This month marks seven years since the IBSA Board invited me to return to Illinois to serve our churches here. At the time, the most difficult thing about saying yes to that invitation was the ages of our sons. Two were in high school, and one was about to enter his senior year.
One of the teenage daughters of an IBSA staff member later told me, “I remember praying especially for Caleb as soon as I heard that you were moving here for his senior year of high school. I remember thinking how hard that would be for him, and I wondered how you could do it.”
Following the Lord’s leading often involves uncomfortable change, risk, and even sacrifice. It’s hard to face those things without faith. And when our own frail faith requires that those we love also change, risk and sacrifice, well, that seems to require even more faith.
In Exodus 33, Moses pleaded with God not to ask him and his people to leave where they were without the assurance that God was personally going with them. They were comfortable, and they felt safe and secure, even though they were really just camped in a desert that God never intended to be their permanent home.
Again and again that seems to be God’s pattern, in the Bible, and in our lives too. Don’t grow comfortable where you are; it was never meant to be permanent. God is leading you to follow His purposes somewhere else. It will seem risky, even dangerous. It may cost you something initially. In fact, the sacrifice may seem great. But don’t make the mistake of staying. Trust Him. He will go with you. If you stay, you may dry up.
Sometimes I see a pastor, or another visionary leader in a church, recognize that God wants to take them to a new place as a church. They see how God is moving or wants to move in their community, to reach people with the Gospel and make new disciples. And with some discomfort, they realize that staying as they are, while comfortable, is not following God by faith to the lost people of their community.
My encouragement to you today is to embrace the change, take the risk, and make the sacrifice. The God who is calling you to trust Him and risk doing something different is faithful. He will go with you, and He has something wonderful on the other side of your sacrifice. In fact Hebrews 11:6 tells us that not only is it impossible to please God without faith, but that He rewards those who earnestly trust Him.
Seven years later, that son whose dad moved him to a new school for his senior year says that was his favorite year of high school. That son who was far from God at the time, beyond his dad’s ability to persuade him, has surrendered his life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And that teenage girl who prayed for him without even knowing him is his fiancée.
Through a few years of discomfort, and occasional questioning, we trusted that God would eventually make the move to Illinois good for Caleb too. So when I pronounce him and Laura husband and wife in a few days, my smile will have behind it more than just joy at their union. Mine will be the smile of a dad seeing the faithfulness of God playing out before his very eyes. It will encourage me to trust Him again and again, whatever He asks. And it will encourage me to urge pastors and leaders and churches everywhere that they can trust Him too.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.