According to our calendar, September is the ninth month of the year. In many ways, however, it is a month of new beginnings. After the holiday period, the pace of life once again picks up – be it at our workplaces or in church. Especially for those in education, both teachers and students, September marks a new beginning. For some among us, this September will mean moving from primary to secondary school, or from school to sixth form, or even from sixth form to university. For some it will be the first time they leave their friends, their family, and their church. Some will even be going to a different country for further study or work. Leaving one’s familiar environment is exciting but also frightening. We must therefore pray persistently for those who are embarking on a new journey into the unknown, and also for the families they leave behind.
In the Bible, we see many examples of people stepping out into the unknown, not because of education or a career move, but in response to God’s call. One such example is found in 1 Kings 19:19, where we see Elisha ploughing his family’s field as he would have done many times before. Yet this time something extraordinary happens. A man approaches the field and comes straight up to Elisha, and that encounter changes Elisha’s life forever. The man is Elijah, the greatest prophet of that time. He throws his cloak, a symbol of God’s anointing, around Elisha and calls him to follow. Elisha recognises the call of God, leaves his oxen and plough, and runs after Elijah. However, he makes a final request; he asks the man of God for permission to kiss his family good-bye. For a moment, Elijah must have questioned whether God had sent him to the right person. Was Elisha really ready to give up all in order to answer God’s call, for no-one who puts his hand to [God’s] plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62). Hence his reply, “Go back. What have I done to you?” (v.20)
Little did Elijah know that Elisha’s reason for going back was to burn his bridges: he went to kill the oxen with which he had been ploughing, and cooked them over a fire made with his ploughing equipment. He had heard God’s call and was willing to leave everything behind in order to answer that call. And he was willing to follow on God’s terms. He faithfully served under Elijah until the day when his master was taken up to heaven and the cloak of God’s anointing finally passed on to him.
God is never anxious about His purpose. He will always find someone who is willing to leave what they are doing to answer His call and to be faithful to His purpose – on His terms. Education and career moves are good. God gives us the means to achieve what we can in this life. Nonetheless, He has a greater purpose for us. His desire is for us to be His agents of change in a world that is heading for destruction. He calls us to be willing instruments in His hands, through whom His word can be spread in love and in power. All He needs is our willingness to follow.
The scriptures do not distinguish between a secular and a Christian aspect of our lives. In whatever we do, be it work or study, we are called to be witnesses of His eternal kingdom. Wherever our careers or our studies may take us, we serve the Almighty. Elisha had to leave his family and his familiar environment in order to answer his call as a prophet of God, and God may require that of us. However, following Him will not mean that for everyone. What God requires of us is that we burn the bridges in our hearts that tempt us to return to the familiar at the expense of stepping out in faith into His calling. Some of those who are leaving us now may return one day, but some, will not. Whatever the case may be, let us pray for them that they will serve God wherever they are. And let us keep seeking God’s purpose for our lives. It is never too late to answer God’s call and to step out into something new. Jesus promises to be with us always as we obey His call. (Matt. 28:20) Pastor Konrad