Faith in the face of danger
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Then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which you feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine, of which you were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there you shall die. (Jeremiah 42:16)
A few years ago my wife and I went through a crazy stretch. We didn't have our kids yet, but life was just hectic. Both of us having fulltime jobs (Back then I was working as a programmer, not working for our church), both of us being heavily involved in ministry. Then we had a trip to Germany in that season. We just felt completely overwhelmed. And we thought: "This is not going to work, something has to go." So we seriously considered resigning as leaders of the Alpha Ministry in our church, taking a step back, and focusing on what is more important: Marriage and job. We prayed and asked God what He wanted us to do.
The answer we received was the very verse I started this blog with, Jeremiah 42:16. God clearly spoke to us through this verse. In our context, it simply meant: "If you are afraid of being 'too busy' and start quitting stuff that I don't want you to quit, then I will add stuff to your schedule that you do not want to deal with, things you do not expect right now. If you are trying to run away from being busy, then you will be more busy than you are right now. Stay where you are."
We obeyed. And the results were great. Once we trusted God, He really changed circumstances in our schedule. Very, very faithfully. Ryoko's work schedule changed in our favor (without us doing anything, other than prayer). My work environment changed. The ministry involvement changed a bit. Everything changed. God took care of us. He knew.
And we also know: If we had given in and given up on Alpha, the wonderful changes in our schedule would NOT have happened. Because God's promise was dependent on our trust in Him.
Now please get us right: We're not telling anyone to do crazy stuff. Very often we need to slow down and say "no" to a great ministry or service opportunity.We're not suggesting that you give away all your money and stop taking care of yourself. We're not saying that you should overwork yourself with too many responsibilities.
But what we are saying is: God's personal calling for our lives needs to trump our feelings. Because He calls us to walk by Faith, not by sight.
Let's get back to the story above: Israel was defeated in war. Only a remnant was left. This small group of people was wondering: What should we do? They made a wise decision: Let's go to Jeremiah, the prophet, and let's ask him to ask God what He wants us to do. Jeremiah prayed for 10 days, and receives an answer. Then he communicates that answer to the Israelites. He assesses their feelings and basically gives them two options.
Guys, you are only very small in numbers. By human wisdom, you won't make it, it looks like any enemy can just come and destroy you at any time. And you are looking for someone to protect you. And I know it's tempting to simply say: "Let's go down to Egypt and hide there. After all, God once took a remnant (Jacob's family, a father and 12 brothers) to Egypt, multiplied us there, and then brought us back to Canaan. Surely God can do that again."
But that's not how God's kingdom works. I need you to trust me. So basically you have two choices, and here are the results of either choice:
- You can go to Egypt, which seems to be the safer place. But if you go there, then everything you are afraid of will follow you there, overtake you there, and you'll be destroyed. By human wisdom, it would make sense. But in God's ways, that's not how it will work.
- OR: You can stay here and face the dangers. It'll be difficult, it'll be challenging. You will have to look the worldly dangers in the eye. But God will be with you. And God will deliver you from the dangers you are facing.
So it's your choice: Do things the worldly way, and face the consequences of God withdrawing His hand from you. Or do things God's way, and let Him work out your problems. Your choice. But you'll have to deal with the results, one way or the other.
That was the kind of situation we were facing back in 2007, being super busy. We chose to do things God's way, even though it didn't make sense to us. But He worked things out, changed our circumstances. And now we know we did the right thing. And we're glad we'll never know what would have been if we had run away from the situation and simply given up.
All of us face such situations from time to time. Maybe God asks us to trust Him through a financial crisis. Maybe a job situation is terrible for a while. Maybe the environment makes us want to move places (Talk about air pollution in Shanghai,...).
All of us face such situations. Now we are certainly not suggesting to ignore such realities. And we are not saying that we should simply stay in harmful situations until we get terribly hurt, burnt out, sick or even dead.
But we are saying: Stay where God calls you. If God wants you to move on, then move on. God can certainly gude us through such circumstances and tell us: "Hey, things are turning pretty bad in this job, you should really move on."
But sometimes that's not God's calling for us. And sometimes we run away out of fear. Sometimes we don't face the difficult circumstances simply because we don't want to. And then we make decisions without God. And too often we later realize that "Running away didn't resolve the problem. Now we are facing the same problems again in the place we were running to and trying to find shelter in".
Don't go there! Don't allow fears and circumstances to direct your path. If God calls you to move on, then move on. But if He tells you to stay, then stay. And see how He will deliver you.
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