No Turning Back

Philippians 3:13-14, Uncontainable Musings, Mt.Pulag,

Unconventional Calling

In January 2019, I reconnected with my Christian community. I was excited to share with my friends everything God told me. But the moment I met with someone, the Lord warned me to prepare my heart for the unexpected. I thought being away for a year and a month was a very long time but maybe it isn’t because a lot hasn’t changed. I found myself back to the same situation as I was in 2017.

“Why aren’t you working?”

“You can apply here or there.”

“Until when do you plan to be unemployed?”

“So how do you provide for your needs?”

“Even Paul was a tentmaker.”

“Single women shouldn’t leave their job.”

“How about your responsibility to provide for yourself?”

“Why are you depending on your family?”

“You’re burdening your family.”

When the apostles left their profession, they had Jesus in the flesh with them. Most Christians who left their profession to follow God’s call for their lives are in exchange employed either in a church or a Christian organization. Missionaries raise support from a church or a missions organization, while others are employed to support themselves, just like the Apostle Paul who was a tent maker (where the Christian term “tentmaking/tentmaker” came from). Wives who left their careers to be the primary caregiver of their children have their husband to provide for them, but they also get their share of disapproval from the world.

None of these is the case with me. I’m a single woman who quit her job to bear witness for Christ through writing. I’m not employed in any institution or organization. I don’t have a business and I don’t intend to venture on one. I no longer have any form of income that would sustain me. I’m not paid to write and I don’t intend to monetize this blog nor receive any form of donation from anyone. In a literal sense, I work alone and I work for free. I know; I live a pathetic life. 😁

Some may reason we can evangelize in the workplace so why choose “unemployment”? Or I can continue working and write in my spare time. My motive is right but the means is foolish. This is the root of their disapproval: Who do I expect to provide for myself if I quit my job? Do I intend on burdening my family for the rest of my life? God’s calling for my life is unconventional. Others may call it impractical or even irresponsible which should clearly show it’s contrary to God’s will. These are reasonable arguments nonetheless focuses only on man’s strengths and limitations, not on God’s power. And responding “the Lord provides” would be taken either as blind faith or presuming on God despite all the evidence from God’s Word.

Though their words won’t change my mind, they still affect me. It pains to hear these words not from the world, not even from my own family who has always been supportive of us, but from close friends who profess the same faith. And the most painful is the thought that I’m burdening my family. It isn’t easy for me to obey the Lord in “renouncing” my family to completely follow His call and their words just rubbed salt into the wound.

But I know God won’t lead me to do something only to leave me to my own devices. And indeed He is faithful! It amazes me how He has been blessing me and my family more than before. This is His way of showing me how He generously provides, and how He keeps His promise that He is indeed taking care of my family and I needn’t worry about them. These are constant truths but my perspective was clouded when I was still helping them.

Another unexpected event which made me doubt about a specific task and almost caused a delay in the schedule of the initial post was I never thought that, within my close friends who are leaders in the ministry, no one is ready to share their testimony. I had to persistently ask the most accommodating just to produce the first story. One of the goals of this blog is to encourage believers to boldly share their life story for God’s glory. I was so certain they’d catch the vision. I even imagined they’d also be excited to take part in it because I thought this opportunity is something Christians would take advantage of. It’s not that they’re unwilling. Most are of course willing but don’t have time. They did say they were busy with work, and maybe with ministry and other things too, so maybe a month isn’t enough to write a testimony. I should’ve also considered that they may find it more difficult to write than to speak especially using a foreign language.

These are some experiences that opened my eyes to the realities within a Christian community. I ran back to God crying, “Lord, do you really want me to do it this way? Please talk to me, Lord! Speak to me again. Tell me again. I know that if this is Your will, You can affirm me again. Just speak to me again. I want to hear Your voice.”

(I would like to point out two things. First, this story is known only within my circle of friends in the church, which means this is unknown to the congregation and how my friends responded doesn’t represent our local church as a whole. Second, my purpose is not to malign my Christian friends but to testify about God’s unconventional calling for me and His work in my life which inevitably includes the context of this story, to share the realities I have experienced and learned a lot from, and to serve as part of a lengthier and more incredible story I will be sharing soon. In God’s sovereignty, He allowed these things to happen for His purposes. This would also enable us to understand that everyone is imperfect even Christians; only God is perfect and all of us need Him.)

 

Outrageous Commitment

The Lord spoke to me through the sermon of Pastor Ta Tumu from Mosaic Church, Lloydminster. The passage is about the calling of Elisha recorded in 1 Kings 19:19-21.

19 So Elijah went and found Elisha son of Shaphat plowing a field. There were twelve teams of oxen in the field, and Elisha was plowing with the twelfth team. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak across his shoulders and then walked away. 20 Elisha left the oxen standing there, ran after Elijah, and said to him, “First let me go and kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will go with you!”

Elijah replied, “Go on back, but think about what I have done to you.”

21 So Elisha returned to his oxen and slaughtered them. He used the wood from the plow to build a fire to roast their flesh. He passed around the meat to the townspeople, and they all ate. Then he went with Elijah as his assistant.

So Elijah went and found Elisha son of Shaphat plowing a field. There were twelve teams of oxen in the field, and Elisha was plowing with the twelfth team.  

Elijah was a prophet of God. During those times, God speaks through prophets. They are spokesmen for God; they speak in God’s name and by His authority.

While Elisha was a farmer as he is described plowing a field.

