Three principles of moving from reactionary faith to strategic faith


Last night I was at the prayer service at my home church. Part of this service is a short devotional thought from one of the pastors. Worship director Mark Alan Schoolmeesters was sharing from the Lord’s Prayer on the phrase, “Lead us not into temptation.” I have written elsewhere on this important prayer, but Mark had a great line that really caught my attention. He said, “Are you strategic or reactionary in your faith?”

This question got me thinking and my mind spinning with the stories of faith from the Bible. Not sure all of Mark’s intention, but where it took my thinking could be revolutionary to your faith. When I think of strategic faith it is a faith based on the truth of God’s word that moves us into bold decisions to follow Jesus. Reaction “faith” reaches out to God based on the crisis at hand and sometimes may not be faith at all. Here are some principles of God’s word that can move you into more strategic faith.

Strategic faith is forward looking while reactionary faith is focused on the current crisis.

Often our faith is based on the difficulty of the moment. It may be the current temptation we are facing or the problem that seems to be overwhelming us. Abraham however had strategic faith, “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11: 10) In what areas is your relationship with God drawing you to take steps beyond your current circumstances? Caleb and Joshua called the Israelites to strategic faith even the circumstances said otherwise. 

Strategic faith is based on the promise of God and reactionary faith is based on the appearance of circumstances.

Abraham again is a great example of both sides of this story. When he had Ishmael with Hagar he was acting based on the appearance of things. Isaac however was born based on the promise of God. What are the promises of God that He has spoken to your life that should be guiding your life? Maybe you need to go back and take hold of them again.

Reactionary faith may help me out of my current difficulty, but strategic faith puts me in a situation to change the course of my life and those around me.

I am not saying that there are not times when reactionary faith is important. When we are in temptation that is the time to call out to God for help not simply wish we had prayed earlier, “Lead me not into temptation.” When we are sinking in the sea, like Peter, that is the moment to simply reach out in faith and say, “Lord save me.” The difference is we also need strategic faith that gets us out of the boat in the first place.

An easy illustration of this is to compare reactionary faith to caffeine-coffee, tea and energy drinks. When you are tired these can help you get through the day. Strategic faith is like a health lifestyle that gives you energy every day. It is not that you might not have a day where you have a bad nights sleep and drink a cup of coffee, but the healthy lifestyle gives you the energy for normal days. Crisis will come and we should react to reach out to God in faith, but may we grow in taking strategic steps of faith that change the direction of our lives.  How are you going to grow in taking strategic steps of faith?

Do you dare sit in a chair across from Jesus?


When I was in college one of my professors gave a simple idea for us when it came to prayer. I have taken his idea and adapted it to something I use when I speak. The idea is very simple. I take two chairs and set them up on the stage partially facing each other. I then encourage them to think of prayer as them sitting in one seat and Jesus sitting in the other having a conversation.

Recently this idea has captivated my imagination even more. Are we daring enough to sit in the chair across from Jesus to have a conversation. Sitting down with Jesus has life changing possibilities. Sitting down with Jesus doesn’t always go as we expect.

We know that this should be expected since that is what happened to people in gospels when they “sat down” to a conversation with Jesus. To take a line from a TV show we when we sit down with Jesus we should expect the unexpected. Read again the drama of the Gospels and you will be amazed at the potential of those moments. Speaking of drama and TV how does conversation with Jesus compare with some of the “greats”

Jesus is more insightful than Sherlock Holmes

If you have read a book, watched a TV show, or movie about Sherlock Holmes I would imagine that sitting down with him would have been an interesting activity. As you arrive at 221B Baker Street and Dr. Watson takes your coat you would be wondering what details Holmes would notice. But sitting down with Jesus it is likely that he will dig below the surface. Just ask the woman at the well. No point in pretending with Him it is time to be honest. Do you dare to sit in the chair?

Jesus is wiser than Yoda

When we sit down with Jesus in prayer it is not like traveling to a galaxy far far away. Even as a kid his wisdom amazed. His insight challenged the religious leaders of the day. His discernment cut through the arguments of His enemies. When we come to “sit in the chairs” with Jesus, His insight could forever change our thinking. Do you dare to sit in the chair?

Jesus is more life changing than a training sequence in a Rocky movie

It so many movies there is a moment where the hero changes and maybe there is a montage of workout scenes and the person is a difference person. Or a group of ragtag people is turned into an army. Sitting down with Jesus can have an even more dramatic impact. Zacchaeus has a short encounter with Jesus and it changes his life. One of the criminals on a cross next to Jesus has a brief encounter with Him that changes his eternity. Do you dare to sit in the chair?

Jesus is more world changing than Pinky and the Brain

I don’t mean to get you upset on this one, but there is an old TV show that I have never watched. But the is a funny conversation that is at the heart of the premise of the show. Pinky asks Brain, “What do you want to do tonight?” To which Brain replies, “Same thing we do every night. Try to take over the world.” Although I mention that to be funny, we find in the story of the disciples that the longer you sit with Jesus you end up on a real mission to change the world. Mark 3:14 reminds us that Jesus invited them to be with Him and then He would send them out. There message is still changing the world. Do you dare to sit in the chair?

Conversation with Jesus can be life changing. Prayer does not need to be complicated, but it can be transformative. Do you dare to sit in the chair?

Which type of spiritual football player are you?

Football Player

If you were to look at me you might simply see a short, bald Sri Lankan looking guy. But when I was in 9th grade I played on my school’s football team. Fortunately for me the school was one of the largest in the state at the time and so had a “A” squad, “B” squad, and “C” squad which meant that I got the opportunity to play. Actually I received the award for Most Improved Player, which probably speaks to the fact that I had never played on a school football team before and had much to improve. 

Near the end of the season, the defensive coach decided that he would teach me how to play outside linebacker. Apparently when you are on the “C” squad it doesn’t matter how short you are to play different positions. I was told that as outside linebacker I only had 2 jobs: either cover the tight end if he went out for a pass or play “contain” which basically is not allowing any runner between me and the sideline.

When the day of the game came the defensive coach was not there but rather the drill sergeant, no nonsense offensive coach. On one of the first plays of the game I realized I had a problem. Even though I only had two jobs I didn’t know which one to do on which play. Sure enough they ran right where I was supposed to be and nearly scored a touchdown.

Drill sergeant coach pulled me from the game and put me on the bench. For the rest of the game we were getting killed at the position I was supposed to be playing. No one else on the team knew how to play my position. I may have asked to get back in the game at that position but I know I didn’t try to hard.

As I travel the country speaking at churches I see a lot of Christians sitting on the bench when they should be in the game. They have the right jersey on, but are content to sit on the sideline spiritually. They will leave the praying and other spiritual activities to the super star Christians. God is still looking for people who say, “Here am I, send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)  As I mention in my Manifesto on Engagement, too many Christians are not engaged and so their faith has become boring.

Which type of spiritual football player are you? Are you content to sit on the sideline and leave the praying, loving and action to other Christians? Even if you have messed up, is your heart and actions saying to the Coach, “Let me back in the game.” Prayer is where the action is. Will you get into the game?

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes by President Theodore Roosevelt: It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic” delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910  Theodore Roosevelt (Emphasis mine)