This article has only just started and already it has a problem. It’s the title. If you’ve ever lived in a place and then packed up to move to another, then you know this article should at the very least be called “Moving Month.” For days, even weeks on end, you’re forced to live waist deep in boxes and bubble wrap as you draw closer by the minute to the day when your home will be filled with reluctant-but-kindhearted friends willing to give you an entire Saturday to help you move across town. Like worker ants taking food to the colony, your friends haul box after box out of your house and into a truck that looked big enough at first, but now you’re not so sure. Miraculously, it all fits, and you’re able to close the door. As the truck pulls away, you take one last look back at the old place and give it a final wave goodbye. You arrive at the new place just as Saturday turns into Sunday. Your friends/movers barely get all your stuff inside before waving goodbye and grabbing one more slice of the cheese pizza you offered them in exchange for their blood and sweat. They may be done, but you’re not. No, the fun is only just now beginning as you spend the next several weeks wading in a sea of brown cardboard, old newspaper, and more bubble wrap! For most normal people, these are dreaded days. And we normal people are willing to go through all this because we know there is a day coming when the dust will settle, every box will be emptied, everything will have found its new place, and you’ll look around to realize … you’re home.
For months now, I have been a student of this concept of moving out of one place and into another. I have found great comfort in the words of Jesus from John 10 where He identifies Himself to us as our Good Shepherd, the One that calls us by name and leads us out. This is great news for us sheep. We have a shepherd who knows us each by name and is leading us out of whatever it is we’re in and need to be led out of. (And all the sheep said, “Baaamen!”) When we were born again, Jesus, our Good Shepherd, began leading us right then and there out of sin, sickness, bondage, darkness, and even death itself. But He wasn’t just leading us out; He was simultaneously leading us in—into righteousness, health, freedom, light, and life. Thank God for Jesus because we never would’ve been able to get ourselves out of that mess. We were runaway sheep that had managed to get ourselves terminally lost in the woods until we responded to the voice of the Shepherd that had come to our rescue. If you thought that was good news, wait; it gets better! He led us out once, and He wants to do it again. In fact, every day of our lives He wants us to hear His voice leading us out of and into. We know this applies to our salvation and all the other spiritual things I listed, but is it possible that the leadership of our Good Shepherd is also available to us when it comes to something as natural and normal as deciding if it’s time to change where we live or work or go to school? Let me answer that question like this: if you’re leaving Him out of these kinds of decisions, then maybe sheep really are as dumb as they say. The alarming truth is if Jesus is not the One leading you out, then chances are you’re leading yourself. It’s only when sheep lead themselves that they mange to find deep dark pits or even the jagged edge of a cliff. So before you pack up and move, I want to give you a few things to think about. Things that I believe will help you identify how close you really are to moving day.
There are two distinct phases of change in life, and it is crucial that you learn to identify which one you’re in. PHASE ONE: Change is coming. PHASE TWO: Change is here. Whatever you do, don’t get these two phases mixed up! This is where so many people miss it and end up leading themselves out at the wrong time, in the wrong way. Just because change is coming does not mean change is here.
CHANGE IS coming
In Genesis 13, God took His friend Abram up on a mountain and said to him, “Lift up your eyes, and look from the place where you are” (v. 14). The promise that came next was that God would give him all that he could see in every direction, but first he had to do two simple things: lift up and look from. Most people have let down their eyes and are stuck looking at the place where they are. Listen closely, my friend: change is coming. How do I know? Change is always coming, but you’ll never see it coming until you lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are. We must never allow ourselves to leave a city, a job, a church, or a relationship just because we’re frustrated with the way things are presently. So ask yourself, “Am I making this move because I don’t like my present position, or am I making it because my future in God is drawing me out?”