As Elisha was busy plowing the field and was driving the 12th pair of oxen, Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak across his shoulders and then walked away. The cloak is a symbol of Elijah’s calling upon his life and on his ministry as a prophet. Throwing the cloak across Elisha’s shoulder is like saying: “Elisha, God has a job for you, so leave everything you’re doing.” It meant he would be Elijah’s successor.

Elisha left the oxen standing there, ran after Elijah, and said to him, “First let me go and kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will go with you!”

Elijah replied, “Go on back, but think about what I have done to you.”

Elijah didn’t stop Elisha from going back home. He gave Elisha space to make the commitment himself without pressure, without manipulation. He has to decide. 

In the previous post “Counting the Cost of Discipleship”, we studied Luke 9:57-62. There was a would-be disciple who wanted to follow Jesus but asked to go back first and say goodbye to his family to which Jesus replied: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Jesus’ reply reflects the man’s divided heart for God. 

While in this passage we see Elijah allowing Elisha to say goodbye to his family first. So how do we reconcile these two passages? Does it mean Elisha also has a divided heart? Or does it mean Jesus pressured the would-be disciple by replying that way?

First, we need to remember that Jesus is God. He knows the hearts of men and He knew the heart of that would-be disciple, that he has a divided heart. Jesus wanted him to understand the cost of being His disciple: giving a wholehearted commitment. He wanted the carefully thought out, understood commitment of a lifetime. So it was still the man’s decision whether he would follow Jesus on His terms. Through God’s grace, the decision is still ours to make.

It was also Elisha’s decision to make. But Elijah reminded him to think about what he has done to him. So Elisha did go back but what he did afterward reflects his outrageous commitment to God’s calling for his life.

So Elisha returned to his oxen and slaughtered them. He used the wood from the plow to build a fire to roast their flesh. He passed around the meat to the townspeople, and they all ate. Then he went with Elijah as his assistant.

Elisha owned 12 pairs of oxen which shows he probably was a wealthy person. And wealthy people often got a lot of options and possibilities. But now he’s about to leave all of those and attach himself to a prophet and face a life of opposition, danger, and sacrifice. He chose to leave all of the options back.

A plow is a symbol of identity for a farmer. For somebody who works the field, that was his life. Take away his plow; he’s a nobody. That’s how important the plow is for a farmer. But Elisha used the wood from his plow to build a fire to roast his oxen, which were also part of his life as a farmer.

What he did was a defining part of who he is. If there is evidence or a sign of his commitment to follow God’s call for his life, it’s him burning everything that he looks to for his identity, for his security, for his comfort, and for his provision. It’s all included in that plow. Burning that plow is an extraordinary commitment that says: “I am going to do what You (God) say I’m going to do.”

Elijah placed his cloak over Elisha which meant God has called him into ministry. And Elisha is basically saying: “I’m ready for it! I don’t care how hard it gets, how high the cost, I’m not turning back. I cannot go back to my old life. I’ve burned the plow. That way of life is cut off from me. There is no retreat.”

 

No Turning Back 

Pastor Ta’s sermon through the example of Elisha’s outrageous commitment to the Lord fueled me at the time when I was beginning to doubt and was getting discouraged. I’m grateful for the examples of these faithful and committed men of God.

And most of all the example set by Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus, the Son of God, sacrificed Himself on the cross as payment for our sins, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

I shouldn’t allow other people’s response to affect my obedience because it is I whom God commissioned to do this specific task; therefore, I’m the one accountable for it.

“Yes, Lord, I don’t care how hard it gets, how high the cost, how painful the journey; I will follow You completely! I will ‘burn’ everything that I look to for my identity, security, comfort, and provision. I don’t want anything or anyone that would hinder me from doing what You want me to do. And You alone can move me to do this.”

The doors in the workplace are still wide open for me. Opportunities are still there. I can go back whenever I choose to. The experiences and skills I acquired are still a part of me. But I decided to leave all my options behind and chose to live a “pathetic life” for Jesus Christ my Lord. Why? Because Jesus said so, I will. My decision is final. There’s no turning back. I no longer see myself going back. God told me before: “The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.” He already gave me freedom; there’s no point of going back. Regardless of challenges or difficulties, oppositions and discouragements, I cannot see myself doing any other work but this.

Since the time the Lord called me to Himself, I knew I’d be leaving the corporate industry soon. I had been asking the Lord what He wants me to do for the rest of my life but He was silent. So I stayed where I was. I enjoyed my work and my time with friends at the workplace. But at one point, I saw an opportunity and risked changing careers in an effort to find out where God wants me to be.

This is the answer! This is the work God wants me to do for the rest of my life: testifying for Jesus to the whole world until my last breath. And blogging is just the beginning. A preparation for bigger tasks ahead. That’s why it’s imperative I leave everything behind so I can focus on this training.

My eyes are fixed on God’s great promises ahead of me, why should I look back on mundane things behind me? Greater things are yet to come! Indeed, greater things are yet to come. And I wouldn’t let anything or anyone hinder me from seeing and experiencing the full realization of that vision.

I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. Not even looking back.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

 

I Have Decided | Live | Elevation Worship

I have decided to follow Jesus
I have decided to follow Jesus
I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back, no turning back

Though none go with me, I still will follow
Though none go with me, I still will follow
Though none go with me, I still will follow
No turning back, no turning back

Everything all I am
And all I have to bring
I will give to you my everything

I will follow, my heart surrendered
My Jesus I am yours
I will follow, my life in your hands
My Jesus I am yours

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