Lying in my bunk on the tour bus a couple of days ago, awake ridiculously early because I was still on UK time, I began to ask myself the questions: "Whatever possesses me to keep doing this? Why do I keep packing a bag, driving 3 hours to London Heathrow airport, jump on a United flight for 8 hours or more, and spend weeks at a time on the road with Third Day?" This wasn't a period of despondency or futility, but more of an opportunity to take stock, re-evaluate, to remind myself why I do what I do.
The answers simple, some might even say simplistic- I believe I am answering God's call to GO.
In some areas of life, I've been all too disobedient to God's word and God's command, but over the years I have at least been consistently obedient when I hear the whisper from The Lord 'Go!'.
I can remember as a young believer, being thrilled to travel all over South West London in my beaten up old Mini Traveller car, filled with friends from the church youth group, as I set out preaching at churches full of people 30 or 40 years older than myself. Most of the churches were small in number, had seen better days, but I was just so excited to actually 'go' somewhere in the name of Jesus. In fact at one of these services, after I'd preached a message on the need for Christians to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all nations, an enthusiastic woman asked me when I was setting off to serve as a missionary overseas! I'd never done any overseas ministry, and my naivety had made me realise it's better to practice what I preach than to just be good in theory!
The Biblical command to 'GO' is a strong and consistent one, the command to 'GO and TELL' just as strong. I've hardly ever turned down an opportunity to go and share Jesus with people, whether that's a youth group nearby, a church hours away, or in a country thousands of miles from home. Right now I'm trying to work out how I can get to then nation of Pakistan this year to respond to an invitation I have had from a young man leading a ministry there.
So back to being on the road with Third Day. Touring life offers a very obvious model of going and telling, there are easily definable measures of success- we visited 30 cities, we ministered to 100,000 people, we heard some great personal stories of God at work through songs, we sponsored 5,0000 children etc, etc. And there is something fulfilling and heartwarming at the end of a touring season to look back and thank The Lord for all he has accomplished through us.
Now hear me out, I'm not saying that a music touring model is the only way to respond to God's call to go, in fact it has several disadvantages- for example we basically 'hit' a city and then jump on the bus to the next one, whilst in the New Testament we see in Acts that Paul and his missionary colleagues spent much time in the places they went to. That's one reason why with the overseas mission links I have- India, Macedonia, Liberia- I keep going back and building relationships with the same ministry partners.
A few years back, at the age of 50, I said to The Lord 'I'm ready to stop traveling if you want me to, or to change my 'going' in a different direction, I thought 50 was a sensible age to stop being on the touring circuit. But just as God has never permissioned me to stop being based in Wales and contribute to the spiritual growth of that historic nation, neither has he yet given me the green light to leave behind the ministry of Third Day. I'm happy that he hasn't done either of those things yet!
I hope you realise that if you really want to grow as a follower of Jesus, and to contribute to the Kingdom, the reward will be amazing but there will be a cost to pay. Has there been a cost to my obedience to the command 'Go'? You betcha there has been. It's cost me time with my wife and children, it's cost me time away from my church, it's cost me money for flights to mission fields, it's cost me investment of resources into people and places and ministries, its often cost me my health- jetlag, exhaustion, stomach problems, dietary concerns, are all a regular part of my life. Yet the reward has been overwhelming- to be a small part of the Lord's big plan of redemption for this world, to be part of a brotherhood of believers such as the Third Day family, to have gained friends from different countries and cultures, and to have the inner peace of mind that only comes from truly living in obedience.
Most of you will never be called to a lifestyle such as mine, although some of you will be called to the nations, but all of you have to work out for yourselves your response to God's call to 'GO!' The question isn't 'should I go?', the answer to that is non-negotiable. The questions really are 'where should I go?' and 'what is Jesus asking me to do when I get there?' You might simply be called to go into your local public school and be salt and light, or to step into your office with a new found confidence that Jesus is with you, or to engage in the lives of the broken, the sick, the marginalised in your town or city, or it might be to go on that mission trip your pastor has been talking about. In some of these instances, Jesus might not just be asking you to 'GO' but to 'STAY' too. If you make the focus of your life your readiness to respond to God's call then yes there will be cost, but the reward of obedience will lead you into the abundant life Jesus promised.
Then he said, “Go into the world. Go everywhere and announce the Message of God’s good news to one and all".
Mark 16.15 Message paraphrase.