The list included the songs “You Are Good” by Brian Johnson, “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” by Delirious?, “Blessed Be the Lord God Almighty” by Bob Fitts and “Where You Go, I’ll Go” by Brian and Jenn Johnson. It was a Sunday morning in the early autumn. I had spent the morning on the road, traveling to a church in Lake Havasu, Arizona, where I had been invited to lead worship.
The sunlight poured onto the pavement and there was very little traffic for such an early weekend morning. I was a little nervous because this was the first time I had ever been invited to play without my band accompanying me. The trip would have been nice just because I love extended car rides, but what made that day stand out was the service.
I enjoyed the people, the setting was beautiful and the message was one of the best I had heard in months. It was essentially a moment of growth but it felt more like a mini-vacation because I came back feeling so refreshed. It began with the music, especially the song “Where You Go, I’ll Go.” The song lyrics go:
“Where You go I go
What You say I say, God
What You pray, I’ll pray
What You pray, I’ll pray
Jesus only did what He saw You do
He would only say what He heard You speak
He would only move when He felt You lead
Following Your heart following Your Spirit
So how could I expect to walk without You
When every move that Jesus made was in surrender?
I will not begin to live without You
For You alone are worthy and You are always good!”
This is a song I have enjoyed since I first heard it from Brian and Jenn Johnson, the worship pastors of Bethel Church in Redding, California. I have sung it more times than I can count, but as I sang those words before a group that had previously never heard them before, it was as though I was hearing them for the first time as well.
I’d like to think that the “where you go I’ll go, what you say I’ll say, and what you pray I’ll pray” idea is inspired by the book of Ruth. In chapter one, we read about Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi. In verses 1 through 18 we read about a difficult choice that had to be made:
In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.
Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. With her two daughters-in-law, she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.
Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”
Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”
But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”
At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.
“Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
Even though she had survived the pain of outliving her sons and husband, Naomi urges the women to go on with their lives since they’re young, beautiful, and could still find a new life for themselves. The one daughter-in-law decides to do just that. She gives Naomi a kiss on the cheek and gets out of there. Ruth could have done the same but she makes a vow to Naomi that she will not leave her. She tells her that she left her past behind, including her home, idols, way of life, and everything she was comfortable with to be a part of this family.
Ruth tells her she is willing to give up her life to be with Naomi and is willing to go to the ends of the earth with her. This proves that she really gave no thought to her old life, there was no looking back even if the worst possible thing happened. As I sang those lyrics, it occurred to me that my allegiance had not really been this strong to anyone. Not even to myself.
See, I loved God so much. I gave thanks every chance I got, my life was all about ministry and growing in my faith, and yet I still wasn’t in it with my entire life. There were still parts of me that I wanted to hold on to. There were still prayers I would say that had the formula of “Lord, I am your servant except for the times I’m busy” or “God, I am completely yours… well, except for that one relationship, that insecurity, or that one habit…” In fact, my heart still holds on to these things.
So who was I dedicated to? Where did my real allegiance lie? It occurred to me that I had been a nomad, a wanderer, a vagabond who claimed to be a servant of the Lord but really served the loudest master on any given day.
The Bible says in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Jesus lived as a servant to God and if we have decided to follow after his example, we should do the same. The lyrics remind us that Jesus did what he saw God do by loving, teaching, and bringing restoration to the people he encountered. He only said what he heard God speak and that could be why so much of his message was about God’s love, grace, and the kingdom of heaven. It was clear that everything Jesus did was in surrender to God’s will and leading. The more we look at this verse and think about those lyrics, the more we may see that our own lives are often built around anything but surrender to the Lord.
At the time I worked in customer service. My job was to listen to the desires of shoppers, to help make sure they were happy and every need was met. I would even go out of my way to do so because every time I saw someone walk away with a smile, I knew I had helped make their day better. Here I was serving people each day, telling them that I would do everything in my power to be of help, yet I rarely took the time to do the same for God.
As I sang those lyrics, I understood that very little of my life served the Lord. I realized I had not been living up to the potential that God had given me. So many of our prayers may be requests that God would change a situation, give us something or help make our circumstances better, but even Jesus did not fill up his prayer time with selfish requests. In Matthew 6:8-13, Jesus gives us an example of prayer that even before we make a request, we should be asking God’s will before our own: “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask him. In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
As I stood on the stage that day, I couldn’t remember the last time I asked the Lord what he wanted. Sadly, we can get caught up in our daily lives where every other need comes before God’s most basic desires. We may have good intentions, trying to live a life that glorifies God, but in reality we may miss the entire point by putting God last in our priorities. When we skip out on time with God, we may get far on our to-do list but we will never go where God went and even worse, we will never be where God is trying to lead us.