Choosing to go
I lean back and wait with anticipation, sitting across from the smartly dressed man, no older than 35. Until this afternoon, we were strangers whose only connection was a mutual friend. My fingers pick nervously at the sleeve of my coffee cup, the contents of which are cold by now.
“I will definitely pray for you, but I won’t be able to support you financially this year. I think God is calling me to give elsewhere.”
How typical. And did God call you to go on that trip across Europe earlier this year? Or how about the phone sitting on the table? Your shoes could afford your financial support, but I get your prayers?
I smile politely and nod. “Of course. Thank you so much for praying for me.”
In just a few months time, I’ll be getting on a plane to join my team, living with and reaching one of the largest unreached people groups, translating the Bible into their language.
God broke my heart when I considered the urgency of bringing the message of Jesus to people around the world. There are 78,000 Evangelical Christians and 900 churches for every one Unreached People Group. You’re telling me that God has conveniently called all 78,000 people to stay? How could I do anything else but go?
Over the past two years, as I’ve met with different people to ask them to give and send me, I have found a persistent pattern – God is cheap to people. Missions is cheap. Sure they will meet with me, but you can tell that they’re only too polite to say no. In church, they’ll gladly sing songs about giving their whole life to Jesus, but the first thought as soon as Monday comes is how they can lock in that internship. They don’t have to think twice about spending $25 on dinner out. If these people took a long look at themselves, they would realize that they are the reason that billions of people are literally dying without hearing the Gospel. I hope the Pumpkin Spiced Latte was worth it.
Choosing to stay
I lean forward in my chair. My head is down but my eyes are open. All around me, I can hear dozens of people getting out of their seats and making their way to the front. I feel my best friend brush against me as they too eventually stand and shuffle down the row. The auditorium is dark, but I feel as though there are hundreds of eyes on me, waiting.
“Anyone else who wants to come up and talk to our staff? God is calling you to go.”
I could feel my fingers dig in as I clenched my fists in my pocket. Was I breathing too slowly? How quick am I supposed to breathe?
It’s my final undergrad year and though a lot of my friends have begun to look for work, the company I interned with has already guaranteed a position for me. My parents were so excited when I told them over the long weekend. It was one of the few moments when I could so clearly sense that they were proud.
My game plan since finishing high school has largely been mapped out. The only thing that has made me think twice has been all the conversations and talks about reaching the world. If I’m completely honest, I did think about going, at least on a short term mission trip. But even if I did, it would largely be because I thought I would feel guilty if I didn’t. I’ve been reading this book though, that talks about how we need Christians at the forefront of different industries – culture, fashion, business, technology, medicine etc.
I’d probably say that the reason God has blessed our family is because he is calling me to be a marketplace Christian. God never said he wants us to live in poverty – it’s okay to enjoy the things he has blessed me with. If these serious Christians want to inspire other people, they really shouldn’t do it through guilt. It’s not my fault that God called you to sell your things.
The heart of obedience
In 1886, Scottish author Robert Stevenson published the novel “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”. It is about a man with a dual personality – an amiable Dr Henry Jekyll and a mysterious and violent Edward Hyde. By capturing the desperate struggle for power between these two personalities within the same man, the novel ultimately challenges the reader to ask the question – “Who am I really?”
Two personas, both following God and yet both not at the same time. If I’m honest, both Go and Stay describe what’s in my own heart, at different times in my life. Regardless of my decision, I clearly have issues of sin in my heart.
In some areas of my life I have chosen to trust and serve God. I became a full time missionary straight out of university. I am pretty frugal, budgeting well with my finances. But even though that might sound good on the surface, I can sometimes do these things with a prideful and judgemental heart towards those who have chosen a career in the marketplace or seem to have a lot of disposable income, eating out and and going on trips. Perhaps there is a part of my sinful heart that is secretly jealous.
In other areas of my life I have chosen to trust and serve myself, while justifying it under the banner of Christian freedom. I live in a comfortable home and I will spend money on most things with an Apple logo, dismissing any guilt by reassuring myself that God wants me to enjoy my life. The reality is, there is a dual personality within me – desiring to be faithful to God but at the very same time, not wanting to let go of anything in order to do so. Perhaps in these ways, you are also like me.
Along with us, Paul echoes “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” – Romans 7:21-24
To the parts of your heart that scream “Go!”, you need to hear that there is nothing that you can do that will add to God’s love for you. In Jesus, God himself is your advocate and your representative on the cross. Like me, you need to repent of your hypocrisy towards others, grading their obedience as if you are the judge.
To the parts of your heart that scream “Stay!”, you need to hear that there is nothing that you can do that will subtract from God’s love from you. To the Father, you are no less valuable a child for staying, however there really are unique ways that God intends for you to serve and enjoy him now that won’t be available to you in even just a few years’ time. Like me, you need to repent of your hypocrisy, serving your comfort and reputation and do it in the name of God’s goodness.
Does God have all of you?
There is no hierarchy in the Christian kingdom, There are only people whose choices and lives belong to Jesus, and those whose choices and lives belong to themselves. In the coming months, there will surely be areas of your life where you will ask God for direction and next steps to take. A good place to start is to ask yourself if God has all of you and to identify the areas where he doesn’t.
You see, it is possible to both go or stay with sin in our hearts. In the Kingdom of God, I don’t think that God has ever been after about the “going” or “staying.” He’s been after our hearts and lives – all of us. The going or staying is simply an overflow as we live that out.
If, after reading this, there is only one message that captures your heart, let it be this: Your life belongs to Jesus Christ. In the words of Brooks Buser, “It has never been about what you liked or what you’re good at. You don’t own your life.”