Myth: “If I commit my life to God, he’ll make me a missionary to Africa.”

Jeremiah 29:11

I had the dream again last night. I’m walking down the aisle of my church, but there’s no wedding march playing (sigh), just the off-tune ramblings of the church organist struggling through another verse of “Just As I Am.” A preacher is there waiting for me, and so is my mother, sister and third-grade teacher, Mrs. Boulter. (Remember, this is a dream.) It’s at the end of a revival service. The preacher asks those who want to “commit themselves wholeheartedly to God’s purposes for their lives” to come to the front of the church. In my dream, I tell the preacher I am ready to do whatever God wants me to do. Everyone is so happy. Mrs. Boulter is happy. I’m happy. The organist is happy.

The next scene, however, is something altogether different. It’s nighttime. And I’m stumbling around inside this primitive hut with a mosquito net wrapped around my head and body, blindly swiping at insects with a gigantic King James Bible. I try to scream, but it’s useless. A small town girl from Ohio has turned into an unwitting missionary. In the middle of Africa. And I’m miserable. I wake up the same way every time—drenched in sweat, with the sheets twisted around my head, clutching the phonebook.

I know it’s only a dream. Still, I’ve heard the stories. If you “give it all up to God,” something terrible will happen to you to test your faith and see if you’re really a good Christian. It would be just my luck to have to quit my job and leave my family so God can ship me off to Africa to be a missionary. And I’ve never even been outside Ohio.

I’m a Christian. I want to be totally, unapologetically obedient to God. But if I give God my entire life, I’m afraid he’ll do something extreme to prove a point. He might take away my boyfriend to see which one I love more—”him or Him”? Worse yet, what if something happens to my family because I said God could “have it all”? My mom will get cancer. Or my best friend will be killed in a car wreck. (You know, those things you never say around the donut table in Sunday school, but they’re legitimate fears.)

I love God. And sometimes I’m this close to giving him everything. But in order to prove my love for God, I feel like I have to do something drastic. And I’m not ready for that yet.


Let’s be honest—most of us are afraid of God. And we should be. He’s the all-powerful King of the universe. In comparison, we are helplessly powerless. But because we fear him, we hold back from him a few things we feel we can’t live without, afraid that he’ll strip them from us. A relationship. A job. A standard of living. Health. Dreams. It’s scary to know that God wants what’s best for us—because it may come at a price.

Anyone who’s familiar with the story of Abraham and Isaac knows that sometimes God asks us to give him what we’re clutching protectively to our chests. What if God asked you to give up what’s most dear to you? What would you do? How would you react? The danger is camping out in that line of thinking. If you continually live in fear of God and what he will do if you surrender your life to him, you likely won’t surrender. The Bible teaches, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).

God’s will is always tied to who he is. (Read that again.) The rumor that God is a sadist in the sky, waiting for some unsuspecting woman to give her life to him just so he can toy with her, is a twisted myth. That’s not how the Bible describes God. It’s not his nature.

Instead of fearing him, if we believe he is a loving God, we will be convinced all his plans for us will be full of love and for our good. If we trust the Father, we will trust his plans for us … even if they take us through difficult times, down roads we wouldn’t otherwise choose or even to the “Africas” we fear the most. Life with God may not always be “safe,” as we’d define it; but he will always, always be good to us. Our lives are in good hands.

“The real issue in life is not the search for God’s will; it is the search for God. The issue in faith is not knowing what God is doing, rather it is knowing that God knows what he is doing. The issue of faith is seeking God’s presence, not God’s plan for my life, because there is no plan outside of my knowing him.”

—Mike Yaconelli

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

See also

Psalm 34:8; Psalm 84:11; Philippians 1:6


From The Billy Graham Desk

man sits, contemplating

Man condemns himself by his refusal of God’s way of salvation. In love and mercy, God is offering to men and women a way of escape, a way of salvation, a hope and anticipation of better things. Man in his blindness, stupidity, stubbornness, egotism, and love of sinful pleasure, refuses God’s simple method of escaping the pangs of eternal banishment. Suppose you were sick and called a doctor who came and gave you a prescription. But after thinking it over you decided to ignore his advice and to refuse the medicine. When he returned a few days later, he might have found your condition much worse. Could you blame the doctor? Could you hold him responsible? He gave you the prescription, he prescribed the remedy. But you refused it!

Just so, God prescribes the remedy for the ills of the human race. That remedy is personal faith in, and commitment to, Jesus Christ. The remedy is to be “born again.” If we deliberately refuse it, then we must suffer the consequence; and we cannot blame God. Is it God’s fault that we refuse the remedy?

Learn More About God’s Free Gift of Salvation Today.

Why Bother With God? Billy Graham Answers.

Prayer for the day

Lord Jesus, as You sat looking over Jerusalem, You wept. Give me the same compassion for those who have not accepted Your remedy and been born again.

Nightlight About Parents

A Christlike Heart

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. 1 Samuel 16:7

Lori Salierno, in her book Designed for Excellence, relates that she developed a terrible case of acne when she was in high school. Everything she tried failed. She even heard girls at school whispering about her face. One night her will to cope copped out. Sobbing, she threw herself on her bed. Eventually her father came in to comfort her. “Lori,” he said, “I’m sorry. I know it’s tough, but you can overcome this. You need to forget about your face and start to work on your inner qualities.”

Lori wasn’t too sure her father knew what he was talking about, but she thought it was worth a try. She decided to focus on the Lord’s command to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). She began visiting a nearby nursing home, telling residents about herself and listening to their stories. The more Lori learned about the hearts and concerns of these senior citizens, the more her own pain seemed to diminish. One day, when a resident told Lori that she was “beautiful,” Lori realized that she truly felt beautiful. Her trips to the nursing home boosted her self-image and made it easier for her to face her schoolmates.

Scripture says that “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). When we teach our children to know and follow the Word of the Lord, they will move ever closer to the heart of Jesus—and develop a healthy self-concept in the process.

Before you say good night…

Are your kids most concerned about their outer or inner qualities?

Have you ever talked about 1 Samuel 16:7 with your kids, explaining what God values most in His children?

Dear God, we find it so easy to place great significance on matters that mean little in Your eyes. Thank You for clear instruction on what has lasting value and what will bring us closer to Your heart and will for our family. Amen.

  • From Night Light For Parents, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
    Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.

Illustration adapted from Designed for Excellence by Lori Salierno with Esther Bailey (Anderson, Ind.: Warner Press, 1995).