One of the most unique things about ministry is how God redeploys His people. Sometimes it is after one year of service, and sometimes it is after twenty years of service to a community and congregation. Either way, leaving people you love is very difficult. I recently made a move from Phoenix, Arizona to Huntington Beach, California. Since then, I’ve taken some time to slow down and consider what it means to leave a place and people well.
How you leave is how you are remembered.
You can have an incredible season of life in a place serving people and still completely blow it in the end. It could be five or ten years of faithful service, friendships and memories … but make no mistake:
Just like preaching and public speaking … whatever you say last is usually what people remember most. It’s the same with life.
Your words and actions are amplified 30X in your last 30 days in a place. How you act and react determines how you will be remembered.
This a sobering truth and reminder to …
Assume positive intentions
… as you leave.
Understand not everyone will understand.
Especially if you are a follower of Jesus … not everyone will always understand why, how, when, and where He is leading you. It is not your job to make sure everyone you know understands or agrees with God’s leading in your life and family. It is your job, however, to do your best when discerning God’s plans for your future.
You will not always understand how God leads you!
And in a crazy way, it’s not actually your job to understand everything God is doing in your life. It’s just your job to be obedient.
For most of us one of the major things that keeps us up at night is worrying about what’s next … what is coming tomorrow, next week, next month and next year.
The good news is there is Good News in the Bible.
Jer. 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
This verse states clearly that God knows the plans He has for you. And that’s great news! But what keeps most of us up at night is wondering: how do I KNOW God’s plans for MY FUTURE? Is it even really possible to know God’s specific plans for your life?
Here are three questions you can ask when trying to discern whether a direction is really from God:
- Have I taken time to pray, or am I rushing into things?
Sometimes we rush into decisions, thinking …
If I don’t take this job
If I don’t marry this person
If I don’t make this move right now
I will miss this incredible opportunity.
And here is what I learned many years ago…
If God is in it … it can wait a minute!
God is not sitting in heaven saying, “If you don’t hurry up and take this job, buy this car, marry this person or make this move – you are going to miss out … I can’t hold this together forever!”
So… slow down and take time to get away. Be alone and pray.
- Do my friends and family agree, or do they think I am foolish?
Anyone who thinks they don’t need the advice of others is foolish. When you are trying to discern God’s plans for your future, you should seek and listen to the advice of your friends and family. However, here is what often happens …
Many of us will keep seeking advice until we find the advice we are seeking. We must be willing to seek and LISTEN to advice, even if it is not the advice we are seeking.
- Does this plan agree with scripture or contradict it?
God will never guide you to do something in the future that is opposed to what He has already said in the Bible in the past.
So, if you really want to know God’s personal plans for your future, here is the key …
Saturate yourself with Scripture.
And don’t read it and debate it.
Read it and obey it!
You never show your own character so clearly as when you describe another’s.
When leaving places and people, there will be those who take cheap shots at you. Just be ready for it.
It usually has far more to say about the other person than it does about you. It is not easy for the people who are being “left behind,” even when they are very good people. And it is certainly never easy for comfortable and complacent people to watch others chase God’s dreams, be brave, and live curiously!
It is far easier to stay in a safe place and critique than it is to push away from the dock into some deep waters and create.
This is especially true in our socially-connected world. Social media is like a petri dish for criticism, comparisons and commentary on the actions of others. And there will be those who once stood by you who now want to grab your leg and trip you up as you try to step away.
Just remember… the way you speak about others says far more about you than it does about them. Do not sell out your own character to publicly or even privately take someone down a notch.
One of my mentor pastors from years ago said, “When you wrestle with a pig you both get muddy, and the pig likes it.”
Stay out of the mud.
Do not let a rough season of life characterize you for the next two months or years! And realize the high road will never be the easy road.
Be thankful looking back and brave looking forward.
When you prepare to leave places and people, take some time to look back.
Remember how good God has been to you.
And take some time to dream forward.
Remember that God has a perfect track record of faithfulness…
and He is not going to blow it on you!