• indoubt Podcast
  • ·
  • September 19, 2022

Ep. 210: Something Needs to Change

With David Platt, , , and Isaac Dagneau

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Where is God in the midst of suffering? When you come face to face with difficulty, what do you believe, and who do you believe in? On this week’s episode of indoubt, we’re excited to have pastor and best-selling author, David Platt as our guest! David discusses his new book, Something Needs to Change, and his first trip to the Himalayas that rocked his worldview. David has had the opportunity to witness extreme poverty, forcing him to face deep, fundamental questions about faith and life. You’ll hear Isaac and David talk through the spiritual and physical needs of the people he encountered, as well as brief discussions on adoption and human trafficking. This episode challenges all of us to ask the question: In the middle of urgent need, are we doing something that counts?

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Kourtney Cromwell:
Welcome to the indoubt Podcast, where we explore the challenging topics that young adults often face. Each week, we talk with guests who help answer questions of faith, life, and culture, connecting them to our daily experiences and God’s Word. For more info on indoubt, visit indoubt.ca, or indoubt.com.

Kourtney Cromwell:
Hey everyone, it’s Kourtney. On this week’s episode, we’re excited to be talking to bestselling author and pastor, David Platt. David recently released a new book called Something Needs to Change, and today, we have the opportunity to talk to him about it and hear a little bit about his first journey to the Himalayas, where he faced deep theological questions, and came face to face with extreme poverty. Just like David, when we’re confronted with seemingly unfair things, we can easily ask questions like, “Where is God in the midst of suffering?” And when we don’t see it firsthand, it’s easy to forget that human trafficking and starvation are a constant part of some people’s lives. So, this episode challenges all of us to ask the question: “In the middle of urgent need are we doing something that counts?” So, I hope that you’re encouraged by this episode with Isaac and David Platt.

Isaac Dagneau:
Hey, this is Isaac from indoubt, and with us today is pastor and author, David Platt. Thanks so much for being with us here today, David.

David Platt:
It’s great to be here.

Isaac Dagneau:
David, could you share just a bit about who you are, maybe more personally, maybe how you came to know Jesus?

David Platt:
Yeah, sure. By God’s grace, I was born into a home where I’ve heard the gospel pretty much since I was born, which obviously, had nothing to do with where I was born. So that’s just a picture of God’s mercy in my life. And so, I came to faith in Jesus as early as I can remember, like around six years old. I was trusting in Jesus and obviously, at a six-year-old level, but ever since then, by God’s grace, have had a relationship with Him through His grace, in Christ. And so yeah, now I am married with… I was about to say four kids, but we are adding our fifth by adoption right now. So, we just got matched with a three-year-old boy in China that we hope to go pick up in the next couple of months.
And so yeah, that’s part of our story. After years of infertility, God led us down a path of adoption that led to our first son, who we adopted from Kazakhstan, and then God provided a second son the more natural way, in a way that shocked us, and then we adopted our third child, our daughter, and then had another son in the more natural way, and then this’ll be number five through adoption. So yeah, that’s kind of our story. We live in Metro Washington D.C., where I’m a pastor of McLean Bible Church here.

Isaac Dagneau:
That’s awesome. Thank you for sharing that, that’s so exciting. And yeah, you mentioned you’re pastor of McLean Bible Church. So, what’s it like being a pastor of a church, which is kind of in the centre, you could say, of America?

David Platt:
It’s pretty unique and awesome. The church has, right now, last time we kind of did a little survey, it was like 106 different nations represented in the church. And so, it’s just very multiethnic and just so much beauty that goes with that, and so it’s pretty awesome. The opportunities to make disciples of the nations who are right here in this global city, and people who are doing all kinds of things that affect work around the country and around the world, but then also people going from here to the nations, through all kinds of different routes. So just different people’s jobs who will bring them through Washington or have them in Washington for a little while, and then they’ll go out. And so, just the opportunity to reach the nations from here is pretty awesome. So, I’m really, really grateful for the opportunity to shepherd God’s people in this city.

