In 2008 or 2009, I went to the Passion Conference in Dallas. One of the speakers that year was Francis Chan. The message he gave on Friday night was oh so powerful. His message was about devotion in everything, with our whole lives, and he began by introducing to the audience the magnitude of the human trafficking issue in Cambodia. He recounted story upon story of children being taken advantage of by the worst of extortioners, their humanity violated whilst hidden among a part of society ridden with hopelessness, and the problem still ever growing. The things he spoke of pulled on the heartstrings; there was no way that anyone there could hear of these atrocities and not be moved to personal action.
He then told of the commitment of a few small, inconspicuous churches there doing groundwork to create a rescue effort (a sort of modern human railroad) out of the victimization by whatever means necessary. I thought, as he described them, ‘They are devoted in everything for sure’. He celebrated these churches’/organizations’ victories from the stage; the good news of what God was doing for His children there was hopeful. People applauded and shouted, and some even began to stand in excitement of all that Chan spoke of.
So, Chan addressed the entire body, which he referred to as “mostly college students without ties or responsibilities or mortgages or kids”, with a charge: He invited them to go. He began a rally right there on the spot. He asked:
“Who would be committed to going and seeing God’s people set free from bondage?”
[followed by a huge cheer]
“Who would give up everything to go right into the darkness and bring these victims out into the light?!”
[an even bigger cheer and applause]
“Who will answer the call to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the marginalized!?!”
[standing ovation; he’s now speaking above the waves of claps]
“Who will give up the next one whole year to go and be a part of God’s movement in Cambodia to put an end to sex trafficking?!?!?”
[And by now, the audience had lost it. He had to wait for the applause to die. And he waited for a while.]
When it grew silent, he spoke very soberly: “I bet at least a hundred of you would get on the plane with me right this second and never think twice, never look back.”
[a murmur of laughter, and a few loud ‘woohoos’ throughout the arena]
Then, in true Francis Chan form, he asked: “And who will promise me for the next one whole month to stay here, and to get up early and read the Word and pray for one hour without failing, every single day? Who could guarantee me they wouldn’t miss a day?”
If you’ve never heard 15,000+ people be silent, it’s eerie. He did it—he took us all to the edge of the cliff, prodded us to jump according to all the bravado and righteous anger he could muster, then reminded us in a very convicting way that without the Word of God in us, we simply cannot fly. His next sentence after the silence was: “Jesus asked His disciples ‘Could you not stay awake with me even one hour?’ We are like the disciples, ready to do battle but not ready to read and pray and fast.” The rest of his message was a call to be devoted in all things, even beyond the parts we like—starting with consuming the living, breathing, active, Word of God.
I’ve never heard anything about scripture memorization and Bible study more motivating than that set up. Those six minutes of vigilante story and then bait-and-switch towards conviction changed me forever. Social justice (or whatever motivator, for that matter) is not enough wind beneath our wings. It simply cannot be stressed enough that the Word of God living in us is what we need for the continued process of sanctification in our lives. If we want to be shaped more into the image of God, if we want Him to always be breaking and removing our hearts of stone to replace them with hearts for His will, then we must spend time in His Word and in commune with Him. His Word is the number-one way He speaks to us. When we miss it or avoid it, we deny Him the easiest avenue by which to speak to us.
I hope it moves you to a new place of prayer and scripture reading in your life. It certainly did for me and my wife, Kristin. Nothing can replace or even come close to the Word stored away in our hearts. See Psalm 1:1-3, Psalm 19:7-11, and Psalm 119:9-16.