Bethany House Publishers
There are many times in our lives when God calls us to go somewhere or do something. He wants us to step out in faith in a situation that seems extremely ridiculous so He can amaze us with what He does. Most of the time we miss out on these exciting opportunities because we are unwilling to move--or let Him move through us. When He asks us to move, He never asks us to go alone. He asks us to move because He wants to go somewhere and He wants us to move with Him!
We think God needs big people to do big things--famous people like Billy Graham and Elisabeth Elliot. After all, why would He use us when He could use them, right? Wrong. God wants to move among the nations and across this country, and He also wants to move among the people in your sphere of influence. But many times we simply do not let Him--not because we are strong enough to stop Him, but because He patiently waits for us to grant Him permission to work through us. A lot of times He works in us without our consent, but it is not very often that He uses us to do something incredible until we have agreed to obey, no matter the costs.
When I think about God moving through the life of one individual, a man named Bob comes to mind. He was an insurance salesman, unconnected with government social circles in any way. His friend Doug, though, had a ministry in Washington, D.C. And Doug challenged Bob to pray and ask the Lord to move in one particular place every day for six months. Bob selected Kenya--although he had never been there and didn't know anyone who lived there--and this is what happened:
Bob began to pray, and for a long while nothing happened. Then one night he was at a dinner in Washington. The people around the table explained what they did for a living. One woman said she helped run an orphanage in Kenya--the largest of its kind ... Bob roared to life. He had not said much up until that point, and now he pounded her relentlessly with question after question.
"You're obviously very interested in my country," the woman said to Bob, overwhelmed by his sudden barrage of questions. "You've been to Kenya before?"
"You know someone in Kenya?"
"Then how do you happen to be so curious?"
[Bob explained his deal with Doug to pray for God to move in one place.] She asked Bob if he would like to come visit Kenya and tour the orphanage. Bob was so eager to go he would have left that very night if he could.
When Bob arrived in Kenya, he was appalled by the poverty and the lack of basic health care. Upon returning to Washington, he couldn't get the place out of his mind. He began to write large pharmaceutical companies, describing to them the vast need he had seen. He reminded them that every year they would throw away large amounts of medical supplies that went unsold. "Why not send them to this place in Kenya?" he asked.
And some of them did. The orphanage received more than a million dollars' worth of medical supplies.
The woman called Bob up and said, "Bob, this is amazing! We've had the most phenomenal gifts because of the letters you wrote. We would like to fly you back over and have a big party. Will you come?"
So Bob flew back to Kenya. While he was there, the president of Kenya came to the celebration because it was the largest orphanage in the country, and offered to take Bob on a tour of Nairobi, the capital city. In the course of the tour they saw a prison. Bob asked about a group of prisoners there.
"They're political prisoners," he was told.
"That's a bad idea," Bob said brightly. "You should let them out." Bob finished the tour and flew back home. Sometime later, Bob received a phone call from the State Department of the United States government:
"Is this Bob?"
"Were you just in Kenya?"
"Did you make any statements to the president about any political prisoners?"
"What did you say?"
"I told him he should let them out."
The State Department official explained that the department had been working for years to get the release of these prisoners, to no avail. Normal diplomatic channels and political maneuverings had led to a dead end. But now the prisoners had been released, and the State Department was told it had been largely because of ... Bob. So the government was calling to say thanks.
Several months later, the president of Kenya made a phone call to Bob. He was going to rearrange his government and select a new cabinet. Would Bob be willing to fly over and pray for him for three days while he worked on this very important task?
So Bob--who was not politically connected at all--boarded a plane once more and flew back to Kenya, where he prayed and asked God to give wisdom for the leader of the nation as he selected his government.(footnote 1)
All of this happened because one man asked God to move and was willing to move with Him. Sometimes the call to go is preceded by the call to pray. There came a time when Michael (my husband) and I asked the Lord to "give us the nations" and broaden our horizons. And within a few short months we had been invited to speak internationally and two of my books were translated into another language and sold halfway across the world. Our call to go, much like Bob's, began with a call to pray.
