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My wife and I have always been open to God calling us to be missionaries overseas. An opportunity has presented itself in a country with few gospel laborers, and it seems like it could be a great fit. We both love our jobs, however, and we truly believe we are serving God in them. God clearly called us to these jobs, and he has blessed us and others in them. How do we discern whether God is calling us to go or calling us to stay?


This is a wonderful question, and it warms my soul that you’re considering how to be maximally effective for the gospel. From your openness to God’s prompting, it appears you are approaching your vocation with open hands and an open heart. This is the posture befitting an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20).

I agree wholeheartedly that you are called to your current jobs. Do you know how I know that? Because they are the jobs you have, and God is sovereign. As an ambassador, you have been placed in your situation by God himself to make an appeal for Christ, and if you see your jobs as opportunities to serve God, you are faithfully embracing your current calling (Col. 3:23). Unremarkable, daily obedience in your jobs is powerful worship. Remain faithful where you are for as long as you are there, and invest deeply in those around you.

As you consider another path, here are some things to keep in mind.

For Such a Time as This

In the book of Esther, the Jews are doomed. An edict has gone out to exterminate every Jewish person in Ahasueres’s kingdom. Queen Esther, a Jew, is called on by her cousin Mordecai to do something. He tells Esther:

Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Est. 4:13–14).

Mordecai somehow understands God’s sovereign plan is to rescue the Jewish people. He tells Esther she needs to do something—her people are perishing—but if she chooses to cower, God will save them through someone else.

As you consider this potential call overseas, you must keep this perspective in mind. On the one hand, do not take yourself too seriously. God will accomplish his will with or without you. On the other hand, if the doors are opening at the right time, perhaps you’ve been called to the kingdom for such a time as this!

Where’s the Need—That You’re Able to Meet—Greater?

There are certainly parts of the world that have a nearly nonexistent gospel presence. There are people meandering about in their everyday routines who have virtually no opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. This breaks my heart, and it sounds like it breaks yours. God cares deeply about these people, and we must send laborers to them.

But not all of us are called to be missionaries overseas. Some of us are called to be witnesses in our right here, right now. Your main desire should be to operate where God is calling you. That may be in your own town, which needs ministers of reconciliation. It may be in another city in America, or in the country, or in a suburban area—all of which need ministers of reconciliation.

In which scenario are you the sharpest tool for the kingdom of God?

Ask yourselves: How has the Lord gifted you and your wife? How does this new opportunity square with your giftings? Do you have skills that would be a unique fit in one place or the other? Do you have the background or connections or talents that would be especially useful for the kingdom in one scenario over the other?

In other words, in which scenario are you the sharpest tool for the kingdom of God?

What Do You Want to Do?

We know that when we earnestly seek God, he will give us the desires of our hearts (Ps. 37:4). Given that you and your wife have talked about—and are open to—God calling you overseas, it seems you have some desire there.

Desire is the kindling for your calling, a pile of dryish affections that the Lord may use to light a roaring fire. Do you want to go overseas? Do you and your wife get fired up about the prospect of carrying the gospel of Jesus Christ to this people? Or are you eager to continue the projects you’re already doing?

When you pray, ask God to give you a strong desire for the option he wants you to take.

Seek Wise Counsel

I will tell you what I think you’re really asking. I think you’re asking if it’s okay to leave perfectly good jobs, which God has clearly led you into, to go overseas to a strange place to tell people about what Jesus has done for them. The answer—God’s answer—is yes!

You cannot be in two places at once, and thus if you leave your current city you will never meet people you might have ministered to. If you don’t go overseas, you might never get to see the gospel light up someone’s heart who would otherwise never have heard of Jesus.

Regardless of whether you stay or go, remain dedicated to furthering the gospel.

 

I wouldn’t spend too much time fixated on who you will not reach; focus instead on the people to whom God is calling you. Check your motivations, pray for God to reveal them, and consider in which scenario you’d find the most joy in the glory of God.

Some final words: Seek wise counsel, especially from your local church body. Pray and fast together as you seek the Lord. Though desire is a good thing, do not make a choice based on what’s most exciting or exotic—or what’s most comfortable. Wait on the Lord to reveal his will for you.

Regardless of whether you stay or go, if you remain dedicated to furthering the gospel, the Lord will show you glories you have yet to even imagine. Godspeed, my friend.

Editors’ note: 

TGC’s “Thorns & Thistles” column seeks to apply wisdom with practical advice about faith, work, and economics. If you have a question on how to think about and practice your work in a way that honors God, let us know at [email protected].

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