Just Love In Person
Go!…That’s a command that we see often in the bible. Perhaps not with that punctuation but certainly with that emphasis. Go!
From Jesus’ command to his disciples in Matthew 28:19 to go and make disciples of all nations, to the Lord’s command to Ananias in Acts 9:11-12 to go to Saul of Tarsus, who had been persecuting the believers, and heal him of his blindness, God has always sent his people to do his work using the command, Go!
In some instances, we even see that God built relationships with those whom he chose for his work by commanding them to go. In Genesis 12:1 God came to Abraham for the first time and told him to go from his country, his people, and his father’s house to a land that God would show him. And in Exodus 3:10 God came to Moses for the first time at the burning bush and told him to go to Egypt to deliver the Israelites from bondage. Two of the most important people in the history of our faith—the history of the world—and they met God and became his servants through that simple command to go.
We also see in some cases that God led his servants away from peril by telling them to go. In 1 Kings 17 the prophet Elijah, by the direction of the Lord, decreed a three-year famine in the land of Northern Israel because of the wicked influence of King Ahab and his pagan wife Jezebel. To keep Elijah safe from the menacing Ahab and to take care of Elijah during the famine, God first directed Elijah to hide by the Brook Cherith where God fed Elijah from the mouths of Ravens.
Then down in verse 9 God told Elijah to go to Zarephath where God had positioned a widow to take care of Elijah until it was time for the famine to end. And of course, if you know the story about Elijah and that widow, you remember that when she met Elijah, he asked her to make him a small cake of bread, and she told him that she had just enough flour and oil for her and her son and that they were about to eat that as a last meal before they starved to death. And Elijah told her that the Lord said that he would stretch out her flour and oil to provide for her, her son, and Elijah until the famine was over.
We also see that during that time, the woman’s son fell ill and died. But Elijah took the child, stretched out on top of him and prayed three times for God to return the child’s soul. God answered Elijah’s prayers and the child was brought back to life. So, during that terrible famine, God was able to save Elijah’s life, the widows life, and the child’s life twice, because Elijah obeyed God’s command to go and seek refuge with the widow.
Now as we look at the many instances where God made that command to go, we see that the details he gave his servants about their assignments varied from situation to situation. There were times when God gave them full details on what they were supposed to go and do. Then there were times when he gave them scant details—just one or two tidbits of information to rely on. And then there were times when he gave them no details at all.
For instance, we see in the book of Jonah, when he called the prophet Jonah to action, he told him “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.”
He gave Jonah full details. When to go? Now, because he said arise. Where? The city of Nineveh. What’s the task? To preach against it. Why? Because their wickedness has come up before the Lord.
God gave Jonah all the details of his mission when he commanded him to go.
In fact, it was the details that made Jonah disobey. Because as we know, Jonah jumped on a ship headed west to Tarshish to escape the presence of the Lord. He knew that if God wanted him to go preach against the sinfulness of Nineveh, then God’s desire was to influence the Ninevites to repent. Otherwise, there would be no reason to inform them that they had displeased God. And if they repented, God would spare them from the destruction that they deserved, because he is a merciful God.
But Jonah did not want them to repent and be saved because the Ninevites were enemies of the Israelites. Jonah said as much in chapter 4, verse 2. So having the full details of what God wanted him to do actually prompted Jonah to disobey at first.
But we see there that, yes, sometimes God does give point by point instructions when he says, Go!
However, there are also times when he gives minimal details. When he says, Go!, but he doesn’t answer all of our questions about where we are going and why.
We can see that in Acts 16 starting with verse 6. There we see that the Apostle Paul, formerly Saul, was full fledged in the ministry, traveling with his group of evangelists, and setting up churches all along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
The text tells us, coming from the New Life translation, that the Holy Spirit had kept Paul and his group from preaching the word of God in the cities of Asia minor, meaning modern day Turkey. But down in verse 9 it says “That night Paul had a dream. A man was standing in front of him crying out, “Come over to the country of Macedonia and help us!”
