The Work: Every Church on Mission

“They had turned inward,” the pastor said with regret.  As I gathered with a group of pastors, AMSs, and church leaders from around Kentucky in Cincinnati recently to hear about ways their churches and associations can partner in the Queen City, one pastor in Cincinnati shared an all-too common story about his church.  When he first arrived at his church 15 years ago, the congregation had just completed a building project that increased the seating capacity to about 250 people.  However, when the pastor arrived at the church there were only about 30 people attending. 

“What happened?” one of our Kentucky pastors asked with curiosity.  The pastor went on to explain, “They had turned inward.  In fact, I discovered as I got to know the community that the people who lived here did not even know that this was a church.”  As I have reflected on this conversation with the pastor, I wonder how this can even happen.  The short answer, as described by the pastor, is that churches turn inward. 

In other words, we forget the work to which the Holy Spirit calls each church. What is that work?  To find that answer we turn our attention briefly to Acts 13.  Perhaps the second most influential church in the New Testament next to Jerusalem is Antioch, located about 300 miles north of Jerusalem near the Mediterranean Sea.  The church at Antioch was a mission-sending, mission-participating congregation.  The DNA of this first-century church flowed with making disciples of all nations.  From the outpost of Antioch, the Holy Spirit sent out Barnabas and Saul (Paul) on what we refer to as Paul’s missionary journeys (Acts 13:1-3). 

Notably, this church places a premium on worshipping and seeking the Lord (Acts 13:2), which is key for a church in avoiding the trap of an inward focus.  While the church of Antioch is filled with robust leaders—Barnabas, Simeon (Niger), Lucius, Manaen, and Saul, the Holy Spirit says, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul to the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2).

But what was “the work” to which the Holy Spirit had called them?  If Acts 1:8 is the theme of the book, then our answer lies within that passage.  In short, Jesus calls the apostles to make disciples of all nations in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.  This work of disciple making to which Jesus calls the apostles is extended to the church as we see the gospel spread from Jerusalem and beyond. In essence, disciple-making involves reaching the unreached and discipling the reached.

The Missions Mobilization Team is excited to help each KBC church do the work to which the Holy Spirit has called them with a new Fall 2022 initiative called Every Church On Mission (ECOM).  This initiative seeks to help each KBC church identify their unique role in the Great Commission, equip members to live out their role in the Great Commission, send members to fulfill the Great Commission locally and globally, and care for those who are sent both locally and globally.  For each of these four elements there are assessment questions and recommended resources.  The goal of this initiative is to help churches focus on the work of making disciples locally and globally, while avoiding the trap of turning inward and forgetting the work to which we are called.  Learn more about ECOM at kybaptist.org/ecom. 

The work of the church at Antioch is our work.  The work of all churches is to make disciples of all nations among whomever we can and wherever we are.  Some recent gospel “workers” serving in another country had to leave their place of work for another place of work.  In reflection about that move, they affirmed, “God called us for the work, not for a place or a people.  He called us for the work to ‘make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19).  Whatever changes we may experience in the world or in our life, and wherever we may find ourselves to be, may we do the work God has called us to do!”

More Than Optimism

The time has finally arrived. The long drought is almost over.  Fall is just around the corner.  In fact, you can almost feel it in the air as the temperature and humidity have dropped in recent days.  No, I am not referring to the arrival of pumpkin spice latte or even pumpkin bread or pumpkin pie (though either of those latter two are welcome). 

As always, at this time of year, fans of college football are optimistic, as they envision their favorite team’s mission to accomplish a championship season.  Tennessee Vol fans are no different.  I know, I know.  I live in Wildcat and even Cardinal country, but Vol fans are everywhere.  And we are optimistic, perhaps more than we have been in a long time.

I realize that this is where Bama and even Bulldog fans (sorry but I am unbiased that the SEC is the best conference in college football) begin to laugh at my optimism.  But lest these two and other teams forget, TN has been a top-tier SEC football program for a long time.  I realize it’s been a minute since that were so, but as the saying goes, “There is always next year.”  Well, next year has arrived with the kick-off of college football unofficially this weekend and officially next weekend.

