“You will have to sing that verse. I am afraid to!” Thus began our preparation for a church special. My new friend here on the mission field said this to me as we reviewed our notes and scanned the words of the song entitled Whatever It Takes. One verse begins “Take the dearest things to me…,” and the next verse tells God “Take my houses and lands, change my dreams and my plans, for I’m placing my whole life in your hands, and if you call me today to a land far away, Lord, I’ll go and your will obey.”
I was a new Christian when I first heard that song, and my heart and will were not ready to sing it then. Now though, as I look back over 25 years of serving the Lord, I can sing those verses with victory in vibrant chords. I shared the reasons with my friend and explained my “wild abandon.”
There are many places in Scripture where we see someone who has been able to say TAKE, and God GIVES—He gives when grace is needed, but not until then. Psalm 84:11 says “For the Lord God is a sun and shield. The Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” In II Corinthians 12:9 we read “And he said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’” What a strange pair of words: TAKE, and GIVE.
In Exodus 14:20, after the children of Israel were let go from Egypt, God spoke to Moses and said that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he would pursue the Israelites. God’s reason (Exodus 14:4) was so that Egypt would know that the “Lord is God.” There is always a plan for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11, ”’For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,’ saith the Lord, ‘thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.’” God sees the first and the last, for His glory and our good. Psalm 32:8 tells us: ”I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; I will guide thee with mine eye.” Note that He promises to guide us with His eye, His viewpoint, His plan. As the Israelites came to the sea, they fearfully realized that Pharaoh and his mighty army were in pursuit. They thought God was going to TAKE their lives, but in reality He was going to GIVE them a miracle. Moses commanded them to fear not and to stand still to see what God would do for them. In their great need, at the moment of need, God put a pillar of cloud between the Egyptians and the Israelites so that it was a darkness to Egypt, but it gave light by night to Israel (Exodus14:20). In the night seasons God gives a song, as seen here and in Job 35:10, ”But none saith, ‘Where is God my maker, who giveth songs in the night?’” and again in Psalm 77:6, “I call to remembrance my song in the night.” God TOOK the Israelites out of Egypt to GIVE them miracles.
Job famously states his resolve not to sin or curse God in Job 1:21-22: “And (Job) said, ‘Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither. The Lord GAVE, and the Lord hath TAKEN away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” In the book of Acts, God TOOK Saul’s eyesight and GAVE him (Paul) new vision through salvation in Christ.
In my own life, I made the stanzas of this song a request to God, because He only wants my obedience and willingness. When all else is gone and I still trust Him, then I am rich in joy. I asked God to take me to the place of obedience because I desired Him, to be like Him! I sang this desire to Him, to TAKE the dearest things, my houses and lands, TAKE me to a land far away. These were not vain petitions to make me seem more spiritual, but rather true, deep, devotion to my Savior. Each thing TAKEN was replaced, and I was GIVEN precious truths for what was ahead in my life and in how that life would be lived out in the lives of others in two countries.
My family is such a jewel to me, and I love them as much as any one could. I did ask God to TAKE the dearest things to me, and He TOOK my husband Kenny and GAVE me a wonderful marriage because I got out of the way and let God make our marriage what He wanted. What a delight to minister with my husband through these many years! God TOOK my hands off my children and GAVE them a mother guided by His hand to raise them to minister to others. God TOOK my second baby Izac David to Heaven, and in so doing He GAVE me a longing for that place and the empathy to sorrow with many in those same dark moments. God TOOK my mother in death, and He GAVE me sympathy for others who have that deep void either physically or emotionally. God TOOK my house and land in America and GAVE me a dwelling place with Him now and forever. I testify to this now in Australia, so that others will hear of that testimony and fear not what may come to them by the hand of God. God TOOK my dreams and plans but GAVE me His plan. Genesis 28:15 promises “And, behold I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land, for I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.“ God TOOK me to a land far away, but He GAVE peace as His will was obeyed. God TOOK my health through cancer but GIVES me new insights and dependence upon Him with deep, God-only moments. These are all experiences that I would not know unless I let Him TAKE me there to GIVE me of His great faithfulness. His mercies are new every morning, as we read in Lamentations 3:21-23: “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.” Malachi 4:2 tells us ”But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.” God GIVES me shelter under His wings and shows Himself fresh and new every morning, in that secluded place where I meet Him alone. This is the promise of Psalm 91:4: “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust.”
Ultimately, the foundational reason that I can reassure my singing friend is found in the words of the song in verse one: “There’s a voice calling me from an old rugged tree (Jesus Christ), and it whispers, ‘Draw closer to me. Leave this world far behind; there are new heights to climb, and a new place in me you will find.’” That is exactly what I want: that PLACE, wherever it may be, with whomever is there, in whatever country or physical condition! Psalm 16:6 promises “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant PLACES.” I want to be content in whatever state or condition I find myself, like Paul in Philippians 4:11: ”…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”
I think my friend might try the verses of the song now. In fact, she has a look about her that says she may even attempt a solo!!!