You’re making one of those big life decisions: “Where should I live?” You’re already following Jesus Christ — but God hasn’t dumped an apartment, neighborhood, or city in your lap.Yet. Luckily, I’m reading Matthew 4 and learning how we disciples can follow Jesus everywhere…and that includes deciding where to live.
How do you choose where to live? Maybe you’re changing jobs and considering a new city. Or maybe you’re retiring and looking for a different community, condo, or country.
Or maybe you’re like me: you’re going back to school in September and you need a place to live. Maybe this is your first time at college our university — or maybe you’re starting grad school at a theological college (like me! I’m starting my Master of Theological Studies at Regent College in Vancouver and need a part-time pad close to school).
Regardless of your exact circumstances, you’re here because you’re trying to decide where to live. You’re also following Jesus…and you’re wondering how to connect the two. Rest easy! Help is here.
How to Follow Jesus When You’re Deciding Where to Live
In my last article — What to Remember When It’s Hard to Follow Jesus – Matthew 4 — I talked about how God asks us to follow Him one step at a time. The Holy Spirit nudges us toward one little open door and gives us one little peek into what to do next. Whether we’re deciding to live in a condo or community house, kibbutz or college dorm, all we need to do is take one practical step forward.
In this article — Following Jesus When You’re Deciding Where to Live — I describe three things that came to me while reflecting on Matthew 4:18-22. My tips are specifically related to my search for a new place to live in September. First, we have to be prepared — because following Jesus should cost us something! Second, we must take one small practical step at a time. Third, we must stop when we feel a “check in our spirit” (as Oswald Chambers says).
1. Be prepared — because following Jesus should cost you something
“As Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter), and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea — for they were fishermen. “Follow me,” he told them,“and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zebedee their father, preparing their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” – Matthew 4:18-22 (CSB).
Following Jesus has to involve leaving something behind. Even if your parents, grandparents, friends, husband and children are all Bible-preaching Christians, you will still have to learn how to follow Jesus Christ in ways He calls you specifically. You are His child. He has specific plans for your life. I don’t know what following Jesus means to you; this is the joy and privilege of having a personal relationship with God through the Holy Spirit! We get to follow Jesus the way He calls us, using the gifts and resources He gives us. Take my current decision about where to live while I’m going to school: I’m looking for a small apartment near Regent College so I don’t have to commute all the way home (I live 1.5 hours away from school). My husband — who is also a believer — will stay in our home with our dogs and cat. I’m not leaving my husband, but we’ll both miss being together during the week while I’m in school. We’re both following Jesus…but I’m the one who is deciding where to live.
2. Take one small practical step at a time
What practical steps did Simon Peter and his brother Andrew take when they left their nets and followed Jesus? What about James the son of Zebedee and his brother John — did they think about where to live, what to eat, how to earn money, and where Jesus would lead? Matthew tells us that all four fishermen immediately left their jobs, families and friends to follow Jesus. It doesn’t seem practical, logical, smart or strategic, does it? And yet it happened. Those men — those first followers of Jesus — weren’t stupid or foolish. On the contrary, they were smart and thoughtful men who sensed that if they followed Jesus, He would take care of where they would live, how they would eat, and what would happen in their old age.
Ask questions. Here’s how to get practical when you’re following Jesus and deciding where to live: start making inquiries about cities, communities, apartments, houses and camper vans! What are you curious about? How is the Holy Spirit nudging you? What interests, compulsions, passions, ideas and plans has God planted in you? Follow Jesus by asking questions and researching ideas that occur to you. For example, my husband and I talked about buying an apartment in Vancouver. I’d live there during the week while at school; it’d be a good investment for our future retirement. So we spent the weekend looking at apartments for sale. This helped me decide where to live because I was asking questions, getting feedback, and making decisions.
3. Stop when you feel a “check in your spirit”
This last tip on how to follow Jesus when you’re deciding where to live isn’t from Matthew 4. It’s from one of my favorite devotional authors: Oswald Chambers. Here’s what he writes in My Utmost for His Highest:
“This friendship [with God] means being so intimately in touch with God that you never even need to ask Him to show you His will. It is evidence of a level of intimacy which confirms that you are nearing the final stage of your discipline in the life of faith. When you have a right-standing relationship with God, you have a life of freedom, liberty, and delight; you are God’s will. And all of your commonsense decisions are actually His will for you, unless you sense a feeling of restraint brought on by a check in your spirit. You are free to make decisions in the light of a perfect and delightful friendship with God, knowing that if your decisions are wrong He will lovingly produce that sense of restraint. Once he does, you must stop immediately.” – from Friendship With God.
You are God’s will. Following Jesus isn’t about trying to do the exact right thing or say the perfect Christian words. God created you, and that means you are already in His will. Instead of overthinking God’s will for your life — whether you’re deciding where to live in your city or move to a whole new country — know that God is already guiding you. For example, after my husband and I viewed apartments we discussed the financial commitment of owning a home in Vancouver. It might be a great place to live, but do we really want to commit to another mortgage? We both felt a sense of restraint. And, I realized that I’d rather invest in the Kingdom of God somehow, such as by helping another Christian pay down her mortgage so she could enjoy financial freedom. Or perhaps I could find a room in a community house with other Regent College students.
In The Owl Whisperer — Echoes of Jesus I share my belief that sometimes Christians are so busy trying to hear God’s voice that they don’t actually step out in faith. Why? Because it’s hard. It’s uncomfortable, difficult and disruptive to stop doing what everyone else is doing and live the way you believe Jesus is telling you to. Don’t make following Jesus harder than it needs to be.
This is how I follow Jesus in my decisions: I get curious, ask questions, seek answers, and pay attention to that “sense of restraint” in my spirit. And if a door opens, I walk through in faith! And I’ll walk through that door with an extra measure of joy, freedom and peace if it’s a good place to live while I’m studying at Regent 🙂
What do you think? Your big and little comments are welcome below!
In peace and passion,
P.S. Are you deciding where to live because of a recent loss or major life upheaval? Read 3 Ways to Stay Hopeful When You’re Starting Over.
Father God, I thank You for who You are and what You’ve done for us. You are holy, wonderful, powerful and compassionate — and the world is full of your beauty! Thank you for creating us, and for granting us freedom, peace, and the ability to decide where to live. Jesus Christ, thank You for walking with us, loving us, and teaching us face-to-face. Thank you for embracing your full humanity and your full divinity…and for leaving us the Holy Spirit to fill and guide us. Spirit, direct our words, footsteps and lives so we know how to follow You and decide where to live in complete peace, trust and faith. Amen, amen, and amen!