I do realize that my optimism has been unrealized for more than a dozen years now.  Yet, I am (pretty) confident that the tide is changing.  While it’s always fun to dream and talk about how “next year” is going to be the turnaround we have been waiting for, when it comes to God’s mission I do not rest in a kind-of-confidence, but in a certain expectation.

Unlike the success of our favorite college football team, the success of God’s mission is not a whimsical wish.  We are not hoping that circumstances will change, and our team will accomplish the unimaginable against all odds.  Rather, we know that God wins, and His mission will not be thwarted.  

We have read the end of the story.  John the revelator describes the victory of God in Revelation 7:9: “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands, and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”

God wins.  What is amazing is that God uses His people to accomplish His mission through the church, the mission to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:16-20).  No need to speculate; no need to predict what will happen.  God’s mission is certain.  How will God use your church to accomplish His certain victory?  The Missions Mobilization Team is ready to help your church discover how to join in God’s victory to make disciples of all nations. And that is no mere speculation or wishful optimism!

The Work

The day of Stephen’s death was the day that a “great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1).  As the first known martyr of the Christian church, God used the “blood of martyrs as the seed for the church” (Tertullian).  As persecution spread, so too, did the early church and the gospel with them. The gospel spread north and eventually west of Jerusalem, lodging powerfully in the city of Antioch (Acts 11:19-26).  It is in this city that the disciples of Jesus were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).

IMB photo.

Perhaps the second most influential church in the New Testament next to Jerusalem is Antioch, located about 300 miles north of Jerusalem near the Mediterranean Sea.  The church at Antioch was a mission-sending, mission-participating congregation.  The DNA of this first-century church flowed with making disciples of all nations.  From the outpost of Antioch, the Holy Spirit sent out Barnabas and Saul (Paul) on what we refer to as Paul’s missionary journeys (Acts 13:1-3). 

Notably, this church places a premium on worshipping and seeking the Lord (Acts 13:2).  While the church of Antioch is filled with robust leaders—Barnabas, Simeon (Niger), Lucius, Manaen, and Saul, the Holy Spirit says, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul to the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2).

But what was “the work” to which the Holy Spirit had called them?  If Acts 1:8 is the theme of the book, then our answer lies within that passage.  In short, Jesus calls the apostles to make disciples of all nations in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.  This work of disciple making to which Jesus calls the apostles is extended to the church as we see the gospel spread from Jerusalem and beyond.

Their work is our work.  The work of all churches is to make disciples of all nations among whomever we can and wherever we are.  Some recent gospel “workers” serving in another country had to leave their place of work for another place of work.  In reflection about that move, they affirmed, “God called us for the work, not for a place or a people.  He called us for the work to ‘make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19).  Whatever changes we may experience in the world or in our life, and wherever we may find ourselves to be, may we do the work God has called us to do!”   

IMB photo

The church at Antioch understood the work God had called them to—that of making disciples locally and globally.  This work is not easy work, and at times, our location of the work and the people to whom we are working among will change, but the work remains the same.  We are to work at making disciples of all peoples wherever and to whomever God sends us.  May the DNA of the church at Antioch be in us all, until our work on earth is done.      

Establish Healthy Churches

From time to time as I help churches develop their missions strategy that inevitably should involve church planting, the question is asked: “Do we need more new churches or for our existing churches to become healthier? The answer is simple. Yes! We need both. While I have written about the need for church planting, I want to focus on the importance of how the establishment of healthy churches also involves ensuring that our existing churches become healthier.

IMB Photo

Along with planting new churches, establishing churches involves discipling existing churches.  Establishing churches is not a decision about whether we need new churches planted or existing churches strengthened.  We need both.  Discipleship must be intentional, or it will not occur.  Followers of Jesus need to be taught scripture reading, doctrine, prayer, evangelism, church membership, fasting, missions, parenting, biblical view of work, ethics and so much more. In other words, each church must have a robust and intentional method of discipling their own people from the youngest to the oldest – from the cradle to the grave – with the word of God.