Isaac Dagneau:
That’s so good. Thanks for sharing that. That’s awesome. All right, well, the first line of your newest book, called, Something Needs to Change, is this quote: “Alone in a guest house at the base of the Himalayas, I found myself on my knees, face to the floor, sobbing,” end quote. So, perhaps, as a way, David, to let us know what your newest book is about, could you just let us know why you were in the Himalayas in the first place and then why you were sobbing?

David Platt:
Yeah. So, why I was in the Himalayas, actually goes back to a little bit of our adoption story. So, years ago, we had started an adoption process from a country that has the Himalayas in it, and God had just put that country on our hearts, and we went through this whole process. Our next step was to be matched with a child, then the country shut down right before then, and we were just heartbroken. We had worked and prayed for a couple of years for this child, and we had heard a lot about children in this particular country and problems with trafficking, and so we knew even though the door was closed for adoption from there, that God had put this particular part of the world in our hearts for a reason.
And so, not long after that, a guy who I had met before, but he kind of came back around and he works in that country, and I said, “Hey, can we talk some more?” And so we ended up sitting down, I learned about work that he was doing to address all kinds of physical needs in that country, and doing it with the gospel through the church, and he said, “Would you be interested in coming over?”, and I said, “Well, yes, I would absolutely be interested.” And so, that led to what’s now been multiple trips, and I’m just involved in a lot of the work in this part of the world.
And so why? So that’s why I was there, why was I sobbing at the end of my first trip there? I feel like I’ve traveled to a good number of places, but more than anywhere else in the world that I’ve been, these villages, just think very remote areas, high in the Himalayas, villages, they represent more than any other place I’ve been, just a collision of urgent, spiritual and physical need. So urgent physical need about… well, they did research, they found that half of the children in these villages are dying before their eighth birthday, and they’re dying of preventable diseases. And I think about my kids, one of my biggest fears is something happening to one of them. I can’t imagine that being an expectation for half of them.
And so, just to see extreme poverty, and to see the way traffickers prey on poverty in those villages. And yeah, just taking girls out from those villages with the promise of a better life, but they’re not taken to a better life, they’re taken to a horrible scene, whether down in the city or in the other countries, where they never come back home. So, to see that, on top of urgent spiritual need, most of the people I’ve met in those mountains have never heard the gospel, never even heard the name of Jesus. You go up on the mountain side and you’re talking to people and you say, “What do you know about Jesus?” and they say, “Who’s that?” They’ve never even heard His name.
And so, it just leads to all kinds of wrestling. And so, after a week of walking to those villages, and I get back down to the city, and we were there amidst parts of the city, where some of these girls from the villages have been taken and put to work in the city, and yeah, I just found myself on my face in this guest house where we were staying, and just uncontrollably weeping. And one of the things I said, and not long after that, in the beginning of the book was just, “Why is it so uncommon for me to weep like this? Why do I not feel just the hurt and compassion that I think is characteristic of Jesus more often?” And not that that’s the goal, just to feel a certain way, but then a life that flows from that.
So anyway, that’s what compelled me then to say, okay… Whenever I come down from those mountains, I just think, “Man, I wish I could take everybody I could in those mountains.” Obviously, that’s just not physically possible, and so writing this, Something Needs to Change book, was just my effort to try to bring those mountains to you, and bring us face to face with these things, wrestle through things that I think we need to wrestle with, and then think through what that means for our lives.

Isaac Dagneau:
Yeah, that’s so good. Thanks for sharing that, David. And it’s interesting, as I hear you say that, lots of the listeners of indoubt, and yourself as well, we come from a place where there’s a lot of wealth, and the idea of kind of physical needs to the extent that you saw and also spiritual needs, like the fact of them not even having heard the name of Jesus, we hear of reports like that. You’re telling me right now and I’m like, “Yeah, okay, I know that,” but in the same way that, to know something in the Bible has an even more intimate sense to it, you’ve seen it firsthand and that hits you, rather than for a lot of us, we read books about it, we might see statistics and all that kind of stuff, and there’s just something that changes when you really do see it, and you can put faces to what you read about. So that’s huge.
Having witnessed those needs then so closely, David, you mentioned in your book that you had some serious theological questions that kind of popped into your mind, which, I mean, I think all of us listening would be like, “Yeah, of course you would,” because again, these are real people. So I’m wondering, David, could you walk us through what those were, or maybe just a few of them or whatever, and then how you were able to kind of process those?

