Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
— Proverbs 3:5–6
When you really get down to it, most of following Jesus is about trust. In fact, there really isn’t any area of our lives where this is more evident than in our decisions. Often times, our decisions come down to whether or not we are going to trust in God — his promises, his word, his direction, his wisdom — or we are going to trust in what we see and feel.
The way the proverb writer spoke of it makes it so clear. We are to trust in God with all our hearts and not lean on our own understanding. The reality is my understanding is shaky, unstable and unreliable. There is a lot I simply do not understand. I do not understand why things have happened the way they did in the past. I do not understand what is going to happen tomorrow. My understanding will not hold up to my attempts to lean on it and depend on it.
When I “acknowledge” God in all my ways, I recognize who he is. I recognize his superiority to me. I recognize his character. I recognize his provision for me in the past. When I “acknowledge” him, I walk in accordance to the things I know to be true about God. His is good, perfect, righteous and loving. He always has my best interest at heart.
When I refuse to trust in my understanding, and fully put my trust in my heavenly Father, he makes my paths straight. I can be sure of my decisions. I can be confident that I am in the place that God wants to use me, ready to tell the story that honors him with my life.
I had to laugh in church on Sunday when Paul McDill preached at the Sunnyvale campus about going and staying. There are few things in my life that I have more experience with. I’ve lived in 18 different places, in two countries and five states. We’ve lived in seven different places in Texas alone! I’ve gone, and I’ve stayed.
Moving to Japan was perhaps the biggest decision to go that we have ever made. We were talking and considering several options for our first Air Force assignment and, finally, in a deeply spiritual way, we looked at each other and said, “Why not?” There was no reason not to go, and what an adventure! To this day, I can’t tell you that it was God’s will for us to move there, but God certainly used us, and our lives were affected in such a way that I don’t know who we would be or what we would be doing if we had not just gone there, essentially on a whim.
As much as we have gone, we’ve also stayed. My husband was the superintendent of schools for a school district in suburban Lubbock, Texas. Initially, I didn’t think we’d stay in Lubbock long. We hadn’t stayed anywhere long, so why would that be any different? Early on, we had an opportunity to leave, but we had committed to stay for a certain period of time. That decision was easy. You don’t break your word and expect good things to happen, so we stayed. Some doors closed along the way, and it became very clear to us that we were home. So we put some serious money into our house, and I spent $800 on a 10-year license plate with the name of our school district on it, a gift for Dave and a symbol to us both of our decision to stay. Four months later, we got the call that ultimately led us to move to Mesquite.
I laugh as I think of how wrapped up we get in making decisions, as if God somehow ceases to be God and can’t work his will if we make the wrong choice, or as if our decisions are final. We give ourselves way too much credit! Certainly there are wrong motives to go or stay. Fear should not ever be our motivation.
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
Ideally, principles associated with love would guide our decisions.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
— 1 Corinthians 13:4–5
So pray, and apply these and other Scriptural principles when facing decisions, but then decide! God is unimaginably good and great. He is in Japan and Wichita Falls, believe it or not. He can and will work his will in and through the lives of those who are seeking and courageously following him, whether we go or stay.
”You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great.”
— Les Brown
This week’s devotional prompt would immediately lead most writers to thoughts of Abraham, and I was no different. Hand-picked by God to become the father of the nation of Israel, when God’s call came to him to pull up stakes, put Ur and his kindred in the rear-view mirror and follow an unseen God to an unknown place, it was decision time. Stay or go?
I have often found myself somewhat mystified by the story of Abraham, wondering what was it that prompted a 75-year-old man, seemingly without question or hesitation, to leave familiar surroundings and head off to an unknown destination and future. There isn’t a visible theophany here, no burning bush, just a compelling voice telling him:
“Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”
— Genesis 12:1 NIV
There’s little doubt that his kinsmen thought him off his rocker. “You’ve lost your mind, Abram,” he was told. But Abraham’s decision, as difficult as it must have been, was to go, to heed the voice of God and embrace God’s promise:
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
— Genesis 12:2–3 NIV
Leaving the familiar for a heavenly assignment is not always easy. Believe me, though, it takes just as much faith to stay put in a place or situation where conditions are less than favorable and the immediate future lacks luster.
