Recently I ran into a friend waiting tables at an upscale, white-tablecloth restaurant. She had waited on me many times at a local cafe, a hole-in-the-wall that had great fish where I would go to get away and write…anyway, that little cafe closed, so she landed this new job at a high-end establishment. Relating the transition, she recalled how devastating the moment when she learned her previous job was going away, the sense of panic, the “what now?” she felt. All this time she was working at the café, she had given no thought to stepping up. She was happy there…
I wonder if this speaks to the millions of saints who have grown comfortable, but not grown up? Some things that are dying in church-anity, need to die. Let them die. Stop wailing over the transition and step up. In other words, the little café may be going out of business because God is pushing you into something your previous experience prepared you for, a next level you aren’t pursuing because you don’t see yourself stepping up.
I remember the first times this friend waited on me at the little cafe. She just wasn’t very good at waiting tables! She forgot things, got my orders wrong, spilled stuff, and had to be asked for things good instincts would have anticipated the customer would need. But, she learned the ropes and became a really good waitress over time. However, she grew comfortable running around in shorts and T-shirts, rushing ice tea and plastic plates of café food to picnic tables.
Now, here she is dressed up, getting much bigger tips, learning the finer points of European cuisine, and she is delivering china-framed culinary artwork, chef-prepared and professionally-presented meals. She is becoming “world-class” in her profession. She has tripled her income, works better hours with better customers, and is discovering some things about herself she hadn’t know.
Don’t curse the disruption of your comfort zone. God will use the death of your present conditions to elevate you to the next level. When He does, step up!
Separated To, Not From
When you fail to follow Jesus’ kingdom protocols for stepping up, you forfeit the experiences you need to be successful at the next level. Because you separate from instead of being separated to, you leave behind the very things God invested into you in the preparation season. Jesus has a specific strategy of stepping up: He will separate things foreign to your destiny from you because they are limiting factors; and He will separate you to the next level in a way that you can carry what He invested into your life in the previous seasons with you.
Acts 13 pictures this “next level” for Paul’s apostolic ministry. He and Barnabas, a good friend and validator for Paul during the decade and a half of maturing experiences, were singled out for the next level by Holy Spirit, prophesied into place by next level leaders, and fully released to function in their next level assignment. It was a life-changing “separated to” scenario! And, it worked! Paul and Barnabas didn’t have to leave behind what God had invested in them during the years of preparation; and, they didn’t carry baggage God had separated out of them.
I have observed people ready for the next level “separate from” with behavior that failed to recognize this “separated to” factor. They left behind what God invested into them and opened their lives up to what God had separated them from during the seasons of their preparation. They end up in cul-de-sacs and dead ends, bitter because they blame others for the failure of their dysfunctional “release.” There is no next level for separating from because stepping up is always a response to God’s next level strategy.
There are variations on this theme we could explore that address what to do when the leaders who should release don’t, when leaders abuse, misuse, and use people Holy Spirit wishes to separate to. This happens a great deal, and the dysfunction of leaders short-circuits God’s next level strategies. However, these dysfunctional leadership situations cannot hinder the full release of people who follow the protocols of the kingdom in stepping up! In other words, no matter how dysfunctional others may be, Jesus has a strategy of proper function for you that will guarantee your next level success. The dysfunction of others cannot destroy your stepping up experience if you maintain the proper condition of heart and follow His protocols.
Unpacking the Download
Next level experiences require a progressive unpacking of what God downloads into your life when it is time to step up. The step up season is as joyful and productive as giving birth and looking into the face of your newborn for the first time, wonder fills your heart every time you feed and care for the new infant! It is a season to be savored, filled with a joy that overshadows the sleepless nights, dirty diapers, and insistent cries of a needy child.
Unpacking the download alters the whole operating system of your life until every internal program is updated to function with the new OS that God has invested into your life. In the same way, you will discover some old programs and plug-ins, that lack an update, no longer work, and malfunction when you attempt to do the same simple things in the same old way. You must discard some old programs because they have no updates to operate in the new OS. You must get some new tools and equipment because they can never be updated to function in the new. And, you must change – yes, change – so that new way of doing things answers to the new OS.
With a new season comes a new anointing. The sense of this statement isn’t that Holy Spirit is different or there are many Anointings. It is that the Anointing manifests and demonstrates differently in different people and differently in the same person when they step up!
Stepping Back is Not Humility
The difference between stepping back and kneeling down is pretty much the same as shivering when you are chilled or trying to stand still during an earthquake. A shiver or an earthquake? You never step back when God says “next level.” You must kneel down to step up. Kneeling down is the posture of people ready for the next level. Peter says, “Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, and He will raise you up at the right and proper moment.”
“Humble yourself,” Peter says, for only you can position yourself under God’s mighty hand. He can make you willing to do so, run you around the mountain so you fall down at His feet, or send a fish to vomit you into position, but the end result is always up to you. You don’t get pushed down by God’s mighty hand; you kneel down and stick you head under His outstretched palm.
Stepping back when God is calling you up is properly characterized as rebellion.
Timing is important. When God is ready, He knows you are ready. God doesn’t separate you to something He knows you are not ready for. Stepping back means you wish to be in control, your fear demands control, your pride is out of control, your substitute destiny is in control…
So, you never step back with God. “Having done all to stand” – take new territory – “stand therefore” – hold the position you’ve gained in preparation for release into taking the next, new territory you will hold until you are ready for even more. [See Ephesians 6.]
If you humble under God’s mighty hand, you are set up to step up! In that position you can get into the grip of God when His time comes to raise you up. When God sets you up, step up!