(The following was previously published in the Church of the Nazarene’s denominational magazine, The Herald of Holiness, in Sept. 1994.)
“Once upon a time a teenage girl was praying and distinctly felt that God was calling her to be a missionary. The idea frightened her. She didn’t know if she could ever move far away from her family. She certainly didn’t think she would be a very good missionary. Besides that she had other plans, including a boyfriend who did not feel called to be a missionary. So the young girl went to college, became a teacher, married her boyfriend and lived unhappily ever after.”
I wish stories like that only happened in fairy tales. The truth is, this is all too real. We probably all know people who find themselves living “unhappily ever after” because at some point in their life they said “no” to God’s call. Ever since that day they have lived with the tyranny of guilt. From that day forward they feel like second-class citizens in the kingdom. They feel they can never be spiritually fulfilled because they missed God’s plan. Maybe even you personally are living “unhappily ever after” because you said “no” to God’s call on your life.
The good news is that saying “no” to God at some point in your life doesn’t have to mean defeat for the entire rest of your life. Our God is not a grudge-bearing God. He is a God who forgives and forgets. We seem ready to accept his forgiveness for a multitude of sins but not this one. We believe that God can heal broken bodies and twisted relationships. We believe he can give meaning to life. But for some reason–Satan’s suggestion most likely–we don’t think he can or will heal our life’s course after we have said “no” to Him.
It is certainly unfortunate when we make the mistake of not realizing that God’s plan for us is best. There is no question that we are in the wrong. There isn’t even any question that God is displeased by it. However, making such a mistake should not mean living the rest of our lives unfulfilled, unhappy, and spiritually defeated.
The key is repentance. Like any other sin, saying “no” to God’s call eats away at a person’s relationship with God. Allowed to go on unchecked it will eventually completely destroy that relationship. But, I John 1:9 should apply here just as it does with stealing or bearing false witness: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9 NIV).”
Not only does God forgive us and cleanse us, he also forgets. The Psalmist expressed it this way, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12, NIV).” Through the prophecy of Jeremiah we have this word from the Lord, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more (Jeremiah 31:34, NIV).” In spite of Scripture passages like these we too often forget that God for¬ gets. When we confess our sins, God no longer holds them against us. That means you need no longer feel like a second-class citizen in the Kingdom. In God’s kingdom there are no paupers.
The question to ask yourself is whether or not you have really confessed this sin to God or have you merely regretted your disobedience and wished that you would have obeyed? Wishing and regretting heals no one but confession and repentance heals everyone–even those who have said “no” to His call.
But what about consequences? After repenting for running from God’s call, Jonah was able to go ahead with that call. In your case perhaps your life has taken some turns that prohibit you from going ahead with God’s original call. Then what?
While it is true that there are consequences to our actions, sometimes even lifelong consequences, it is not true that God cannot continue to work through our lives. To think that God cannot create fulfilling and meaning¬ful service opportunities after you have said “no” is to greatly limit God. Recall that we serve the God who called the universe into existence out of nothing. If you have said “no” to God and repented of it, then the important thing is to say “yes” the next time He calls.