Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

by Jeannette Haley

We are all affected by “leaving.” As I write this, summer is slowly leaving, our once-great nation is leaving its status as the leading world power, and people are finding themselves forced to leave their jobs, homes, and lifestyles.

Have you ever contemplated the major role “leaving” plays in our lives? For example, consider those times when perhaps you were enjoying a special vacation, or heart-warming fellowship, or an inspiring speaker (or any other time that was “delicious” for you) and then the time came for you to leave. When the normal, mundane routines that make up much of our lives are punctuated by out-of-the-ordinary moments of pure joy and happiness, we wish those times would continue forever. Leaving to return to our world of duties, responsibilities and challenges causes us to want to cling to those precious moments when all was well, even if for only a few short minutes or hours.

However, life consists of 24-hour periods that quickly fade into the past. It is not so much that we leave time, but that time leaves us. When we are very young, time seems to move so slowly, but once we reach the “pinnacle” of our years, suddenly we find ourselves comparing time to an out-of-control freight train charging straight down a mountain. Our “leaving” this world frequently comes to mind.

With tongue-in-cheek I must say that sometimes leaving is a happy thing—such as when unwanted guests suddenly decide to leave, or when you get to leave the dentist’s office for at least another six months. The fact is, however, that most of the major changes in one’s life involve the process of leaving. To this day, I remember when I had to leave my mother’s side to attend kindergarten. It was a huge adjustment, as was leaving grade school for Jr. High School, then leaving that world for High School, and finally leaving my sheltered life for a totally new experience of adult responsibilities.

Life brings changes—both wanted and unwanted—that requires the act of leaving on our part. There are times when we may leave jobs, careers, churches, friends, homes, family and loved ones, as well as beloved pets, or they leave us. Sometimes, against our will, we find ourselves propelled to leave, or abandon, dreams and ideas that we once held close to our hearts. Inevitably, we all experience the emotional spectrum that is woven into the fabric of “leaving,” especially when beauty, vitality, health, and memory leaves us!

When we go to God’s Word, we can find much on the subject of leaving that is enlightening, challenging, sobering, and encouraging, depending on the situation. In Genesis, we read of the first acts of “leaving” that took place, beginning with Adam’s act of rebellion and disobedience in leaving God in order to acquire his own independence. Of course, we all know that his deliberate decision brought death upon all humanity, (see Romans 5:12). We read of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:22-24) when Adam and Eve had to leave humankind’s first perfect environment forever. Can you even begin to imagine what they felt like? Fear had to be their constant companion as they made their way into hostile and unfamiliar territory where, unlike the Garden of Eden, they had to learn how to work for their survival.

Also in Genesis, we read of the dispersion from Babylon of all the descendants of Sham, Ham and Japheth upon the face of the entire earth, (Genesis 11) and in Genesis 12 the departure of Abram (Abraham) from his home in obedience to God. We read in Genesis 17-19 the story of Sodom and Gomorrah; and, how God caused Lot, his wife and two daughters to leave those condemned cities. Then there is Joseph, forced to leave his father and homeland when his brothers sold him into slavery. Imagine the thoughts that went through this young man’s mind as he was carried far away from all that he had ever known, and planted in a foreign country with strange customs. We know that in time Jacob and his family were forced through famine to leave Israel and sojourn to Egypt where they remained for 430 years.

It seems that most of the “leaving” in our lives is not of our own choosing. Consider the baby Moses who had to leave his family to be raised by the daughter of Pharaoh, only to leave Egypt for the “back side of the desert” until God called him 40 years later to leave that place and return to Egypt to set His people free. One of the greatest accounts of people “leaving” in the entire Bible is the exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt.

Traveling back in time to the Old Testament days, we can find an array of examples of people and prophets “leaving.” Think of all the people who had to leave their homes and towns when taken captive and carried away to Babylon. Seventy years later, the Jews left Babylon to return to Jerusalem. Consider the miracle of modern Israel—after two-thousand years of dispersion and intense persecution, multitudes of Jews left their dwelling places and returned to the land that God gave to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants forever.

Obviously, leaving and change go together, for better or for worse. The fact is, when we breathe our last and leave our physical bodies, we will either be in the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8) or we will face hell (Luke 16:19-31.) This is not a fashionable or popular subject these days either in the modern churches or in the world, but facts are facts. The Bible teaches more about hell than it does about heaven; yet, how many truly believe and take to heart all of the warnings we are given? We are living in perilous times when from the top down (Obama to “regular” folks) the Word of God is mocked, misquoted, slandered, scorned, ridiculed, derailed, altered, misconstrued, ignored, disrespected, and even changed to make it say what people want to hear. Such people assign themselves to destruction (2 Peter 3:16).

However, above all else, the greatest “leaving” that ever took place was when the Lord of glory gave up that glory to become a man, born of the flesh. Meditate on this eternal truth, revealed to us in Philippians 2:5-11, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Can you even begin to comprehend the greatness of this, and what it means for you and me?

In Mark 15:37 we read of the leaving of Jesus’ spirit, as He hung on the cross, “And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.” Imagine how devastated and heartbroken the people were who knew and loved Him! One can wonder how many at that time remembered His promise as recorded in John 14:1-4, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.”  What comfort these words have held for every blood-bought saint through the ages who has placed their trust in the One who will one day leave heaven in power and great glory to return for His own!

As the days grow darker and men’s hearts fail them for fear, will we cling to the knowledge that after His resurrection He said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” Mark 16:18b-20. Therefore, if we are obedient to His commandments, He will be with us even unto the end of the world. The danger is, however, in leaving our first love such as the Christians in the church of Ephesus did. Jesus warned, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” Revelation 2:4, 5.

It is so easy with all of our coming and going, daily routines, cares and problems, to leave our first love. Even in the midst of ministry and good works, we can leave our first love. This is the one “leaving” that we must guard against above all else. Always remember that Hebrews 13:5, 6 assures us, “for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”

Perhaps you are in an overwhelming situation—one in which you feel hopelessness and despair. In your mind, Satan is telling you that God has forsaken you, that He really does not love you or care what you are going through. If that is where you are today, look up, resist the devil, and take hold of God’s eternal promises. Remember where it was that you began leaving Jesus behind, and ask Him to forgive you and bring you back under His yoke, and into His fold. Jesus is only a prayer away!