looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
— Hebrews 12:2
Duty before Joy. This was my understanding of a relationship with Jesus Christ growing up. Quiet time, prayer, and church attendance were a matter of obligation. I never viewed them as an opportunity to be enjoyed. That idea was foreign to me. This all changed for me in my first year of seminary. I was studying to become a pastor, and I felt that my faith was dead. The Bible was becoming more a textbook than a letter from God. That was until I picked up the book Desiring God by John Piper. In the book, Piper explains that we were created to enjoy God, and by doing that, we worship him. While this concept was foreign to me, it felt so fresh.
On Sunday, pastor David said that if God called us to something, we would love it. This struck a chord with me.
Growing up with this idea of religion as a duty, I feared that God would call me to marry some nice girl from the church, start a Bible study and then move to Africa to become a missionary. To be clear, I was OK with the first two instructions, but moving to Africa to become a missionary wasn’t appealing to me at all. I was afraid of living in a remote village with no creature comforts, doing something I hated, and, most of all, living miles away from fast food. Becoming a missionary was not ideal for me, but in a religion of duty, you do what you are asked and not out of the desires of your heart. For years I feared that I would attend a conference, and they would have an altar call for anyone that thought God was calling them into the mission field. How would I respond? Would I feel the pressure to go forward and commit myself to a life as a missionary?
Here is the cool twist to the story. Four years ago, I flew to Ghana, Africa, to teach at the seminary that c|Life planted. For one full week, I taught seminary courses to new pastors as they were in the early stages of launching their churches and ministries. I sat out in an open field and taught, I ate strange food, I slept in weird places, and you know what? I loved every minute of it. My greatest fear growing up became my greatest opportunity later in life.
If God calls you to something, you will love it. My counsel to you and my younger self is this: God loves you. He is a good father, and a good father gives good gifts to his children.