Now Macedonia was the region North of the country of Greece. It was on the western side of the Mediterranean Sea. The Middle East is east of the Mediterranean. That’s where Israel is and that’s where the church was born and where it had spread up to that point, along with Northern Africa and Ethiopia.
But Macedonia was westward along the great sea, where Greece and Italy are. Meaning Macedonia was Europe. The Gospel had not yet reached Europe. But Paul had this dream of the Macedonian man saying come over and help us. And verse 10 says “After he had seen this, we agreed that God told us to go to Macedonia to tell them the Good News.”
So, this is how the Gospel got to Europe, because Paul had a vision which he and his fellow evangelists understood as God telling them to go to Macedonia.
Now when we see that, we understand that Paul didn’t have too many details. All he knew was that he was supposed to give the good news of salvation to those in Macedonia. He wasn’t given all of the who, what, when, and why like Jonah was. Paul wasn’t told what city to start in, who would help them, or why he was being sent westward. All he was told was when you get there preach.
And that’s case with us sometimes. God doesn’t always give us all the little details. Sometimes he just gives us one little tidbit of information, enough to make that first step. But by God’s divine knowledge and power, that first step takes care of us until its time to make the second step.
So yes, we would love to have all the details—it makes us feel more confident and comfortable in the assignment. But if all God gives us is the first step, we have to understand that’s still enough to go on.
But what about when there are no details at all. What do you do when you hear God say, Go!, but he doesn’t say anything else. He doesn’t tell you why you are leaving where you are. He doesn’t tell you how you need to move. He doesn’t tell you what you are going to do when you get to where you are going. He doesn’t tell you who will be there to help you or if anyone will be there at all. He doesn’t tell you when you need to get there. He barely tells you where you’re going.
Take for instance the story of Peter in Acts 10 when he is sent to preach to Cornelius’ household. Remember, when Cornelius’ men came to Simon the Tanner’s house looking for Peter, he was on the roof praying and had fallen into a vision. When God brought him out of the vision and Peter heard that men were downstairs seeking after him, the Holy Spirit told him to go with the men and don’t question anything.
God gave Peter nothing is terms of helpful information. He didn’t tell him where he was going, why he was going, who all he was going to see, what he was going to do. In fact, when Peter finally got to Cornelius’ house after a day and a half journey Acts 10:29 says he had to ask Cornelius, “for what reason have you sent for me?”
God did the same thing with Philip in Acts 8:26, when God told Philip to go down to the road to Gaza. That’s literally all God said to Philip: “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.”
No additional info whatsoever. No explanation. Not even a first step. And remember, Philip had fled from Jerusalem because of Saul’s persecution. So, he was being told to go back down to the area where his life was in jeopardy, and he was not even given a reason why he had to go.
And keep in mind also, the road from Jerusalem to Gaza is not a place. It’s a road, from one city to another. The place would have been a specific location along the road. So, Philip wasn’t really even given the place.
But he was obedient in going anyway. And upon going, it was not until he was walking down the road and saw a chariot that God gave him further instructions. God told Philip to go up to the chariot wherein a Jewish Ethiopian nobleman was studying Isaiah 53. Philip heard the Ethiopian studying and Philip asked the man did he understand it.
Then Philip explained that the text was about Jesus the Christ, who had been crucified for the punishment for our sins. The Ethiopian believed and was baptized by Philip right here in a random pool of water in the middle of the desert, and the good news of Jesus Christ went with him down to Africa.
But it started with Philip being obedient to the command to Go!, even though God gave him no details to work with.
And that’s how many of us feel. We hear God saying Go!, but he’s not saying anything else. No who, what, when, why, or how. Barely even a where.
And the lack of details has us feeling unconfident that we are really hearing from the Lord, uncomfortable about what we think we’re hearing from the Lord, hesitant about moving at all, and maybe even fearful because we feel that we are being pushed into this sea of the unknown.
But while we feel paralyzed by that fear and apprehensiveness, God has not stopped giving the command. He’s steady saying, Go!
In fact, the voice gets louder the longer we sit. And the command to go becomes unavoidably clear even though the details remain hidden.
