Well, it's official: I'm sixteen years old. And I am planning (well, not "planning"... aiming - James 4:13-16) on making this year unforgettable in one big way: I want to be irreversibly abandoned to God. I want to be radical for Him. I find no biblical backing for the idea that there is a "too much" or "over the top" when it comes to my relationship and actions towards Jesus. Therefore, I want to live that way! I'd rather be "over the top" than miss the ultimate goal and joy of my life.
My method for making this happen this year comes from the book "Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream" by David Platt (a highly recommended read for all of you). In the last chapter of his book, he lays out a challenge for Christians which he calls "The Radical Experiment." It's a one year challenge that I am starting today, and that I hope you will join with me, starting perhaps on Christmas or New Year's Day. The goal of the Experiment is to commit one year to living a life dedicated sacrificially to Jesus so as to really see what the life Jesus calls us to is really like. Using five different steps, we are trying to live intentionally and purposefully for God. And David Platt's hope is that when we live this way for a year, we will learn that there is absolutely no reason to stop.
The first step is to pray for the entire world. David Platt writes, "In a world where more than 4.5 billion people are without Christ... we have to begin somewhere. In Matthew 9 we see [Jesus] surrounded by the multitudes and moved with compassion because they were 'harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.' So He turned to His disciples and said, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.' I would have expected him to immediately start giving orders to his disciples. 'Peter, you go to that person. John you care for that guy.' But that's not what he said... When Jesus looked at the harassed and helpless multitudes, apparently his concern was not that the lost would come to the Father. Instead, his concern was that his followers would not go to the lost. Now think about it. What happens when you and I take these words from Jesus and put them in a world where more than a billion people have still not heard the gospel? A fundamental reality snaps into focus: we are not praying. This the the step that you and I are most likely to overlook and yet the one that is the most dangerous for us to ignore."
The second step is to read the entire Word. Just that. All that. Use either a read-the-Bible-in-a-year program, or schedule it myself however I want. Just read it all in a year. Platt writes, "The battle is intense, and it cannot be fought with little thoughts in a daily devotional or petty ideas from a preacher on Sunday. It certainly can't be fought with minds numbed by the constant drivel of entertainment on television, DVDs, video games, and the Internet. If you and I are going to penetrate our culture and the cultures of the world with the gospel, we desperately need minds saturated with God's Word."
Third step: sacrifice your money for a specific purpose. Not just giving, sacrificing. Giving beyond the "excess," actually sacrificing things the we want in order to give our money to a specific cause. Not giving "according to your ability," giving beyond your ability. For this year, I think that my cause is going to be world hunger. Nearly one billion people are on the edge of starvation, and 26,000 people die of hunger every day. And in order to support this cause, one of the things I'm going to sacrifice are coffee drinks that I buy. Though I might wish I had a coffee, I can stick that $3.50 (which is ridiculous for coffee anyway!) in my savings for world hunger. I'm giving up a coffee to literally save someone's life. Seems like a reasonable trade to me! And another goal of mine is to give away half of everything I earn. After all, much of the world lives on less that $1 a day. Surely God can provide more than enough for me on half of what He's given me. Maybe someday I can give 75% of my income, or more. After all, it's not a question of how much of my money I give to God, it's a question of how much of God's money I keep for myself.
The fourth step is to spend your time in another context. Platt writes, "As important as it is for us to be radical in our giving, it is even more important for us to be radical in our going." Platt challenges us to give at least 2% of our time this year to going into the world sharing the gospel. This equals about one week to go and focus on sharing Christ with people outside of our ordinary context: more like a missions trip, even to another country. Sometimes we debate about whether we should simply use the money we would spend on a missions trip to give to the people there, but Platt writes of a time he went to Sudan and spoke with the people. The people expressed thanks for generous giving from donors in America, but then they asked, "Even in light of all these things that people have given us, do you want to know how you can tell who a true brother is?" "How?" "A true brother comes to be with you in your time of need." Monetary giving is essential, but spending our time is even more so because through going, we share the personal, relational love of Jesus.
The last step of the Radical Experiment is to commit your life to a multiplying community. Platt explains it this way, "The reality is, we need community in order to follow Christ radically. I am convinced that one reason many of us have not taken radical steps in our giving, for example, may not be so much because we love our possessions as it is because we fear isolation. We get convicted about our way of living when we look at the Bible, but then when we look at one another, we assume it must be okay because everyone else lives this way." This step is meant to be the place where all of the other steps converge - committing to a group of people who are also committed to living radically for God, making disciples and multiplying the gospel.
So, that's what I'm committing to for this year. I'm asking God to take me and make me into what He wants, no matter what. I'm asking Him to literally do whatever it takes for me to glorify Him in all I do. And I'm asking you all for prayer in this coming year. If I want this to be a year of extreme growth, it will also be a struggle. After all, I know the devil is not happy about my new resolve. I'm not praying for safety or protection, but simply faith and a continual recognition of Jesus, His blood, His cross, and His love.
Jesus. He is still all that matters.