Early in my life as a believer I knew that God had called me, and every believer, to “go into al the world and make disciples.” When I read about God’s desire to reach the entire world with His love and grace, I quickly saw that I had a personal responsibility to fulfill that mission. And when I opened the book of Acts and encountered God’s desire to reach the nations, I concluded quite simply that God intended for me – and every born again believer – to play a part in that.
Early in my life as a believer, it was so matter of fact: this is what God offers His people; this is what God intends for His people; this is what God expects from His people — and His people, obviously, will respond with obedience and trust. I am not suggesting that I always got it right, because I did not. But, still, the way to be obedient and trusting seemed so clear. And the need to be obedient was beyond question.
I am not sure if I ever heard it said out loud, but I also picked up the idea that obedience to God’s call would result in a life of safety and security. Obedience, it was implied, would lead to effective ministry and measurable results and even success. “The safest place to be,” I was told more than once, “is right in the center of God’s will.” And that sounded both true and reassuring.
I admit, however, my surprise when, many years later, I found myself living a life that was neither safe nor secure. I was stunned when, despite what I considered to be a life of obedience – even, at times, sacrificial obedience – I could point to very little in my ministry that appeared “effective.” In certain situations there were simply no results to measure. And ‘success’ was a word that I would have never used to describe what I had done.
It might, in fact, be safe to be in the center of God’s will — but we would be wise to stop and think about what it means to be safe. I feel that I have lived a life in response to the call of God. But as I look back on certain situations and ministry opportunities, I don’t see a lot that I would call effective ministry that brought long-term results. And, I certainly have not always felt ‘safe.’
So, this honest evaluation led to a number of questions that I needed to answer:
- Does God, in fact, promise His children safety?
- Does God really ask us to sacrifice — and to sacrifice everything?
- What happens when our best intentions and most creative ideas are not enough?
- Is God at work in the hard places? And does He expect us to join Him in those hard places?
- Isn’t it possible to love God and to pretty much keep living the life I already have?
- What does it mean for God to tell us that His ways are not our ways?
- Would He really allow people who love Him dearly to fail? And, if so, is this a God who can use even holy failure for His purposes?
All of these questions and others I have struggled with, boiled down to: Would I choose to trust this God who I could not control? Would I be willing to walk with this God whose ways are so different? Would I, once again, lean on this God who makes impossible demands and promises only His presence?
When I began to honestly ask these questions – it was the start of the real journey of faith. A journey where I discovered what I truly believed. A journey where I learned to trust and to follow without knowing all the answers or even all the questions. A journey where I discovered the joy of serving – and even more, the necessity of dying. A journey where I discovered who I really was “in Christ.” A journey where I became secure enough to begin to reveal the real me and express myself openly because I discovered God accepted me for who I was. A journey where I was able to see the Kingdom of God expanding in the nations where I worked. And oh so much more.
I don’t have answers to all of my questions. In fact, I have even more questions as I move forward in my journey. I am not sure where this journey might lead. But I am sure that the questions are worth asking — and I am certain that the journey is God-given and God-lead. That He is patient with me and walking with me as I ask the questions and seek His answers.
I continue to give myself permission to ask myself the hard questions!