David Platt:
Yeah, and both things you’re saying, both that question and then what you were saying before go together, because I just think about on the way over to my first trip over there, I wrote a sermon, where I was working on a sermon on the plane that dealt with poverty, and even trafficking, some stuff, and looking back, I just wrote it from this frighteningly cold-hearted perspective, and it’s just really easy for us to know things, maybe even be able to say things, and then it’s a whole other thing to come face to face with just realities that are represented by those things we know. And that’s why I just try to open up my journals in this book, and be honest with the wrestling I have with things I preach, and things I write, and things I believe.
It’s not that I believe them any less, but so yeah, so many different questions. Maybe one that would summarize a lot of the questions that I kind of wrestle with at different points in this book is just, “Why God, are some people born into earthly suffering like this, only to move on to eternal suffering, many of them without ever even hearing the good news of Jesus?” So I mean, that leads to all kinds of wrestling about just earthly suffering, “God, where’s your goodness in the midst of poverty and depression like this?”, to yeah, “God, your justice and mercy when it comes to people who die without ever even hearing the gospel.”
And so yeah, and my aim in the book is not to put those questions out there and then tie a neat bow around them, because there’s wrestling, I think that is to be had there, but I think there’s a way to wrestle with questions like that, with trust in God, and that’s where it all comes back to, like trust in God, trust in His Word, and not a prideful “I know better than God, that if I were God, I would be doing something different.” It was interesting, I was talking with somebody the other day who said like, “How can you believe in God when you see like suffering like that?” And that’s when I said like, “How can I not believe in God?”
Meaning, an atheistic worldview just says, “Yeah, some people get lucky, some people don’t. In the end, there’s no justice. We’re products of our DNA.” No, no, in the end, there will be justice and yeah, things are not meaningless here. This is not the end; this is not the end of the story. And so, and then as a result of that, then I want to live to make mercy and justice known, that changes the way I live. And so, the good thing is I think when we’re honest enough to wrestle with our questions in the face of realities in the world, it actually leads to a deeper level of faith, and I hope, a more real life that flows from that faith.

Isaac Dagneau:
Yeah, that’s so good, David. And just for people to know as well, you didn’t ask these questions in your book and then just kind of finish the book with, “I don’t know.” I think you do struggle with them to a point of coming to some conclusions that maybe don’t satisfy all your emotions but are true, and that’s okay and that’s good. That’s a really good thing.
David, to help those of us listening, could you just walk us through maybe one or two stories from your trip? Maybe think of a specific journal entry that could just kind of give us a picture. Open for us just a picture of what you have seen, and if you want to do a more difficult one, that’s fine, or maybe a really cool story of how the gospel is working out there? I’m just wondering if you could just let us know.

David Platt:
Yeah, sure. Okay. So how to summarize? What would be the best summary? So maybe, here, just think of a trafficking level. So, in one of the stories I tell in the book is where, I mean, there are villages in these mountains where most of the girls in a certain age range, are gone. You don’t even see girls in that age range, because they’ve been trafficked in a way that plays out as basically, you have a trafficker come through and basically see a family struggling in poverty, say to the parents “Hey, we see your 12 year old girl, and we would be glad to take her down on the city, help her get an education, help her get a good job. She can send up money to help your family. She’ll be better, she’ll be healthy.”
And so, make all these promises and then put like basically a down payment like, “Here’s a commitment to us, and she’ll be able to come back up and visit, so like the equivalent of $100.” And so, a family will say, “Well, she’s better off somewhere else than here,” and so they send off their daughter, who is then taken down into a brothel, and drugged and abused. And I mean, even young girls, like there was one… So, there was an art therapy. Even this last trip I was on just a few months ago, a session for girls who had been trafficked and had been rescued out of that, and there was an eight year old girl in that art therapy session.
So that’s the happiness, but then, okay, so pick up there with people who, both from outside of that country and people who live inside that country who are working hard to help prevent trafficking and then to rescue girls, and then to help girls in their restoration process, to sort of see this art therapy class. You should just see the beautiful… Well, just the picture, their faces, they’re enjoying each other, they’re laughing with each other. It’s like, this is what happens when God’s people decide to be a reflection of His character, in a world of urgent need.
And they do it, yes, meeting physical needs, and with the greatest news in the world that, the God of the universe loves them and the God of universe can take their brokenness, and bring healing and can take their hurt and turn it into hope, like this is real. This gospel is powerful, and it has power to redeem, and restore, and change lives, but at the same time, it’s not just, so just speak that gospel. Yes, without a question, speak that gospel, but then show the fruit of it in working to help girls out of that. And so, to see pictures of that, it’s where the gospel light shines so brightly in the middle of darkness like that, and that’s kind of the takeaway, right? So, how can our lives be a part of making that gospel light shine?