Perhaps you have sensed lately that God has been burdening you to pray for some type of movement somewhere. Be ready--He just might ask you to be part of that movement! Take the "Bob challenge" and pray every day for six months that God would move in one particular place--or person--and see what happens.
If you have absolutely no clue about how God might want to use you, then ask Him for direction. After all, He does promise countless times in Scripture to guide us and direct us. Psalm 32:8 says, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you." That means God will not only tell us where He would have us go, but He will also keep His watchful and protective eye on us as we boldly move forward in faith. What a comfort that can be when the places He asks us to venture into seem scary and intimidating!
But that is no reason to freak out over every little detail of life. It is simply a reminder that we need to listen. Before we can ever know how we are to serve God, we must first come to learn where we are to serve God. Sometimes the answer is not a place, but a process. Like a soldier who attends boot camp in one place, gets stationed in another, and then gets deployed to yet another location, God likes to move His troops around too. Even when we know where we are going, God can change our direction in a split second.
Sure, we can have a general calling--like knowing we are called to work with kids. But we cannot know how that calling is going to be fulfilled until we know where it is we are called to go. And the truth is, fulfilling that calling to its fullest might require that we go and serve God in many different places throughout our lifetime. We gain more experience in every place we go and in every way we serve. Sometimes God calls us to certain places to educate and prepare us for the place He wants us to ultimately end up.
God could tell you to go to one of countless places. Nothing is impossible for Him. It could be as simple as attending a Christian club or going to a school event you weren't planning on attending and meeting someone you wouldn't have otherwise met. It might be sitting in a certain seat on the school bus and getting to know someone who desperately needs Jesus. There are times, though, when the command to go is just a little bigger than that.
Sometimes He tells His children to go out into the mission field. Perhaps that is a calling you believe God has on your life. Other times, God tells His children to go home from the mission field because their time of service there is done. At times God's call to go, or come home, isn't followed by a clear reason for why the call came. But the biblical accounts of God telling His children to go are countless.
In Joshua 1:2 He tells Joshua: "Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel."
Where to Go in the Everyday DecisionsMaybe you are currently debating over where to go to college, or you are seeking God's will about where to go on a mission trip. Perhaps your parents are divorced and you are considering moving in with your other parent. I know girls who have recently been in all three of those situations.
When they came to me for advice, I told them to listen for the voice of the Lord. Slowly, one by one, they began to receive their answers--their marching orders--to pack up their bags and go. The practice of listening to the voice of the Lord created an intimacy and trust that made the difficult parts of their moves easier than they would have been had they ventured out without hearing God's voice. When we know God is calling us to go somewhere, we never feel like we are going alone.
God's command to go does not always involve physically moving. Sometimes it may mean stepping up and not going somewhere. It might mean refusing to go to a party where drugs, drinking, and other forms of compromise will be taking place. Maybe it means not going on a date with a guy who is unsaved or isn't that strong in his walk with the Lord. It might even mean declining acceptance into a college that would transplant you right into party central itself.
For Esther, God's command to go meant risking her life and going before the king so that her people might be saved from death. Her walk of obedience was a short one--down the palace hallways--but it could have been quite costly to her.
For my friend Megan it meant taking a step of faith during her senior year, inviting other Christians she knew on her public high school campus to have worship in the back of her truck in the school parking lot before school started each morning.
Megan brought her guitar, and before she and her friends knew it, there was a group of unsaved kids crowding around Megan's truck "just to listen." What an incredible way to make an impact on those around her. She didn't have to go very far from home to make a difference.
We sell ourselves short when we believe only missionaries can make a huge impact for Christ. My friend "Kaitlyn" (not her real name) has been so focused on becoming a foreign missionary like Amy Carmichael that she has completely missed opportunities in the mission field around her! So many of us make this costly mistake without even realizing it.
