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Walking in the Absence of Control

In 2004, John Rivers received a phone call that changed the course of his life and led to his calling.

John: “It was a mistaken call that came into my private line. Here we are 13 years later, and we still don't know who the phone call came from. It wasn't a mistaken call because the words that they used were, “Mr. Rivers, Mr. Rivers, I'm so sorry about to hear about your daughter.“

EntreWorship: In your "I Am Second" video, you share about that call that you received.

John: “Yeah—I just don't know where that call came from. What's not on that video is that the phone call came through my private line. There were only two or three people who knew that phone number.”

EW: In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul talks about doing works that God prepared for us beforehand, and I noticed this passage a few weeks ago in 2 Thessalonians: Paul writes, “We keep on praying for you, asking God to enable you to live a life worthy of His calling. May He give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.”

I’m always wrestling with this tension: Theologians and pastors teach us, “God's got a plan for your life. He's called you to do these things, seeking His will.”

At the same time, this verse suggests we have some freedom. We can respond with our heart, and act to do something prompted by our faith.

Was 4 Rivers Smokehouse a response to what your faith prompted you to do, or was it just a response to that situation? 

John: You know, that's sometimes the beauty of it. I think people would love it to be cut and dry, “Okay, God is asking me to do this.” The word "heart" is used several hundred times in the Bible. It's third only to "God" and "Lord." And people often speak about clarity, and quite frankly, part of clarity is they want control. You know, "Tell me what's going to happen so that I know that you're there.”

“Faith is not the provision of insight and future and control; faith is being able to walk in the absence of insight, knowledge of the future, and control. People confuse the difference between the two. When you get that prompt on your heart, that's where the faith comes in to be able to discern, ‘Okay, is this truly what God is stirring me to do?’ I always contend that it's one thing to pray to ask God what He wants you to be doing. It's another thing when He tells you what it is. You have to have the courage to do it.”

“So many people say, ‘I'm not sure that's what He wants me to be doing,’ because that's too big of a change or too big of a risk.”

“Was it a movement in faith? Was it faith that moved me? What I would say is that whether I wanted it or not, it was faith that got me through it. Like I said, with the perils that we faced, my gratitude is high today because those perils (of the early business) are what galvanized us as a team—not just the people that are here—but God being a part of that team. Some of the things that happened were far beyond our capability.”

EW: What are some circumstances where you experienced God’s influence and activity in your young business? Your story reminds me of Ephesians 3:20, where the Apostle Paul prays “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we can ask or think.”

John: “There had been so many things! In the early days were struggling back in the garage on how to do catering, how to deliver it hot. I was looking at every van and truck that went by, and my wife finally said, ‘Would you stop testing this and just pray?’”

“And I did (pray), and this is a true story: That Monday, Jeff (who's my business partner) and I were up in Daytona, and on the way back to Winter Park I received a phone call from a complete stranger whose kids go to the same school as mine. He buys cars at auctions and sells them. He says, "I bought this lot of cars and it's got this catering truck thing in it. I didn't know what to do with it so I parked it in your driveway."

“When I came home Monday the answer to the prayer was in my driveway. He says, ‘Whatever you want to pay me is fine.’ There are so many stories that are like that.”

“But to me, I love it because it's God continuously showing up and reminding me. Every time we've needed a key person or a key position filled, it's just utterly, utterly amazing how God just walks that person in the front door.”

“Throughout the last seven years, people ask, ‘How are you going to raise this money?’ or, ‘How are you going to open up?’”

“It's a dependency, a faith that God will show up. It drives my CFO crazy... but He does, every time.”


EntreWorship will continue our conversation with John Rivers, CEO and Head Chef of 4 Rivers Smokehouse in the coming weeks.

Have you had an answer to prayer as John did, asking God to solve a business problem and experiencing his answer? I know I have. Share your experiences!

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