I love the South Wales Valleys.
I can’t really explain why – I just do!
Some might argue that it’s because I grew up here and so therefore have a nostalgic connection to the place. However, if it were that simple – why is it that so many people can’t wait to get out of the Valleys and once they do – they never come back?!
While I can’t really explain my passion for this beautiful, broken corner of God’s world, I am under no illusions when it all started. It started when the Holy Spirit invaded my life as a teenager, showing me the horror of my sin, the miracle of the cross and stirring me to put my faith in Jesus to rescue me and take me on the adventure of a lifetime! As soon as I got my head around the fact that God could love someone like me and give me eternal life as a gift, I knew that I had to get the message out there. And once I’d understood that God’s heart really does beat for the beaten-down, the messed-up, the poor, the needy, the widow and the fatherless – I began to see the Valleys as so much more than a social catastrophe – I saw them as a colossal (and exciting) mission-field! That burden never really went away, even during my 12 years in Cardiff.
It’s no surprise to me that I’ve ended up back ‘home’ planting a church in the land that I love.
I believe that God gave me the burden.
God is in the business of releasing people from the burden of sin and blessing them with gospel burdens.
What’s your burden?
What has God placed on your heart? Maybe as you’re reading this something has already jumped straight to your mind and you KNOW it’s a God thing. Alternatively, perhaps loads of things have hit you all at once and you’re challenge is to discern between what’s a God-thing and what’s a you-thing. Or perhaps nothing’s come to you at all but you are eager for God impress His purpose for you onto your heart.
For what it’s worth, here’s a few things I’ve learned about the burdens that God gives His people:
1. When God gives you a burden it doesn’t go away.
We can be so fickle and quick to change out minds about things. I remember as a kid I wanted to be everything you could imagine when I grew up – a soldier, a sportsman, a spy…It changed pretty much every week. They weren’t burdens, they were fleeting obsessions – and the difference is huge. When God puts something on your heart it’s because He wants you to act on it and, unlike us, God doesn’t change His mind! It might not always be as foremost in your mind as at other times, but like a stone in your shoe – it’s always there (in a good way!!)
# If you think that God has given you a burden ask yourself this: How long have I carried this burden? God is quite capable of giving us burdens that demand immediate action, but He’s also gracious and will often lay the burden on your heart a long time before decisive action is necessary to give you a chance to get used to the idea and get yourself motivated and equipped for action when the time is right. If you’ve been carrying something for a while don’t be afraid to ask God “is it time to do something with this?” It might just be the most epic prayer you’ll ever pray!
2. When God gives you a burden inaction is not an option
I had to come back to the valleys. It was always a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if”. The thought of settling for anything else just wasn’t an option. I think Nehemiah is a great example of this – he was heart-broken by the plight of his beloved Jerusalem and such was his burden he could neither rest or rejoice until he was doing something about it!
# If you think that God has given you a burden ask yourself this: Could I leave this alone? Could I put this down, give my life to something completely different and be able to live with myself? If you’re a Christian who is walking closely with your God – Plan B is something that you could never settle for – it’d be like wearing someone else’s shoes – poorly fitting, uncomfortable and…wrong!
3. When God gives you a burden it is often costly
One of the best ways to discern the difference between a God-given burden and a you-driven burden is that by nature you will naturally gravitate towards comfort, security, acceptance and recognition. The biblical precedent for following God’s way is that it usually involves the absolute opposite of all that – sacrifice, vulnerability, rejection and obscurity. The life and death of Jesus teach us this in a powerful and compelling way! What got Him though the agony of Calvary was the love-burden He carried for His church: “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him…Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53v10-11)
# If you think that God has given you a burden ask yourself this: Am I willing to pay whatever it costs to see this done. If this gets painful, scary, difficult or even seemingly impossible – am I still going to persevere? What’s in this for me? What’s in this for God? Am I a cost-paying cross-carrier or a comfort-seeking cushion-cuddler?
4. When God gives you a burden it will resonate with godly people.
One of my favourite Old Testament stories (and one that sealed the deal on us knowing that God was sending us to plant Hill City Church) is the story of Jonathan and his armour bearer. While Jonathan’s dad (King Saul) was chilling under a pomegranate tree, God laid it on Jonathan’s heart to go and do what his dad couldn’t be bothered to – climb the hill and wipe out the Philistine garrison at the top! He shared the plan with his faithful armour bearer, who gave this stunning reply:
“Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul.” (1Samuel 14v7)
God gave Jonathan the burden. He shared the burden and his godly armour bearer caught the vision. To cut a long story short – they did what God said and they won a great victory! When it comes to sharing your heart with others not everyone’s going to get it, but you can be sure that people who get God will get it! I’m going to look in greater detail at the role of wise counsellors in my next post, but in the meantime…
# If you think that God has given you a burden ask yourself this: Have I shared this burden with any pastors, brothers or sisters whose opinion and discernment I trust? If not – why not? If so what did they say and how did I/should I respond?
5. When God gives you a burden it will never contradict Scripture.
Whatever it is that you feel burdened about – make sure that the first place you take it for inspection is the Word of God. As we’ve already seen, the Bible is the plumb-line against which we should measure everything – and this naturally includes our dreams and burdens. If your heart is turning towards something that is ungodly or unwise – you can count on the Bible to always tell you straight!
# If you think that God has given you a burden ask yourself this: What has the Bible got to say about this? Have I even consulted Scripture and if so have I allowed Scripture to be the boss or have I tried to make Scripture fit around my burden?
Wherever you’re at with all this, praise God that He is willing to engage our emotions and our dreams as part of His commitment to guiding and engaging us in His sovereign plans. May He lay incredible things on your heart, then bless you with the grace, faith and vision you need to see it done!