Many of us have little hesitation in saying we are willing to follow God wherever He leads us. But when faced with a task, it is much more difficult to follow through with that bold profession. The Bible has many examples of this uncomfortable reality. Some people, such as Jesus when He sweated blood out of agony (Luke 22:44), overcame fear through the strength of God. Others, such as the prophet Jonah, tried to flee from God.
Jonah was told by God to go and preach against Nineveh because of its great wickedness. God willed for the people to repent (Jonah 1:2). Jonah, not abiding by God’s command, boarded a ship and attempted to flee as far away as possible. Perhaps the most well-known part of the story is when Jonah got swallowed by a great fish and remained in it for three days and three nights, eventually getting spit up after he had a change of heart. On a personal level, when we read accounts like this it may be tempting to conclude we would fulfill God's calling without hesitation and that if we were in Jonah’s situation, we would have gone willingly. But of course, when presented with an actual opportunity, our mindsets easily change.
The Bible tells us that as Christians we will have opportunities to fulfill what God has called us to do, but the important part is how we respond to those opportunities. We can face them with two different perspectives: complete them in our strength, or complete them in God’s strength. The way in which we view them can determine how we respond.
When Jesus was faced with decisions throughout His earthly ministry, He continually looked to God and called on Him for strength. This is evident in Matthew 4 when Jesus was fasting in the wilderness for 40 days and nights. During this time the devil came and tempted Him in an effort to pull Him from God. Jesus, not giving in, used Scripture to rebuke the devil and strengthen Himself in God. One instance that would have been especially tempting during His fast is when the devil told Jesus to turn stones into bread and eat. But rather than giving in, Jesus replied, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4).
A commonly recited story, the fight between David and Goliath is an excellent example of two people trying to accomplish the same goal of victory over the other, but they went about it in two different ways. Goliath came in his own strength taunting David as he said, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field” (1 Samuel 17:44). In contrast, David faced him with the strength of God when he stated, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (1 Samuel 17:45). As the story ends, we see that David triumphed over Goliath. This was an astonishing win for Israel. David, being but a young man, was small in stature when compared to Goliath, who happened to be a towering giant of a Philistine champion (1 Samuel 17:4). No matter our circumstances, when we face opposition in God’s strength, we can succeed in our task.
Jesus is the perfect example of how to build yourself in God’s strength and accomplish your callings through it, and there are other examples in the Bible of what happens when we come to situations in our own strength. Jonah fled from God because he was scared, but if he had come to the calling equipped with God’s strength, then he would have relied on God rather than his own strength. Because he was looking at what he could not do, he was comparing his strength to the situation. Human strength, of course, will fail, and that holds true for us as well. When we look at what we cannot do, we are comparing our strength to the situation. When we look at what God can do, then we are entering the situation with God’s strength.
No matter our calling, God will help us overcome the impulse to flee the Ninevehs in our lives and fulfill our callings. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you,” and Psalms 55:22 says, “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.”
Even if we feel intimidated by the task ahead, God has provided for us and will make sure we will succeed for His glory. God does not always call the equipped, but He equips the called.