What a joy to hear from Brian Richardson today about the call of God on his life to go into training to enter the mission field. While most of us won’t be called to leave the country as career missionaries, all of us experience the call of God in some way.
As I look through Scripture in places where the call of God was issued, I see some principles that we can all use to discern what the call of God might mean for each of us.
The first time the call of God is mentioned in Scripture is in the Garden of Eden in Genesis chapter 3. Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, sinned against God by eating from the one tree that was off limits. Recognizing they messed up, they tried to hide from God. You know that is as futile as trying to nail jello to the wall, right? J It can’t be done. And so God came to their hiding spot and he called to Adam. Verse 9: “Where are you?”
The principle I see in this passage is that the call of God is first an opportunity for EVALUATION. When we are willing to examine where we are, when we can open our eyes to the place in which we find ourselves, we can gain clues about what God may be calling us out of or calling us to recognize or calling us to do. Until we appropriately deal with where we are, we cannot move on to the “bigger” things God has planned for us.
Square one in the call of God, then is an honest evaluation of where we are. Knowing where we are, whether in a state of sin, or a state of apathy, or a state of preparation, or even a state of confusion can be helpful in determining what changes need to take place or what information we need to seek in order for us to take the next step with God.
God is calling each one of us here today to something. For some of us it is a call to salvation. For some of us it is a call to quit hiding from God and God’s desire to use us. For some others it may be a call to contemplation about pieces of our life that we need to examine in order to grow or become the person who will be ready for the next facet of the call of God.
The next time we read about God calling someone appears in Genesis 12. Turn there quickly if you would. We will read the first three verses. 1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
There are several principles in this passage concerning God’s call, but let me lift up the idea that the call of God often involves RELOCATION. God called Abraham and said “Leave where you are and trust me to take you to a new place.” Can you imagine the conversation between Abraham and his wife? Can any of you men imagine telling your wives that you are packing everything up, leaving your friends and family and moving somewhere though you weren’t sure just how long it would take to get there, where that would be or how it would turn out?
You can never say “never” and follow the call of God. I NEVER dreamed of pastoring a church. I NEVER thought, “I would love to get up every Sunday and preach on passages of Scripture calling people to repentance, change, and commitment.” I NEVER was interested in trying to help lead a group of people to transform their community through acts of service. I NEVER have hoped to raise $3,000.000.00 and build a building. But here I am ALL because of the call of God.
As many of you know, when I was finishing my senior year at Anderson University I received a call from the Missionary Board for the Church of God. The call was the invitation to pack my bags and move by myself to the Middle East to the island of Cyprus to teach 5th grade to young people for whom English was their second or third language. I hadn’t prepared to teach 5th grade, but I went.
The call of God came two years later for me to prepare for more ministry. That call led me to Asbury Seminary in KY and another definite call of God was issued as I was graduating there to move to Cincinnati to begin in full-time ministry as a full-time worship pastor. I hadn’t ever served full-time on a church staff. I didn’t know how to build a worship ministry, but I went. After 9 years there, God called me to preach. I hadn’t trained to preach. I hadn’t even taken a preaching class, but I began to preach every time I could find an opportunity. 3 years later, another relocation took place as I moved here to become the pastor of this awesome church. I had never been a senior pastor before. I didn’t know how to build a staff or congregation or develop leaders, but I came.
God’s call on my life in several moments, called for a relocation. I physically moved to another place. But beyond that physical move, there was always a “relocation” outside of my “comfort zone,” experience and expertise. I found myself in new places doing new things and dealing with a lot of unknowns.
We all have a “comfort zone.” There are certain things we will or won’t do in social settings. There are certain temperatures we are most comfortable in. (As some of you are fanning yourself here this morning J) There are certain tasks we are confident we can accomplish and others we afraid to even attempt. There are certain groups of people you can “be yourself around” and others that cause you to be on your guard. We can easily feel nervous when moved beyond our “comfort zone” or even insignificant or small. However, if we refuse to put ourselves in new situations, if we refuse to “go where we have never gone before,” we will put limits on what God can do in and through us.
Since participating in our ladies fitness classes, I am more flexible than ever. I can extend myself forward and place both hands on the ground, palms down, without any difficulty. Because I have been stretching regularly, I can go where I haven’t been able to go before! The same is true concerning the call of God. If we will be open to the relocation principle, and embrace places beyond our “comfort zone,” we will find we can accomplish things we hadn’t ever been able to accomplish before.