Churches must ensure that disciples are being formed within their congregations. Paul reminds the church at Colossae that the goal of every church is to proclaim Jesus by “admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete (mature) in Christ” (Col 1:28).  Similarly, Jesus instructed his first-century followers on that Galilean Mountain to “teach [all believers] to observe all that [he] commanded [us]” (Matt 28:20).  Ultimately, we are after the transformation of lives rather than simply the preservation of information.  Jesus and Paul are concerned with disciples living out the teaching of Scripture and not simply knowing the teaching of Scripture. 

So, what might a transformed disciple look like?  The IMB speaks of 6 marks of a disciple (Foundations, IMB).  In other words, every church’s goal is to see every Jesus follower mature by the transformation of the word in these areas of their life:

  • transformed heart- being born again with a new heart
  • transformed mind- being renewed in our minds
  • transformed affections- being led with godly desires/affections
  • transformed will- being obedient in what we do
  • transformed relationships- being reconciled with others because of Jesus
  • transformed purpose- being engaged in God’s mission

In essence, then, establishing healthy churches involves the holistic transformation of each disciple in every aspect of their life—heart, mind, affections, will, relationships, and purpose. 

Further, disciples transformed by the gospel will contribute to overall healthy church formation.  But what does a healthy church look like?  Helpful in this conversation is the IMB’s 12 Characteristics of a Healthy Church (Foundations, IMB).

  1. Biblical evangelism
  2. Biblical discipleship
  3. Biblical membership
  4. Biblical leadership
  5. Biblical preaching and teaching
  6. Biblical ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper
  7. Biblical worship
  8. Biblical fellowship
  9. Biblical prayer
  10. Biblical accountability and discipline
  11. Biblical giving
  12. Biblical mission

What plans does your church have in place to ensure that all believers are taught not simply to know the Bible, but to live [observe] the Bible?  How is your church ensuring its ongoing healthy growth by intentionally focusing on these 12 characteristics?  Where might your church be strong in these 12 characteristics and where might your church be weak? What steps can you take to shore up weaknesses and reinforce strengths? After all, our the goal is not simply for a church to exist, but for healthy church existence. And that, as we know, takes intentionality.  

Information or Transformation?

When Jesus offers those famous final words to his disciples on that mountaintop in Galilee, he has the end goal in mind—transformation, that is, mature disciples.  Jesus’s command in the Great Commission is to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19).  The goal of the Great Commission is faithful Jesus followers.  Where the gospels end with the story of Jesus, the book of Acts begins.  Acts is the story of how Jesus’s commission is to be carried out among all nations through the local church.  Churches not only plant churches in Acts to fulfill His mission, but churches are also concerned with maturing as a church by “teaching [disciples] to observe [do] all that Jesus commanded” (Matt 28:20).      

Discipleship must be intentional, or it will not occur.  Followers of Jesus need to be taught scripture reading, doctrine, prayer, evangelism, church membership, fasting, missions, parenting, biblical view of work, ethics and so much more. In other words, each church must have a robust and intentional method of discipling their own people from the youngest to the oldest – from the cradle to the grave with the Word of God.

Churches must ensure that disciples are being formed within their congregation. Paul reminds the church at Colossae that the goal of every church is to proclaim Jesus by “admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete (mature) in Christ” (Col 1:28).  The Great Commission is not simply about forming converts but forming mature disciples. How can we know if a person is becoming a mature disciple?  

The International Mission Board (IMB) is helpful by speaking of 6 marks of a disciple (Foundations, IMB).  In other words, every church’s goal is to see every Jesus follower mature by the transformation of the word in these areas of their life:

  • transformed heart- being born again with a new heart
  • transformed mind- being renewed in our minds
  • transformed affections- being led with godly desires/affections
  • transformed will- being obedient in what we do
  • transformed relationships- being reconciled with others because of Jesus
  • transformed purpose- being engaged in God’s mission

In essence, then, the Great Commission involves the holistic transformation of each disciple in every aspect of their life—heart, mind, affections, will, relationships, and purpose in the context of the local church. 

Further, disciples transformed by the gospel will contribute to overall healthy church formation.  When disciples of Jesus in the context of the local church are becoming more mature in Christ, that local church becomes healthier.  But what does a healthy church look like?  Again, helpful in this conversation is the IMB’s 12 Characteristics of a Healthy Church (Foundations, IMB).

