Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Call

We have all heard it many, many times. They didn’t want to do it, but God was going to make them. They fought with God. They resisted as long as they could possibly bear. Then, finally, they surrendered.  With “Just as I Am” playing they went forward, fell on their face and cried. The call to the ministry was dramatic. It was epic.

That has not been my experience. My desire for ministry as a vocation did not culminate with the throwing of a stick into a fire, or breaking down in tears at the altar, or on the side of some road.  I’m not trying to discredit those experiences. God certainly used Moses in spite of his protests. Some may very well have those experiences--though, admittingly, I have some concerns about people entering the ministry who have resist God in that way. One Old Testament prophet resisted God's call and he ended up getting puked out by a giant fish. Certainly, that is nobody's ideal for a ministerial candidate.  In this post, I'm reflecting on my own calling. I’m sharing a less explosive call to the ministry, and correcting thinking that the call must flare with the dramatic; and that there is dignity to all vocation.

For me, the call to the ministry was more of an impression. I had always wanted to help people. As a child, I wanted to be a doctor. During high school, my walk with God really began to take foot. Romans changed my life. Paul answered so many questions that I had.  I couldn’t stop reading.  I got to know God--actually know Him. Stunning, though it was the Creator, the Sustainer, the All-Mighty was not some distant Being dictating the universe. He was present with me. He became my friend.  In high school, I was exposed to A.W. Tozer, whose works, more than any other author, formed my thinking about God. The Knowledge of the Holy and The Pursuit of God rocked my world. I feasted on those books. In high school, I felt the joy of knowing God. I could affirm with David that in His presence there is “fullness of joy,” and at His right hand “pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11).  Later, I discovered John Piper and through his rich communication of Scripture I realized that this is how one’s walk with God should be. Desiring God was monumental in my life.

As I grew closer to God, I knew I had to be in the ministry. I didn’t fight it. I didn’t argue with God. I actually wanted to do it. I longed for it. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else with my life. It was a matter of finding God’s will for my life. Finding God’s will is not hard. It’s very simple. David put it plainly in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” As we walk with God, He changes us. When the Spirit is leading, our desires become His desires. In a beautifully, delicate, strange way, we are divinely-charged to do what we want. That’s His will.  In high school, God took my desire to help people and showed me the joy of knowing Him. He had gifted me with certain gifts, like the ability to comprehend and communicate Scripture. With my hand in His, He gently showed me that those gifts, wed with my desires and His direction was what I was meant to be.

That was my “call.” It was not sudden, it was not explosive. It became clearer as my relationship with God became more intimate. My experience should not be limited to the ministry call alone.  It is true, I believe, that my purpose in life is to be a pastor, a shepherd. However, in no way is the call to ministry any more sacred than the call to a secular vocation. Jeremiah’s experience with God is true for all of us. He “formed” us in the womb, He “consecrated” or set us apart, He appointed us to a task (Jer. 1:5). God has created all of us for a purpose to edify the Body of Christ and reach a dying world. The call to the ministry is no more noble than the call to law, or medicine, or to the oilfield. When it’s God’s desire, it’s sacred. Let us, then, put away the man-exalting esteem we pour on those going into ministry. Instead, we should build up and hold up the plumber, and the restaurant server, and the lawyer alike. All our dignified by God’s call. They all sing the beautiful song of God’s diversity.

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"God Appears to Moses in Burning Bush" taken from http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burning_bush#/image/File:Moses_Pluchart.jpg