Can I Be Hearing This Right?Where is God telling you to go (or maybe stay) right now? What is He telling you to do? How is He asking you to serve Him with your life at this moment? Sometimes God's calls to us are seemingly simple. Yes, Lord, I can teach a Sunday school class or go on a summer mission trip with the youth group, we think. Those are things I can handle.
Other times He calls us to do things that sound ridiculous. And more often than not, when He calls us to do something ridiculous, we begin to worry about what people are going to think. Most of the time our fears are justifiable. We don't want to be the girl who stands up and tells some of the popular people at school that their lifestyles of compromise are slowly bringing their souls to ruin.
And we most certainly don't want to be the girl who has to explain why she cannot go out with Mr. Hot-and-Popular just because he isn't a Christian. But secretly, deep down inside, we always admire the other girls who do stand up for what is right, and we desperately wish we had that courage. In this moment, that courage is yours for the taking. God promises to go with you--you just have to be willing to step up and go when He sends you out.
True service to the Lord is a combination of two things: faith and submission. And they work together. If we don't have enough of one, we often don't have enough of the other either. It takes an incredible amount of faith to serve the Lord because most of the time when He says to go, we have no idea what will happen along the way.
After reading that I couldn't just continue what I had been doing. I sat for a moment and pondered its message. Faith is risking what is for what is yet to be ... Hmm ... What is could be a lot of things. It could be popularity, security, stability, friendships, or a relationship with a certain guy.
What is God asking you to risk? Even the most adventurous of us don't really like risk. We'd rather be comfortable. We'd rather play it safe. We'd rather be protected. But someone wise recently told me, "God likes risk because risk involves faith, and faith is God's business."
Sometimes it is extremely hard to risk what is for what is yet to be because we do not know what the yet to be is exactly. We like guarantees and bottom lines. We like familiar things, secure things, and definite things. We live in a world that operates on schedules and contracts so we can always be sure about what is going to happen and when.
You go to school and know what classes you need to take in order to graduate. You know what classes will get you into what colleges, and what colleges will best help you to pursue certain sports scholarships or professions. We are people who plan. Even procrastinators are people who plan--they just plan to get it done eventually.
But life is like two mountains and a bridge. One mountain is today, and the other is tomorrow. And each day we have to walk across the bridge of risk in order to get to the next day. Waking up and stepping out of bed is a risk. Getting in a car and driving down the road is a risk. Reaching out to people and establishing friendships is a risk.
What are we risking our lives for?
So the question is not whether or not we take risks in our lives. The question is: What are we risking our lives for? Is your life a series of pointless risks? Do you run across the bridge of risk every day with absolutely nothing of value waiting for you on the mountaintop of tomorrow? Do you ever live on that bridge you cross? Do you just simply let life happen to you, or do you listen for the voice that says, "Go"?
Isaiah 30:21 says: "And your ears will hear a voice behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it,' whenever you turn to the right or to the left." When was the last time you heard that voice?
When Michael and I were dating, he spent a semester away at a Bible college in Israel--well, he spent almost an entire semester there. God chose to call him back home to the States a little early. Here's what happened.
About a month before Michael was due to come home, he sat in the terminal at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv getting ready to go on a weekend jaunt to Greece with some classmates, and butterflies began to dance in his stomach. He watched everyone around him laugh and joke with one another as they prepared to board the plane.
He held his cell phone in his hands and ran his thumb over the caller ID screen. Lord, what do I do? His prayer was silent, but his soul seemed to be screaming at him. God had shown him clearly in his quiet time that morning that he was to come home and tend to a few things there. But he wanted to take one more trip. Greece was his last foreign adventure, he promised himself and God. After Greece he would go home.
Meanwhile, I was back in the United States talking with our friend Bryan. With danger increasing for Americans in the midst of Yasser Arafat's looming death, we both thought it was time for Michael to come home. Judging by the warnings being issued from the U.S. Embassy, they agreed with us.
