This one's a little old, but I needed to hear the lesson again.
God is calling.
He will keep calling until He gets an answer.
What exactly is God’s calling?
I used to think it meant becoming a sequestered monk and taking on a vow of silence, or being a missionary to the remotest part of Africa where I would have to drink fermented goats milk and eat roasted beetles (crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside).
None of those options sound remotely appealing to me, but when God calls it isn’t usually done with my convenience in mind. God’s calling is based on His desires not mine, but keep in mind that His calling always benefits us when we heed that call. That does not necessarily mean that we will consider the benefits we gain as desirable. We may not want the reward we get.
Take Jonah for example. Jonah is the classic example of the human response to the call of God. God called him to go to the Ninevites, a people whom Jonah happened to harbor a strong dislike for, and tell them they would be destroyed if they didn’t turn from their evil lives. He refused God’s call and went the other direction, because, quite frankly, he was not the most likeable person around and he wanted the Ninevites to die. He gets on a boat going the other way and ends up in the belly of a fish for 3 days to think about it. Then he is literally thrown-up on the shore and goes to preach to the Ninevites, who actually repent and are saved from the wrath of God.
Most preachers would be thrilled to have an audience respond so well to their message, but since Jonah didn’t like them in the first place he was really hoping they wouldn’t change. That way he wouldn’t have to worry about them anymore. In the end God calls Jonah on the carpet for his attitude.
The Ninevite’s salvation was not the benefit that Jonah wanted, but it was what was best in God’s eyes.
And there’s the rub.
We don’t look at the details of God’s call through God’s eyes. We look through our own. And let me tell you our vision is pretty myopic. In fact our vision is so limited that it actually goes against our nature to even consider that another viewpoint might exist. So God gives us the tools to make the necessary decisions to fulfill His call. He prepares us for obedience rather than complete control. He is there working behind the scenes as we approach times of significant impact in our lives. He desires our total willingness to follow Him rather than the threat of a forced march in front of an unforgiving master. It is for the love of Him that we do what He asks despite our fears and misgivings. Our knowledge and vision are so limited that we easily surpass our boundaries when we trust Him to know what we do not, or what we refuse to know.
The call overshadows everything in our lives. There is nothing more basic to our existence than the need for the love of God to reside within us, and it is His love within us that allows us to go beyond our own abilities to fulfill His call. And it is the fulfillment of His call that brings us a greater joy.
The call of God provides us with both a starting point and a destination. To reach the destination He provides us with a vision, and the gifts necessary to attain it. The vision has something beneficial for each of us individually, and the Body of believers as a whole, and like everything God gives us, it cannot be contained within the limitations of one person. Everything God does seems to be made to overflow any boundaries placed upon it. The things of God are no more containable than He is. He gives us gifts that we are compelled to use in the manner and place where He finds it useful rather than where and when we find it convenient. As another case in point consider the story of Queen Esther. She discovers that someone has deviously set out to destroy the entire race of her people the Jews. Esther is asked by her uncle to intercede for her people with the king, but she is reluctant. If she approaches the king when he has not first called her there is a distinct possibility that she could be put to death. As she struggles with the need of her people and the possibility of losing her own life her uncle injects this thought into her deliberations: “And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?'' (Esther 4:14b Italics mine)
In that moment the gifts and vision provided by God had just overflowed the boundaries of the vessel in which they resided. Esther responded as the Queen whom God had made her to be and risked her life to save her entire race. While the gifts God gave her were indeed hers, they were only effective when used in the manner in which He needed them to be used.
God is not surprised by the situations we find ourselves faced with. He does not lose sight of where we are or what we are going through. He doesn’t turn around and suddenly say, “Oh no! Where did he go?” as though He has misplaced us somehow. The Shepherd’s eye is always upon us.
We are not called to be ministers, missionaries, kings, queens, policemen, firemen, or computer nerds, but to be lights in the darkness. We are His wherever we go, and He calls us to be his representatives in the world according to the gifts and skills He has given us. It is not for me to do whatever I wish to do and then arrogantly say to God, “Please bless me as I do what I want.” One of the truest forms of worship I can engage in is to ask God first what He wants me to do, and then willingly go simply because it is God who asks even if I don’t necessarily agree. As in Jonah’s case the call of God does not require my agreement, but it does require, and depends on, my love for God and my understanding of His love for me. That is the basis of our obedience.
In Jeremiah 29:11 we are told, “For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” I am humbled by the fact that He takes notice of me to have a place in His plan at all, and awed by the love it requires to invite me to participate. When I willingly follow His prompting, and respond to the restless longing He has placed in my heart, my step is surer as the wind of His spirit clears the dust and debris from the path I have often ignored. It is a path I often shy away from. The trailhead is sometimes hidden beneath the layers of my self-indulgence, but it cannot be ignored forever. The beginning of that path is marked by a rough hewn cross, whose surface is marred by nail holes and blood stains. On one side awaits His love, and on the other His justice. It is my choice to live in obedience or disobedience, and my choice to enjoy the blessings or suffer the consequences.
We tend to think pretty highly of ourselves at times. We often assume we know the outcome of certain events, and in our assumption we think we have control. But we presume far too much. We have as much chance of directing God with our preferences as a feather has of standing still in a hurricane.
The past few years have been fairly tumultuous for our family. We have felt many blows in both the physical and spiritual sense. At the beginning of this period we tended to look at things expecting the worst to happen, but then God took us in hand and showed us the futility of our anxiety. There was always more to see than we could spy from our vantage point, and with each new event there was a new means of dealing with it. And in dealing with each one a new aspect of the personality of God was revealed that we never would have otherwise understood. We do still worry about things, we aren’t perfect, but we look for God’s hand more readily than we ever did before. It is in His hand that we find the greatest peace, and in obedience to Him that we find the greatest purpose. We know that His plans are "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”
And that is what the call of God will always be about.
©Dan Bode 2000