Letting Go (And Avoiding Monkey Traps)
I wonder what we’re holding onto right now that’s keeping us from our future?
Two of the most pivotal moments in the history of Liberty Church involved the same scripture and the Spirit of God urging me to let go of something.
The first was in 2009 at the Statue of Liberty as I wrestled with the calling to plant a church in New York City. For all kinds of reasons I felt emotional and overwhelmed at the prospect. We’d never planted a church before and the very enormity of the city that makes it fascinating to 59 million tourists a year, can also make it terrifying to the would-be church pioneer. Tourists were snapping photos but I was ugly crying. Yet I heard God, as clearly as I ever have, say a few things to me. The first was to ask me, “What would you give for a city?” which was the moment I truly answered his calling. But in the aftermath of that question, as it took a wrecking ball to my plans, logical questions and need for certainty, I also was reminded of a scripture…
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. Jn12:24 NKJV
In an instant I knew what that verse meant for me at that point in my life. Was I willing to fall to the ground, to die, so to speak? Did I trust the Father enough (which is really the essence of letting go) to allow him to bury me in the ground, to sow me into NYC, and believe that “much grain” would follow?
A harvest begins with a single seed.
Yet someone has to be willing to sow it. To give up something tangible for something intangible – the hope of multiplication.
The second occasion he gave me that same scripture was after a church plant we were attempting came to a crashing halt. We’d had no choice but to stand down the guy we’d hoped would be our pastor there after he made some tragic choices. For some months I continued to nurture that launch team and cast vision as we believed for God to provide new pastors. But after eight months of investment I felt the Holy Spirit’s leading in a prayer meeting and again it was Jn12… unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground.
It was as if the Father was saying, you’ve done your part, now let it go. Sow it in the ground. Trust it to me. Let me take the seed you’ve got here and bury it for a time. And at the appointed season I’ll raise it up and multiply it, thirty, sixty or a hundred-fold.
You can’t sow without letting go.
You can’t give without letting go.
Often you can’t move forward without letting go.
Yet knowing when to let go and what to let go of requires His leading. Some people are too quick to let go. They give up when they should press in. They lose heart and give up in doing good and miss out on their “due season” to reap (Gal6:9). And yet the Apostle Paul also said this…
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Phil3:13-14
If we are going to press on, we are also going to leave some things behind. John Maynard Keynes, the British economist said, “The difficulty lies not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones.” It’s often only in letting go of what I’ve known before that new things can be embraced.
In some parts of the world all it takes is the simplest of traps to catch a monkey. A hollowed out shell like a coconut or gourd has a small hole cut in it and a treat is placed inside. The shell is secured to the ground and then the hunter waits. The design of the trap means that although the hole is big enough for the monkey to get his open hand inside it to grab the treat, the hole is too small for him to extract his fist while holding the treat. Logically he should let it go, but most often he can’t. He could be free if only he’d let go. But he’ll hold that treat in his hand until the hunter returns to collect his prize.
I don’t want to fall for monkey traps as a leader.
Oh, Holy Spirit… give us the wisdom to know the difference between the moments to persevere and the moments to let go.
I’d love your comments…
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