So I called Michael and asked him one last time, "Are you sure you are supposed to go to Greece?" He said yes, so I let it go and told him to have fun and said good-bye. When I hung up Bryan looked at his watch and asked, "How much longer until he boards?" When I told him he had about half an hour, he said, "Let's pray that God prevents him from getting on that plane if we are right and he really is supposed to come home." I agreed--although I didn't have much faith that the prayer would be answered. I watched the clock for the next half hour and nothing happened. There was no phone call, so I got ready for bed.
What I didn't know was that, as everyone else got in line to board the plane, Michael told the ticket lady he could not get on the plane and requested that his luggage be removed immediately. He said a quick good-bye to his shocked roommates and stunned professor and told them that his semester had just ended early and he was going home--not back to their apartment in Jerusalem, but back home to the United States. He would make arrangements with the director of the Bible college immediately, he assured them.
It was late at night on a Thursday in the United States and I had just gotten out of the shower when my phone rang. Startled, I answered and heard Michael's broken voice shouting and crying on the other side of the world. Mind you, I thought he was already half way to Greece.
"Love, I'm coming home," he said frantically. "God showed me very clearly to come home. I was reading about when He told Abraham to get out of his country and I knew God was speaking to me and I didn't listen. I have a flight booked for Sunday--it was the quickest one I could get. Can you pick me up?"
Tears streamed down my cheeks as the news that Michael's semester abroad was almost over finally sunk in. As we spoke on the phone, explosions could be heard in the distance. God had indeed spoken to Michael in his quiet time, and He spoke to Bryan and me, burdening us to pray.
And what happened from the moment he decided not to board the plane to Greece until the moment he got home was proof enough for any skeptic. Not only did the strict Israeli airlines remove his bag from the plane (without suspecting anything suspicious), they rushed him back through customs with no hassle (and he always gets hassled because of his deeply tanned Italian skin and ethnic-looking appearance) and took him right to a ticket counter and applied the amount of his unused ticket (which was paid for by his school with his tuition money) to his ticket home. The total amount he owed was exactly what he had left on his credit card, so he charged it and two days later I was picking him up at the airport.
Shortly after Michael came home some key pieces were put into place that would greatly shape the next several years of our life together. We decided that the assumed plan of his taking a full-time ministry position in our hometown was not God's will for us, and slowly everything was set in motion to move him back into the secular work force where he could be used in a greater way at that time. Within one week of Michael's homecoming we got engaged, and God began to piece together His amazing plan for us. It would not have come together the same way had Michael waited another month to come home.
But Michael did not rush through his decision in the airport. He had been asking God if it was time for him to come home ever since the U.S. Embassy began issuing warnings a few weeks earlier. Safety was not his primary concern, but obedience was. God confirmed His call for Michael to come home early in Scripture and used Bryan and me (and our prayers) to lead Michael into making a decision that was right for him.
Make sure that in all of the risks you feel the Lord asking you to take, you make wise choices and do not do anything rash. Look for Him to confirm things in His Word and through the counsel of other godly people. We'll talk more about this in the next chapter.
Small Steps Lead to Bigger OnesFaith is about more than taking risks. The other half of the saying that was on my cider mug was: Faith is taking small steps, knowing they lead to bigger ones. Maybe today, as a student, you cannot run out and become a full-time missionary or find a cure for cancer. But you can take small steps toward what you know God is calling you to do in the future. You can go on short-term mission trips or do something as simple as taking classes in school that will help prepare you for whatever it is God is calling you to do.
We're not all called to be foreign missionaries. You can be a missionary on your school campus or at your job at the yogurt shop. Someday you can be a missionary in your career. Maybe your go is to simply go and talk to one other person about your faith. But in the end it is all of the little steps of obedience that prepare you for the bigger ones. And that's where submission comes into the picture.
My friend Hana really did work at a yogurt shop. She made an incredible impact on the people working at the Subway sandwich shop next door by simply sharing her faith with them and inviting them to church with her when she saw them at work. She took advantage of an incredible opportunity that many of us wouldn't have even noticed. These people saw something in Hana that they wanted. They didn't all take her up on the offer to come to youth group, but they came to Hana with questions and always talked about how pleasant she was to be around. It was a simple thing really--but Hana was able to be an outstanding example to these people. The places God asks us to go and the things He asks us to do are not always earth shattering. But they can still make a huge impact for Him.