  1. Biblical evangelism
  2. Biblical discipleship
  3. Biblical membership
  4. Biblical leadership
  5. Biblical preaching and teaching
  6. Biblical ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper
  7. Biblical worship
  8. Biblical fellowship
  9. Biblical prayer
  10. Biblical accountability and discipline
  11. Biblical    

Is your church intentionally working toward these 12 characteristics which will both mature the disciples and the church?  What plans does your church have in place to ensure that all believers are taught not simply to know the Bible, but to live [observe] the Bible?   After all, those famous last words on the mountain with Jesus are meant for our transformation and not simply our information.

The Mission Continues

As Jesus gathers with his disciples on that Galilean Mountain for a final time, what would he say to them?  Would he say, “It’s been fun. Thanks for the memories.”?  Or maybe, “I will miss you. Hang in there.”  Of course not.  As the disciples see Jesus, they are mixed with worship and worry (Matt 28:17).

In that moment, Jesus says, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:18-20).

The change in circumstances for the disciples did not change their mission – make disciples of all nations. In fact, it propelled it.  The mission of Jesus is to continue through the disciples of Jesus.  The work is just getting started, he tells his disciples.  Instead of sitting back in fear of what just happened or what might happen, the disciples are given their mission and assured of Jesus’ ongoing presence. 

The circumstances surrounding the last weeks of Jesus’ life on earth did not deter the mission; rather, it gives fuel for the mission.  Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is the basis for the mission he gives his disciples.  Though the disciples are long gone and with the Lord now, the mission he gave them on that mountaintop remains.  The mission continues, as Jesus promises his presence to all who live out this mission (Matt 28:20). 

Jesus insists, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20).  Quite literally, Jesus says that he is with us “all the days, even to the end of the age.”  His presence is promised to us as we continue the mission.  Seasons and circumstances change, but the mission marches on as Jesus promises to be with us. 

Whether in pandemics, wars or the like, the mission of Jesus continues until the “end of the age.”  The Lord’s church must find ways to stay on mission locally and globally regardless of the circumstances.  Your church plays a vital role in the mission given to us by Jesus.  How will you ensure that the mission continues across the street and across the sea regardless of the circumstances?  The Missions Mobilization Team is here to help you do just that, to continue the mission of Jesus.        

Throw a Lifeline

Years ago, while speaking at a youth camp in Daytona Beach, FL, myself and several others were caught in a dangerous undertow while attempting to give assistance to a teenager struggling in the choppy Atlantic waters.  Thinking that I was swimming over to help a teenage boy in need, I found myself needing help.  Before I realized it, lifeguards filled the sandy beach, along with firetrucks and ambulances.  All the while, one lifeguard swam against the undertow to rescue myself and a few others who were in danger of drowning. 

Clinging to his buoy, he instructed us to kick as we tried to swim parallel with the beach in order to eventually swim out of the undertow.  Unfortunately, we did not make any progress.  The waves continued to pull us further away from shore.  We were struggling to hang on and stay afloat.  That’s when everything changed.  One by one, other lifeguards entered the water, stretching out their buoys until they formed a human lifeline to reach us and pull us to the safety of the beach.        

Those in the waves of gospel ministry can relate to this story all too well.  They answer the call from God to go and help those struggling in the waters of life.  Yet often they find themselves in need of help.  Missions specifically and ministry in general is not for the faint of heart.  One need only review the apostle Paul’s “resume” to realize such is the case. 

He describes his own experience, “Apart from such external things [beatings, ship wrecks and fleeing], there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:24-25, 28).  No wonder why God assured Paul that no harm would come to him while he was in Corinth (Acts 18:9-11). Paul faced both external opposition to the gospel and internal pressure for the care of the church. 

Bottom line: ministry is filled with both physically demanding and emotionally draining work.  Gospel work is hard work.    

It is no wonder why Paul, in his prison letter to Timothy, reminds the young pastor, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).  Ministry can be brutal both to the body and the mind.  Timothy needed to be encouraged to continue in the work that God had called him to.

Today is no different.  When it comes to the Great Commission, encouragement for missionaries and those who labor for the gospel is vital for their longevity.  Because doing the work of ministry involves external opposition and internal pressure, finding ways to throw our co-laborers a lifeline is essential for their survival.   

