Feature

Starting Over . . . Again

dlife

By Anonymous

Abram, who eventually became known as Abraham, is a classic study in starting over. Abram’s father, Terah, decided to move his family to Canaan, but on the way, he got distracted: “Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there” (Gen. 11:31).

Consider that for a moment. Abram and all his family settled in Haran (near the border between Turkey and Syria today). For many years they put down roots and contented themselves there.

This, I think, is the first challenge to starting over: Many Christians settle in a place not of God’s calling. Perhaps when they were children or teenagers, God called them to something big, something faith filled, but on the way to their promised land, they put down roots somewhere else. Maybe they settled for a job they knew was not what God wanted. Or maybe they settled for a relationship they knew was not Christ-like. Or perhaps they settled for churches where they could be inconspicuous attenders rather than contributing members. Regardless of the circumstances, many Christians have settled for something far less than what God intended.

The good news is that in just such a scenario, God called Abram. “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you’” (Gen. 12:1). Although Abram was living a comfortable life in Haran and had acquired many possessions, God nevertheless called him to start over. Remember, Abram was already 75 years old. Was this some sort of cosmic joke?

And to where was God calling Abram? This is another challenge to starting over: Abram knew he was to go to Canaan but was given no address.

Years ago our family drove from Skopje, Macedonia, to Istanbul, Turkey, for vacation. Our plan was to stay with our son’s friend. Istanbul was a megacity of more than 12 million, and this was before smart phones and GPS technology. The only direction we had was “the twin towers on the Asian side.” Laughably, at a toll booth we asked where the Asian twin towers were. The two word response: “Stay right.” Those words served as our “map to Canaan.” We drove through incredible traffic and kept taking right-hand forks whenever one presented itself. Miraculously, or should I say providentially, we found the twin towers and the apartment where we were to stay.

I know this challenges some Christians who want all the details before even considering uprooting from their Haran. They need a map with clearly marked signs or landmarks pointing to the final destination. They need a GPS complete with turn-by-turn directions, spoken in a soft, British female voice. And if the device shows locations for hotels, restaurants, places of interest—all the better. In fact, I have heard some well-intentioned believers question another’s call due to a lack of such detailed directions. But in my experience, God rarely provides neat and tidy instructions.

Despite not revealing the exact location, God calls Abram to go. I suspect God has given these same marching orders to other believers, but out of fear, they remain in Haran. They settle.

My wife and I have uprooted multiple times, to six countries and two continents. Arguably, it’s what we do best. Every time, we experienced angst in not knowing what the situation was going to be like. There is fear of the unknown, but at the same time there is a calm assurance in the God who has called us. We know that He will go with us and equip us.

We are in the midst of just such an uprooting. We had “settled” in America, working in a great job coaching the next generation of Alliance workers. For six years we mentored young people and felt confident in our roles. At 58 and 59, respectively, you do not leave salaried positions, warm homes and easy lifestyles, do you? Isn’t this the time to earn as much as you can to prepare for retirement? Isn’t this when you lovingly spoil your grandchildren before handing them back to their mom and dad? Isn’t this the time to enjoy the fruits of your labors? No. Not if God is calling you to Canaan.

And so, we left Haran . . . again. We thought our international days were over, but God called us. And we obeyed. We left three sons and their wives and eight grandchildren. We left a nice home. We left a thriving ministry. Beyond the sense of God’s call, could there be any other reason that would compel us to exchange the familiar for the unfamiliar, the known for the unknown, the comfortable for the uncomfortable? In fact there is: access.

We were living in the United States of America, which probably has the most access to the gospel of any country in the world. There are churches on nearly every corner; Christian bookstores replete with detailed explanations on how to become a believer; Christian radio stations playing 24/7 to encourage, to inspire and to reach out to the lost; Christian outreach centers, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, retirement villages, after-school programs, preschools, day schools, high schools. All enable a person who does not know Christ to hear the truth of the gospel. It is said that if an unbeliever in the United States wanted to know how to have a relationship with Jesus, he would have to knock on six doors until he found someone who could share the gospel.

In my new area of ministry, an unbeliever would need to knock on 30,000 doors! This is why God has called us here; what we take for granted is an anomaly in this part of the world.

Have you ever been denied access? Recently, I was traveling in my region and tried to use my corporate credit card. It was denied. That was frustrating. Currently, I have been trying to get an ATM card for a new bank account overseas. Denied. While these situations are embarrassing, they are not life determining.

There are Americans who are denied access to education because they are poor. Others are denied health care because they don’t have the right insurance. Some are denied good legal representation. Still others are denied adequate housing. These are much more serious examples and yet they pale in comparison to the millions, even billions, of people around the world who are denied access to hearing about Jesus.

In America freedom of religion is a tenet of our society (although it is being sorely tested of late). We tend to assume that since we could go to a church, the rest of the world can also. Wrong. Too many people around the world—and in my region in particular—are, for political or religious reasons, denied the opportunity to hear the truth about Jesus.

This is a prime motivator for me and my wife to leave our Haran and go to our Canaan. It caused us to uproot and become unsettled once again.

Is it worth it? I am reminded of what Paul said in Romans 8:18: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” While in no way do I compare my life to the apostle Paul’s, the sentiment is the same. Whatever inconveniences I go through now, it is for the sake of coming glory that will be radiant on the faces of those who had little or no access being presented faultless before the throne of God when they choose Jesus.

What about you? Are you willing to be unsettled? Are you willing to leave your Haran if God calls you? Do not say it is too late. Abram was 75. I was 59 . . . this time.

Don’t say it is financially impossible. God has promised to do amazing things. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Eph. 3:20–21).

Don’t say you have family obligations or retirement plans or that you would feel uncomfortable. Isn’t reaching people with the gospel worthy of being inconvenienced?

I suspect very few people will hear God’s call to move to this region. But God just might call you to put down the remote control one night a week and spend that time serving those with little or no access to the gospel. Would you give up a night a week to pray for God to send harvesters?

Maybe God wants to unsettle your finances a bit. Trust Him as you give sacrificially to see that others have access to Jesus. Would you listen to the Spirit of God and ask Him what your response should be?

Some of you might need to cross a street or a neighborhood to engage a group of people who have not heard the gospel in their home countries. Our universities and colleges are filled with students from places with little access to Jesus. Perhaps God wants to use you to change that.

Some of you will not be satisfied until you have uprooted, even for a little while, and spent time among those with little or no access. Envision, the short-term ministry office of The Alliance, will receive your application for such a journey.

I am 59 and have heard God’s call to uproot and unsettle so that those without access to the gospel can receive it. Will you join me?


Watch the video!

For more information about Alliance short-term missions ministry, visit weareenvision.com.

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