Amazing things happen when we attempt things that are impossible, downright weird, or seemingly insignificant because God tells us to do it. Life becomes exciting when we dare to take risks that count for something. Servanthood truly is faith and submission. It's taking God at His Word and setting out when you aren't even sure where you are going.
But the awesome thing about not knowing where you are going is that you cannot be afraid of what's going to happen when you get there if you don't even know where there is! And you need not be afraid--you need not even know where you are going--as long as you know Whom you are following.
Where could your presence make the most difference?
If we're honest, we'll all admit that we'd like to live lives of epic proportions. If only we weren't so afraid! If only we would go when God said to go.
C. S. Lewis once said: "I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you--the secret which hurts so much that you take revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence."(footnote 2)
And that's the secret I am trying to rip open in you. What is the one thing you have dreamed of doing for almost as long as you can remember? What is the one thing that you know you absolutely must do before you die? What is the one thing you have to offer the Lord that will greatly impact His kingdom here on earth? Where could your presence make the most difference?
Many times we make the mistake of thinking we have to have it all figured out before we can start serving God. We assume we must graduate from college--or at least high school--before we are in a position to be used.
But that's simply not true. Many times the people that God uses most are not those who are comfortably settled in a stable lifestyle. Often, God uses those who are out there searching--and moving--because they are willing to go wherever He tells them to go; they don't have plans and agendas of their own.
Leo Tolstoy once said, "In order to influence people, the artist must constantly be searching, so that his work is a quest. If he has discovered everything and knows everything and instructs people or deliberately sets out to entertain them, he has no influence on them. Only when he is searching for the way forward, do the spectator and listener become one with him in his quest."(footnote 3)
Serve Him on the Way
Serving God does not begin when you get to wherever you want to be (established as a teacher, an engineer, a wife and a mother). It begins when you make the conscious decision to go wherever God tells you to go and to minister to those He shows you in that place.
I was impacting the lives of junior high and high school girls long before I graduated from high school or began writing books. Sure, I knew in the end God wanted me to go and write books. But there were many other go commands that came to me prior to that one: Go and be a camp counselor; go and start a discipleship group; go and teach Sunday school.
So I set out on those missions, knowing they would eventually lead me to where I desperately wanted God to take me. And by the time I was eighteen I had begun creating a legacy of service--two girls I discipled began to disciple others, and they went on to do so for years. They told me it was due, in part, to the impact I had on them.
Had I waited until I knew all of the details of the journey God was taking me on (which I still don't know, by the way), or for Him to take me straight to where I wanted to go, I cannot even imagine what a loss I would have experienced. I would have definitely missed out.
Find the direction God is calling you to go--and begin to serve Him as you are on your way. Don't wait until you get there. In Genesis 24:27 (nkjv) Abraham's servant says, "... being on the way, the Lord led me." If you let Him, He will lead you on your way too.
Servanthood is faith and submission. And if you cannot serve God on the way to where He has called you to go, you will never be able to serve Him when you get there. Jonah said no to God's call, and he found himself floating in a bunch of vomit in the belly of a big fish. God will go to great lengths to get the attention of His children. And sometimes when He says go and they refuse, He chases them until they change their minds.
Is God chasing you right now? Where is He telling you to go (or stay)? Where is your place of service? Why aren't you there?
1. Where is God telling you to go right now?
2. How are you responding to Him?
3. Describe a time in your past where God called you to go somewhere and you obeyed. What happened as a result?
4. What are some ways you listen for the voice of the Lord in your own life?
5. What is your definition of obedience?
1.. John Ortberg, If You Want to Walk on Water You've Got to Get Out of the Boat (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 91–93.
2. John Eldredge, The Journey of Desire (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000),17.
3. As quoted in Craig Dunham and Doug Serven's TwentySomeone (Denver, CO: Waterbrook Press, 2003), 67.