This week I have been working through Exodus 3; the call of Moses to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land. It has caused me to do some serious reflection on what it means to hear and answer God’s call on my life.
There are some close parallels between Moses’ story and mine. I grew up in the church and had a sense of God’s call on my life from an early age; even though I really did not understand what that meant. I remember sitting alone in my back yard, as a young boy, thinking that I would someday like to write things that would have a spiritual impact on other people’s lives. I knew enough to know that I wasn’t going to be called upon to write “scripture”, like the Apostle Paul, but I felt a keen desire to make a spiritual difference. That desire lay dormant in me for many years.
When I was in High School, I was invited to go on a mission trip to Haiti. That seemed pretty exotic to me and I jumped at the chance. To be honest, I was more drawn by the chance to travel to another country than by an opportunity to serve the Lord. While I was in Haiti, God grabbed my heart. I became convinced that God was calling me into active service. I automatically concluded that I was to become a missionary and return to Haiti. With that in mind, I set my own course to fulfill God’s call.
Along the way, I was plagued by feelings of inadequacy. I was timid and shy and struggled to express myself before other people. So I decided that the best way for me to serve God was to become a medical missionary. I felt that I was not smart enough to be a doctor, so I set my sights on becoming a Lab. Technician. I surmised that I could best serve the Lord in the shadows, working in a hospital lab, supporting those who were on the front lines. I would work with youth on the side. Looking back, I can see that I was hiding from God.
Through a series of setbacks and unexpected circumstances, I ended up attending seminary. I enrolled in the Master of Christian Education program and secured a job working in a local hospital. Unbeknownst to me, God had me right where he wanted me to be. In a kind of “burning bush” experience, God called me to let go of my plans and accept what He had in mind for me. I struggled with God about that. I had invested six years of higher education to get to the place where I was. I was content working in a hospital lab and volunteering at a church. But God set before me a challenge; will you trust me? Reluctantly, I accepted God’s call. He sent me back into the world I had run away from. Looking back over 35 years of pastoral ministry, I can say that it was the best thing that could have happened in my life.
The Bible is clear that God has called every believer into service for Him. Not everyone is called to be a pastor or missionary. In fact, most are not. I think this is one reason why we so often miss God’s call. We don’t feel led into “full-time Christian ministry” so we assume that God has not called us. In truth, God has called all of us into full-time Christian ministry. The only difference is the venue. The vast majority of Christians will be called to serve God within the context of a secular job. Jesus implied this in Matthew 5:14-16. "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Peter picked up on this theme in 1 Peter 2:12. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Wherever God places us in this world, we are to reflect His light and point people to Christ.
Like Moses, many of us respond to God’s call with reluctance. We look at ourselves in the mirror and declare that we are not qualified or adequate for the task. Our problem is that we have our eyes on ourselves and not on God. Moses’ first reaction to God’s call was shock. But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" (Exodus 3:11) God was not fazed by Moses’ inadequacy. Instead, He gave Moses a promise that He gives to every believer. And God said, "I will be with you. (Exodus 3:12a) None of us are adequate in ourselves to fulfill God’s call. It is only as we lean on His power that we will succeed. At the end of the Great Commission, Jesus reiterated God’s promise to Moses. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:20b)
But, I think there is a more fundamental reason why we don’t embrace God’s call on our life. We are not really listening. We expect some dramatic event to take place that will give us complete certainty. Instead, God calls to us in a quiet, most often not dramatic, voice.
Our conversation was spiritual and intense. I had been meeting with “Bob” and his brother for a number of months. Over that time “Bob” had become more curious about the Gospel. On this particular occasion, things had gotten deep, and I could tell he was very uncomfortable. Finally, in exasperation, he said, “The Bible talks about God sending prophets to tell people about Him. Why hasn’t God sent a prophet to me?” A smile spread across my face as I looked at him and said, “He has. I’m sitting right here.”
My point is that God is speaking to us all of the time, but we have not tuned our ears to hear His voice. We are simply not listening.
I still struggle with God’s call. I still struggle with feelings of inadequacy. I also still hear God saying, I have placed you where you are for my purposes. I will use you where you are. I will always be with you. Will you trust me?
God is calling you into His service right where you are. Are you listening?