Just Be Normal, and Get a Normal Job
In 2012, on Christmas day, my mother told me that she and my father had my life verse framed, and she proudly presented it to me. It was professionally printed behind a glass cover with an artistic red border around it. They never told me they had a life verse for me, so I was anxious to see what it was.
I assumed it would be something like the prayer of Jabez, a prayer of blessing for a life without hardship. Or maybe a verse about peace and prosperity. But instead they presented this as my life verse:
“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”
Wow - this was not what I expected. A far cry from a verse on prosperity and for a safe life! My parents’ desire for me was that I would not take that easy road, but accept a radical call from God, taking the narrow road He offers me until I take my last breath.
I am discovering that my parents are sadly the rare exception.
Julia (not her real name) is Russian and had an important government job, where she was being groomed to potentially become the next Minister of Education in Russia. But then she had an encounter with God and felt the call to be a missionary with our mission, Steiger. She quit her prestigious job and is now a part-time nanny for a wealthy family. This allows her the freedom to serve Jesus in missions, with her goal being to eventually become a full-time missionary.
Many of Julia’s family and friends were very critical of her when she made this decision, as they felt that she was not acting responsibly. But she knew she had to obey this call from God despite the opposition she was experiencing from some of those closest to her. Now she is already having an impact all over the Russian-speaking world. She has never felt so alive and fulfilled, and she has found her reason for being on this planet!
Arthur (not his real name) is another one of our workers from the Middle East. He is a very gifted and dynamic communicator and apologist. He has a crazy charisma, and people are really drawn to him. Just the other day, he asked for prayer because he feels a burning call to be a pastor in this desperate part of the world. He is encountering a lot of opposition from his Christian parents, who want him to “just be responsible” and “get a normal job.”
Unfortunately, I could give lots of examples like this.
Sadly, so many of our radical young missionaries around the world find the greatest opposition to their calling to missions is not coming from the world, but from their Christian parents - and even worse, from pastors of their local churches.
How many church leaders actually encourage their young people NOT to have radical, Holy Spirit inspired faith? To be sensible, get a good education, and go after that amazing job opportunity? They say that that’s God's plan. “Take that government job” is the message we usually give to young people in the Church.
One time, I was preaching about how Jesus calls us to go to all nations and preach the Gospel, based on Matthew 28:19, which says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
After I gave my message, the pastor stood up and said that obviously, God wouldn’t ask anyone to sell everything they own and move to the Congo or something. He didn’t want his congregation to feel they had to leave their “respectable lifestyle and job security” or feel wrongly convicted by my message.
I understand the pastor's reaction. When both of my sons, Aaron and Ben, felt that they were called to missions, I was surprised at my own temptation to discourage this desire. The call to missions is not the easy road. Jodi and I have been in full-time ministry now for 40 years and real ministry costs blood, sweat, and tears.
I was not wanting them to have to deal with the challenges that come with this kind of life, but quickly I was so convicted by the Holy Spirit. Would I deny my sons the incredibly rich life God wants to give them, just so they could have something conventional and safe? How blessed am I now to see their lives and the ways God is using them to impact the world!
Jesus said in Matthew 9:37 that there is a great harvest and few workers. Maybe it's time for those of us in the Church to release our young people and encourage them to hear God's voice again. We should do all we can to encourage them NOT to seek the safe and secure life, but instead to feel the call to a broken world and proclaim the love of Jesus.
To say, as Isaiah did, “Here I am, Lord!! Send me!