Many times, we feel that we are in a race against time to be successful in life. The shelves in the libraries and bookstores are stacked with books promising to give us the latest formula to turn our lives around. We abandon God’s word and hope that some ingenious wisdom will solve our problems and usher us into a new experience without much effort.
But contained in the pages of the Bible are divine wisdom, if only we would pause to read it. There are records of men and women who refused to celebrate mediocrity. They abandoned their familiar, ordinary and average lives to chase after God’s purpose for their lives.
What do you do when you wake up to the realization that all your life, you’ve been climbing up to the top of a particular building, only to discover that your ladder has been leaning against the wrong building? Do you continue for the rest of your life to ‘manage’ at the top of something that’s crumbling? Do you keep calling out for help, hoping someone could whisk you away to the building you should have been on?
“People are excited with you as long as you remain at their level of mediocrity and complacency.”
Some people blame the ladder, the building or the people who cheered them on as they embarked on the futile exercise, instead of humbly climbing down and beginning a new journey that is according to God’s will. It may seem like a lot of time was wasted climbing down the wrong building and up the right one, but you won’t forget all the lessons in a hurry.
If the last chapter of our lives has not been written, then, we can always begin again. Let’s explore the life of a young lady called Ruth. Her friends and family did not understand her desire and dedication to chart a new course. She sought to become a citizen of a new country, to learn a new culture, adopt new values and serve a new God.
The people who lived in Moab didn’t fear God and we can only imagine how much ungodliness and immorality thrived there. Ruth might have been different, even though she grew up in an ungodly culture. Something in her heart didn’t quite resonate with the way of life there. Or perhaps, she was knee-deep in sin but she got to a point where she was fed up and wanted something different.
People are excited with you as long as you remain at their level of mediocrity and complacency. When you choose to leave all that behind, expect some fierce backlash. But never think for once that there’s a problem with you as your new decision is finally challenging them to grow up.
When your life begins to align with God’s plan and as you begin to chase after a purpose-driven life, your priorities and values will change. Your eyes and ears will be opened to new opportunities you were not aware of before now. As long as you enjoy life in ‘Moab’, the move to ‘Bethlehem’ will remain unattractive.
Moab is a metaphor for our lustful desires; it depicts the broad way that leads to hell and destruction. There is no fear of God there, no vision and no direction. All you are doing there is wasting your life and chasing after temporal things. Bethlehem is the place of God’s will and abundant provision. It represents a place of higher purpose – namely, living for heaven’s applause and making our lives count for eternity.
Sadly, there are many ‘Ruths’ in our families, churches and communities stuck in Moab. Moab may not necessarily be the wrong location; but for many of us, it’s also the old mindsets, bad habits, unhealthy relationships and ungodliness we choose to hold on to when God’s asking us to let go and begin a new life with Him. We know that we need to move away from all that’s holding us back, but we seem to lack the willpower and courage to do so.
“When your present reality doesn’t match God’s vision for your life, you know you need to take drastic actions to close this widening gap.”
If your life up to this point has been in a certain way and the quality of your life has continued on a steady decline, with nothing to show for all God’s investment in you, isn’t it obvious that some urgent but drastic change is required? We can’t expect any new results if we keep our focus fixed in the same direction.
Ruth had lived in Moab all her life and that way of life had became a drawback in terms of her ability to move into her next season with God. She had a vision of moving away from what she had been exposed to. She wanted to be part of a people who feared God and pursued the things that were important to God.
Ruth was also getting older and there was nothing to show for all her years spent in Moab. When the candles on your cake begin to cost more than the cake itself, the most important question will be: What have you done with your life? Don’t just count the years, let the years count.
Many times, we think that it’s our own desire that drives us to new levels of growth in God. But in Ruth’s case and similar to so many others, it is God who’s working behind the scenes to accomplish His plans. He gives us new eyes to see ahead, He makes us restless and discontent with where we are and enables us to make all the necessary changes to be able to step into our new season.
Only God could have revealed to Ruth that it was time to move on. He gave her new eyes to see ahead into her destiny and made her discontented with Moab. God may be giving you a new desire or might have been speaking to you about a new course of direction but we have to respond and depend on Him for our next steps and lay hold of all He has in store for us.
When your present reality doesn’t match God’s vision for your life, you know you need to take drastic actions to close this widening gap. Sadly, many of us are stuck in situations where we are living below our potential. For instance, we may be studying a course we don’t enjoy or may never practice after graduation. Many of us are attending churches that no longer stimulate us. On the contrary, they are stifling our spiritual growth. Some of us are planning to get married to partners who neither have a vision for themselves nor for the both of you. Others are investing in businesses that will be bankrupt in a few years.
There are people who are hanging out with friends who do not support or challenge them to be better versions of themselves. The list of people, places, activities and things we hold on to but are no longer adding value to us is endless.