Isaac Dagneau:
Mm-hmm (affirmative) That’s so good, David. And to ask kind of personally, you have these truths in your heart and your mind because you’ve studied God’s Word, you’ve preached them, just doctrine of the fact that Jesus is the only hope of salvation, and things like that. How has seeing the depths of sin and brokenness firsthand, but also just the joys of seeing people redeemed, what did that do to your theology? How did that affect your theology when you saw it?

David Platt:
I really believe it just goes to a whole ‘nother depth, because just to kind of pick up where we were, thinking about those girls, Jesus is all the more beautiful and glorious when you see his power to redeem in the middle of darkness. And I think about gathering with this one church that I talk about in the book, like after hiking for about four or five days, and just meeting in this little church we got to this… We hiked this really tall mountain, and got there and heard that there was a church meeting there that night, and I thought, “Man, this has got to be some of the fittest church members ever to gather here,” and so I mean, to go out at night, it’s totally dark, cold, and to look down the mountain and see these tiny little lights coming up the mountain, a small gathering for this church, and to look around the room, and so, they don’t have most of the things we think of when we think of church.
I mean, no programs, no nice building. I mean, they’re just crammed in this little room, they have the Word of God and the Spirit of God, and each other, and it’s like, yes, this is what it’s about. And then to see the way they are loving each other, caring for each other, and they’re facing persecution but they’re encouraging each other, and then to hold fast, and they’re praying for those who are persecuting them, they’re caring for each other’s needs, it’s like, this is it. So then like, I just think it’s getting all the more to the root, to the core, when it comes to what the Bible teaches about the church when it comes to what really matters in eternity.
So that’s where theology just becomes all the more real, on a whole ‘nother level, and it’s not that we can’t get to having truth is truth, regardless of where it is, but it’s just understanding and seeing the ramifications of that truth and in some wavelengths, I’m looking at these people, Christians have been martyred in their villages, like Jesus is worth more than life to them, and I just walk away saying, “Yes, He is worth more than life.” I pray that if I were in that exact same situation they were in, that I’d be saying the same thing, but I want that kind of faith. So, anyway.

Isaac Dagneau:
Yeah, that’s so good, David. And kind of as a part two of that question, many people that are listening right now, including myself, maybe we haven’t witnessed things like you have. So how can we gain those strong spiritual convictions like you have? So, for one example, the fact that Jesus is the only hope for the world. How can that truth, say, become a strong conviction for us, having not gone on a journey and having not seen what you have seen?

David Platt:
I would say one, maybe to open up to going places outside of our comfort zone, but that doesn’t even have to just be in the Himalayas. Maybe yes there, but I mean, right around us, to look where’s the most urgent physical need, spiritual need represented right around me, and to go into that with the gospel, it’ll do all kinds of things in your faith. So, we don’t have to get on a plane and helicopter up in the mountains in order to see the fruit of the gospel.
I just think about one story. I mean, this week in the church where I’m serving, where I have the privilege of pastoring, this couple, I won’t go into all the details, but just addiction and all kinds of just struggles in the world, and been through really hard, abusive, even, relationships, and then they came to faith in Christ, they met each other. One just got baptized, the other already has been, and now to see their lives, they’re serving in our special needs ministry and just, they’re thriving in Christ, it’s like, yes, yes, the gospel has power.
It’s not just like, go and sit and listen to a sermon about the gospel and sing songs about the gospel. So yes, do that, under the teaching of the Word. Yes, celebrate and worship, but seeing it action in people’s lives, like make disciples, share the gospel and go into… I mean, that’s one of the things that I address at different points in the book, but the gospel compels us to move toward need, toward need. And the more we’re moving toward need, where even darkness, to use… I mean spiritual darkness, that we will see the need for light, and we’ll see the beauty of light in it.

