“And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15 NKJV
Joshua tells Israel to make up their minds – to choose whom they are going to follow and to stop living their lives halfway. He makes a bold statement: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” He has set his path; he knows whom he serves.
Whom do you serve? Where do you dwell?
These two questions go hand in hand – you will dwell in what you serve, whether that is money, fame, yourself, or the Lord. Christ says that we cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24), so whom will it be?
This is My Story
My family moved to South Sudan when I was eleven years old. For a child, it was the perfect adventure. I happily went along as we left all that was familiar eight thousand miles behind.
Things were fun at first. I got to experience new things such as making crude furniture from mahogany, attempting to light charcoal with gasoline, and bringing water from a nearby well by the jerry can. I learned the basics of electronics and how to start a generator. I taught chameleons to eat from my hand, caught parrots, and held races with lizards and turtles.
Eventually, the fun wore off and reality settled. I wasn’t in Kansas anymore, quite literally, and I became angry and discontent; I didn’t want to be in Africa! I dreamt about the food, friends, and family that were now gone, all the while becoming angry at my family and God for taking me away from it all. Being a TCK was hard.
Then one day, everything came crashing down. My dad was attacked and almost died while we were on the field, and we had to return to the US for advanced medical care. I felt lost, broken, and aimless. I realized then that I was not serving God; I was living only to serve myself.
All I cared about was what happened to me and my family.
Is This My Story?
I realized that day whom I was serving – not God, like I claimed I was, but myself. I liked to think that I could hold things together. But when our lives became upturned, I had a watershed moment and found that I’m not in control of things; God is.
God, who is in control of everything, wants us to choose Him. He wants us to live our lives with Him in the center.
How can we choose to serve God? And how do we dwell in Him?
1 Thessalonians 5:17–18 says that we should “pray without ceasing” and “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (NKJV).
Christ’s followers are commanded to pray. Prayer adjusts our will and desires to be aligned with Christ and reveals to us the heart and mind of God.
When we realize how powerful God is and how insignificant we are, that understanding humbles us. It creates a dependence on Him as we realize that we can’t do anything ourselves. It is that dependence that draws us to dwell in Him.
David earnestly sought after dwelling in the Lord, going so far as to say it was his one request of God (Ps. 27:4). Dwelling in the Lord is to live a life that is continually drawing nearer to God in love, submission, and trust. It involves reading the Word daily and spending time in prayer.
Serving God is a daily choice. Life is full of battles, and we are constantly making decisions on how we respond to those difficult situations. We can choose to serve God by choosing to respond in a manner that gives glory to God.
When we dwell in the Lord, we are choosing daily the act of serving Him. As we serve Him, we are changed to become more like Him.
But it isn’t us who does the changing. It is God who causes us to grow, and it is God who adjusts our desires to match His. This is not the story of how I changed myself; this is the story of how God has worked through me.
This is God’s Story
God grows His children to reflect Christ. That growth comes through trials. Satan, meanwhile, seeks to use those trials to break believers down and to cause them to focus on themselves and their circumstances instead of on God.
Job was a “blameless and upright” man who “feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). He was the last person you would expect to have calamity fall upon, especially via a tragedy that God allowed. But it happened nonetheless. Satan was “going to and fro on the earth, and [was] walking back and forth on it” (Job 1:7 NKJV). Satan was prowling.
Satan aimed to push Job into cursing God. But God used the terrible calamities to reveal to Job that he was prideful and had forgotten his place before God (Job 42:3).
The Christian needs hardships. “Purification by fire” (1 Pet. 1:7) is not only something to expect but is something we should rejoice in (1 Pet. 4:12–13) as we are being formed, slowly yet surely, into someone who is more like Christ.
Since we are to expect trials, how can we cope with them?
We must shift our perspective. Peter was only able to walk on water while he kept His eyes fixed on Jesus. When his focus shifted to the storm, he started sinking.
Keeping the right perspective through hardships is essential. Satan is on the prowl, actively searching and trying to make us think only about ourselves instead of God’s work in those hardships. The deceiver wants us to look away from Jesus.
We must choose to keep our eyes on Jesus. We must choose Him whom we serve.
Living the Choice
I had to go through trials and failures to come to this point, but I have now chosen whom I serve and where I dwell. It’s a battle, and there have been times when Satan has gotten me to focus on myself instead of on God. But the choice always remains.
I choose to serve the Lord, even in the storm. I can dwell in Him, regardless of where in the world I’m living.
If I call myself a child of God, then I must give Him center place in my life. All my decisions and actions should be dictated by what glorifies Him – not by what pleases me.
My story is not my own; it’s God’s story. The story of how He changed my life and is continuing to shape it to this day.