The Life-Changing Adventure of Following God
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Author Matthew Barnett is the co-founder of the Dream Center in Los Angeles, California. In his book One Small Step: The Life-Changing Adventure of Following God's Nudges, he talks about how responding to the Holy Spirit’s leading and stepping out in faith led to a life rich with blessings. He encourages readers to start taking these small steps of faith so that they, too, can deepen their faith and walk confidently into a life of purpose and big adventures.
You write that simple acts of kindness rule the world. What do you mean by that?
I see it on a day to day basis. I pastor a church here called the Dream Center where we're open 24/7, and it’s a big old hospital that’s just there to serve people. I just see people express their love and so many amazing ways and, from taking someone in who has a heroin addiction, to holding their hand and praying for them on a daily basis. It's just incredible. And what I'm trying to accomplish right off the bat [with One Small Step] is to let people know that the change that really takes place in the world is not happening through anything that happens in Washington DC, it's happening in the trenches through people that get up every day, live with the awareness of what it truly means to be a servant, and modeling the life of Jesus. People are following those little nudges of the Holy Spirit every day, and they're transforming homes and cities and schools and communities by stepping out of themselves and putting themselves in someone else's world.
What does it look like to have a heart to serve?
It's one of those things you have to be intentional about because culture is pushing us to look inward, pushing us to be more self-absorbed. When you start serving, you start changing the status of the world you live in. You look for ways to be a blessing. You look for ways to not cut corners, and it begins to shape everything about you. It changes you as a person because it forces you to change the scenery of your life, and our life is impacted by what we choose to see and surround ourselves with.
You share about your passion for listening for God's nudges. How do you hear those nudges and how do you stay ready to respond?
They're usually things that are contrary to what I normally would want for my life because, inherently, I like things to go exactly the way I want [them] to go. There's all these divine interruptions that happen. I love [these encounters] because they change the trajectory of my life. There are people [to whom] I can say one word and it can literally transform their whole day. The power that we have on a day to day basis to impact lives is so extraordinary—not just feeling things about people that we love, but actually saying the things that we feel about them. Letting your tongue run wild with encouragement when you feel it, not containing it, and getting out of that mindset that says, “Everything has to make sense in order for me to respond.”
It's one of those things where you're keeping your heart open to anything and everything that is possible. Usually the nudges that I feel are things that are far outside my every day. It's just becoming aware of those things that God wants us to do and being obedient to give it a try, to step out and say yes to more things.
What happens to our hearts and our lives when we decide to leave our comfort zones?
One of the things that happens is we begin to enter into a life like Jesus lives where we just start overflowing. We start pouring out and we start getting back what we planted. Our value systems change, our perceptions about people change, our belief system about what is possible in people's lives [changes]. We get out of that jaded mindset, and we see what encouragement brings in the lives of people. When you start to love and serve others and live that adventurous life, your faith increases because you've given God a chance to move and situations where you normally wouldn't step out, and you give Him the chance to move.
What would you say to somebody who feels like they have no kindness or no energy to offer people?
I think a lot of the reasons why they don't have kindness or energy is because they just never let it fly. They've never served out of their pain. The greatest thing about worshiping God is that we do it when we don't feel it, and then we get the blessing that comes alongside it. I tell people, “If you don't feel it, do out of obedience, but you always have something to give, and don't waste your pain. Don't waste your struggle and don't waste your circumstances.”
As a matter of fact, the greatest way I have found out of a struggle and pain is to put myself in someone's world immediately, find a need, and fill it because I know what it's like to swim in that pool of fear for so long. That's why serving is such a powerful weapon. It takes you out of a defensive mentality and it puts you into an offensive mentality.
If God has called somebody to do something big, but they're not sure if they should do it, what encouragement would you offer to them?
I would encourage them move in the direction of faith and see where it will take them. You start stepping out and moving and going in that direction and giving—it's never going to be about what you can do. It's always going to be about the miracle space between what you can do and what you can't do. So usually the fact that you feel incapable to accomplish something is the perfect place to be because that's the gap between where you are and the distance by which God can make up. The beautiful part of the journey is finding out things about yourself that only stepping out can reveal.
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