It’s easy to say “I’m willing to follow where ever God leads.” This is especially true when we don’t think we hear Him saying to go anywhere. We often get comfortable where we are in life, whether it be a job, house, standard of living, or even our relationship with God. In those times of comfort, it is easy to settle in and not want anything to change. Like a memory foam mattress, the world seems to conform to our own image and gives us a sense of comfort and security.
The desire to remain in that place of comfort has the potential of masking God’s voice like the addition of white noise to our auditory landscape. White noise generators are often used in counseling centers and psychology offices to make conversations more private. They hide the sounds of closed-door conversation under a combination of every sound frequency; it sounds like static to most people. Spiritual white noise can rise up in seasons of comfort, and has the potential to hide the still, small voice of God to the point that we stop listening for it.
But let’s say that we do hear from God, and He says “Go.” It might be as simple as offering to pray for the girl nursing her wrist as she rings up groceries, or as big as selling nearly all of our possessions and moving to the Dominican Republic. How many of us actually follow through with obedience when God says, “Go”?How many of us actually follow through with obedience when God says, "Go"? Click To Tweet
Sell what you have and move to the Dominican Republic. That’s the clear message that Scott Ethridge heard from God in the middle of his living room. He had a great job and his family was living the good life, but obedience was more important than comfort.
With nothing more than what fit into ten suitcases (2 per person), they packed up and shipped out to become missionaries. There wasn’t much that could slow him down. He said “I heard from Him clearly, like never in my life.” The only thing that gave him pause was the response from other Christians who thought he was crazy.
You can get a bigger picture of Scott’s journey here: ethridgedrmission.blogspot.com/2015/08/1-starting-our-adventure.html
Sometimes following God involves unexpected changes in direction. My long-time mentor, Jay Passavant, sensed God’s call to do church differently, but his obedience to God’s call took an unexpected turn. He had interviewed for a new pastoral job in a different state and everything was lining up perfectly. Interviews had gone well and they wanted him. There was one last step that was merely a formality, but turned out to be the catalyst for a new church plant.
Shortly before taking his family to a new city, Jay received a call that changed his course in ministry. He was being obedient to God, and the door slammed in his face just as he was crossing the threshold. It was an “Isaac moment” in his life. He showed God that he was willing to give up everything to follow where God led, and then God changed the direction and blessed him with a church that has grown to be one of the most influential churches in the Pittsburgh area.
You can read Jay’s full account of this story here: jaypassavant.com/unforeseen-blessings/
Time To Leave
I had a sense that I was called by God to something greater than what I could do on my own as early as middle school. I didn’t really know what that meant, but I applied my own understanding to that feeling and figured that I would become a missionary.
After college, I worked for fourteen years in the same church I grew up in before leaving it to become a church planter. Five months later, I felt God leading me to change directions. It may have been scary to leave the job security of a megachurch to become a church planter who had to raise his own support, but there was a whole new level of uncertainty when it came time to leave that church planting network without a clear direction of where to go next.
God had a plan to provide and a place already lined up for me that I didn’t even know about. If I had still been serving in the comfort and security of a full-time, megachurch job, I would not have been open to God’s prompting that led me to the ministry position I currently have.
The common thread in these stories is the idea of leaving something behind to go where God is leading. Scott heard clear direction and sold nearly everything his family owned. Jay also had clear direction, put his house on the market, left his local ministry position, and had his family ready to move when God’s call shifted. I was led to step out of what I thought God had called me to so that He could lead me to where I am now.
What Holds Us Back
I’d like to say that I have always followed God’s lead in every situation, but I’m not there yet. Just the other week, I know that God wanted me to pray for the guy that brought some of our food out at Primanti’s, but I didn’t respond to that prompt and missed my opportunity.
God still speaks to His people, and shows them what they should do. The problem is that we don’t always respond to His lead. We resist with excuses, or we ignore His voice and miss the opportunities.
I think the biggest opposition to responding to God’s lead in our lives is fear. We are afraid of rejection. The image we portray might be tainted. What if we were wrong or have to give up something we really love?
When I’m with my kids, I don’t want to embarrass them. I don’t want someone to turn down prayer in front of them. Even worse, I don’t want to pray for healing and not see it manifest right there and then.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)
Fear is an incredible tool that the devil uses to keep us from obeying God. When we allow fear to stop us from doing the easy things like praying for someone, how do we think we’ll respond when God calls us to do something more daunting?
When we give in to fear in the small things, the devil also reminds us of that and fills our minds with lies that God isn’t going to call us to anything if we can’t even do the little things. But lies don’t only come from the enemy.
Sometimes we take on friendly fire. There were fellow Christ followers who told Scott that he was crazy. I’ve seen Facebook comment threads in Christian leadership groups that advise people seeking wisdom that they are entitled to better compensation or that the leadership they are submitted to are wrong and should be defied.
It is human nature to seek people who agree with us and say what we want to hear. That’s why it’s so easy to get pulled into the echo chamber of Facebook, and why even Christian groups on social media might not have the most God-honoring advice.
When we ask people what they think about a situation, isn’t it true that we already have a good idea of what they might say before we even ask? Sure, there are times that we want honest feedback, but that approach is far less common. If we are asking people to tell us what we want to hear, are we really open to hearing what God has to say?
It’s great to read inspirational stories of people who heard from God and obeyed. We benefit from understanding some of the things that keep us from obeying God. But how do we get better at hearing and responding to His prompting?How do we get better at hearing and responding to His prompting? Click To Tweet
Abide in Christ
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.John 15:4 (NKJV)
If we want to hear from God, if we want to respond to what He says with immediate obedience, we have to be connected to Him. The idea of abiding in Christ is more than just reading Scripture and praying. It involves getting to the heart of God.
A branch is not just attached to the vine at the surface. The core of the branch is connected to the core of the vine. That is the only way it bears fruit. The very essence of the branch stems from being at the center of the vine.
Jesus at the center of our life involves getting to the center of His life. As we connect with the heart of God, we hear Him more clearly and produce fruit in obedience to what He says.As we connect with the heart of God, we hear Him more clearly and produce fruit in obedience to what He says. Click To Tweet
We can say all the godly things we want and agree with everything we hear from the platform on Sunday morning, but it doesn’t really matter if we don’t get up and do something.
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.James 2:15-17 (NIV)
People like to say that practice makes perfect. Really, practice make permanent. If you practice the wrong way to do something, you are going to continue doing it incorrectly. When we practice ignoring the initial prompt of God to act, we will miss opportunities to usher in the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.
If we want to hear God more often or clearly, we need to practice obeying Him immediately. When we practice responding immediately, we learn to hear more quickly. Ultimately this obedience grows our faith and helps us understand the heart of God and abide in Him.People like to say that practice makes perfect. Really, practice make permanent. If you practice the wrong way to do something, you are going to continue doing it incorrectly. Click To Tweet
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.Genesis 22:1-3 (NIV)
Obeying God is not always an epic story of blessing and glory. God often requires some kind of sacrifice when He calls us to do something. Sometimes we have to sacrifice pride in order to serve others. There are times when the sacrifice God asks of us is really a test of our will. Are we willing to let go for the sake of His Kingdom? Either way, it’s not easy. But it grows our faith and draws us closer to Him.
Obeying God is not always an epic story of blessing and glory. God often requires some kind of sacrifice when He calls us to do something. Click To Tweet
One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.
A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.Matthew 4:18-22 (NLT)