If you’re being led by frustration, then you’re not being led by the Spirit. This is why Jesus told His disciples He would send the Holy Spirit, the One specifically assigned to show us things to come (John 16:13). As a spirit-filled believer, you have resident within you the ability to hear the voice of your Good Shepherd and to know with certainty when change is on the way. Maybe you don’t know all the details. Or maybe you don’t know any of the details. It doesn’t matter. All you need to know right now is that change is coming. Are you sensing on the inside that the Lord has begun talking to you about making a move in your life? Even if it’s a big one like changing your job, moving to a different city, or even something as significant as starting a church, there’s no need to break out into a cold sweat. It’s not moving day yet.
As a spirit-filled believer, you have resident within you the ability to hear the voice of your Good Shepherd and to know with certainty when change is on the way.
You’re in the time leading up to the big day, and often that time is longer than you think. When David was just a boy, the prophet Samuel anoints him to be the next king of Israel. David then lives for years with the knowledge that change is coming before it comes time to move into the palace. For a more recent example, I only have to look at our own lives.
On the night before Thanksgiving 2009, as Sarah and I lay awake in our bed staring up at the ceiling, we began to talk to each other about our future. When I look back on it, I realize that it was the Lord talking to us through each other. We talked for the first time about the possibility that Jesus was calling us into our own ministry. We dreamed out loud about having our own land and buildings, a place from which we could preach Jesus all over the world. We knew in that moment that the Holy Spirit was telling us that change was coming. But like I said, just because change is coming does not mean that change is here. David didn’t run out of the house and up to the palace door still wet with anointing oil, demanding his seat on the throne. A move like that could’ve put an early end to God’s plan for his life. So what did he do? He went right back out into the field and continued his shepherding job. Sarah and I didn’t hand in our resignations the next day. Instead, we went back to work and stayed faithful to do our jobs until it was time to go from “change is coming” to “change is here.” Starting this ministry was one of the easiest things we ever did, but I am convinced that if we had launched out while still in phase one, we would have stressed and struggled to make our own way. I have some advice for anyone who believes change is coming. Allow me to quote David and say, “Wait …Wait, I say, on the Lord” (Ps. 27:14).
But there’s something funny about change. The day after phase two, you go right back into phase one. From the time we launched this ministry more than four years ago, we have been on the lookout for our own land and building to call home. Three years ago, we got so beside-ourselves excited because we believed change was coming and that very soon we would have our property. We looked at a bunch of different places—some I believe the Lord showed us; others I think we showed ourselves. More than once we thought we had found what we were looking for only to see it sell to someone else or to realize later it wasn’t right. I have to be honest and say, at times, it was challenging to sustain that excitement over the span of three years while we continued to work from our living room couch and our staff all squeezed into the upstairs office in our home. “Isn’t change here yet, Lord?”
CHANGE IS Here
We must learn to appreciate the time we have in phase one. While change is still on the way, we should be preparing for the big move. To do that, I believe you must look closely at everything you own, and put it in one of two categories: pack it or trash it. Today you are the sum total of who God has created you to be plus some not-so-good stuff you may have added to yourself along the way. Revelation from the Word, life lessons learned, godly character He has developed in you: these are all things to take with you. Hurt feelings, bad attitudes, guilt and condemnation: these are all things that should go in the same place the apostle Paul put his trash, “I count… [my past] as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him” (Phil. 3:8-9). About a year ago, the Lord told Sarah and me to start stripping away everything from our lives and ministry that wasn’t real, authentic, or placed there by Him. This is an ongoing process, but I believe we’ve come closer to being only what He has created us to be. Which is probably one reason why at the start of this year Jesus was able to lead the operation of our ministry out of our home and into a new place. I’ve never been so excited to pack up and move out before in my life! And you’d better believe we are only taking with us what is useful for the call of God on our lives.
Move out, move up, and move on to the call of God in Christ Jesus.
No matter where you are right now, you must know that change really is on the way. Take this time to pack it or trash it, streamlining your life from the inside out in preparation for this next step in God’s assignment on your life. My final piece of advice is this: always remember that we are not of those who draw back (Heb. 10:39). So wave goodbye because you’re never going backwards again. Move out, move up, and move on to the call of God in Christ Jesus. When moving day finally arrives and the call of your future is drawing you to a new home, you’ll be ready to roll with confidence, courage, and a spirit of adventure.