by Michael E. Brooks
“And now look, I free you this day from the chains that were on your hand. If it seems good to you to come with me to Babylon, come, and I will look after you. But if it seems wrong for you to come with me to Babylon, remain here. See, all the land is before you; wherever it seems good and convenient for you to go, go there” (Jeremiah 40:4, NKJV).
Choosing a new place to live and work can be an exhilarating yet intimidating process. There is the adventure, and threat, of the unknown. There is often sadness in leaving a familiar environment. There are the challenges of new places, new persons, and new activities.
Missionaries often feel called to a particular location. But many go through a process of selecting their field. Even when a general area has been determined, there remains an almost infinite range of countries, states, districts, and towns where one may center his work.
In my case, I work within two or three countries, but each time I go into one of them I have to determine which cities I will visit– what areas I will travel and work within. There are far too many specific locales for me to exhaust within my lifetime. Why should I visit this one, and not all these other possibilities?
The prophet Jeremiah spent a good portion of the final years of the Kingdom of Judah in prison. His message of submission to God’s will was unpopular with the King and his officials. When Jerusalem fell, the Babylonian commander freed Jeremiah and offered to escort him to Babylon, or allow him to live anywhere else he chose.
The key criterion by which Jeremiah was guided in his choice was simple: “If it seems good to you to come with me to Babylon, come, and I will look after you. But if it seems wrong for you to come with me to Babylon, remain here.” Jeremiah was to be guided by his conscience, trained by God’s word. The invitation might be paraphrased, “Go and live wherever it is best for you and for your mission as prophet.”
Christians have been commanded, “Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19). No restrictions are made upon where one is to go. The entire populated earth is our mission field; all humans our audience; no country off bounds; no people more (or less) loved by God.
Yet there still remain choices. On his second missionary journey Paul sought entrance to the Roman provinces of Asia and Bithynia, only to be denied by the Holy Spirit. Instead he was led to Macedonia and Achaia (Acts 16:6-10).
Does God call particular persons to particular places? I am convinced that he does, but not by special revelation, mysterious signs, or other miraculous means. Rather he calls by apparent need, opportunity and conscience.
Some have desired to live and work in foreign fields, but were never able to raise the necessary support. Others have found it impossible to free themselves from domestic obligations. These may well represent a form of “denial by the Holy Spirit.”
When a location attracts us because of the need for the Gospel to be preached, and when time and resources are made available to us, we may feel confident that we will please God by accepting his call to that place.
We, like Jeremiah, can go wherever we find that it is good to dwell.