By Pastor Saul D. Gonzalez
In 2016, after 25 years of being bi-vocational—in roles including a teacher, principal, and superintendent of a public school district as well as an associate pastor, evangelist, and lead pastor—my wife, Linda, and I felt God prompting us into a transition from the known to the unknown. I had been serving as the pastor of LifeHouse Church for approximately 15 years, during which time God took us from a small, monolingual Hispanic church in Bakersfield, California, called El Buen Pastor to a growing, bilingual church in a much larger facility in the same community. About this time, I began to sense that God’s plan for my role in the ministry extended beyond my own expectations, which included the difficult decision of stepping away from the security of a successful educational career and embracing the challenge and uncertainty of full-time ministry. With a good dose of apprehension, I started discussing the aforementioned with Linda, and I believe the Lord spoke through her and used her to impart great wisdom and guidance to me. “Saul,” she said, “What if this is our ‘Isaac’ that we need to place on God’s altar?” Just as God led Abraham to place his own son on the altar, Linda and I knew He was leading us to sacrifice stability and security for the sake of greater glory in His Kingdom.
When God called Abraham to sacrifice his son on the altar, Abraham had to decide whether or not he was “all in” for the Lord. Being all in is an all-or-nothing proposition, and Abraham’s act of faith was symbolic of his sincere devotion to God’s will and calling. The Bible is replete with examples of men like Abraham—Christ-followers who have offered God their everything. The 12 disciples sacrificed the comfort of their families and their livelihood to follow Jesus. Daniel prayed to God, three times each day, risking a brutal death in the lion’s den. Even Naaman, the leper, figuratively and literally was “all in” when he heeded the prophet’s instructions, sunk into the frigid waters of the Jordan River, and rose up healed. There is nothing more daring and determinant in the life of a believer than choosing to be all in for God.
Based on Scripture’s depiction of Abraham’s ancient life story, I have articulated in a few points what I feel it means for modern believers to replicate this “all in” behavior. Like Abraham, we too must…
1 Walk by faith even if you don’t know where God is taking you.
2 Trust the process even when circumstances don’t make sense.
3 Wait patiently until He decides it’s time to act.
4 Obey Him even when He asks you to give up something/someone you love.
5 Sacrifice your will for His even when it feels completely counterintuitive.
I believe these five qualities are essential guidelines for dedicated followers of the Lord, as well as ministry leaders who hope to impact the nation with Christ’s profound Gospel. In fact, in my own experiences pursuing this type of “all in” leadership, I have come to firmly believe that Scripture reveals these traits as necessary and integral to our being. God has done much more than call us to be all in for Him, He has created us for that very purpose. Ephesians 5:1 (NIV) reads, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children.” Remember that among the many ardent individuals who have given their lives to follow God, Christ Himself was all in when He left His throne, became mortal, and died in our stead. Jesus didn’t hold anything back. God didn’t hold anything back, and I believe we are called to follow suit.
Alongside those in Scripture, the men and women featured in this magazine are perfect examples of modern-day, devoted believers who have given Christ their resources, finances, passions, fears, and more. As you read their stories, what is God saying about your own story? Have you gone all in with Him or are you withholding some part of your life? Perhaps He’s encouraging you to expand your ministry to a second service or campus? Maybe He’s leading you to offer your earthly resources—whether physical or financial—in support of His children? No matter your unique circumstances, I believe many of us are not experiencing the power, joy, breakthroughs, and outcomes that God wants us to enjoy in a relationship with Him. We are holding something back, but in doing so we are also missing out on God’s best and brightest blessings.
For myself and my wife Linda, leaving a stable career for a life in ministry was our moment of stepping out in faith and choosing to be all in for God. He instructed us to place our retirement, our benefits, our salary in His hands and trust His perfect plan for our lives. Today, I can confidently say we transitioned to greater blessings and now find our contentment beyond what we had ever known. The joy I have found in leading others at LifeHouse is more fulfilling and fruitful than I could have ever anticipated, and I am certain I would have never found such immense gratification if it were not for my wife’s and my willingness to trust God with our all.
Our story, the stories found in Scripture, and the stories within this magazine all emphatically highlight the point that being all in is essential to receiving God’s best blessings, breakthroughs, and bounties. So, here is my plea and my prayer: cultivate space for God to move in your heart and ask Him to reveal to you your “Isaac.” What is He calling you to place on the altar today? Think of what we, the global Church, could accomplish if we dared to give God our all? What would happen if we put all our missional, relational, financial, and spiritual possessions in His hands? I believe that when we decide to do just that—to truly and wholly go all in for God—our very destinies, and the lives of countless others, will radically change forever.