It’s for You
Several years ago, I read an article about the most ridiculous requests received by rangers in national parks. People have asked questions like, "What time do the bears come out?"
But people who spend a lot of time outdoors, like hikers, backpackers, mountain climbers, and so on, do need to pay attention to a number of things. Things like keeping warm and dry, drinking enough fluids, eating the right kind of foods, trip planning, map and compass skills, and what to do if you are lost or even suspect you are lost.
Now imagine you’re Abraham without modern advantages such as a map and compass. God comes and calls you, telling you to travel hundreds of miles to a new land. God promises you three things: many descendants, great wealth, and land. You see a few problems, however. First, you don’t have any kids after so many years of marriage. Descendants? You gotta be kidding! Second, you and Sarah are both old, interest rates are down, so there’s not much time to build up a nest egg. Third, the land God has promised you is already occupied. What do you do? Do you stay put and live in the security of what you have? Or do you go to the land God would show you and be overwhelmingly blessed?
God’s call and Abraham’s response are important. It is the flagship for all later calls. As we study Abraham’s call, hopefully it will help us to understand and accept our own call from God.
NOTICE: Abraham wasn’t searching for God - God called out to Abraham. God initiated the relationship. God reached out to Abraham and called him to a greater future than Abraham could provide for himself. Why did God do this? God wanted to know him and be a part of his life on a deep and personal level. And God wants to have that kind of relationship with each of us.
NOTICE ALSO: what God didn’t call Abraham to do. God didn’t call Abraham to enter the ministry. He wasn’t called to attend a seminary somewhere, become an ordained minister or start a new church.
What did God call Abraham to do? The same thing Jesus called Matthew to do. “Follow me.” That’s it. “Follow me.” The rest of God’s call to Abraham was a promise - what God would do for Abraham. All that Abraham had to do was to gather his family together in faith and follow God to the place God would show him.
That same invitation is given to each of us: “follow me.”
Each one of us as Christians has been called. That is a big part of what we, as Presbyterians, believe. We have been called to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ. We have been called to claim God’s promise of love, eternal life, and forgiveness. We have been called to have a relationship with the living God.
And like Abraham, we are called to begin a life that is different than our past. We too are called to begin a journey that will be unfamiliar to us. A journey that may be long and difficult. A journey that may become uncomfortable at times. But we have to step out in faith, like Abraham stepped out in faith.
I know how hard that is for us to do. We have to know where we’re going, what troubles we might encounter, the route we’re taking. When we go on a trip, we have to get out the road map and study it. I’m just like that. I’ll study the map, but I do remember when we went to Disneyworld the first time. We went with friends of ours who had driven there many times and we just followed them without any thought as to whether we were on the right road. They knew the way.
When God told Abraham that he would show him the way, it reminds me of when movie theaters had ushers (yes, I remember those!). These ushers with flashlights would lead you to your seats. You followed the light faithfully, knowing that the usher would show you the way.
If you were to graph your life, it would look something like a road map, as well. (go over graph of my life on overhead).
A young boy down south wanted to join a church. So the deacons were examining him. They asked, "How did you get saved?" His answer was, "God did His part, and I did my part." They thought there was something wrong with his doctrine, so they questioned further, "What was God’s part, and what was your part?" His explanation was a good one. He said, "God’s part was the saving, and my part was the sinning. I done run from Him as fast as my sinful heart and rebellious legs could take me. He done took out after me till He run me down."
Jonah was called by God. Jonah took off running, but not in the direction God wanted him to go. Instead of going east to Nineveh, he went west. God called him again. One of our Sunday School lessons in February looked at Jonah running from God’s call and gave a great metaphor from Francis Thompson. Thompson compared Christ to a hound dog because he never quits pursuing us. He said, “I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him down the arches of the years.” Thompson says that no matter how hard he ran, Christ, “the Hound of Heaven,” finally caught him. As that young boy found out, as Jonah found out, as Thompson found out, and, hopefully, we will find out, the words of boxer Joe Louis ring true, “You can run, but you can’t hide.”
Q: Which of the 10 commandments was Abraham most concerned to obey? A: None. There were no 10 commandments in Abraham’s day. They came centuries later. So, obviously Abraham was not put right with God by obeying them. Abraham was put right by God’s persistent grace. God ran after Abraham and "ran him down." God works the same way with all of us.
So what does it mean to follow God? What does it mean to hear "the Master’s call?" The Bible says, "Many are called but few are chosen". To really understand that statement, we could say that many are called but few answer the call. Too many resist God’s call. Jonah, Moses, Ananias, us. When God calls we want to hand the phone to someone else and say, “It’s for you.” Sometimes we feel like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof when he looks to the heavens and says, “I know. I know. We are your chosen people. But, once in awhile, can’t you choose someone else?"
But if we answer the call, we will be transformed. We will be empowered. It says in John, "But to all who received Him…he gave power to become children of God." Only when we answer the call do we gain that power. That is how we move the mountain. Only by looking first to God can we move the mountain. It’s not by looking at the mountain, but by looking to the One who can move it, that it will be moved. Therein lies the real power. I learned in one of my college classes that we should work smarter, not harder. Working smarter means allowing God’s grace to take control. That’s the neat thing about God’s grace. When you’re centered in God’s grace, everything else falls into place. God’s grace is what will make your business or home or marriage or ministry what it ought to be. Give time to Him. Pray faithfully. Read the Word faithfully. Be called, chosen and faithful.
Called From and To
What we are called from and called to:
I. Called from labor to rest (Matt. 11:28)
II. Called from death to life (1 John 3:14)
III. Called from bondage to liberty (Gal 5:13)
IV. Called out of darkness into light (1 Pet. 2:9)
V. Called from bondage to peace (1 Cor. 7:15)
What we are made by answering the call:
I. We are made the children of God (Gal. 3:26)
II. We are made the servants of God (Matt. 25:21)
III. We are made God’s saints (Col. 1:1)
IV. We are made God’s witnesses (I Thess. 2:10)
V. We are made workers together with God (2 Cor. 6:1)
Pulpit Helps, August, 1992, p. 11
I know how hard it can be to answer God’s call. It can be extremely hard to take that first step. I know how uncomfortable the journey can be. Sometimes things along the journey can be difficult, depressing, downright disheartening. You WILL have to leave your comfort zone. I remember when I started on my journey, I used to say I was here and my comfort zone was waaayyy over there. But I now realize that my old comfort zone of security that I was leaving was nothing compared to the place God the usher was leading me to, a comfort zone where God is and grace is always available.
When you feel called to do something you don’t think you can do, just remember, God will give you what you need when you need it. And don’t run because the “Hound of Heaven” will run you down for your own good. So answer the call because it IS for you.
Let us pray: Lord, you call out to us but it’s hard to hear your voice over the sound of running feet. We thank you for your persistent grace because eventually we will become exhausted from running and when we stop we will be able to hear your loving voice calling out to us. Give us the courage to answer your call to follow you and be blessed. In Jesus’ name, Amen.