The church can play a vital role in lifeline ministry to missionaries and gospel workers.  While ministers of the gospel grow weary, churches that embrace a culture of encouragement among those on the frontlines provide real endurance for those struggling to run the race well. 

As I meet with pastors, church planters, and missionaries all over North American and internationally, the common theme I hear from them is that we have no idea what it means to them when they receive a card, message, package, phone call, or visit. 

Paul knew this well.   After all, after planting churches, he made rounds back to those same churches “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith” (Acts 14:22).  You never know what a call, card, text, package, visit or just ongoing communication with a pastor, church planter, or missionary will do to help them “continue in the faith.”  It quite literally is a lifeline to them!

Lessons from COVID for Short-term Missions

Coronavirus

Two years ago, no one imagined that we would still be dealing with COVID-19 in 2022. We will wade through this virus and by the summer the world will be back to normal, so we thought.  Well, that didn’t go exactly as we had hoped.  Two years later, we are still dealing with the virus, as we are learning ways to navigate in a world with it.  While we may not yet have a new normal, we certainly are not shutdown like we were in early 2020.  As we think about churches continuing to support the work of missionaries through short-term missions, there are some lessons we can glean from the last two years. 

  • The mission of God is not thwarted by a virus nor by anything or anyone else.  Nothing will stop the advancement of the gospel, even when the world apparently shuts down.  Jesus said, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell will not overpower it” (Matt 16:18).
  • Encouragement of missionaries on the field has perhaps never been more necessary (at least in my lifetime).  We all find ourselves in need of encouragement as the demands and challenges of life in a fallen world press on us.  Paul’s church planting pattern involved circling back to churches he planted to “strengthen the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith…” (Acts 14:22).  While Covid is still front-and-center, many other issues compound the challenges of ministry, especially cross-culturally.  The pressure cooker of today’s realities requires churches to provide intentional encouragement to help sustain field personnel across the globe.   
  • Hitting a moving target is never easy.  Let’s face it, data and policies seem to change weekly related to Covid.  Expecting these unexpected changes will aid the short-term mission team in staying focused on the mission rather than the obstacles.  For Paul, Roman imprisonment did not derail his plans for gospel advancement (Acts 28:30-31).
  • Since we are dealing with a moving target, stay up on current Covid information.  Short-term mission teams will need to research Covid requirements for their travel locations.  Even connecting flights, particularly in other countries, may require something different than the team’s destination city or country.  CDC provides information related to the virus (http://cdc.gov).  To find up-to-date info about travel in particular countries, search “US embassy and consulates in ________ (name of country).”  Then simply select the information about Covid-19.
  • Flexibility is still the 11th commandment in short-term missions.  “Thou shalt be flexible,” says the short-term mission team leader to his team.  Covid does not lessen the discomforts of crossing communities, countries, and cultures; it enlarges them.  God does not become frustrated over challenging circumstances, whether Covid or the like. He is sovereign over them.  While describing the glorious salvation of God’s people, Paul reiterates that God works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11).  God’s sovereignty is not meant to be a topic of theological debate.  It’s meant to be a comfort for our lack of sovereign control.  This truth is not just for our salvation, but for all of life, even short-term missions. Thus, be flexible as God is moving the pieces of the puzzle as He sees fit for your short-term mission team. 

While COVID-19 remains active, the gospel of Jesus marches on.  Short-term missions can still be part of God’s plan to engage communities, cities, and countries around the world with the good news of Jesus.  Don’t allow Covid to derail your church’s mission involvement.  Rather, trust God as He is working, and then adjust and plan accordingly.                     

Lottie’s Letters

IMB, Portrait of Lottie Moon, 1873.

Charlotte Digges Moon was born on December 12, 1840, in Albemarie County, Virginia.  Southern Baptists know her as Lottie Moon (information about Lottie and global stats taken from imb.org).  She served the people of China with the gospel for nearly 40 years.  She became a follower of Jesus in 1858, and at the age of 32 left her home for China where she would sacrifice her time and life for the sake of reaching the Chinese with the gospel of Jesus.  She, more than any, realized that the task was too great to reach the 472 million Chinese in her day, thus more people were needed to bring the gospel to China.