When a crab grows, it breaks out of its hard shell and begins the process of forming a new one. Its life span is marked by passing through successive shells. The crab grows when it is in-between shells. It will continue to grow as long as it dares to break out of it shell. When it stops breaking through shells, the crab ceases to grow and eventually dies. THE LAST SHELL BECOMES THE CRAB’S COFFIN!
I say often to my voice classes, “Music grows or it dies, but it never stays the same.” I believe the same is true of us. We are either growing spiritually or dying spiritually and our willingness to leave our comfort zone or lack of willingness to leave it will determine which one happens. If your comfort level is more important than the call of God, you’ll never hear God speak. Well, maybe you’ll hear Him speak, but you will drowned out His voice or ignore it altogether and miss out on what He wants to do for you and how He wants to bless people through you like He did Abraham. If you want to go beyond where you have ever been, be open to leaving your comfort zone.
Relocation is part of the call of God on this church. We will not be worshiping at this location forever. We will be worshiping one mile from here within a few years. I have been your pastor for five and a half years in less time than that we will be down the road. I am sure the thought of leaving this facility is difficult for some of you. Some of you here were part of the original group that founded and built this church. You know what kind of sacrifice it took to see this church established. It will take the same kind of effort to follow the call of God and relocate. But it is all part of the journey God has designed for us.
On Friday, September 7th, we are going to have a prayer walk and spiritual groundbreaking on Teays Valley Acres. I hope you all will set aside time to be part of this historic and special occasion where we will physically commit to the piece of the call of God that is calling for relocation. We will hike the property at 6 p.m. and visit prayer stations on our hike to pray for God’s help to relocate. Those who can’t hike can ride in the back of a pick-up truck. At approximately 7 p.m. we will be breaking ground on the site where the community center will be built, and we will be praying over that process. No, we don’t have the money to relocate right now. No, there has been no design/build firm chosen. No, we haven’t obtained any permits. No, we don’t have the plans drawn up. BUT BY FAITH we are going to move forward, believing the time is drawing near! Bring the whole family and a shovel and join us for this significant spiritual piece of our journey as a church body. We will conclude with worship around a bonfire that night!
Turn to Exodus 3:1-12 as we explore another facet of the call of God as seen in the life of Moses: 1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight–why the bush does not burn up.” 4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” 5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. 7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey–the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 And God said, “I will be with you.”
Not only does the call of God provide an opportunity for evaluation and relocation, but we see in the life of Moses it calls for COOPERATION. God told Moses that He had seen His people’s suffering. He had heard their cries for rescue, and God’s plan to rescue them included Moses.
Moses had a big decision to make. He started to come to conclusions too hastily. He believed from the “get go” that he couldn’t make it happen; that he couldn’t do what God was asking. And he was wrong. The reason he drew that wrong conclusion was because he started with himself. He started with his limitations and his lack of experience and his lack of speaking ability (chapter 4) and his lack of confidence. When you start with yourself you will always come up short. You will always feel less than up to the task. But if you will factor God in the equation first, and realize the plan you are being called to execute isn’t yours, but God’s and remember that God’s plans always succeed, you can make a choice to cooperate with the plan of God.
God’s plans are always based on either God’s desires or someone’s needs. Most often it is a combination of both. God had seen the needs of His people. Our needs move Him. He isn’t a God who sits by and does nothing. He may send encouragement, He may give strength, He may provide resources, He may do a miracle that changes the circumstances, but He is a God who is moved by human suffering and need. He is moved when people cry out to Him as the Israelites had done (Exodus 2:23-24).
When you say “yes” to the call of God, you are cooperating with God in an effort to bring rescue to those around you. In fact, the recognition of persons in need could be the call itself from God for you to get practically involved.
God told Moses that He had come down to rescue the Israelites and He further clarified what He meant in verse 10 when He said, “So, Moses, in order to accomplish the rescue, I am sending you in to be a hostage negotiator.” God told Moses, “You cooperate with Me and My plan, and I will be with you to make sure you pull it off.” The bottom line is, whenever we see suffering, we can conclude that God has brought it to our attention for a reason and Scripture is clear from beginning to end that God expects His people to be in the deliverance business. In other words, the people in your sphere of influence who need help, God expects you to “get with the program” and help them with the strength and resources He supplies.
