But what if I don’t know where exactly he’s leading? That is a quandary, isn’t it? If you find yourself in that situation, you are not alone. I’ve been there, and I know others have too. In fact, this week I spoke with someone very dear to me who was struggling with this exact issue.
You know you’re called to serve on mission. You’ve answered the call, but now you have to make a choice among the hundreds of field requests. The needs are great everywhere, so how can you say yes to only one?
I know that sounds simplistic, but it’s always where we start. We’ve got to talk to God, first and foremost, before we allow ourselves to get overwhelmed by it all. Saying yes to a particular job assignment in a particular country feels like you’re getting married. What if I pick the wrong place? What if it doesn’t work out? What if it’s too hard?
These are all real questions, and that’s why we have to start the process on our knees. We cry out to Jesus, and he simply says in response: “Follow me.”
After thirty years in cross-cultural ministry, and fifty years of faith, I can finally say, “it’s as simple as following him.” It’s funny how the ten-year-old Carol understood that so much better than the twenty- or thirty-something Carol. When I was ten years old, I simply stepped out of the pew and into the aisle and said yes to Jesus. I didn’t know where that would take me, but I knew who I was following.
In that following, I’ve done all kinds of ministry in multiple churches and countries. Some places I stayed months, some years. I walked with purpose into some places and was led screaming and shouting into others, but despite the way, I could say Jesus wanted me there.
So, starting the process in a child-like posture helps tremendously. It’s so much less painful in the end. Jesus knows best, and he won’t allow me to go anywhere that he hasn’t already prepared ahead of time for me, if I’m serious in my desire to do his will and not my own.
Remember your gifts.
In talking last night about the choices my dear one had before him, he was torn over the options. I finally asked him, “In which place do you see your gifts being best used?” I heard a pause and a clear answer. The problem was it didn’t seem to sync with his previous plan. In the end, it’s not about our plan but His.
When Jesus chooses us, when we become his, he fills us with his Spirit and gifts us in unique ways. My late husband and I had different giftings, but God used us as a team in perfect harmony. Those gifts were used in different ways depending on where we served, but they were used. And, low and behold, along the way, we even developed new gifts to go with the particular season of ministry.
It’s not about the place but the people.
In all our moving through the years, I have learned there are people who need Jesus everywhere. I think that is what finally freed me to accept our frequent moves from country to country, because no sooner did I unpack did I see lostness.
Look at an open door to a certain area or group as seasonal work.
- It’s seasonal because all life on this earth is temporary. We’re here for a short time and then with him for eternity.
- It’s seasonal, because he wants to use you among this people group and in this place for a specific time and purpose. Tomorrow, he may move you to a new location (think Moses and the Israelites as they moved by the cloud and fire). Work while it is day, and when a door closes, pull up your tent pegs and press forward in obedience.
Go back to him in prayer.
Before, during, and after, pray over what you’re hearing, seeing, and sensing in your spirit. Make sure it all aligns with his Word and how he’s been leading you to this point in your life. Also, make sure, if you’re married, that it aligns with what your spouse is hearing from God. This is an important decision; I don’t want to make light of it, so you need to be in this together in harmony and unity.
Step forward in confidence.
I smile as I say that, because when my husband and I made our choice for overseas service, we had complete confidence. Then, while in our seven weeks of orientation, our assignment changed three times, due to various circumstances and needs. Instead of breaking my confidence in God’s will, it served to remind me that in the end he still holds my future. We eventually ended up in our choice-number-one, but not until he’d allowed us to see him at work in two other countries first.
Having a hard time hearing God’s voice or just having a hard time deciding? Step back and remember:
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”Isaiah 30:21 NIV
Be confident in what you know of God. Rest in the call of Christ to the nations—and step out in service to his glory.
Grace and Peace