Those who have responded to that command under such undesirable circumstances might agree with the analogy that it’s like being in a completely dark room and having to find your way to the door.
Having details about your mission would be like having the lights on. You would be able to see the door and see a clear path to get to it. But having no details is like being made to stumble around in the darkness. In trying to get to the door you bump into things, knock things down, trip over stuff. You stump your toe, step on painful objects, walk smack into a wall. You find a doorknob only to realize it’s a closet door, not the door to get out of the room. And by the time you finally get to the right door, it feels like it’s taken much longer than it should have, and you’re probably nursing some scratches and bruises.
Of course, the light switch is by the door, so its not until you get to the door that you can turn the light on, turn around and see how you got from where you were to where you were trying to go.
Now nobody wants to be made to stumble around in the darkness. We don’t want to bump into stuff, and fall over, and knock things down and go to the wrong door.
We don’t want to have to look back later and see the details of what we’ve gone through afterwards. We want the lights on beforehand so we can see the details before we go.
In other words, we don’t want to be walking in confusion and uncertainty. We don’t want to feel like we might be going the wrong way. We don’t want to leave a good job and potentially struggle. We don’t want to risk breaking relationships or losing relationships. We don’t want to be seen as weird or crazy.
We want to be clear and confident about what God is doing with us, because, if we are being honest, we want to do it in a manner that feels good to us and looks good to others. Walking with a sense of direction and confidence along the clearest path feels good and looks good. Stumbling around in the dark does not.
But remember, God is the one who puts us in those situations. Which means God is not bothered by us stumbling around in the dark. God is not bothered by us bumping into things, getting scratched and bruised. God is not bothered by us almost going through the wrong door or taking longer to get to where we are going.
Because as far as God is concerned, all those perceived negatives served his purpose of getting us to where he wanted us to be.
Everything we bumped into helped to guide us along the path. We might have roughed some things up here or there and we might have gotten a little roughed up. We might have knocked down and kicked around some—maybe stuff that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. We might have gotten tripped up because we were moving too fast or fell down because we were moving too slow. We might have gotten excited because we thought we found the destination only to see that it wasn’t the right doorway.
But everything we experienced while following God’s command helped us to get to where he wanted us to go and do what he wanted us to do. And we got there on time because we were in his timing.
And yes, it would be nice to have all the lights on as we make our way to the door. It would be nice to see all the details when God says, Go!
But the word does say, we walk by faith and not by sight.
So, the advantage of going, even when God doesn’t give us any additional details, is that we learn to lean on the Lord more and more. We learn not to be overwhelmed by the difficulties that the darkness presents. We learn to toughen up when we get roughed up and we even learn how to sidestep some things that might be in the way.
And we learn that God is going to be with us every step of the assignment.
That’s what Peter knew when he went with Cornelius’ men. All those years of walking with Jesus prepared him to just go, because he had learned to trust that God would somehow guide him through any difficulties and help him accomplish the assignment.
Philip had learned that as well when he fled from Jerusalem to Samaria and God used him to start a thriving ministry there. So, when he was told go down to the road to Gaza, he went, despite the dangers and uncertainties, knowing that God was going to use him in whatever place he was sending him to. And the result was that the gospel went down through Africa because God had arranged for Philip to run into the Ethiopian man and to tell the man about Jesus.
So, brothers and sisters, when we hear God saying, Go!, we have to go. Even when we don’t hear anything else. Because he may not give us the details until we get to where we are going. But most assuredly, he is not going to stop calling us. He is going to keep saying, Go!, until we obey.
You may not want to leave where you are. You may not want to go where you feel he is sending you. And you certainly don’t want to have to feel your way through.
But God is with us. He is training us to walk by faith and he is using everything we bump into to guide us.
So, if you’ve been hearing God say, Go!, but you don’t have any details, you just need to get going.
If you’ve been going, then keep going, even if your going feels more like stumbling around in a dark room.
And when we all get to where we are going, we will be able to look back with the lights on and see how God took care of us along the way, bumps and all.
So may God continue bless us all in our going. Amen.