This is a great question and one that many deal with. I have spent hours discussing this and related topics with passionate followers of Jesus, concerned that they follow in the steps he is laying out there. Also see this web page:
Let me use this as a springboard to a related question which is, “What if I say ‘no?’” I am hoping that most of us will, to the best of our ability, say “yes” to God’s leading when it becomes clear, but I have been one to say “no,” at least once and so I can answer this question from personal experience.
I consider myself a pretty easy-going person who has been able to work for anyone. That belief in me changed soon after I said “no” to a pretty clear leading from God. I was managing a restaurant, making more than enough money to live on, when I felt like God wanted me to leave that position and do something else. I had never felt anything like that before and it didn’t make sense. I had everything I wanted, so wasn’t that God’s blessing on me for being good? After some further thought, I just ignored the “leading” until it went away; in effect, saying “no thank you” to God.
Within a couple months I got a new supervisor. No big deal. That had happened two times before and I had performed better under each successive leader. This turned out to be different, however. I could not please this supervisor and eventually, after months of stress and frustration (my Jonah in the big fish experience), he fired me (I guess it was frustrating for him too!). I was now forced to move on to something else but I could have saved myself a year of “hell” along the way.
But let’s assume that you are asking the original question, “What if I miss God’s leading?”
I can confidently tell you to relax in reference to this question. I do not believe it possible to miss God’s leading, if you are truly in pursuit of obedience. Remember, God has led complete pagans to follow his exact instruction (Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh and others) in biblical history. He can certainly lead a heart committed to him. Trust also that God will make his way clear to you. It may not be as crystal as you would like, and he may only give you light for one step, but he will make a way. Consider also that he may not have a specific will for you in some areas. I prayed for months about what kind of car to buy…a little strange, I know…and finally God said very clearly to me, “Jeff, buy any car and I will bless it” (just stop bugging me about it – probably not what God was actually saying, but kind of how I felt). He did.
It seems the bigger issue is dealing with the fear of actually taking a step in whatever direction he leads. Once you take a step onto God’s path, you are no longer in control. It could lead you anywhere, possibly somewhere you don’t want to go (a life of singleness, perhaps, because you are obedient to go overseas and “off the local market”). It may even cost you your life. Some followers have discovered that in Central Asia just this year.
So here is my question for you, looking for your “honest answer.” Are you willing to trust God so completely as to take any steps he is laying out there, no matter how crazy and unsure? Know that God’s “grace is sufficient for you” no matter what your answer. You are only responsible to him and he is a faithful shepherd.
Director of Mobilization
US Mobilization Center
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One Challenge is an international mission sending agency empowering local church ministry in more than 100 countries around the world. We seek to empower the whole body of Christ to bring a transforming love and hope to all people. When invited by local leaders, OC facilitates local bodies of believers to identify, train, and send global workers toward realizing a “from everywhere to everywhere” vision. For more information, please email OC Mobilization at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or go to our Mobilization blog called “Prepare for Impact” at https://prepareforimpact.life/blog/.