“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” 2 Tim. 4:3
Not too long ago, a well-known and followed pastor tweeted, “Don’t stay where you’re tolerated; go where you’re appreciated.” The massive response it got on Twitter shows that everyone said, “Yeah!” Around the same time, there was a quote that made the rounds on Facebook, and echoed the same sort of philosophy: “Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy.” So far, 21.5 thousand people have “liked” it, and another 16 thousand have shared it. The world shouted, “Yeah!” again.
We like to hear that kind of advice (especially from spiritual leaders), because it makes us feel good. It makes us feel empowered and right about the hurts that others have caused us. It feeds our belief that our ultimate goal in life is to be happy, in the ways that we know to define that word. It makes life easier. But, as nice as those teachings and others like them are to hear, they’re not biblical.
I can’t find anything in the Bible that supports either one of those two statements. Jesus’ instructions to the disciples to shake the dust off their feet in Matt. 10:14 wasn’t about the disciples comfort and happiness as much as it was about timing and the urgency to share the gospel with whoever would receive it. The prophets were rarely appreciated. They were surrounded by people who did not serve them, grow them, or make them happy. And God didn’t want them to leave their posts. So they stayed, because faith and obedience required it. Jonah might have had the sailors on that ship tattoo, “Go where you’re appreciated” on his chest back when he was running and rebelling from God’s call to Nineveh; but God still would’ve sent the whale. If Paul didn’t stay where he was only tolerated, the gospel wouldn’t have spread. If Jesus only stayed where He was appreciated, He would never have healed the demon possessed man. Even more importantly, He would never have made it to the cross. He would have steered clear of Jerusalem, the very place God had purposed for Him to go from the beginning of time.
If we think that God’s purpose in our earthly life is for us to be served and appreciated by other people, then we’re missing the point entirely. That’s not our call. Our call is to suffer whatever we need to, to do whatever He wants us to, to do whatever we have to to reflect the love of Jesus to the world. In Luke 9:23-24, Jesus said that if you want to save your life you’ll lose it, but if you lose your life for His sake you’ll save it. In Jn. 16:33, He said you’re going to have trouble in the world, but it’s okay because He has already overcome it. 2 Tim. 2:11-12 promises that if we lose our lives for His sake and then endure whatever comes, we’ll overcome it, too.
So you don’t need to run away from difficulty like Jonah. You don’t have to walk away from what God has called you to just because it got hard or because people don’t care. Trust God enough to stick around and do what He calls you to do, even when it doesn’t serve you, grow you, or make you happy. It’s not popular, but it’s where life finds lasting significance and contentment and joy.