It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, though God had promised him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” Abraham assumed that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-10 - NLT)
For more than two decades now I have been involved in work that is both satisfying and fruitful. I have excelled in my field and have enjoyed almost every part of it.
There were times, however, when I was placed in a quandary. On three different occasions I was asked to be a youth pastor. I’d been an interim youth pastor and never looked at the situation as something long term.
In fact, when confronted with the question the first two times it was easy for me to say, “I’m sorry, I just don’t feel the Lord leading me that direction.” This was Christianese for, “Sorry, you’ve just asked the wrong guy. Not a chance!”
I loved working with the youth but I also loved doing what had become my career and truthfully wasn’t interested in leaving my field to be a full-time youth pastor.
Then I met Jake!
Here was a man who would grasp your hand as if he were going to arm wrestle and say, “Let’s pray!”
I never could refuse Pastor Jake. He mentored me for three years and invested much time in my life. When things weren’t going especially well at work he would lend a listening ear. When I asked for an opinion he would always say, “Let’s see what the Bible says.” Talk about frustrating, I wanted him to tell me I was right to feel the way I felt - he never would. If there was any light to be shed on a subject, it would have to come from the Bible.
This man was the third pastor to ask me to consider becoming a youth pastor. I wanted to say no, but I just couldn’t. I didn’t want to say yes, so I didn’t. I promised to pray about it, then a divine struggle began for my willingness.
In the end, I stood before God in a manner similar to Abraham. God was asking a sacrifice from me, was I willing to give it to Him. I imagined what it must have been like for Abraham to be on Mt. Moriah fixing an altar that would take his son from him.
The knife was raised and Abraham demonstrated something very important. He was willing to do the hard thing; the thing he couldn’t understand, the thing he wouldn’t allow if not for the fact that God asked.
God accepted his willingness and then basically told him that He had an entirely different sacrifice in mind - one that God Himself provided. God wanted to know if Abraham was willing. He was!
Would I follow the same footsteps up my own Mt. Moriah and lay my career before the feet of Jesus and willingly become a youth pastor if that’s what He wanted? I determined I had been asked three times and I needed to make a difficult decision.
After much prayer I submitted an application and let Jake know that I was willing. He smiled with tears in his eyes as he hugged me. I found myself mentally disengaging from my career. After all, if God wanted me to be a youth pastor it wouldn’t do to hold onto what once had been.
Jake called me to his office one morning with tears streaming down his face. The church board determined that I didn’t have enough specific training to take the position and I was not to be the accepted candidate for the job.
Just as God stopped Abraham from taking the life of his son, so He stopped the death of my dream.
Strangely, it was in the process of being denied that my life’s work was confirmed. I could go back to work with a freed heart. God had simply called on me to look inside myself and see if I was really willing to follow Him if He asked.
I said yes.
He seemed to say, “That’s all I need to know, now go and do what I created you to do.”
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