Once while pastoring a church in Southern California, my wife’s folks visited us. We were going to take off a few days and drive together to Tucson, Arizona where my father-in-law was scheduled to attend a conference.
I was excited about this trip because when I was an adolescent my family lived in Tucson for three years, and I hadn’t been back there since. I wanted to see the famous Saguaro Cactuses again (that exist only in that part of the world) and visit other sights that I recalled were scattered around the desert city. And I wanted to try and find the house I lived in while there.
It was a great trip as it was filled with memories from my childhood.
But something else happened while I was there that I didn’t expect. I began to feel a strange sensation that perhaps, since I had roots in Tucson, that I was supposed to move there and pastor a church there. It seemed with every memory I experienced, and every sight I revisited, the draw to go there grew in intensity.
When we finally left the city on route back to my church in the Los Angeles area I wasn’t excited, I was troubled. I was reasonable sure that what I was feeling was indeed that God wanted me to go to Tucson. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go to my boyhood home. That sounded somewhat exciting. And anytime one feels that God is calling them to do something, it is an honor and a privilege. It was just that my ministry was doing well where I was and it would be a major adjustment to fold up shop and leave.
Nonetheless, I was convinced that God was calling me there and I would have to pack up my family and leave.
We arrived back home on a Friday. I stewed over it for a day before I told my wife. She was a little taken back but open to the possibility because she also realizes obeying God is always better than the alternative.
After telling her, I called the supervisor in our denomination who oversaw the Arizona area. He wasn’t available so I left a message briefly describing my thoughts about Tucson on his answer machine. That particular week our international convention was taking place in Los Angeles and was beginning on Sunday. So I knew I would run into him at the convention, and alerted him to that in my message to him.
Saturday nights, it is my habit to go to the church and pray through the auditorium for the services that would take place the next day. This particular week I wouldn’t be participating in or in attendance at the services as I would be going to the opening activities of the convention, but I followed my routine of praying through my church just the same.
As I prayed, the burden that God was probably calling me to Arizona was foremost on my mind. I prayed in a very submitted matter to the Lord assuring Him that I was uncomfortable with moving at that time, but was submitted to whatever He wanted me to do.
I do not hear God speak to me very often. There have only been a few times in the course of my life where I felt God spoke clear and specific things to me. But this night in my church sanctuary was one of them.
It wasn’t an audible voice I heard. It was more like a clear impression to my mind. But the words I heard were unmistakable.
I said to the Lord with an anguished heart, “Lord, if you want me to go to Tucson, I will go.”
The words I heard in my mind immediately after that was, “I don’t want you to go. I just want you to be willing.” I knew those words were from the God. And what followed was an overwhelming sense of peace; peace that I didn’t have to go after all and peace that God was attentive to my cry and my life.
Serving God has been a lifelong adventure of ups, downs, and absolutely incredible moments and miracles.
I’ve learned that not everything He asks us to do is easy or necessarily what we want to do. However, if we will do it anyway, our lives will go much better for us. It’s the “Jonah Lesson.”
As well, I’ve learned that obedience to His call may sometimes result in temporarily confusing scenarios that will, in time, play themselves out where we will experience serious OMG moments, and where we will marvel at the awesomeness and sovereignty of God.
I’ve also learned that there are some uncertain decisions we will be called to make. However, even if we think a certain direction is questionable, but nevertheless is what we think we are supposed to do, what do we have to lose by obeying that call if we really believe it was from God?
Most importantly, I’ve learned that being naïve enough to believe that God will speak to us, will produce amazing responses from Him. If we believe God won’t or doesn’t speak to us…He won’t. But if we believe He will…He will; and we better be ready for what He has to say!
“I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.” Psalm 34:4 (NLT)
“For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14 (NLT)