Pastor David Griffin applied the case of Ruth to this truth pointing to the multiplied uncertainties she exposed herself to by refusing to leave Naomi and stay. Extreme poverty, hard work, and even death were real possibilities. But her decision to stay led to Boaz, which led to Obed, which led to Jesse, which led to David, then up-up-up the family tree to Jesus and, ultimately, to your salvation and mine.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, and both Abram and Ruth already knew, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
To stay or to go I cannot tell you, but God can, and he will.
But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
— Isaiah 40:31 ESV
Should I stay or should I go? Whenever I hear these words, the ever so catchy song by The Clash always pops into my head. But outside of those words that everyone knows, they are followed up with, “If I go there will be trouble, and if I stay there will be double. So come on and let me know…” Those words can speak so true to us, we often times just look at the fact that if we go there will be trouble, but don’t always think about the truth that staying could cause even more. It can work both ways. Leaving could also cause double the trouble we are currently in. It may seem like the easy way out in the short term, but if it is not where you are called to be, there will surely be more difficulty as you make that decision. The Bible lays out many times where these types of decisions were made and, over and over again, we see where God is telling people that he will bring them up again as he will be with them.
“I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”
— Genesis 46:3–4
As God called Jacob to go into Egypt to be with Joseph, one of the great things Jacob did during this journey was to stop and make sacrifices to God in the middle of his journey. He stopped, not only to make those sacrifices, but to put his emotions aside and listen to what God had to say about his decision. Jacob learned through this time that God called him to go to Egypt, because God would be going with him and God would raise him up again through his obedience to leave what they had known and follow him.
One of the things that we struggle with is the idea that we, as humans, are able to just bear down and make decisions on our own about whether or not we should stay or go in whatever it is that we are doing. We often don’t take the time, or any time at all, to ask God what it is that he wants for us. As we learned from week four of this current series, setting our eyes on Jesus won’t just get us to the point of starting or stopping something that we know we should or shouldn’t be doing. Setting our eyes on Jesus will help us to make the right decisions on whether we should stay or go. Leaving our comfort zone is something that can be so very difficult for so many of us. We love the people we work with, or the house we live in, so why in the world would we leave? The only answer to that is that it is through our obedience to what God is calling us to do. It may be uncomfortable, but more often than not, it is through those times, whether it be staying where you are, or moving onto a new journey, that we find God right smack in the middle of it all, making it all OK.
Focus your eyes on God when you are in the middle of a “Should I stay or should I go now” moment. Take a step back, put thought and prayer into what God wants for you in this situation and follow his lead. You may not feel that your decision is the easiest one to make, but with God in control, he tells us that we can trust him with our burdens.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
— Matthew 11:30
His burden is light. Trust him with this decision, and he will bring you up again, whether you stay or go.
One of the most notorious instances of the common “should I stay or should I go?” question occurred in the book of Jonah:
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. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.
— Jonah 1:1–4
Jonah had been given instruction from God to go to Nineveh to preach against all of the horrible things going on there. Jonah, in fear, ran away from the situation. In life, many of us find ourselves making the same foolish mistake as Jonah. We run away from what God is calling us towards, simply because it makes us uncomfortable or brings us great fear. Whether God calls us to move jobs, share the gospel, or let go of something that is holding us back, we often find excuses to avoid going through with God’s instruction. We fool ourselves into believing that we know best, or that God might not know our situation, but in reality, God has a will for our lives that will be done eventually. It’s just a matter of whether or not we choose to be obedient initially. As people actively pursuing Christ, it is imperative that we that we are obedient and always willing to do what God is calling us to do in our lives.
Discerning what God is calling us to do can be very difficult. I will admit that, as a young person, I definitely don’t have the wisdom to always be 100 percent confident in what God is telling me to do. What I have learned through making important decisions in my life is that it is necessary that I seek God in every situation. Ask yourself, ask God, and get in the Word in order to make the best decision that you can. Make yourself available to God. Be open to God’s plan.
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
— Isaiah 6:8
No matter where you are, God is going to use you. Don’t miss out on opportunities to reach others just because you are unhappy or uncomfortable with where you are.