When thinking about whether God was a jumper, I thought first of God’s methods of rescuing his people in the Old Testament. However, we don’t need to turn to the Old Testament in order to illustrate this. Instead we can turn to Hebrews 11 for a fine summary.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family . . . .
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going . . . .
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice . . . .
By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict . . . .
By faith Moses when, he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharoah’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.
By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who was invisible . . . .
By faith, the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword, whose weakness was turned to strength, and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.
The history of the people of God is recorded from jump to jump. These jumps were huge. There was no incremental change for Abraham leaving for a country he didn’t know how to find or for Moses walking into the presence of the Pharoah and leading the people of God into the wilderness. Lest we think that these huge jumps are for only the big names of the Bible the writer of Hebrews gives us verses 35-38.
Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
Here is the list of all the nameless jumpers who carried the cause of the church forward. This is the epitaph on the tomb of the unknown Christian soldiers who jumped and it cost their lives.
These all were commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. (39)
There is something common to all of these jumps. Each one was a jump for an eternal cause. “they were longing for a better country, a heavenly one.” (They were obviously idealists) Each jump was a jump into the darkness; they didn’t know where they were going or what end. That’s what makes it a leap of faith. That is what each of these leaders was commended for. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Isn’t this the essence of leadership? They look forward (not behind vs 15); they jump and they lead people to jump with them.
The unfolding of God’s story has been incremental and mysterious. And yet its unfolding, while incremental for God, has been huge jumps for the people of God. What was one step for God was a great leap for mankind. Maybe this, in part, is what is meant by II Peter 3:8b, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day.”
Each one of these jumps was placed upon the heart of a human leader. They were not extraordinary men and women. The New Testament calls them earthen vessels (II Cor. 4:7) and in one place the Greek means the scum on the bottom of the pan that you can’t scrape off. They were the lowest class and the spiritually impoverished before Christ (Matt. 5:3). God has chosen these type of people “. . . to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (II Cor. 4:7). There is a principle here: God chooses to use unlikely leaders to make huge jumps so that no one mistakes who gets the glory. This principle is true of the church; there is nothing miraculous about incremental change in the church. However, when churches make huge leaps and see exponential life change even the world wonders at the results. God gets the glory.
One further thought: every time we share the gospel we expect people to make huge jumps. We expect people to make a jump from believing their life is all about them to believing that life is about God. We expect them to make a jump from believing that they are basically good, to believing that they are sinners in need of a Savior. We expect them to take a jump by releasing the steering wheel and letting God direct their lives.
There is no doubt that God is patient with our ignorance, but when knowledge comes God expects radical jumping: Matt. 3:10; 5:29; 7:24-25; 18:7-9
God commands jumps: Matt. 8:21-22; 16:24-28; 19:16-26
God rebukes incremental jumps: Matt. 10:37-39
God also rewards huge jumps: Matt. 8:5-13; 10:39; 15:21-28; 25:14-30
This is just a survey of Matthew. Christ expected radical life transformation, commands radical jumps and rewards radical jumps.
Look to the warning of II Peter 3: It doesn’t begin with verse 8: God is patient, wanting none to perish (vs 8).
Instead in context it reads: The end is near. God by a word instantaneously created the entire world; in a word he will instantaneously destroy it (vs 1-7). God is not slow, just patient not wanting any to perish (vs 8). Judgment is coming in stealth. (vs 10) Don’t wait. Jump now!” (Vs.11-14)
It is the purpose of the church to help people jump into the saving arms of Christ. We ask them to make radical jumps, but the church, by and large, is unwilling to make radical jumps to ensure that it is spotlighting Jesus Christ in a culturally relevant way. There may have been a time in the United States when the church had the luxury of making incremental changes. However, since the sixties culture has been changing by huge leaps. The church needs to jump!