's will for Joe to be sober and living for Him, but I was trying to accomplish it my way and not surrendering to God's plan. I was so concerned with fixing him. I thought that if I would only recite the right Bible verse, or send him the right sermon, or listen to the right worship song while he was in my car... I believed that if I said the right things the right way then he would come to his senses, see the foolishness of his action and everything would change. We would ride off into the sunset together and all would be right with the world. I worked and worked, trying to do God's work while simultaneously standing in God's way. I was flying against the wind and I was worn out.

Then God started to show me how my way wasn't working by asking me to do things that seemed completely foolish and useless to me. Things like not confronting him when he wronged me, not forcing him to do what I thought was best; things like sitting down and keeping my mouth shut even when I knew the “perfect thing” to say. Here's the thing: God wanted to bring not just me but us to where we are now, but He knew the only way that we could get there. It looked longer and scarier and took a whole lot more faith on my part because I couldn't see the big picture, but while I tried and tried to get to where we were going my way, I was holding back all of the progress that we could be making. I learned a very valuable lesson: following Jesus actually means following Jesus, even when He leads me in a direction that I don't want to go, to do something that I find unnecessary. Following doesn't mean listening to direction and then weighing it as an interesting option, no, following means all in, ride or die, no looking back.

Was my journey easy? Heck no! Yours isn't going to be either. But was it worth it? I would do it a million times over! I grew and I became the woman that I am today because I surrendered to the wind. I allowed God to call the shots and decide where I was supposed to go. He knew what I needed to walk through to become the person that could carry the responsibility coming in the future. Just like the Israelites could never have taken the Promised Land straight out of Egypt, so we too must walk through our wilderness seasons knowing that they strengthen us for the promise that God is preparing on the other side.

So my friends, where must you surrender and allow the wind to carry you in a different direction? Don't spend another day tiring yourself out against a force so much stronger than you are. You will never overcome if you are fighting against the will of God. Stop your striving, trust in His plan, and allow Him to carry you in whatever direction He deems the best. It will not be easy but it will be supremely worthwhile and you will have something worth showing at the end. Isn't that the only thing that matters?

Written by Amanda Strauser