“You are never more safe than when you are in God’s will.”
Where does this saying come from? Some believers think if God calls you to serve Him somewhere dangerous, you will be protected from harm because He has called you and you are obeying.
In our culture, safety implies protection from danger. It implies a life in which risk is minimal and there is little chance of pain, suffering, or injury. Coupled with our own desire for survival and self-preservation we are tempted to see God's protection as a force field that keeps us away from harm.
This idea is also derived from verses like Psalm 34:7 “For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him” and Psalm 121:7–8 “The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.”
It also comes from reading stories in the Bible of how God protected His people. For example, the Exodus when the Israelites were being pursued by Pharaoh’s army and God opened the Red Sea for them (Exodus 14), David’s protection from Saul (1 Samuel 23:14), and Daniel in the lion’s den (Daniel 6). And who hasn’t heard or read fascinating stories of present-day believers who were protected from harm and death in miraculous ways?
Is the saying “you are never more safe than when you are in God’s will” true then? Does God promise that we will always be kept physically safe if we are doing His will? Is this what we should expect when obeying God’s call?
To answer this question, let’s consider some examples. John the Baptist was beheaded (Matthew 14:1–12). Consider all that the Apostle Paul endured—shipwrecks, snakebite, beatings, stoning, hunger, thirst, sleeplessness, and cold (2 Corinthians 11:18–23). Eventually he too was beheaded. Jesus Himself was whipped and crucified as He carried out God’s will (Matthew 27).
Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. (Hebrews 11:35–37)
Ever read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs? It will sicken you. What do we do with all the martyrs and missionaries of the past centuries and the thousands of Christians in our day who are persecuted, tortured, and killed? Are they being kept physically safe?
What these examples from Scripture and history demonstrate is that sometimes obeying God and doing His will is deadly. Safety while doing God’s will and work isn’t a guarantee.
How then are we to think about God’s promises of protection in Scripture and our safety when obeying God?
The answer lies in something Jesus said to His disciples as He prepared them for what was to come. In Luke 21:16–18 He said, “Even those closest to you—your parents, brothers, relatives, and friends—will betray you. They will even kill some of you. And everyone will hate you because you are my followers. But not a hair of your head will perish!”
It sounds contradictory but it isn’t. Jesus also said, “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell,” (Matthew 10:28). In other words, they can kill us but they cannot harm us.
God has promised us many wonderful things as we obey Him and do His will. Physical safety is not one of them, brutal life circumstances are normal in a fallen world. Pursuing God may even lead us into greater physical danger.
As believers we can be assured that we will be spiritually alive and eternally secure no matter what danger befalls us. If we are doing God’s will, we may not be physically safe, but we are secure. Our sanctuary lies in the promise that no ill can befall us but that God who loves us infinitely allows it. And if He allows it and we die, we will be ushered into His eternal presence.
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. (Romans 8:35–38)
If we replace the word “safe” with the synonym “secure,” we will be stating what is true: “You are never more secure than when you are in God’s will.”