Analysis Paralysis: How Trials Erode the Christian’s Commitment to Gospel Work
Last week, bursts of machine gun fire echoed across the lobby of a hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. Al-Shabab had struck again. In 2013, 67 were murdered just across the street from where last week’s siege took place. In 2015, 148 students were also casualties in this continuing religious war between Somali terrorists and the Kenyan government. The attack that took place Saturday, January 12th, 2019, claimed another 14 souls. As I read from the comfort of my couch about the bloody siege taking place half-way across the globe, thoughts and worries began flooding my mind and heart.
As a missionary to Kenya (currently on deputation), I should face this attack with bravery and courage, ignoring my fears, and marching to do battle royal with the enemy, even embracing the martyr’s death if the Lord should will it. I should report that this attack has not shaken my resolve a bit. But the reality is: not so much.
The gunshots of those followers of Mohammed began to riddle my soul with fear. Two years ago, when I surrendered to God’s calling for me to go to Kenya, I would have scoffed at the attack. I was a broke single college student with nothing to lose. When I made the commitment to go to Kenya with the gospel, I knew what the cost may be. Luke 14:27-28 states the cost of discipleship clearly, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?”
Discipleship would cost my life. Everything my life has to offer, even my very breath, may be claimed for the sake of the gospel. But doubts began to sink my commitment. I began to notice the violence and thought about my wife and daughter. I thought about all I had to lose.
In Matthew 15:28-33, we read about a similar dilemma Peter had. Peter plainly tells Christ that if He commands Peter to walk on the water, he would step out of the comfort and security of the boat and follow Christ by faith. And Jesus gladly says, “Come!”
Peter made a commitment to Christ – an incredible commitment at that! He was going to leave the cushy comfort of the boat and follow Christ on the waters of a sea that was raging with a violent storm. Going big or going home seems to be Peter’s mantra at times. So, he goes big, and Peter steps out of the boat.
You can imagine in your mind’s eye the other disciples looking at him like he was an idiot. Why, Peter? Why did you have to choose that? Couldn’t you have committed to donate 10 shekels to the ministry? Why did you have to go and commit to walking on the water?
Regardless, it was time to face the music. I imagine Peter gripping the side of the boat and timidly standing up with knees shaking. He placed both feet on the water and let go of the boat. And to the shock of all the disciples, Peter began walking! Even Peter was surprised. Take that, Thomas! You shouldn’t have doubted me.
But then Peter began taking notice of the wind and the waves. He took his eyes off Jesus. And his confidence suddenly evaporated. He began to sink in doubt. Thomas was now relishing in the moment and prepared to shout, “I told you so!” (Okay, not really. But that is how I imagine it.)
Though he sank, Peter did not drown. Peter did not possess the strength needed to complete his commitment. Jesus did. The hand of Christ reached for Peter. He rescued Peter from his doubts and empowered him to keep his commitment.
So, what happened? What changed between Peter’s commitment and his distressed drowning? Did Jesus disappear? Did the power of God abandon him? Did any of the facts of the situation change? No.
Rather, Peter started over-thinking and ceased believing. Peter focused on the storm. He lost sight of the Savior. And he became a victim of analysis paralysis.
As a missionary, I am concerned that the increase of terror activity across the globe will paralyze the Church’s ability to reach the entire world with the gospel. Like most of the disciples, we are tempted to remain comfortably seated in our proverbial boats, content with observation and self-preservation, ignoring the opportunities for gospel expansion in places like Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
But that is not historical, biblical discipleship. We cannot let the potential danger of traveling to a place like Kenya lead to analysis paralysis. That is what atheists do. And it seems that our churches are full of people who are or at least behave like atheists.
If you think secularly, you will not go. Because from the perspective of an atheist, leaving the comfort and security of America and traveling half-way across the world to give the gospel to Africans, Filipinos, etc. is insane. Why would you put yourself at risk like that? So, the world blindly gawks at us.
But we see Jesus. We know it is going to be okay. Our confidence is in Him, or it should be. Do not be paralyzed toward the Great Commission because of your cold and calculated risk assessments of the foreign field. Have faith in Christ and come!
Only one thing changed in my life as I sat on my couch, doubting my commitment to Christ: me. I took my eyes off Christ and began noticing our chaotic, violent world. I had a momentary experience of analysis paralysis. Later that night, while reading Trusting God by Jerry Bridges, Jesus reminded me that it’s okay. He is with me, my wife, and my infant daughter as we walk onto the spiritual battlefield of Kenya. Christ is more capable and trustworthy than I am. It is a fool’s errand to take on one’s own safety into his sole responsibility, excluding health and safety from prayer. There is more safety standing with Jesus in the middle of a raging sea with no boat than there is sitting the calmest ocean in the mightiest of humanity’s vessels.
Here are some take-aways:
1. Do not be scared to make huge commitments for God. Aim high. William Carey famously said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” Go big or go home. Discipleship requires everything you have. So, sell out for the gospel. That is not radical Christianity. It is normal Christianity. It always has been.
2. You will not always have the faith and strength you need to get you through the trials of your commitment and calling. But Jesus does. The beauty of faith is that it only takes a little faith to move a mountain because the measure of spiritual power for a Christian is the object of our faith, not the amount faith we possess.
3. Jesus will rescue you when you doubt. When doubt begins to sink your resolve, cry out to Jesus. He will pull you up and walk with you the whole way. Trials are an opportunity for prayer, not moments to be perfecting your letter of resignation.
4. Jesus will be with you always. That is one interesting observation about this account: there was no lag time between Peter’s peril and the Savior’s rescue. He was there all along.
5. Do not let the comfort of the boat rob you of the reward of following Christ wholeheartedly. What often prohibits western Christians from following Christ to the ends of the earth is wealth. But the wealth of this world will be nothing compared to hearing God say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”