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“Move Forward” or “Stand Still”—Which is it?

Do you ever have trouble “standing still?” I do too! I prefer ministry in motion over ministry sitting still. I like to move forward serving God, and I like things I’m investing in to move forward. To me, it’s exciting to be engaged in Kingdom work—to invest, to serve, to encourage, and to reach as many people as possible with the gospel. Jesus gave us a mission, and I love to be on mission.

But sometimes “standing still” is a good thing. Sometimes God says, “go forward” and sometimes God says “stand still.” So, which does God want us to do? Stand still? Or go forward?

This past week, our office received a wonderful email from an AWANA mother who was facing a deep trial. She recounted to story of how her son told her the previous night’s AWANA lesson—how God commanded the Israelites to “stand still” and see the salvation of God. (Exodus 14:13) God used that moment to calm her heart and cause her to rest in what He was doing in her life. Sometimes God calls us to stand still and watch Him work.

Hundreds of times in recent years, God has said to my heart, “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord”—in other words, You are in way over your head. There’s nothing you can do but wait on God and watch Him work. He is prone to place us into impossible situations, so that our only option is to stand still and leave it up to Him. He places us into situations where we can’t move forward. In this, He orders sovereign rest—providential pauses, where we must be still and let Him be God. These times force our hearts to release anxiety and enter His calm.

Amazingly, two verses later (Exodus 14:15) this same God tells the same people to “go forward.” So, which is it? Does God want me standing still or moving forward? Does God want me resting or pursuing? Does God call me to disengage or to engage. The answer is yes! At times, standing still is obedience. At others, moving forward is obedience. In verse 13, moving forward would be have been disobedient. But in verse 15, standing still would have been equally disobedient.

The key is hearing God and contentedly doing what He says. When He says “stand still, be still, or rest”—then do it. When He says, “move forward, go ye therefore, press toward the mark, run with patience”—then do it. In standing still we express contented dependence. In going forward, we express active obedience. In resting, we express faith, in moving we express courage. They go together. We stand still long enough to catch our breath and wait on God’s timing—to be reminded that this is God’s battle. But then, as God directs, we move forward as He chooses to call and use us. 

We watch God do what only He can do, as we do the little that we can do (like the boy with the loaves and fish). We are invited to co-labor with a God who really doesn’t need us, but He loves to take us along on the journey. He invites us into His work! We get to be “in” on His action, but all the while knowing it is really all Him!

Second Timothy 1:9 teaches that Jesus has saved us and called us with a holy calling—not by our own works—but by His purpose and grace. We bring nothing to the table in terms of filling God’s needs. He doesn’t need us, but He does want us. He allows us, permits us, invites us to be a part of His story and His eternal purposes! Wow!

What a great way to live life! Standing still to see God, then moving forward in His wake, at His side. That’s how I hope to live. I pray that my heart will be sensitive to when to “be still” and when to “move forward.” I pray for wisdom to balance the two.

If God has called you into a “stand still” season—don’t resent it. Rest in it. You have His permission to be calm and wait. He is still working, and in your waiting He is preparing you for what is next. Catch your breath, because He’s about to call you to ride out with Him!

If God has called you into a “move forward” season—don’t hesitate in it. Step forward with courage and confidence, even though you’re staring at a Red Sea that still needs to part. You may not see a way through, but step forward in faith. Move out in courage and obedience. Saddle up—the great adventure awaits!

Know this. If God has said “stand still” then it’s destructive and probably impossible to “go forward.” And if God has said “go forward” then it’s dangerous and painful to “stand still.” Hear His voice. Have confidence in His credibility. Fully entrust yourself to His commands, and refuse to take matters into your own hands.

When God says “stand still” then stillness is what you need. What God says “go forward” then motion is what you need. Either way, He is right—and the best life is always the one that is doing exactly what God has instructed.

 

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