As a young man, I had everything anyone could want. Living in Santa Barbara, just a half mile from the beach, I had a job that paid me more money than I could spend, a beautiful wife and baby girl, and opportunities for music ministry with great friends. If that doesn’t define blessing, I don’t know what does. You wouldn’t blame me for thinking it wasn’t God’s voice leading me to do something different, right? He wouldn’t take me away from the abundant life he had promised.
I simply said, “no, thank you,” and went on about my perfect Christian life.
You can probably think of a Bible story where God asked a prophet to go do something challenging, and he said “no.”
The word of the Lord came to Jonah, son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish.
Jonah not only said “no,” but he took off in the opposite direction. It’s funny to think we can ever escape God, but he did, and I know I did too. Neither Jonah nor I got very far. God brought a big fish into Jonah’s and brought a new supervisor into mine. Within a year, he fired me.
I eventually found my way to central Washington State as an air traffic controller. Though I loved that job and felt fulfilled and appreciated in ministry there, when God spoke to me again during Advent of 1990, I was ready to respond with a resounding “Here I am. Send me!” There was no way I wanted to repeat my “big fish” experience. Though God didn’t tell me what to do or where to go in our initial conversation, it eventually led my family to Guatemala and a lifetime full of ministry for his kingdom.
God’s gift to us that Christmas was to birth a new vision for how we could be involved in his desire to see people all over the world reconciled to himself. It changed the course of our lives and allowed us to bring him glory in new and exciting places and ways. We will be eternally thankful.
How are you listening to God? Sometimes he speaks in “loud” ways and sometimes in a “still, small voice,” but Jesus told us that his sheep recognize his voice so we can have confidence. When he leads us, we’ll know, and by God’s grace, we will follow.
My advice? Avoid the “big fish!” Obey unconditionally.