Don’t Sit on the Sidelines of Life When God Has Called You to Change the World: An Interview with Banning Liebscher
Do you live a life of passionate purpose and unshakable faith? Or are you settled into a comfort zone of complacency? What Old Testament story might teach applicable lessons of what God wants us all to be? How can we best incorporate the attributes of holiness, courage, and faith into our everyday lives?
Bible Gateway interviewed Banning Liebscher (@thebanning) about his book, The Three-Mile Walk: The Courage You Need to Live the Life God Wants for You (Zondervan, 2020).
What has led you to conclude that Christians are not living deeply into the truth of who they’re called to be?
Banning Liebscher: After 25 years of full-time pastoral ministry, I’ve recognized that so many Christians are settling for less than what God has for them. Many are pursuing a definition of success defined by the world and don’t realize they’re missing out on the fullness of a truly successful life in God.
What is the meaning of your book’s title?
Banning Liebscher: The title comes from the story found in 1 Samuel 14, which shows us the powerful contrast between King Saul and his son, Jonathan. The Israelite army was encamped on one hill against the Philistine army on another hill, but they were not engaged in battle. Saul was content to look from a distance at what God had called him to, but Jonathan was not, so he decided to get up and engage the enemy. The journey he took was a three-mile walk across the valley between the two hills.
What is the Old Testament story of Jonathan and his armor-bearer and how do you see it applying to Christians in the 21st century?
Banning Liebscher: In the story, these two Israelite warriors head out to pick a fight with their enemies, confident that God will back them up and lead them to success—and he does.
The application I see is that God will meet us and empower us to fulfill the call on our lives when we courageously choose to go after that call rather than waiting for it to happen to us.
Sitting on the sideline of our destiny is not where we were created to be. God is awakening our hearts to be who he has called us to be and do what he has called us to do. I’m convinced that we’re most alive, most fulfilled, and most thriving when we’re fully engaged in the call of God on our lives.
What is an ownership mindset that you write about?
Banning Liebscher: I love Galatians 6:4-5 in The Message: “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that . . . Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”
Many Christians, without realizing it, believe that it’s someone else’s job to do what God has called them to do. Every follower of Jesus is called to pray, to share our faith, to be generous, to disciple, to take care of the poor, and to change the world. But we’ve created a culture in the church where people expect leaders to do the Christian life for them rather than equipping them to do the Christian life. Engaging the call of God on your life starts with recognizing you have a call and taking ownership for it.
Explain the goal of living with internal motivation.
Banning Liebscher: Society programs us to be motivated by external circumstances or pressures. The grades we get, the speed we drive, the paycheck we earn—many times these result from our responses to external pressure rather than internal vision. The Old Covenant worked like that too. It said, “Obey your parents,” and if you didn’t, you’d be put to death (Deut. 21:18-21).
But the New Covenant calls us to live from a heart that’s been transformed by the Holy Spirit. We don’t need to be shamed, forced, or manipulated into doing what God has called us to do, because his Spirit lives in us and wants to lead us. The Christian life is designed to be lived from the inside out.
Define and explain the three aspects of holiness, courage, and faith that you write about characterizing a Christian.
Banning Liebscher: The journey of engaging the call of God requires three things—these are the “three miles” of our walk. It starts with embracing a life of holiness. Throughout Scripture, we see that when God calls someone, he first sets them apart. However, we must understand what holiness is if we’re to walk that first mile. Holiness is not about following a list of dos and don’ts, but about pursuing an intimate relationship with the Father.
Following Jesus also takes a massive amount of courage. You cannot be who God has called you to be or do what God has called you to do without courage, which is why the enemy works to discourage you. Discouragement is something we all face, so the second mile is learning to position ourselves to receive courage from his presence, his Word, and his family, and live encouraged.
The Bible says we cannot please God apart from faith, that we must walk by faith, and that if we do, nothing will be impossible for us (Heb. 11:6, 2 Cor. 5:7, Matt 20:17). What God calls us to is impossible without bold faith, so the third mile of our journey is learning to cultivate that “substance of things hoped for” and “evidence of things unseen” (Heb. 11:1).
Why and how is thankfulness an essential spiritual practice on the three-mile walk?
Banning Liebscher: The Bible is clear that in every situation we’re to give thanks (1 Thess. 5:18). Thankfulness shifts our perspective from what we’re lacking to the abundance we’ve been given by God. On this journey, it’s easy to become disheartened and ungrateful. But when we remain thankful, we’re able to see from God’s perspective and remain in a place of faith.
What outcome do you want readers of your book to have?
Banning Liebscher: My heart is to come alongside people and encourage them. I want to see people awakened to the call of God on their life and to help them start the journey to engage that call. I believe God uses those who’ve said yes to him to change the world.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Banning Liebscher: John 15 is one of my favorite Bible passages. I love the call to intimacy with Jesus and the interactive nature of abiding in him.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
Banning Liebscher: I use Bible Gateway weekly in my study and sermon preparation and am so grateful for it! The resources and tools it provides to study the Word of God are so needed in this hour. I love the heart to help people fall in love with his Word and to go deeper in their study.
The Three-Mile Walk is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
Bio: Banning Liebscher is a pastor, speaker, and author. Along with his wife, SeaJay, he founded Jesus Culture, a ministry of worship, conferences, and leadership development. In 2014, they planted Jesus Culture Sacramento, a church in California with a passion to see people fully engaged in becoming who God has called them to be and to do what God has called them to do. Find out more at jesusculture.com.
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