She would write many letters back home urging Southern Baptists to give and pray, but to also consider going.  For those new missionaries being sent through the Foreign Mission Board (International Mission Board today), she urged the FMB to instruct them that they were “coming to a life of hardship, responsibility and constant self-denial. . . . Let them come ‘rejoicing to suffer’ for the sake of that Lord and Master who freely gave his life for them.”

Years of Lottie letters prompted Southern Baptist women to organize and collect $3,315 to send missionaries to China.  In 1918, Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) named the annual Christmas offering for international missions after Lottie.  Today, the goal of this international missions offering named in her honor is $185 million.  Since the inception of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, Southern Baptists have given over $5 billion dollars to international missions. 

Lottie discovered in the 1800s that it takes all of us doing our part to reach the unreached with the gospel.  We need churches praying, giving, and sending.  Because Southern Baptists have taken Lottie’s charge for mission cooperation seriously, in 2020 there were 18,380 new churches planted; 144,322 new believers; 769,494 gospel conversations; 127,155 leaders trained, to name just a few ways in which our collective efforts are impacting the nations. 

Lottie was never one to shy away with her words.  On November 1, 1873, she would write: “A young man should ask himself not if it is his duty to go to the heathen, but if he may dare stay at home.  The command is so plan: ‘Go.’”  Let Lottie’s words on November 11, 1878, in Pingtu, sink deep in your heart:

“Oh! That my words could be as a trumpet call, stirring the hearts of my brethren and sisters to pray, to labor, to give themselves to this people. … We are now, a very, very few feeble workers, scattering the grain broadcast according as time and strength permit. God will give the harvest; doubt it not. But the laborers are so few. Where we have four, we should have not less than one hundred. Are these wild words? They would not seem so were the church of God awake to her high privilege and her weighty responsibilities.”

(imb.org)

Lottie’s letters still echo today. God continues to use her life to compel others to pray fervently, give sacrificially, and go boldly.  As the world population exceeds 7.8 billion people with at least 4.7 billion unreached with the gospel, what part will you play in assuring that the gospel continues to advance? 

May we share in Lottie’s unprecedented concern and do our part, as we hear her once again say, “The needs of these people press upon my soul, and I cannot be silent. It is grievous to think of these human souls going down to death without even one opportunity of hearing the name of Jesus.”

Is it really a fork?

Years ago, while following my handy-dandy, trusty GPS late one foggy night on a KY backroad, the path split.  The GPS told me to go in one direction, but my “gut” said go the other.  I followed my GPS.  After winding through the narrow road, which seemed to get narrower and foggier as I drove, the directions from my GPS eventually led me to a metal gate at the entrance of a cow field.  In newfound wisdom, I thought to myself, “This GPS is wrong.”  Lesson learned: never assume your GPS is always right. 

We have all found ourselves at the proverbial “fork in the road,” when a decision needs to be made but we have more than one option.  How do we know the will of God when facing decisions in life?  Do we simply follow our GPS?  Could it be that we flip a coin?  Or maybe we just go with our “gut” feeling. There actually is a better option.  Scripture is not silent about these “forks in the road.”    

The wisdom of King Solomon offers us guidance when facing decisions in life.  He urges, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NASB).  I am afraid that all too often we make the “will of God” out to be some mystery that He hides from us, only revealing it to us if we say or do the right things—that is, pick the correct fork in the road.   

To trust in the Lord with all our hearts and not lean on our own understanding and acknowledge Him in all our ways is another way of saying, “walk faithfully with God.”  God’s promise for a straight path—a successful, agreeable, right path, is only after we are careful to trust in Him.  God’s greatest concern in our lives is not whether we buy this car or that car, whether we move here or there, or take this job or that job.  Rather, God’s greatest concern is that we fully rely on Him, that we live our lives in submission to Him. 

God is after our lives, not simply the decisions we make with our lives.  He wants us wholly devoted to Him, and in being so, He will make our paths straight. In other words, God is more concerned about the journey along the path than He is the particular choice on the path.  Lesson learned: let’s not be as focused on the “fork in the road” as we are on His work in our lives along the road.  It’s a journey along the path more than it is a “fork in the road.”