What does it take to see breakthrough? Part two

Friday 15 July

Danielle Strickland is an officer in the Salvation Army in Los Angeles who has served the marginalised for over 20 years and is an ambassador for Stop the Traffik. At #Sligo16, she led a two-part seminar looking at "breakthrough".  Here's a summary of part two:

Click HERE to read part one of Danielle's seminar.

What a world we are living in!  Filled with opportunity.

We have somehow succumbed to the idea that there are “supermen” who bring about breakthrough. In the movie “Hercules,” there is a line, which says, “Never let them see you bleed.”  On the cross, Jesus was bleeding.   Jesus was vulnerable.  It was a display of weakness and seeming defeat and that was what broke the power of sin and death.

We keep thinking strength and success and celebrity will bring the breakthrough.  Any time the church is in power, it doesn’t work out so well! God’s strategy has always been to take the least trained, the least shiny and the least equipped people so that the glory will go to Him.

The cross is not a tragedy - it is a strategy.

At the time of Jesus, the people wanted a “breakthrough” - the overthrow of the Romans.  They wanted the revolutionary warrior.  Our world, our culture wants strength and glory.

Paul gets it - he boasts in his weakness!  We need to renew our minds again to understand God’s way!  What Jesus did looked so different that nobody understood it.  Even the disciples could not figure out what was going it on.  It felt like defeat and weakness.  None of us will be able to understand what breakthrough looks like until we are willing to be more like Jesus and less like “Hercules”.

In Judges 6: 25 - 32 - the first step of breakthrough for Gideon was to confront the idolatry in his own life.  Where is the idolatry in your own life, family and church?

What kind of leader do you want to be?  So often we want to be the one in the red cape who saves the day.  Too often the people we are ministering to do not know our weakness. One of the great things about Jesus is that He gets angry, He weeps, He is hurt publically - He is fully human.  Too often we present an image of what we want people to see rather than the reality.

So many of the heroes of the faith were messed up!  They are broken, vulnerable and human.  We need people who are willing to be truly human.

You can’t find a church full of super heroes, you can only find churches that are full of people.  We have done a disservice by creating leadership as idolatry.  We need to re-visit, “What is a leader?”  Jesus warned His disciples that they would be tempted to “lord it” over one another. One of the things the disciples did a lot was to fail!  When we are talking about breakthrough we often think about a move-version of events that are around what we think is famous and successful and strong.

Where is the idolatry in your life and your community?  Where is the Asherah pole that you have been worshipping?  It can be a tradition or a denomination or a leadership cult (celebrity culture).   Are you kids your idols?  Have we made our children idolatrous in your life?  What do I want to model to my children -fear, disobedience, comfort and wealth?

Or am I going to say to my kid, “This is what it looks like to follow Jesus! It means we are going to trust Him anyway.  We have opportunities we did not have before.”

Nicodemus and Joseph were both cowards - they were secret believers.  But because of the cross, they both “come out” - they say, “We are with Him.”  They were willing to go to Pilate to ask for His body and to honour Him in death.

They made room for the death of Christ.  Where does the resurrection happen?  It happens in the space they made.  They came out of their fear and secrecy and identified with Jesus’ weakness and defeat.  Right in that same spot we see God’s resurrection power.  The resurrection is the greatest event in the history of the world and it happened in the tomb of a secret believer!

When you make room in your life - this is counting the cross, picking up your cross, dying to self… it is in that action to say, “I’m in with Jesus - not Hercules but the Jesus who died exposed and vulnerable.”

What were the idols they died to?  Some of us worship at the idol of fear.  We worship our children as though we love our children more than God does.

God has a strategy that we can’t even imagine.  It is so different to the world’s way.  Who would think the best way to open a church in a drug-infested ghetto was to have a child?

When I walk through this broken community with my baby, everyone stands watching the baby.  The baby would command the respect, attention and affection of the whole community.  One woman said, “He is too beautiful to be down here.”  I looked at her and said, “So are you.”  They needed to know and hear it!

They also needed to see us discipline our child with kindness and love - without violence or abuse.  We were able to introduce them to a God who loved them and disciplined them with love.

When we put our ways and our strategies and our values ahead of God’s, it is called idolatry.  What things are tripping you up? 

We forget that we are on a journey.  In leadership, leaders are on a journey.  They are human.  They see success but also failure.  They might demonstrate strength but they also experience weakness and mediocrity.

Discipleship is a daily choice.  You don’t achieve it.  There is a constant choice.  There is a constant challenge to reject idols, to follow Jesus, to die to self…

I saw a man on the side of the highway with a sign saying, “Please help my family with rent.” And his family was standing with him.  I felt the Lord say, “Stop, let him in.”  Really?  Can’t someone else do this?  Aren’t there other Christians in this city? The Lord simply said, “Stop.”  So I pulled over and asked, “Do you want dinner?”  I’m not even a good cook but I take them to my home and give them dinner.  There is no place where you are beyond listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

There is no secret to breakthrough.  It is simply doing what God tells you to do. 

Every time God asks you to do something, there are 100s of reasons why you shouldn’t.  Here’s the bottom line - it could turn out bad.  That is the story of the cross.

What brings breakthrough?  Do you really want to know?  The cross!  The willingness to die to yourself, the willingness to say, “Yes” to Jesus, all the way.

When Moses first went to Pharaoh, things got worse!  Gideon’s own people wanted to kill him.  When you are in a time of breakthrough, people won’t like you! 

What are you compromising because it makes your life easier?  In Samson’s last act, the “Hercules” of Israel gave himself away.  He laid down his life and found a Jesus posture and in his final act he killed more of the enemy than in all of his previous battles.

The Lord told Gideon, “You are too big.”  That seems insane.  Why would God want the army to be smaller?  We still think that bigger is better.  In which Bible did you read that?  Who taught us that a successful ministry is a big one? 

People in small churches are saying, “If only my church was bigger.”  These are idols of our culture.  Bigger is not better.  In Scripture, you never see bigger as better.  Jesus’ strategy is to use those who are willing to pick up the cross and lay down their lives.  That is what it takes to bring about breakthrough.

We celebrate bigness as if that is the secret of greatness. But it is in your weakness that Jesus is glorified.  We have this treasure in jars of clay.  What part of that is hard?  All of it!

God has never used a majority for breakthough.  He has always used a minority.  If you feel weak, small and inadequate, that is a pre-requisite for God to move.  Otherwise people will think you did it.