I’ve heard so many times over the years that following Christ is hard. And it’s true to an extent. When you surrender your life to Christ, or you set out to expel some sinful habit, the devil and the world WILL pose a threat. You need to be aware of that, but don’t focus on it.
Many times I believe young people in churches (and even adults) make decisions and “committments” to God more because they feel compelled by the speaker, the spirit of the service or meeting, or because of extenuating circumstances in their lives they believe will change if they commit to God. None of these are bad reasons to come to God, but I think they’re weak reasons which lead to even weaker committments that lead ultimately to failure in following through. This cycle is discouraging to say the least. So how can we change it?
The simple answer would be to take some time to be still and ask God to give clear direction void of emotions or our own reasoning. I don’t think there is anything in the Bible saying this is a bad practice. Obviously, don’t hesitate forever, but within reason, be sure of your calling before diving in. When you’re certain of your calling and it’s clear that it’s of the Lord, it makes it easier to laugh the devil off when he comes calling because you KNOW what’s ahead of you is so much better than anything temporal he has to offer you. Remember how you were right after you got saved (this is how it was for me anyway)? You accepted Christ and those sins you’d been in bondage to didn’t hold any pleasure in them anymore. You’re delight was in the Lord and in your newfound relationship with Him. I believe (because I’ve experienced it) the same applies to when a child of God surrenders to His will. The old desires, dreams, and ambitions seem so empty and your heart yearns to fulfill HIS purpose for your life. Nothing else matters because you are His and your vision is set.
But what if we’ve surrendered and we’re not quite sure? That’s when surrender gets hard. Because the decision was an emotional one, we didn’t start that journey out with our vision stayed on Him. That complicates things, yes, but it doesn’t make it impossible to stick with it.
Let’s look at this side of things for a bit.
1. My Choice vs. God’s Call
Well, in each of the causes I mentioned above the driving force of the decision is the individual and their emotions or intellect. Many times I’ve been in a church service of some sort where the preacher preached a very emotional or heart-tugging message and I was moved. That’s NOT a bad thing at all. But is it wise to make a spiritual decision based solely on emotions? The answer is, no.
In Matthew 14 we have the story of Peter walking on the water. A PERFECT example of the point I’m trying to make here. Peter and the others were being tossed on the water when suddenly… BAM … Jesus appears. Not in the boat with them but walking on the water where it made absolutely no sense to be. How cool is that?! If I was Peter, man, I would have been right there with him. He got SO excited, SO moved, SO emotional… that he volunteered to get out of the boat and do the unthikable WITH Jesus. Was this a bad thing to volunteer to do? No. Not really. Had Jesus actually CALLED him to walk on the water? Well, no. But how did Jesus respond? He said, “Come.” It wasn’t His call for Peter in that moment, but Peter volunteered to do something big and he was given permission to participate in what God was doing. WHAT?! How awesome is that?!
We have examplese of God actually calling others in Scripture. I think of Gideon. God was very clearly calling him and he hesitated. He tested God. He made sure time and time again before accepting God’s call. Did that mean that all questions were answered and he never doubted again? Absolutely not. But he made sure, and he trusted God would continue to lead and protect. Which He did.
2. Oops! I Raised My Hand….
So what if, like Peter, you’re realizing now that God may not have been calling you, you just jumped the gun and volunteered? WHAT NOW? Everybody already knows and they’ll be expecting you to follow God’s call on your life and be a missionary to Mongolia because that’s what you surrendered to when you were 7 and you just HAVE TO GO! YOU JUST HAVE TO!!!
Take a breath. It’s ok.
I didn’t accept Christ to be my Savior until I was 13. But that wasn’t the first time. I vividly remember saying a prayer two times prior to that and going through baptisms and all the hugs and, “I’m so happy for you’s!” But I wasn’t saved. When I was 13 I realized my need of salvation and I bowed my head right there in the back seat of our car and prayed without anyone in my family having any clue what was happening. Now, I could have been embarrassed and panicked and thought, “But I’ve already prayed twice and been through all this… I don’t need to tell anyone.” But I didn’t. The first thing I did was strangle my mom from behind and say, “Mom, I just got saved!” Granted, her initial response was one of surprise, but she didn’t laugh at me or try to discourage me. She rejoiced! Then guess what happened. Our car broke down and we had to call a family in the church to come and help us. God was testing me! I had another chance to be silent – to allow my former “professions” to silence me now. These people had heard my testimony before. They believed I was already saved! What did I do? Well, we went to lunch and the dad asked me what I’d done that day. My answer, “I got saved.” At first they laughed and asked what had happened. They weren’t expecting my answer to be that my soul had been saved that morning. But they were so happy and rejoiced with me! The next day was Wednesday. I was tested again when testimony time came. Was it comfortable to stand before my church as the pastor’s daughter and tell all these people who had rejoiced with me TWICE before that now I was saved – FOR REAL?! Heavens, no. I was terrified. But I knew that in order to follow the Lord, I had to be honest and open about His work in my heart.
All of this to say, if you’ve volunteered for some ministry or dedicated yourself to some calling that isn’t actually what God has for you – it’s OK. I promise. Sure, there will be those who question or maybe even criticize, but it’s not about them is it. Wouldn’t it be worse to go through life struggling to fulfill God’s plan for someone else’s life?!
Take a step back, evaluate your own calling, determine if it’s what God would have you do, and move on regardless of the applause, accolades, or criticisms of men.
3. And We’re Walking…
OK. So maybe you’ve determined your “calling” was really just a “volunteering”. What now? Do you feel empty? Directionless? Lost? It’s normal. Don’t cry.
Let’s go back to Peter for a second. He’s in a boat in a storm, Jesus is walking on the water, he gets excited, volunteers to walk on the water, and gets Jesus’ permission. Peter jumps out of the boat and starts walking. He’s probably thinking, “Dude! This is so cool! I’m walking ON THE WATER with Jesus!” In my mind’s eye (granted, I’m really visual and have an overactive imagination), Peter is like a 4 year old on Christmas morning. Everything is SO cool and he’s just looking at Jesus going, “This is awesome! I can’t believe you’re letting me do this!!!” But then something happens. It dawns on Peter, “Wait a sec. God didn’t call me to do this. I just asked and Jesus said, ‘Come’…” He starts noticing the waves. His gaze shifts. He’s looking at the problems instead of focusing on God and that’s when everything falls apart. He starts to sink. In desperation he calls out to Jesus Who reaches out, pulls him up, and walks him back to the boat.
What happened to Peter? What happens to all of us when we allow things/people to pull our focus away from Christ? We start sinking. We get overwhelmed. And only God can pull us up and bring us back to the place He has for us.
Let’s wrap it up. Was it God’s call on Peter’s life to walk on water? No. But God allowed him to walk on water because his heart was willing and ready to do something for Him. The same goes for us today. Maybe God’s call for the future you isn’t exactly clear right now but you’ve volunteered for something else in the meantime. That’s not a bad place to be in. The danger comes in locking ourselves into a “calling” because of fear or ridicule or criticism rather than allowing the Lord to lead us into the future He has for us. If you are waiting for God to show you His will for the future you but you’ve volunteered for service, keep serving. If you’re not serving, volunteer. Shut out the voices in your head (or in your church) that tell you you have to do or be a certain thing and just listen to God. His voice is the only one that truly matters. And once you take that next step in faith, be bold and stay focussed on the Master. Just keep walking towards Him no matter how big the waves of distraction become. He will lead you.