[Guest Contributor Linda Green]
God’s Word is full of commands for His people to go. These divine calls, while varied in nature, require both trust and obedience that are not only costly, but utterly impossible apart from God.
God called Abraham to “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you; and I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” Genesis 12:1-3.
Going for Abraham meant leaving his very comfortable life to go to an unknown place and face countless trials and tests. “So Abram went, as the LORD had told him…”
God called Moses to go to Pharaoh and demand he let His people go.
Moses had settled into a comfortable and secure life in the wilderness where he had fled for his life 40 years earlier, but that is not what caused him to push back at God’s call to return to Egypt. Moses simply felt unqualified and unable to do the seemingly impossible job God was asking of him. Yet Scripture records: “Moses took his wife and his sons…and wentback to the land of Egypt,” Exodus 3-4.
God called Jonah to “go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before Me.”
The Ninevites were Israel’s fierce and cruel enemies and Jonah had zero interest in sacrificing his own life for the sake of utterly undeserving people! And so he ran away from God, (or at least tried to). But God caused Jonah, along with all of his fears and rebellion, to be swallowed by a giant fish before being spit out on the ground. Three long days later, this God ordained trial resulted in a significantly humbled man who was ready to obey Almighty God. “So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD” Jonah 3:1-2.
Jesus called his disciples (and us) to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-20). There are countless examples of those who have obeyed this call to make disciples of all nations. Though it cost many their lives or the lives of those they loved, they went out of love and obedience to Christ.
- Abraham walked by faith and came to know God Almighty who keeps His promises. God made him the father of many nations, teaching him (and us) that we can take God at His Word.
- Moses returned to Pharaoh in Egypt by faith and came to know God as LORD, being witness to Hispowerful display of authority, power, provision, and deliverance. God taught his servant Moses (and us) to trust that nothing is impossible with God, even when everything looks completely hopeless.
- Jonah went in obedience and faith and witnessed a revival in Ninevah! God’s lessons to Jonah (and us) reveal a God who is patient, merciful, and slow to anger, but also disciplines those He loves.
- Throughout the centuries, God’s people have gone to dark places to proclaim the gospel; from cities to jungles, from college campuses to dark countries oppressed by communism. As grateful recipients of redemption, they have gone out in obedience and faith to proclaim God’s saving power through the gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. God taught them (and us) that apart from Him we can do nothing.
Like those who have gone before us, God’s call to go is costly, requiring utter dependence on Christ’s power, presence, and provision. Going always requires laying down selfish ambitions, plans, and worldly expectations in order to receive the higher call of Christ. But they also go expectantly, as participants in God’s story for their eternal joy and His glory.
But sometimes God calls us to stay.
As a women’s ministry director in a large church, I have met more than a few women who, in their darkest moments, dream of a call to go, because the call to stay feels impossibly hard and costly. Consider these women who have obeyed the call to stay in the midst of painful and often, unfathomable, circumstances. For example;
I think of a wife, married to an unloving, self-absorbed man who spends his time and money in grievous ungodly pursuits. She imagines her life would be happier if she left him, but knows God has called her to stay that she might display the power of the gospel through the persevering love of Christ.
I think of a woman in the workplace who is a victim of hurtful and damaging gossip, unjustly treated because of her faith. She yearns to tell her boss she quits, but for now she believes God has called her to stay so that she might display the gospel’s power through grace-filled humility.
I think of a woman who lives next door to an angry and revengeful neighbor. She and her husband have considered moving, but remember how God led them to this neighborhood. For now, they know they are to stay, that they might display the gospel’s power through forgiveness.
I know a single woman who feels isolated and lonely in her seemingly family-oriented church, but believes God has called her to stay and reach out to others, that she might display the unity of Christ.
Finally, I think of my own daughter who battles chronic Lyme’s disease along with her four young children who suffer with it as well. This insidious disease has wreaked havoc in their family through chronic pain, explosive behaviors, excessive crying and whining, night terrors, and skewed emotions. Her husband’s job loss has only exacerbated financial pressures, delayed medical treatment, and the normal stresses of marriage and parenting young children. This young mom, who never feels well herself, imagines a quieter less stressful life. Yet, God has called her to stay to display the power of God through the sufficiency of Christ.
Has God called you to stay in a difficult or, seemingly, impossible place?
Your circumstances may look a little different than the ones I have described, yet often feel impossible to continue in. Be assured that God knows and measures every moment of your pain and suffering.
The world makes a convincing case for sufferers to leave when the going gets too tough. Their solutions range from medication to divorce, from just walking away to lawsuits. And these quick escapes can tempt us because we hate suffering! God promises followers of Christ that He has a divine purpose for the dark valleys of affliction that He leads us through. But if we take the world’s advice to run, we will surely miss many transforming miracles of grace that God wants to work in, and through, those who stay and put their trust in Him.
