We all have had to make big decisions in life! Job changes, ministry opportunities, relocation possibilities, education choices, and the like. Sometimes we make these big decisions knowing it is the right time and we are excited to tackle a new opportunity or challenge but oftentimes we make them simply because we want to “escape” our present circumstances. If you have ever made a big decision primarily because you wanted to get out of the situation you were presently in or maybe found yourself rethinking your decision because nothing changed except your surroundings, then this blog is for you. As Christians we know we should make decisions after hearing from God through His Word and Spirit but if we are honest we make many decisions for the wrong reasons.
Or perhaps I am the only one who has made a decision to move on because I was miserable in the place I was at and just wanted to get away. When situations are difficult, unfulfilling, unproductive, when things do not turn out the way I thought they would, and I am tired, weary, and frustrated, I am apt to entertain other options. But the Lord has been teaching me to make decisions concerning moving on to new things because of victory not failure. It is His desire for us to leave places having sown great seed and leaving a harvest for others just as we will have the joy of reaping what others have sown in our new assignments should it be His choice to relocate us. But please do not misunderstand me because I am not saying we should always stay somewhere no matter how painful and unproductive it might be. I am saying it is far better for us to leave a place with a sense of accomplishment than a sense of heaviness and failure. His desire is for us to finish strong in Him.
We should examine the condition of our heart and motives when making big decisions to make sure we are thinking as kingdom minded people. Sometimes we have to get over the thought that our lives are all about us. No matter what we do in life, it really is all about Jesus and how we allow Him to position us for His kingdom’s sake. God would have us move on to new things after we have accomplished all He designed for us to do in a particular situation because His plans and thoughts are always of peace toward us and includes prospering, not evil or harm, giving us hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11) My husband and I have an unwritten rule: Always leave a place better than you found it, meaning if we rent or borrow something we make sure it is cleaner and neater when we are finished than before. I think this rule can apply to moving on from jobs, ministries, or education and relocation decisions as well. When we face the possibility of moving on we should ask ourselves these important questions, “Are we leaving it better than we found it? Have we finished our God-given tasks at this place? Do we know and believe God is opening doors for us as well as the people left behind? Am I leaving healthy or defeated? Have I deposited and invested His life and hope in this place? Or am I running away?”
I overheard a story about a bull fighter who suffered two broken necks while protecting bull riders but he wanted to get in the ring one more time. I thought this man was insane, selfish, prideful, and definitely lacking good judgment, but then he explained his reasoning. He felt the need to get in the ring once more in order to prove he could, otherwise whenever he looked at a bull he would know it beat him. Whether or not I agreed with his risky conclusion, the Spirit of God spoke to me at that moment, saying this is the very reason we need to overcome before leaving a less than perfect situation. If we are escaping for any other reason than God is moving us on, whenever we look back we will know something or someone beat us. More importantly we will not learn what God is teaching and growing in us and we may find ourselves “retesting” in the next place. He gave me an example from my own life.
I was a head volleyball coach at a small town high school. Though our win-loss record was one of the best in program history we still lost many more than we won. The parents felt their daughters were more talented than our record reflected therefore decided our lack of success was due to my poor coaching. So after my fourth season the parents filed a petition with the athletic director, principal, and superintendent of schools to have me fired. I can assure you this was a huge blow to my ego. And if you have ever lived in a small town you can probably imagine the attention this situation garnered.
I was mortified and deeply humiliated by this petition which not only asked for my removal but also attacked my character. I submitted my resignation immediately, cried for days, and determined never to coach again even though the support from school personnel was unwavering with no intentions of firing me. The athletic director, principal, superintendent, and other coaches encouraged me to stay with the assurance they would stand with me.
Unfortunately, I was defeated before I even considered fighting. Though I had enjoyed the challenges of coaching as well as mentoring young women I was left with a feeling of shame and failure, fearing the thought of ever seeing the girls or parents again. Sure… I wanted to defend myself and tell the parents how much I cared about their daughters to the point of sacrificing my own children to spend time helping their daughters through personal issues; comforting them when a friend was killed in a homecoming car accident; holding them accountable for profanity and unhealthy lifestyles; teaching life lessons through volleyball in regards to dedication, hard work, and helping them be physically, emotionally, and spiritually fit. But…I had no fight in me and felt my defense sounded weak and prideful. I was hurt by the parents and I felt God had not protected or defended me. All I wanted to do was run and hide and that is just what I did!
