In a world of fear, in the darkness of the earth after the Fall of humanity, people tend to settle for not listening, or when they do, listening to the voice of political ideas, or propaganda as their hope. We, as the Church, must not settle for less powerful words. The speech of God is for his people to abandon, renounce, and let go – to depart from previous ways. God’s Word, for example, to Abraham was to “leave” and “go” (Genesis 12:1-3). For Abraham and his wife Sarah to stay in Ur of the Chaldees (a pagan land), afraid to move, and settling for retirement living, would result in barrenness and no hope. To leave was to experience blessing.
Jesus once said to his disciples: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it (Mark 8:34-35). Blessing from God happens when we give up everything to leave and follow Jesus. God is still holding out this promise of blessing that can be realized through leaving and going.
In order to experience marital blessing, God said in the beginning that a man must “leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife” (Genesis 2:24). The writer of Proverbs has told us if we want to see blessing, to experience God’s presence and approval, you must “leave your simple ways” (Proverbs 9:6). Jesus said that if you have relational problems and are getting ready to worship you must “leave your gift at the altar.” Then, we are to “first go and be reconciled to your brother” (Matthew 5:23-24). Jesus himself has said that he, as the Great Shepherd, will leave the ninety-nine sheep to go after one lost one (Luke 15:4). And he turns right around and commissions us to do the business of leaving: “Go, and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). Jesus further has said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven (Matthew 19:21). To those who are too afraid or complacent to step out in faith and leave for God’s banquet of blessing, the invitation has gone out: “Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find” (Matthew 22:9). Not going ends in no blessing. God said to Jonah “go” (Jonah 1:2), but Jonah said “no” to God and did not go because of his prejudice. Leaving and blessing go together. We must step out in faith as the people of God and leave behind our old ways and embrace the journey ahead that God has for us. Where are we going? God knows. Leave, go, and trust.
Let me “leave” you with some thoughts on stepping out of our friendly and familiar environment to know the blessing of God:
- Hang around with committed Christians who want the blessing of God. Spend time with those who are eager to do God’s will. I had the wonderful blessing of being around many people in the formative years of my Christian life with a passion for God. One of those people was a man named Howard Bixby. Pastor Bixby had a saying for me anytime I came to him contemplating whether I should step out and follow through with an idea I had or a person to talk to. He always, without fail, would say to me: “Go for the jugular!” And I did. And every time I knew the blessing of God on my life which kept me going back for more. That advice has served me well. So, I say to you: “go for the jugular!” If you spend most of your time hanging out with toothless Christians who have no spiritual bite, then you will be one yourself. Light each other’s fire, and let the Holy Spirit kindle a fresh flame in your heart by being around passionate Christian people. Abraham went to the Promised Land with Sarah, his wife. Don’t be a lone-ranger. Bring your family along the blessing trail by having bible readings together and talking about spiritual issues.
- Walk across the room. God may not be calling all of us to leave this country and go to an unreached people-group, but he is calling us all to leave our seats and walk across the room to encourage another person in his/her faith; across the street to strike up a spiritual conversation with a lost neighbor; across town to a lonely or hurting elderly person; or down the street to hang out at the laundry mat to meet new people who need Jesus. By all means we are to walk across the pages of Scripture to follow Jesus in obedience to the Holy Spirit’s promptings.
- You don’t have to be a super-Christian who feels blessed to leave and step out in faith. We might all consider Mother Teresa, who died in 1997, to be a super-Christian. She said: “By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus. God still loves the world and He sends you and me to be His love and His compassion to the poor to quench His thirst for love and for souls.” Yet, at the same time, Teresa struggled in her faith for most of her life and often felt like her own soul was desolate. She once confessed: “In my soul, I feel just the terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing.” Yet, her dark night of the soul was still the salvation for thousands.
- Don’t talk it to death! There is always more research and information and counsel to obtain. At some point you need to act. We really have no need to create a sub-committee to investigate the findings of that other committee in order to make a decision. Frederick Buechner has said “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Where does your passion and the world’s great need meet? Leave, and go there.
Activate the blessing of God in your life by leaving and going where the Spirit leads. May we have the courage and the faith, despite our feelings, to respond to God’s sending.