Whether God calls us to go or stay, He is committed to helping us increasingly experience the reality of who we are because of our union with Christ. It reminds me of a sweet memory I have of one of my sons when he was much younger. Wanting to look like his dad, he put on his father’s coat which swallowed him up at the time. It took years of maturity and growth, but he now resembles his dad in both size and godly character!
In a similar way, when we come to salvation in Christ, God is committed to helping us grow into our clothing of Christ’s righteousness. One of the ways God chooses to mature us is through tests, trials, and suffering which are always a part of his call, whether it’s to go or to stay.
Because God loves us and is committed to our eternal joy, He wants us to press on to “take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me,” Philippians 3:12. While we have been given a new heart positionally, becoming like Christ happens over time. And so, through the pilgrimage of life, God teaches us who we are and Who we belong to, while loosening our grip on the world and our love for self. Here are five ways God grows us up into His likeness.
God teaches us to trust in Him and not lean on our own understanding.
There are times in our lives that we can’t make any sense of what God is allowing in our lives or the life of someone dear to us. We struggle to reconcile what we know about Him with the harsh realities that have shaken our little world. God’s Word tells us He doesn’t think the way we think or do what would make sense to our finite minds; (Isaiah 55:8-9, Proverbs 3:5-6).
Whether God leads us to go or to stay, He wants us to walk by faith, not by sight. He is LORD of all and is worthy of our trust. While we often cannot understand His ways, we can always put our confidence in His unfailing love and mercy.
God teaches us to view His love and goodness in light of the cross rather than our loss.
Suffering can tempt us to doubt God’s love and good intentions toward us.
- When months go on and we still are without income, we become fearful.
- When we find no healing or relief from ongoing pain or illness, we become weary.
- When someone close to us dies too young, we question God’s ways.
- When we are unmarried and lonely, or married and lonely, we wonder if God cares.
- In the midst of mental chaos, confusion, depression, or despair; we find it hard to see God’s goodness.
But then we hear God speak. “Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” Psalm 27:14. “Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10.
Whether God leads us to go, or to stay, He wants us to fix our eyes on Jesus, who left his home in heaven to come to earth, and stayed on the cross, that sin and death would be defeated. Resurrected three days later, just as He promised, He ascended to the right hand of God where He lives to intercede for us until He comes again to scatter all His enemies.
One day when God summons ushome, we will leave this earth for the joys of heaven. Until that time, in God’s goodness, He will help us to stay.
God teaches us that His power is made perfect through our weakness.
We tend to feel strong, confident, and self-sufficient until God leads us into the depths and we are certain we are going to sink. This, too, is God’s mercy as He;
- exposes our weakness
- trains us to depend on His limitless power and strength
- Proves the sufficiency of His grace in the severest of trials.
Paul learned through His own afflictions that God’s grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness. We need to learn that too.
God teaches us to recognize His mercies in our affliction; to see His life in our death, eternal gain in our loss, Christ’s strength in our weakness, and future hope in our sorrow.
The gospel shows us that we were once dead in our trespasses and sins, by nature children of wrath who deserve everlasting destruction (Ephesians 2). Saved by grace, we must never forget how merciful God has been to us. Though, for a little while, we still wage war against sin and endure suffering in a fallen world, these are all God’s gracious reminders of what we have been saved from!
If you have not yet cried out to the God of all mercy to save you from the penalty and power of your sin through the perfect life and sacrificial death of His Son, run to Him today! Jesus Christ is the Savior who came to seek and save the lost. Soon He will return to judge the whole earth. If you hear Him call, do not harden your heart (John 3:16-17; Hebrews 3:7-9).
It’s often hard to see anything good that can come from our suffering until years later when we realize we look just a little bit more like Jesus than we did before. One day, I believe that our loudest praises will be in gratitude for the afflictions we have suffered because of the transforming work God did through them. But only when we see Him face to face will we finally understand why God allows things He hates to accomplish what He loves.
God teaches us to set our hearts on things above, not on things of this earth.
Finally, God works to loosen our grip on this world and cultivate our taste for heaven’s joys. Christ will pour out his blessing on all who put their hope and confidence in Him. He will reward those who remain faithful when there is little light to see where He is leading or what He is doing in our lives.
- God wants us to glimpse the eternal inheritance that we will receive when we stand beside Christ and the heavenly throng of worshipers at His throne.
- God wants us to trust that He’s doing far more abundantly than all that we ask or think! (Ephesians 3:20) Because for now, we can only imagine!
Has God called you to stay in circumstances that seem impossible to you? Ask Him to give you grace to believe, and empowering grace to stay. Very soon He will return to bring His Bride, the church, home with Him. Until then, let us be steadfast in our waiting, believing that whether God calls us to go or to stay, He will be faithful to all who trust and obey.