So when I heard the bull fighter’s reason for going back one more time the Lord showed me what happened when I chose “not” to go back leaving defeated instead of victorious. Every time I thought of coaching volleyball I remembered the petition and knew I had lost. I lost confidence in my ability to coach, to relate to young people, to mentor young women, and to be a leader. By running away I did succeed in escaping a bad situation but I did not escape losing the things that were gifts from God to me. If I would have stayed and got back out there one more time, I might still have left the position eventually but I would not have lost as much as I did for as long as I did if I had stood in the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Instead, I allowed the wounds to fester, let my confidence plummet, and lived as a victim for another two years. Then a friend asked me to be her assistant volleyball coach at another high school. Initially, I balked at her invitation but felt that gentle nudge by Holy Spirit to apply. I was honest with the athletic director about my previous position along with the parent’s petition, as much out of fear that he might have heard rumors as a desire to give him the option of not considering me for the position. In fact, because of my lack of confidence, I gave him every possible reason why he should not hire me, but in the end God had different plans, I was hired and coached there for two years.
At the time, I did not comprehend the extent of God’s redemption and healing but looking back I marvel at His love, wisdom, and willingness to let me fall and stay down for two years in order that I might reach out to Him and succeed. You see, He will not force us to reach out to Him but He never leaves us. Jeremiah 29:12-13 continue to reveal our response when we believe His plans are to prosper and give us hope and a future. “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” He knows His thoughts and plans for us so the question remains, do we believe Him? When the petition came that dark day I did not believe God. But the day I went back onto the volleyball court as a coach I was calling out to God, seeking Him, believing He had good plans for me and I would never again look back and believe I was beaten by parents. By going back and confronting the “issues” rather than staying in hiding God redeemed my confidence, healed my hurts, and restored my ability to lead.
Notice that Jesus did not just nurse my wounds and say “There, there Julie. I will deal with those bad people. I will never put you in a situation like that again.” God had something to teach me so when I was ready to listen, He put me right back in a place where I would need to confront the very things that had stolen my confidence. He would be with me, but I had to do the walking. The Lord has shown me other “snapshots” of my life and how I made decisions about school, relationships, jobs, and ministry. The pervading message He has for me and hopefully you as well is every time we run away to something new in order to escape bad situations He will make us “retest” at the next place. He expects us to leave a place better than we find it. Jesus always did! He expects no less from us. With this revelation in mind we can make life decisions out of victory not out of defeat.
Jesus said in John 4:34 “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” Father God never said it would be easy, or that there would not be mean people, or that we would not experience failure in the midst of His work. But Jesus set the standard – do His will and finish His work. Very often we experience our own insufficiency, focusing on our failures in determining when it is time to move on. Beloved, just like Jesus, our food is to DO the will of our heavenly Father and finish that work in every place we find ourselves. This section of Scripture speaks of sowing and reaping and our need to do what we are called to do because the harvest is ripe for picking. We must all complete our task so that we might rejoice together. Let us be people who accomplish His work, finding ourselves completely in Him as we sow and leave places better than we found them, and …when we move on we might just reap the faithfulness of others who likewise finished the work put before them.
When we live with a kingdom mentality, we see our placement in jobs, ministry, and relationships in terms of His Kingdom and will. We come to understand our role and the need for us to be faithful to the work set before us by God. We begin to embrace our responsibility for faithfulness to God in the midst of persecution, failure, barrenness, and insufficiency. We understand there is a greater purpose for where we find ourselves, and we desire to sow great seed in order for others to reap. John 4 goes on to say in verses 37 & 38 “One sows and another reaps. I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.”
You see, the jobs and ministries we occupy here on earth are just snapshots of an intense, monumental drama unfolding daily. When we see ourselves as part of “His-story”, we no longer desire to escape from one thing to another but we desire to accomplish what He pleases, and then perhaps we are given opportunity to move on to something new. We should be faithful to continue to sow until such time as He determines we shall reap. This keeps us in a continual state of humility and dependence on God! The next time you have a big decision to make, ask yourself the really important questions! He will answer and give direction! We will live victoriously knowing we are part of His big plan!