“Come follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men. At once, they left their nets and followed him.” Matthew 4:19
At once. That is the operative word. Would they have done it if they had thought about it? Written out the pros and cons? Sought advice? Prayed about it? Wondered if it could possibly be God’s will for them to NOT provide for their wives and children? To abandon the vocation for which they had trained all their lives? And all their assets? To follow someone they had never heard of? With no reputation or references?
No sensible person would have done that.
When we hear Jesus speak, it’s safest to obey him at once. Once we get into wondering if what we have heard him say “makes sense,” we often end up not doing it.
Because why should it make sense to us? God often hands over just one piece of the jigsaw at a time, illuminates just the stretch of the road on which we are to walk.
* * *
Our friend Paul discipled Roy and I over a five year period during which I was struggling with two things–to break the hold of writerly ambition over my heart; and to do my fair share of housework. The former we decided could only be done by laying that ambition on the altar for God to do with what he pleased.
I was most unsuccessful in both these projects. I’d lay my writing down one day; take it back the next day. Be the perfect helpmate and housewife one day. Not do a stitch of housework next week.
I used to send in several typed sheets of homework to Paul weekly. (We studied two courses he had written together–Sonship and The Love Course.)
Finally, he said quietly, “Anita, your insights are priceless. You should publish them. But if you do not obey God’s voice, he will take them away and not give you any more.”
I was silent. And chilled.
And my ability to obey God’s voice, even when it is difficult and costly began to grow.
* * *
Jesus issued his invitation to Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew. And moved on. If they dilly-dallied or refused initially, they might have missed the adventure of their lives.
The risk of not obeying what we hear God say, when we hear him say it, is that “later” too often becomes never.
There’s an adage, “God is a gentleman and soon gives up speaking to those who do not hear his voice.” I don’t know if that’s true or not. But if we continually ignore God’s promptings to be kind, generous, or self-sacrificial in specific ways, we harden our hearts, deafen our ears, and train ourselves to shut out God’s voice.
And the greatest risk of often saying “no” is that we can lose our ability to know for sure what God’s voice sounds like. Is that God? Or not? We are unsure.
But the more we obey, the more we hear his voice with crystalline clarity.
“How you know it’s God?” one might be asked. Because I have often heard him before. I recognise the timbre of his voice. His accent.
* * *
I sped-read Living at the Edge the autobiography of David Pytches a few years ago. He had saved money for university, and then, as a young man in the army was lovingly mentored and discipled by an older couple who lived in an abandoned railway carriage, and poured themselves into the young servicemen. He hears God tell him to give all the money he had saved to the older Christian. He does so, potentially giving up his opportunity to go to university.
Later on, David has amazing adventures with God, is instrumental in introducing the Charismatic renewal and John Wimber to Anglicanism, and in founding New Wine, Soul Survivor, you name it. Mike Pilavachi emerged from his mentoring, as did Matt Redman. His own children are key players in the charismatic revival in England.
“Wow,” I thought. “How scary.” What if David Pytches had refused to give away his college money at God’s prompting? What if he had procrastinated? What if he let himself believe he had imagined it?
Then the next time he heard God speak, he could again have told himself that he imagined it, that obeying God in such things was something impulsive hotheads did. That other people did.
He might have left sad so many times that he would no longer know God’s voice, no longer be able to pick up the still whisper from the noise around him.
He would have lost the ability to be absolutely sure that the voice he heard was God’s. Or not.
And so might have missed the adventure of following that voice, calling. Calling him to adventure. As he calls all of us.
Oh, Lord, strengthen my resolve to obey you promptly.