Throughout history, God has prompted man to go … oftentimes to be met by man’s stubborn tendency to stay. There are certainly exceptions to that statement … Abram (Genesis 12:1-4) and the response of Peter, Andrew, James, John and Matthew to Jesus’ command to ‘Follow Me’ to name a few. And while the Exodus was a response to God’s call for the people to go … Moses was in constant battle with people about staying and once they departed … returning.
Our human tendency … my tendency … is to stay. We gravitate to what we already know … our comfort zone. Sometimes we stay to build something and/or make a name for ourselves. Consider these words of God to Noah after the flood …
And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” Genesis 9:1 (ESV)
Be fruitful and multiply … for man that’s a no-brainer. But fill the earth …
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.“ Genesis 11:1-4 (ESV)
Lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth … seems like rebellion to me. God said fill the earth. Of course, God’s plan and purpose is never thwarted by man’s rebellion.
And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth. Genesis 11:5-9 (ESV)
God’s TO-DO List: Fill the earth – check
The study of history is intended to help us not repeat the mistakes of our ancestors. Unfortunately the study of history instead is a record of generation after generation making the same mistakes over and over. Only the technology changes …
Note Jesus’ instructions just prior to His ascension …
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:1-8 (ESV)
You will be my witnesses locally, nationally, globally … most historians tend to agree that 4-5 years passed and the first church was growing rapidly but primarily based in Jerusalem … the witness was not spreading as Jesus commanded …
And Saul approved of his execution (Stephen). And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles … Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Acts 8:1,4 (ESV)
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. Acts 11:19 (ESV)
And as a result of the persecution, the church was scattered, the witnesses and the gospel began to go throughout the world, and the church became stronger …
What did Tertullian say? The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.
God’s TO-DO List: Witnessing to the ends of the earth – check
Even Jesus was forced to confront the ‘stay syndrome’ … and this is simply one example …
And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them. Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ. And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them … Luke 4:42 (ESV)
But Jesus would not be led astray from His purpose …
… but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” Luke 4:43 (ESV)
Is our purpose to build a great church? To make a great name for ourselves? To stay?
Perhaps you’ve sat on those spiritual mountaintops basking in the moment of an experience or in the camaraderie, inspiration and agenda of a fine-tuned small group or church … I know I have. In those moments, I have somewhat ignorantly thought or said, “I will never leave here.” Nothing like throwing a challenge down for God. In months … if not weeks or days … I have found myself on a new path.
(Note: Two words my life has revealed are prideful to me and challenging to God … never and always.)
God’s plan and purpose is never thwarted by man’s rebellion.
Is Jesus’ purpose our purpose?
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14 (ESV)
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:13-15 (ESV)
Oh Lord, forgive me for my tendency to stay …
Draw me in to your gospel purpose … draw me in Lord!