Have you ever noticed how difficult it is when the people we love or have become close to leave? I’m talking about people in our lives such as family, friends, church members, people we work with or even a neighbor. If we will be honest with ourselves we’ll have to admit – it’s never easy, and for me it’s downright painful. I’ve often wondered why – and believe I finally received my answer: When I was ten years old I remember my father coming up the stairs from our basement with suitcases in hand and while standing on the landing of our home in Michigan, said to my mother, “Geneva, I’m leaving you.” I could not believe my ears. I knew my mother and father struggled in their marriage, but for the life of me I never expected to hear those words. It was extremely painful.
As a full-time pastor of over 16 years – I must admit that one of the most painful things about my vocation is when, you guessed it – people leave. It happens in all churches of all sizes, which is why I never allow myself to get too close to anyone. Church today is like a revolving door; with people continually coming and going. This year for me has been extremely difficult as our youngest son recently married his beautiful bride, and although I’ve finally gotten over the hump of watching him go, it was still very hard, mainly because he and his wife had to leave the state so that she could finish her studies. And to top it all off, a few members of our church also announced their departure – people that had been with us for the last couple of years.
Just recently as one of those members came through the door, they announced that this was their last Sunday, and even though those words brought a sting to my heart, the Spirit of God spoke to me (quite loudly in fact) saying, “Let Them Go.”
As I said earlier, this is very common in churches, and for most people leaving it’s no big deal, but to the Pastors, it can at times be very difficult. Why? Because in most cases those leaving are either unhappy, bored or in our case, some become tired of hearing us teach the words of Jesus regarding love for their neighbor; the poor. And for anyone who’s spent any length of time with us knows how vitally important it is for my husband and I to teach the words of Jesus regarding the hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless, sick and in prison – in efforts to prepare His people for His Return and what He, Jesus, will be looking for on that day. (Matthew 25:31-46). What’s even more difficult is when you know in your heart of hearts their supposed to stay, and because many are not familiar with His voice, they allow other voices (sometimes the enemy himself deceiving them), desires and circumstances influence them. I remember reading in Jen Hatmaker’s book, Interrupted – of how Jesus spoke to her saying, “My people are crumbling and dying and starving, and you’re blessing blessed people and dreaming about your new house.” God had interrupted her life and had her attention. And in her case He was being literal, speaking of the hungry and thirsty; the poor.
What happens is the enemy and our self – our flesh – tricks us into thinking that what we “Want” in life is all that matters, when Jesus is saying, Hey! I’ve provided everything you need – just go about doing good by loving your neighbor, share a meal, give them some clothes, help put a roof over their head,” and we’re like, “Nah! That’s not important.” And so we continue on our, for lack of a better term, Gerbil wheel, thinking, Yeah! I’m really getting somewhere! But the sad truth is, we’ll never be satisfied until we “Learn” to listen to His Voice and Do what Jesus says.
We’ve been told for generations, Oh, just say this prayer and you don’t have to do anything else. But what the leaders, the Popular voices have refused to tell us is, our faith is dead and useless if we don’t help the poor. James chapter 2. Nor have they told us what John says in chapter 3 and verse 36, “And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who DOESN’T OBEY THE SON, WILL NEVER EXPERIENCE ETERNAL LIFE, BUT REMAINS UNDER GOD’S ANGRY JUDGEMENT.” In this context it is clear God is saying, Believe in My Son means – Obey My Son. Not believe and go do whatever you please.
The Believe Gospel without Obeying Jesus words is much MORE popular in the church today. My husband and I along with our our family have chosen to teach the whole truth. Believe means obey. Jesus said it himself, “Why do you keep calling me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?” Luke 6:46 NLT.
So, whether people come, stay and learn to obey or they decide to go, we will continue to teach those willing to listen to not only believe but obey the words of Jesus. Popular or not.
Pastor Nina Tidwell is the Author of her New Book: LOVE AWAKENS – Available now at Amazon.
Photo by: Johannes Plenio