Till something tragic happens – like in Ruth’s case, the sudden death of her husband, her brother-in-law and father-in-law – she would have continued to stay in Moab, living below her potential and celebrating mediocrity as God’s plan for her life remained on hold.
“If you will begin again with God, you must admit that you are not where God wants you to be and you are neither proud nor excited at what you’ve accomplished with your life.”
Let’s ask God to enable us respond to the wake-up calls He sends so that we will not continue on journeys that are not approved by Him heading nowhere.
Ruth hadn’t known anywhere else outside of Moab. She had watched Naomi and was convinced that if Naomi was walking away from everything she had in Moab to return to Israel, then, there must be more to life than what she knew.
Naomi’s blind faith rubbed off on Ruth. When you hang out with people you think are not as good as you are, it’s easy to deceive yourself that you have become the best of the lot. And a lot of people assume that they were doing just well without realizing they are in dire need of urgent help. Surround yourself with people who are a lot better than you and you’ll be amazed at how much more growth is still possible.
Naomi was a great example to Ruth. A faith that is worth having is a faith that is worth sharing. Naomi didn’t preach any sermons; she didn’t write any books; her life and commitment to God even in her adversity was contagious.
Our world needs more godly role models like Naomi who will encourage and challenge others to follow hard after God, not some phony celebrities who are leading our generation further away from God. May God send more ‘Naomis’ your way to challenge you out of your mediocrity, laziness and complacency. May He enable you to see a new vision of where He wants you headed.
God could send certain people our way but it is up to us to take the opportunity to ‘grow up’. Ruth could not have blamed anyone if she remained in Moab but failed to take the risk to turn her life around.
There’s no value in comparing yourself with others who don’t even know where they are going. Instead of trying to keep up with them, compare your personal spiritual and emotional growth with the vision God’s given you.
The Bible is silent about the musings in Ruth’s heart as she contemplated leaving the familiar behind. It wasn’t a spontaneous decision; she must have struggled with her fears as she considered stepping out by faith into an uncertain future. Fear robs us of our potential and keeps us caged as we consider all the scenarios that will never happen.
As John Maxwell writes in Today Matters, people who settle for mediocrity don’t stand out. Their stories don’t get told. We are still reading about Ruth so many millennia after because she got to the point where she was fed up with living a normal and average life and was intentional and committed about aligning her life with God’s plan.
Ruth could have returned to her family of origin; she could have relied on the welfare system offered to those who were socially deprived or disadvantaged. She could have chosen to work for a pimp or could have chosen the downward spiral to depression and despondency. But she didn’t. She chose to begin again, but this time around with God.
What is your plan for your personal growth? God won’t come down to do that for you, He won’t send angels. ‘Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God.’ (2 Peter 1.3 MSG).
If you will begin again with God, you must admit that you are not where God wants you to be and you are neither proud nor excited at what you’ve accomplished with your life. Thereafter, you need to draft a vision and set goals to get to where God wants you to be. Sadly, not many people get to this juncture. They live for so long and have so many opportunities but have almost nothing to show for it.
Ruth must have told some of her friends about her new but strange plans. Her friends must have thought she had lost her mind. At some point, these people had limited or no access to her. You can’t afford to surround yourself with people who don’t understand who you are, why you are here on earth and where you are going to. It won’t be long before they discourage or distract you from God’s plan for your life.
Many of those who are intentional about pursuing with full focus God’s purpose for their lives don’t want to be known as the most successful people. They don’t want to garner a large following on social media. And they don’t serve God hoping to receive earthly rewards.
Their pursuit of a purpose-driven life is driven by these reasons: Life is brief, they don’t want any regrets now or later, they want to please the Lord and don’t want to stand before Him someday with nothing to show for all His investments in them.
If we kept all these in view, we won’t need anyone to remind us to pursue God’s purpose for us. We will take advantage of the unusual grace and supernatural power that God’s made available to us and we will keep going, stepping out into uncharted waters and making the most of our waking moments.
Many people who do not keep track of their physical health or who skip their annual appointments for check-ups and bloodwork often wake up to shocking diagnoses of some terminal illnesses, which are often the consequences of their inaction or oversight. If you refuse to grow and stretch yourself spiritually and emotionally, don’t be surprised when you become irrelevant in some circles or if you completely miss out on God’s purpose for your life.
When Ruth made the decision to leave Moab, she didn’t know she would be a part of Naomi’s healing process or get married to a wealthy and godly man like Boaz. She had no clue she would be the great-grandmother of Israel’s greatest king. Many centuries after, the ancestry of Jesus as recorded in the gospels has Ruth’s name mentioned in it. What God has in store for you is on the other side of your fears.
It’s often only after many years when you connect the dots through the different seasons of your life to see how God rewarded your steps of faith. Ruth certainly had more questions than answers. Yet, she chose to step out by faith with God. Her purpose was in Israel. But as long as she lived in Moab, she couldn’t fulfil her purpose. Has God been calling to you to a new beginning? If Ruth made it, you can, too.