Isaac Dagneau:
Yeah. That’s so good. And this is almost, again, kind of just keep piggybacking on these questions because they’re helpful, we’re building up. David, what do you do, personally, to help your heart and your mind stay focused then on the truth of the gospel, on this real global, physical, spiritual needs, while living…? I mean, you talk about living in Washington, D.C., living in a place with so many distractions, so many worldly comforts, so much wealth and things like that. What are some things that you do, and maybe these are things that you can encourage us to do as well?

David Platt:
Yeah, so I would say one, I’m just kind of thinking through, I think kind of basic things, and I mean, starting with my time at work to make sure in the morning that time is focused, at some point, on beyond my world right around me. So, to pray every day for unreached people groups, to pray for people who have never heard the gospel, and for the gospel to go to them. So, I think about praying for Chechens in Russia today, about a million and a half of them, there’s hardly any gospel presence among them. So, to build that in, and then praying for things happening in the world, to be praying right now for what’s happening in Bolivia, and Venezuela, and Haiti, and Hong Kong, and among Muslim minorities in China. And so, to have a global focus to our praying and then obviously, letting that play out. Who are the people in your city right now who don’t have anybody interceding for them, and to build that in.? So that’s just one practical thing.
Then two, so, and I mean, God will use our praying to direct our hearts in all kinds of ways, and then what would Jesus say? “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” So, I think one of the biggest places this battle is fought is with our money, our use of resources. No matter how much we have, to say, “Okay, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” So, I want my heart to be focused on the things God’s heart is focused on, then I’ve got to put my money there, and so to be very, very intentional. And so, my wife and I, we want to be intentional with just, okay, how do we use the resources entrusted to us in different ways for his glory locally, globally?
And then I would say yeah, to be involved. This sounds so basic. I feel like I’m not giving a revolutionary answer to this question, but I’m just really like, “Okay, well pray in this way, give in this way,” and then like the more we’re involved in making disciples, really doing disciple making, not just meeting with other believers every once in a while to have accountability, or this or that. Sharing the gospel, helping people to follow Jesus wrestling through the challenges and struggles in life, living to see what’ll grow in Christ, doing that through a local church, being involved in outreach beyond that local church. If we’re doing that, then I think all of these, just normal means by obedience, God has designed for us to grow in Christ’s likeness, which is growing in His heart for the world around us.

Isaac Dagneau:
Yeah. That’s so good, David, and I think it’s so important, the first few kinds of applications that you mentioned, these are not big things. You’re not saying, “Well, just hop on a city bus and just kind of let the Spirit take you somewhere,” or whatever. This is prayer and then specifically, intercessory prayer, and that’s really important. I mean, because you are not just a pastor of a local church, but you also, like you said, you have a wife, you have a family.
Many people that are listening either have a wife, or a husband, and a family, or they are still in their parents’ home or whatever, and they might just feel so confined to where God has placed them right now, and the idea of just doing something extravagant, physically in that sense, might just seem completely absurd. But what you’re saying is that it really does begin at home, in prayer, in intercessory prayer, and then you can start to begin to see, okay, then disciple making and things like this, but this is all stuff that can happen here, where God has already placed you.

David Platt:
That’s right. That’s right. Well, that’s the beauty, and not only can it happen, it’s designed to. God has actually put… obviously, I don’t know where everybody who’s listening to this lives, but God put you in that place, at this time. He’s sovereign, He has the whole thing rigged. And so, He has put you in that place, He’s given you the wife, or the husband, or the kids, or singleness, where you are, and so how can you steward what He’s given you and then at the same time, yes, be open to the fact that He may lead you in different ways than you are now, in the days to come, so to be open to that, at the same time, thrive in the place where He has sovereignly put you right now.

