This week at FUEL we’re kicking off the school year with a brand new series called Radical: A Life Of Fanatical Faith. Over the next four weeks we’re going to talk about what it means to live with radical faith. It’s going to be a super practical series and should challenge our students in some awesome ways.
It started challenging me before it even had a chance to start challenging them.
I normally get “challenged” in a very routine way: I hear a talk on a topic or read a verse on a topic. I realize I’m not doing what that talk or verse says I should do. Then I realize I need to be doing what that talk or verse says. After that I think to myself, “Challenge accepted” and go about trying to conquer that challenge.
This one happened in a different way.
This one happened through my living out that fanatical faith in a way that I never had before.
Last Thursday I went to Nashville with Nicole to see Hillsong United. If you don’t know who that is, they are the leading writers of modern worship music. They are one of the groups that brought in the rock and roll worship movement. If you go to a “contemporary” church, chances are you sang one of their songs yesterday in church.
Nicole had been to two other United concerts before and she told me how great they were live. I expected big things going in.
The show started about eight. They played, and played, and played and it was awesome. Being with 6000 people in a setting that is completely focused on Jesus is an amazing feeling. I was also on the front row and it was so loud that I couldn’t hear myself sing which let me know that no one else could hear me either. I could sing as loud and as bad as I wanted.
After about two hours of playing, United shifted into one of my favorite songs: With Everything. They went into it from another song so it took me a few lines to realize that we were actually singing it. I had been looking forward to this song all night. I knew it was going to be great and that it was going to be loud and that it was going to be awesome.
I didn’t know God would speak to me in the most clear way he’d ever spoken to me before during it.
The whole idea of With Everything is that we’re going to give God everything that we have and hold nothing back. As the song started kicking into gear, I started singing:
Break down our pride
And all the walls
We’ve built up inside
Our earthly crowns
And all our desires
We lay at your feet
By this time in the song, I was in full “bass player stomp” mode. All bass players do this at some point or another. They start stomping one of their feet with the beat of the song and start bobbing their upper body along with the rhythm. I don’t know why we do it, but it’s something that we do.
The song kept going and I kept doing the stomp and singing:
God of all days
Glorious in all of your way
Your majesty, the wonder and grace
In the light of your name
The bass player stomp kept picking up. I had to switch feet because I had stomped so hard. As I’m typing this right now, my head is doing the bobbing part of the stomp. I was fully engulfed in the song and just kept going:
We will shout for your glory.
We will should forth your praise
Our hearts will cry
Be lifted high
Above all names
For you our king
We will shout forth your praise
At this point in the song everything stops for a split second and then everyone starts shouting “Woah” in the rhythm of the song. With the full stomp going, I started shouting. I was straight up yelling as loud as I could.
And then my voice cracked.
I was yelling so loud and so hard that my voice was literally cracking and going in and out. It was like puberty all over again.
My first thought was, “Oh crap. Who just heard that? That’s so freaking embarrassing. I need to bring it down a notch or seven.”
Right then, as soon as I thought that, in a way that I’ve never experienced, I felt God say to me, “No you don’t. It’s beautiful.”
I kept singing, although with a little bit less force, while I tried to figure out what was going on. Without even being able to ask the question of, “God, is that you?” he just kept going:
“This is beautiful. This is what I want from you. No holding back. No caring about what people around you are doing. All of you. Don’t stop.”
God told me not to stop so dang it, I wasn’t going to stop. I kept singing. I went full force again. My foot was trying to stomp a hole through the floor. My voice was cracking every other “Woah.” I didn’t care. I just kept going.
That was the last song of United’s set. They came back on for an encore that was great and then me and Nicole left. After saying bye to one of my students that I had seen there, we jumped in the car and started on the 2.5 hour journey back to Knoxville.
I drove and, since it was one in the morning, Nicole slept. In the quiet time of the drive I was able to start to process what it was that God was telling me during With Everything. I didn’t quite figure it out that night but I think that I have in the days since.
When I was in college, my entire identity was being a super fan for Liberty. My nickname was SuperJon and people from other colleges knew the name SuperJon. I showed up on campus at other schools and people would say, “Oh, hey, are you SuperJon?” That was my identity. I was known for being a fanatic for Liberty athletics.
Being that fanatic was so much of who I was that I started a club to help make other fanatics so we could travel to other schools and show how fanatical we were. We’d go to games and scream our heads off.
It was normal for me to look like an idiot and not care while at a basketball game.
It was normal for me to leave a football game with no voice at all and be completely exhausted.
It was normal for my voice to crack while trying to be loud on third down or in the last two minutes of a basketball game.
Those things were normal, but at no point in my life had I ever not cared what I looked like or who was watching me while in church.
At no point in my life had I ever left church exhausted because I gave Jesus my all.
At no point in my life had I ever yelled for Jesus so loud that my voice cracked.
God was telling me he wanted me to be as fanatical about him as I was about Liberty athletics. He wanted me to not care about looking cool in front of my friends, my girlfriend, or my students. He wanted me to stop saying that I was tired and skipping out on a quiet time and start changing my entire schedule around for him like I used to for Liberty.
He wanted me to be radical.
He challenged me.
Say your prayers and take your vitamins.
Have a nice day.