Following God on a Whim



Have you ever done anything big for God without praying about it first?

You’re not supposed to.  We all dream big dreams and we want to make an impact for God.  But you and I know that you’re supposed to pray really hard before taking a step.  You’re supposed to seek “discernment.”  You’re supposed to wait for the Spirit’s “leading.”  Following God isn’t supposed to be like an impulse purchase.

Last summer, I got sick of waiting.

Not Knowing Where to Go

For a long time, I had some inkling in my mind that I really needed to go on some kind of a mission trip, out of the country.  It was a feeling that would not go away.  Plenty of my friends had gone overseas, but somehow, I had avoided it.

But the problem was I did not know where to go.  I did not know where to start.  And I was pretty skeptical about the whole calling.  Most friends I saw come back from mission trips looked like they had spent most of their time vacationing.  I didn’t want to do that.  I didn’t want to be a lame American tourist, treating poor people like zoo animals to gawk at.  I didn’t want poor people to accommodate me so I could feel like I got my life-changing Jesus fix.

So one Saturday afternoon, without any prayer, I was just in my blog reader, and there it was.

It was an interview with Seth Barnes, founder of Adventures in Missions.  And, what do you know, they had lots of trips available on their website, which detailed all the hard work you’d be doing.  I scanned the schedule.  Exactly one trip coincided with a free space in my summer schedule.  A few clicks later, I was registered and had paid my non-refundable deposit.

I Know Better Than to Pray

No, I didn’t pray over this new opportunity.  I didn’t even really notice the destination, which was Mexico.  The fact was I knew myself too well to spend a lot of time praying.  I knew that if I “prayed” for any length of time, it would just turn into procrastination, and I’d pray myself right out of going.  God had already spoken to me.  There was no point in asking Him again.

So when my wife came home that afternoon, I told her I was going.  She promptly agreed.  Apparently, she didn’t need to pray about me being out of the house either.

I announced my plans the next day at church, and the irony was that while people were encouraging, the encouragement wasn’t all too encouraging.  “What about the cartels?” they asked.  Well, too late now.  I truly did not care about any danger that might be present.  The church did agree to pay my expenses.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

I arrived in Matamoros, Mexico to some surprising realizations.  The year before, the city, equipped with a large missionary campus, was the most popular destination for missionaries with AIM.  This year, the campus sat empty.  The group of a dozen strangers I arrived with were the only people all year who decided to show up.  It seemed that everyone else decided to avoid the cartel violence.  Everyone else had prayed themselves out of going.

Perhaps the people in my church had been right.

But the truth, almost disappointingly, was that we were never in any real danger.  In fact, as the week went on, I became ashamed by the excuses that I could have made to not go.  Our group included a pregnant mother of five, as well as a sixty year old deaf woman.  Late in the week, I found myself mixing concrete (the old fashioned Mexican way) with a seventy year old woman with a rod in her spine.  I felt pathetic.  Here I was, an able bodied twenty-something, who could just as easily made excuses and stayed home.

The Big Victory

The reality was we didn’t conquer the world or make a huge impact for God.  Who could in a week’s time?  It would be foolish to expect that.

But maybe the big triumph of the week was that I showed up.  I was present.  I hadn’t waited on God so long that I just sat, waiting.  That’s a big victory for an overly deliberate person like me.  And I wasn’t a tourist.  The work was not fun and games.  We weren’t given busywork so we could feel like we got our life-changing Jesus fix.  We did not eat at McDonald’s or go sightseeing.  There were no sights to see.

I don’t know if anyone has ever boasted about not praying.  But I highly suggest it.  Perhaps God has already given you all the answers you need.  You just need to move and not delay when the opportunity comes along.  Sometimes, you have to move, almost on impulse.  Maybe that’s what being led by the Spirit is.

 So what about you?? Have you ever done anything big for God without praying about it first?

  • Bojan

    Wish I could have read more about the place that you visited. I am from Macedonia and soon I am going to move to California with my wife. I always wanted to visit Mexico, and I have heard about the cartels as well. Seen lots of footage from the gang-shooting members too. I am sure that there are places that you need to see in Mexico, without putting yourself or your family in jeopardy.

    Nice text,

    Regards from Skopje, Macedonia

  • natalie

    I love love love this article. Everything you had to say about missions and not procrastinating or making excuses and especially about the heart and spirit of missions not being a vacation. Love it! but – prayer is so so so so important. Always. However, I totally understand the spirit of what you’re trying to convey about not “waiting” for an answer before you go and do something, because you already feel convicted to do it. I just hope all who read understand the heart of what you’re trying to convey and don’t misread it that prayer isn’t important. Because dear God, prayer is so so powerful and important. much love – natalie

  • Jason

    Matt, first off, good for you. I’m glad this worked out for you.

    As for me, I’ve jumped without praying many times and all of them have crashed and burned BADLY. It makes me cautious to do it now.

  • bethany

    I think that your theory is spot on, with this clarification : pray, but don’t use prayer as an excuse to delay what you know that God has called you. I feel like the “I’m praying and waiting on God” mentality is actually us asking God for a plain-as-day sign, when what He’s been giving us all along is that intuition to move, and we’re too afraid of our ineptitude or money or drug cartels to acknowledge it.

    Great first article, Matt!

  • Sheldon

    I love this Matt. First and foremost because you weren’t afraid to say “i didn’t pray” about this decision. Let me just say this. Yes prayer is important, but faith without works is dead. God commanded us to love, so you moved by faith to obey that command to love those thousands of miles away from you. Especially those who needed to be loved due to the whole cartel situation. Some things require obedience and not continual direct prayer until we see a sign. We are to pray ‘always’ meaning daily, as the word says and I believe if we do that then He will lead us in the right path. Praying about doing missions, street ministry or helping single mothers is not as necessary as praying about who to marry, or what job to take. Hope that make sense guys. Overall great article Matt.

  • Matt @ The Church of No People

    Jason, I know what you mean about jumping and falling. I have done it too. It has taught me to be overly cautious and deliberate. This was one time when I went against my instincts and it worked out.

    Bojan, we went to Matamoros, Mexico. It’s a major border town south of Texas. We were out in the surrounding communities. Lots of okra farmers. I never felt even remotely in danger. Humorously, it was easier to get into Mexico than it was to get back into the U.S. We drove right through on the way south. On the way back, several members of our party were questioned at length about their business in Mexico.