In a world where we are trying to lead, we discover we are really followers.
In the dark of the night, on the days when my body is exhausted and my spirit is worn, I am reminded that we are fragile creatures. Fragile and forgetful. We get tired. We get weary. We have self-doubts. We feel the pressure and the significance of what we are called to do, and we are overwhelmed. Are we doing too much? Are we doing too little? What if we fail? And all of this is just from our own hearts.
Add the expectations of others to our own, and we begin to become extremely discouraged. It seems everywhere we turn, someone has an opinion of what we should be doing, where we should be doing it, and how we should get it done.
Ministry is hard. Hard, but not hopeless. I have found that when we are pulled in all directions, when others would push us a certain way, and still more would drag us down a different path, when doubts creep in, or the other voices become too loud—there is only one way to find hope. We must learn how to follow.
Backing into the Future
Pastor Joe Shreffler, a Nazarene pastor in California, shared a sermon some years ago titled, “The Call of a Servant.” He focuses on a private conversation between Moses and God found in Exodus 3:10-12.
“So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
And God said, ‘I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
God calls Moses, makes him a promise, and then affirms that Moses will return to the mountain and worship. The beauty of this is that Moses must remember to come back, remember the promise God has made, remember what God has already done and said to him. Pastor Joe calls it “walking backward into an unknown future.”
Perhaps the single most important thing we can do when faced with discouragement, oppression, or insecurity is to remember who called us. He is the One who brought us to where we are today, and because of that, we are to walk backwards into an unknown future. Instead of looking forward and seeing the obstacles ahead of us, we are to keep our eyes on all God has already done. We are to keep our eyes on the mountain. We are to keep our eyes on Him.
Mirroring His steps
But what if we aren’t simply walking backwards, alone?
As Christians, we mirror the steps of the One leading us. We trust His lead, we focus on His lead, and we follow His steps.
Our call to ministry is no different. In a world where we are trying to lead, we discover we are really followers. The very essence of our calling is to follow Jesus Christ.
The very essence of our calling is to follow Jesus Christ.
Taking a cue from Nazarene Pastor Patti Branscome, we should be asking each other this question: What is it that God is calling you to do?
It is a simple question, but the answer lies at the center of every step we should be taking. The calling to which we are invited was tailor-made just for each of us individually. No one walking this earth knows the full extent of our sorrows and triumphs, and no one was there in that secret place where our hearts, souls, and spirits connected with Christ in the moment He called to us and we heard Him.
Remember that moment? Take a minute to write down a few details about that moment. Stop and do it now. It’s important.
Remember where you were? Did He give you a verse to guide you? What words did He whisper to your heart? And has He lead you in amazing ways since then? That private moment between you and God—that is what you have to hang onto. Every minute. Every day. No one else was there. No one else has written words that match the ones you have written above. No one.
Called to the follow
Remember that, dear one, you were called by God—to follow. No one can take that away from you. He has called you, and He will lead. He brought you here. He invited you.
Joseph knew all too well that his brothers would take it upon themselves to question his position, and confuse his calling, so he gently reminded them, “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God” (Genesis 45:8a).
In the midst of opposition, self-doubt, discouragement, in the dark of the night—remember this: God has called us, and He will lead us, if only we will keep our eyes on Him and trust Him to guide our steps—He has never failed us thus far.
Who are we that we should go? We are followers of Jesus Christ, and we go where He leads. We are dancers, stepping backward into an unknown future.
Never take your eyes off the One who called you, dear brothers and sisters.
Sunie Stolhand serves as Pastor at First Church of the Nazarene in Ponca City, Oklahoma.