There is a precious 92 year old man who lives here in Scott Depot who found his way to our special needs’ caregiver support group. The person he cares for is his wife. She had a stroke 12 years ago when they were 80 and he has been her personal caregiver now for 12 years. He does everything for her and at 92 he is weary and not sure how much longer he can continue to take care of her without any other assistance. Did you hear me? The man is 92 and he has taken care of his wife now for 12 years! What devotion. What commitment. How precious! And now, he is reaching out for help. Surely we can recognize this as God having heard his prayer for help and God connecting him with our church so that we might assist him. They are literally in the church’s “back yard.” I don’t have to pray, “Lord, should we help him.” It is obvious that God has called us to cooperate with His plan to bring this man relief.
You can’t be inflexible and also obey the call of God. God’s call will call you to adjust your thoughts about what you can do in your own strength and power, and it will call you to go with God’s plan, whatever that is, to be used by Him to bring deliverance to those who are suffering.
So, the call of God involves evaluation, relocation, cooperation, and fourth, I believe it includes CONFIRMATION. Not every need we encounter can practically be met by us as individuals. We would never work a job, never relate to our family, never clean our homes or get our banking or shopping done if we got involved with every need we encountered every day. However, God has strategically positioned you in places in strategic moments of time and has strategically gifted you to be able to meet particular needs that you must pay attention to. So, discerning just what the call of God means for us personally is really important.
Turn to 1 Samuel 3:1-11 1 The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions. 2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the LORD called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.6 Again the LORD called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” “My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.8 The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 11 And the LORD said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle.
I love first of all that Samuel was a child. God calls the young and old alike! Samuel was stirred. He heard a voice. Not having had experience with hearing God for himself, he did what any apprentice of the priesthood would do; he went to his mentor to ask what was needed. He was used to instruction through Eli and not firsthand from God himself. This happened three times before Samuel figured out that it was God speaking to Him. We are so used to dealing in the natural realm and hearing things naturally that it takes a while to discern when God is prompting us specifically.
I love that God continued to speak to Samuel until he figured it out. He confirmed that it was indeed He who wanted Samuel’s full attention so that He could give Samuel a specific assignment.
God confirms His call to us. When you are unsure if God is moving you to do something particular for Him, ask for guidance. Go to a spiritually mature person and get some input. God confirms His plans for us in His Word, so plunge into God’s Word for answers. Pray and ask, “God is this You?” He will continue to speak until you know it’s Him.
Fifth, I see in the experience Isaiah had with the Lord that the call of God involves REVELATION. Turn to Isaiah 6:1-8 1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” 6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Along with the call of God comes a revelation about God. Here, in Isaiah’s commissioning, there is a recognition of the holiness of God as God reveals it to Isaiah. It was an up close and personal encounter. One way God draws us closer to Himself is through the call of God. He knows that as we follow Him, we will come to see Him more clearly and depend on Him more faithfully. The more we understand about God and His character, the more we will be drawn to follow Him wholeheartedly with respect and devotion.
When God called to Adam to ask where He was, it was revealed to Adam that God is faithful and He is the One who provides atonement for sin. For God made a way in the Garden for Adam to be forgiven.
When God called Abraham, it was revealed to Abraham that God is a God of Covenant. He makes promises and He keeps them from generation to generation.
When God called Moses, it was revealed to Moses that God is the God who is concerned about the needs of His people, and He is the God who is with us as we follow Him.
When God called Samuel, Samuel learned that God speaks directly to individuals and that He is no respector of persons; using young and old alike. He also learned something about the character and justice of God and it was revealed to him that God won’t tolerate sin. God always reveals something about His character when He speaks to us.
Finally, I would like to point out that the call of God involves TRANSFORMATION. Matthew 4:18-2018 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.
These ordinary, unschooled fisherman were going to undergo a transformation. It wasn’t just that the circumstances of their lives would change or their daily routine would change, but THEY were going to change. They were going to be transformed into soul winners. How many of you can testify that cooperating with the plan of God will change a person? Why the need for transformation? When we say “yes” to the call of God, He will bring about the changes in us necessary for the task. Before He can do His work through you, He must do His work in you.
If you are going to answer the call of God, you must be willing to:
EVALUATE where you are.
RELOCATE to where God is calling.
COOPERATE with God’s plan. Let Him be in charge.
Ask for CONFIRMATION when you are unsure about God’s leading.
Seek to know more about God as He REVEALS Himself to you.
Be open to TRANSFORMATION. You cannot say “Yes” to God and stay the same.