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Are You in Trouble?

When we get in trouble as kids, we expect to get punished. And we tend to carry that expectation into our relationship with God. But let me suggest that some of us need a new theology of trouble.I like what the Bible says about trouble: “This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, t…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

When we get in trouble as kids, we expect to get punished. And we tend to carry that expectation into our relationship with God. But let me suggest that some of us need a new theology of trouble.

I like what the Bible says about trouble: “This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children.” (Heb 12:7-8)

So, trouble is training.

And it follows calling. It’s a beautiful thing to have a call from God. God speaks to you and says something like he said to Peter: “Follow me and let’s make disciples.”

When God calls you, you know in advance that you’re going to be in trouble. He’ll use trouble to create in you the character and humility you need to follow that call. When he allows you to experience pain, he’s testing the quality of your commitment to your call.

So if your call has cost you, I say, “Bravo!” You are the real deal. You are getting the standard operating equipment that he gives all his sons and daughters.

I am often in trouble

When Karen and I followed a call, it was costly. I was tempted to believe the lie that all the stuff I had to go through to follow my call was somehow unique – maybe a signal that I’d misunderstood what God was saying.

But the truth is, Adventures was birthed in trouble and rejection. I made it two years in my prior place of employment before being let go. I was looking for a place to hide and lick my wounds and wound up setting up shop – Adventures‘ first office – in our garage, by the rakes, bags of clothes for the Good Will.
I told God, “I’m tired of this life of ministry. I don’t like how hard it is. I really would like to do something else.”

And he responded, “Don’t grow weary in doing good.”

I was thankful that we were still on speaking terms, but it wasn’t what I wanted to hear.

God reminded me, he had called me to follow a man who was born into trouble and rejection. Jesus’ parents had to struggle just to find a place where he could be born. Soon after that they were on the lam from the law, skipping town and outrunning the authorities.

And when he grew up, he was constantly in trouble. When Jesus first started following his call to ministry, he stirred up so much trouble that those who heard him were furious and “drove him out of town…in order to throw him down a cliff.” (Luke 4)

When you study his life, you see that Jesus was perpetually getting into and out of trouble and that he has called us to follow his example.

You’re in trouble too

As I look around the world at all the places Adventures is working, there’s a common theme – we seem to go to troubled places. Little girls caught in the sex trade in the Philippines, Thailand and Cambodia – all in trouble. Orphans struggling just to eat all over Africa. People everywhere caught up in a confusing legalism that they think is God’s idea.

And we, the staff of Adventures, ourselves struggle to break free of the trouble that attends our call. The Espositos and Kayes in Nicaragua. The Burders in Ireland. The Gerbers in Swaziland. Read their prayer letters – they see trouble and breakthroughs every day.

It’s part of God’s equipping. And it’s the natural consequence of taking on an enemy that has staked a claim that he doesn’t want to give up.

Learning to love the garage 

I learned to not despise my trouble or my time in the garage. I learned that if you’ve got a dream that God gave you and the world needs, then God probably has a garage, a place of humbling, for you to start in.

And when he allows trouble to shape your character and confirm your call, he has a message he’s whispering to you:  Your surroundings don’t dictate your potential.

Too many of us have never seen our trouble or our garage for what it is – a place of humble beginnings. There are things we’re hanging onto in our lives that have lost their usefulness and are getting in the way of God’s dream. When we’re in trouble, he’s cleaning house.

Here are a couple of questions:

Are you seeing the trouble in your life from God’s perspective?

What garage does God want to move you to in order to birth his dreams?

We mustn’t be afraid of the humble place.  The dream we’ve been dreaming for 25 years at Adventures is that a generation of radical disciples would rise up and go to the nations to set captives free.

We’ve seen signs of hope, though it’s nothing like a movement yet. But if we put our ear to the ground, I think we may hear the distant rumblings that tell us it’s coming.

The media and even many Christians who look at this generation may see a valley of dry bones. But I see young men and women gifted with trouble and finding their garage. It may look as bare and smelly as a manger, but it’s a place where God’s dreams are birthed.

His dreams are so big and so world-changing that he has to introduce us to trouble so that we’ll be equipped with humility before he equips us with power.

As you face into your trouble today, remember, it’s a fulfillment of Jesus’ promise: “In this world you will have trouble.”

But please be en-couraged by what he says next:

“Take courage, for I have overcome the world.”

Comments (23)

  • This is timely Seth, thanks for sharing, again, the words that Jesus shares with you. It uplifts me and I know, so many others as well. 🙂

  • Stacey Bartholomew

    A perfect blog to read the morning after returning from the Romanian PVT!! Those amazing racers were a wonderful witness to being called. They represent AIM well but more important are helping build a Kingdom and encouraging so many! I’m “in trouble” and cleaning house and listening for that calling.
    As always thanks for the encouragement

  • Seth, In the Ministry my wife and I work, Hearts in hands, we try to remove trouble only to find it is deeper. It requires a deeper commitment than processing aid. It always requires complete surrender. I love your post and look forward to His return! Peace to you and AIM, FHB III

  • Seth, I am so thankful I still read these spiritual sandwiches you write. I am entering now a new season and don’t know where He’s taking me. But He has (and always will be) been with me in this troublesome fiery furnace always and thank God He never says, “Oh I’ve had it with this one! She still doesn’t get it..” But His everlasting love just keeps going on and on and on and on and on and on. He never gives up on us! Say a prayer for me please as I sold my deceased mama’s home (she went to heaven 11/23), changed jobs after 10 years (God gave me two new p/t job in 3 days!), am moving, and just abiding in Him every day. Leaning on Jesus Leaning on Jesus Safe and secure from all alarm finding more power than I ever dreamed. I’m leaning on the everlasting arms.
    Love you Bro.

  • “His dreams are so big and so world-changing that he has to introduce us to trouble so that we’ll be equipped with humility before he equips us with power.” WOW!

  • Jim and Meredith are right this is a good and epic one! I pray that whatever trouble Adventures finds itself in, whatever shape the garage looks to be in, it will only refine the mission for another season of focus. Same for you personally and indeed for all of us.

  • That’s a lot of change, Sandy. You’ve had your fill of stress points this year! I’ll be praying for you.

  • Thanks, Jim. Our lives can be epic, but we have to press into trouble. It reminds me of the song from the old South, “Nobody knows the trouble I seen.”

  • Seth –
    I read this early this morning and thought about it while hiking today. The idea that ‘your surroundings don’t dictitate your potential’ is so encouraging to me. Thank you for sharing about learning to love the garage. Looking forward to meeting you in person in July.

  • My dear friend…this missive is one of many reasons why through years of mutual “trouble making” with the Kingdom of God in mind and “trouble receptions” as mistakes…sin and character building gambits of God came our way (I’ll say mine) there has always been this settled sense that the cosmic plot is still unfolding and the Father and Planet Maker is not finsihed with us yet and said He would complete the project before we see Him.

    I am thankful my life has allowed me to know you these past thirty years.

    Pax Christi.

  • Thank you, Seth. I just returned from the Romania pvt and almost didn’t go.
    My dad just passed away and he had charged me with taking care of my mom and her affairs. The weeks before the pvt I felt I was being squeezed and pressed and kept trying to manage in my own strength. In being with my racer, other parents, and the ministry partners God gave me rest, shelter and a reminder of what He truly is about. Now your words have affirmed His working in my life, growing me and sanctifying me. Time on the World Race is exactly what I needed – I was able to bless others and I was blessed in return. Thank you!

  • I like that, Butch – we get in trouble, but then we are commissioned as “troublemakers” ourselves. Our job is to upset the existing order and bring light to dark places.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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