Getting in God’s way …

Throughout my ministry career, I’ve been approached by several men who believed God had called them to vocational ministry or others who were convinced God was directing them to serve others by becoming a clinical counselor (psychologist, psychiatrist, or pastoral counselor, etc.).

Sadly, I’ve watched many of these men abandon what they believed was God’s clear and specific direction for them chiefly because their wives were not supportive, some to the point of threatening a divorce if the man followed God’s call. The primary objection raised by the wives was the change in their lifestyle that would come about by being obedient to God’s call. I remember one wife drawing a “line in the sand” by telling her husband they couldn’t afford to keep their children in a private Christian school if he became a pastor, and she would not support any reason for taking the children out of the school they were in.

This kind of “resistance” happens a lot.

Not just in sweeping vocational issues, but in the every day serving the Lord and others in and out of the church. Quite often, one of the greatest sources of squelching obedience to God and our service in His kingdom is the resistance raised by a “loved one.”

It is not uncommon for a spouse or family member to think it’s alright for a loved one to do a little something for God, but not a lot. Certainly nothing as “silly” as radical devotion where all of life revolves around loving, serving, and glorifying God. That kind of radical obedience tends to impede personal comfort levels and lifestyle choices, exactly why spouses and others sometimes resist.

We often address the issue of how marriages and families can be neglected by those in vocational ministry (a real issue that needs to be addressed), but rarely do we have the courage to admit that loved ones often purposely make themselves to be a wedge between God and us. In subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) ways, family members apply pressure and false guilt with the intent of redirecting their loved one away from God’s direction in order to meet their own desires.

Jesus spoke to this issue on more than one occasion, and I won’t attempt to cover all relevant biblical teaching on this subject in this limited space. At the heart of the issue is identifying who is at the heart of the issue, and Jesus says that should be God:

3“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 37Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments,” Matthew 22:36-40.

Jesus got a lot more specific about applying this “God first” thinking to our relationships:

34 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. 35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36Your enemies will be right in your own household!’ 37 If
you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not
worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me,
you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine.
39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it,” Matthew 10:34-39.

Scripture has plenty of specific information about marriage, family, and those close kindred relationships. But Jesus makes plain a very bold and clear teaching: every relationship, every desire, every thing is to be subjected to God being first in all of our lives. The idea of a marriage is a man and woman who, joined together, jointly love God foremost. The idea of a biological family includes those close knit relationships that, together, love God first. Ultimately, everyone and everything in our lives need to yield to loving God first.
And therein lies a primary objective: a mutual loving of God and yielding to His will rather than putting ourselves or our desires ahead of God and His will. Joshua provided an example for us in his great challenge recorded in Joshua 24:14-15 …

1“So fear the Lord
and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors
worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt.
Serve the Lord alone.
15 But if you refuse to serve the Lord,
then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your
ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the
Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we
will serve the Lord.”

It’s important for marriages and families to settle who they, together, are going to serve. What place are they giving God? What place should God have in their individual and joined lives, and what does that look like? Have you settled this issue?