Isaac Dagneau:
Yeah. That’s so good. And just an encouragement to those listening and I’m sure you’d hopefully agree, David, is that we look at things maybe that you have done in the Himalayas and we say, “Wow, that’s so dangerous and exciting, and adventurous,” but I mean, if anyone listening has tried to spend even half an hour in intercessory prayer, it is really hard work. It is really hard. So, you are taking the adventurous, hard, bloody, tearful journey at home with some of the battles that we fight. So, and yeah, I think you’d agree with that too.

David Platt:
That’s a great word. Yes, absolutely. I’ve just been reading first Timothy, yes. Faith is a fight right where we are, and sort of, yeah, fight the good fight of faith, it’s a battle right where we are. And yeah, the adversary would love for you to think, “Yeah, if I was this or this person, or that person, or if I was doing this or that, then I could really make a difference.” Just thrive right where God has put you at this moment, so it’s not that we all have to go out and change the world, like make a disciple, this is actually how Jesus said to change the world.

Isaac Dagneau:
That’s so good. David, as the last question here before we wrap up. What is your hope in young adult Canadians reading your new book, Something Needs to Change?

David Platt:
Okay. If I were to summarize my hope for people who read that book I think that they would walk away with… because this is my hope for my own life, kind of in writing that book, is that we would have a compassionate urgency that characterizes our life, like compassion, like we feel for people around us, we love people, we care for people. And in a world of urgent need, that we would care for people right around us and far from us. Like that we would be marked by compassion that doesn’t just lead to emotion, it leads to action. Sort of urgency that says, we’ve only got a little bit of time on this earth, each of us. I’ve only got a few years left, and I don’t even know if I have much. I could have hours left or minutes left, but okay, so I know my life is a mist. It’s here one second, and gone the next, so how do I steward the grace God’s given me today, maximally for His glory? And so yeah, that a compassionate urgency would characterize our lives.

Isaac Dagneau:
Yeah. That’s so good. David, I just want to say thank you so much for spending this time with us today.

David Platt:
Pure joy, Isaac. Thanks for having me.

Kourtney Cromwell:
What a great opportunity it is to have David Platt on indoubt. I hope that this has made you think, and that the question: “In the midst of urgent need, are we doing something that counts?”, is something that you give thought to. And if you want to go deeper, I’d highly recommend picking up a copy of David’s book, Something Needs to Change, or going to his website, radical.net, and of course we’ll have all that information on the episode page online too.
And if you have a question, feedback, or a suggestion about anything that we’ve said, or if you’d like to dig deeper into something that you’ve heard, you can email me at info@indoubt.ca, and if you’d like to follow along with indoubt for daily content on social media, you can check us out on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
So, thanks for joining us for this episode, and I hope that you check back next week for a new episode with Daniel and guest Kayla Stoecklein, suicide awareness and mental health advocate, who talks about her journey of grief and loss.

Kourtney Cromwell:
Thanks so much for listening. If you want to hear more, subscribe on iTunes and Spotify, or visit us online at indoubt.ca or indoubt.com. We’re also on social media, so make sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Ep_210_re-air-1920x1080

Who's Our Guest?

David Platt

David Platt is the author of three New York Times bestsellers, including Radical. He is the Lead Pastor at McLean Bible Church in metro Washington, D.C., the former President of the IMB (International Mission Board), and founder of Radical Inc., a global centre for the unreached that serves churches in accomplishing the mission of Christ. Platt received his master of divinity (M.Div.), master of theology (Th.M.), and doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He lives in Virginia with his wife and their children.
Ep_210_re-air-1920x1080

Who's Our Guest?

David Platt

David Platt is the author of three New York Times bestsellers, including Radical. He is the Lead Pastor at McLean Bible Church in metro Washington, D.C., the former President of the IMB (International Mission Board), and founder of Radical Inc., a global centre for the unreached that serves churches in accomplishing the mission of Christ. Platt received his master of divinity (M.Div.), master of theology (Th.M.), and doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He lives in Virginia with his wife and their children.