Our Heavenly Father calls us to Christ. Jesus, then, in choosing us, further makes His disciples into “fishers of men,” equipping us according to the spiritual gifts given to us. But there are many who baulk at Jesus’ invitation. In Luke’s narrative in chapter 7, he tells us that those Jesus beckoned into service often made lame excuses.
One wanted to follow Jesus just for the perks. Another wanted to first see his father’s life out before committing to Jesus. Others simply procrastinated. See Luke 9:57-62.
In his search for willing disciples, Jesus often encountered those who cited some kind of pressing, interfering need. How easy it is, from our carnal, limited perspective, to often relegate something more important than the Lord’s beckoning! God doesn’t want to rate second to our work, family, hobbies, studies or anything else.
This should be cause for sombre reflection in our own personal lives and calling. Jesus spoke of the impossibility of serving God and mammon. In His parable of the sower, He cited the dreadful attrition of why good seed failed to produce. How might the lessons in the gospel accounts apply to us?
It’s important to remember that Christ chose us; we didn’t choose Him – as an optional extra in our already busy lives. Our intellectual reasoning or intuitive prowess didn’t bring us before the throne of grace! No, rather, our Heavenly Father called us. Christ chose us. We did not choose Him. Our portion is to respond in faith.
In meditating and examining our current life trajectory, we must sense and respond to a compelling meaning, purpose and identity founded on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and in the transcendent certain promises contained therein.
Do we really comprehend the nature of our high calling in Christ? What radical changes have happened in our lives since following Jesus? And how have those changes affected us and those around us?
And, may we add, what remaining course corrections are we still to make, as we grow up into the image and stature of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we expand our lives into His grace and knowledge?
Have we adequately filtered out the cacophonies of worldly noise and the forms of inappropriate entertainments and distractions that can deafen our ears to heeding the true and righteous word of the LORD? Our own hearts, according to scripture, can deceptively lead us into sinful ways.
How authentic is our attunement to His will and purpose? Do we genuinely hear and obey the still small voice of the Holy Spirit?
Our response to Jesus’ offer must be radical and sure-footed, especially considering His instructions as recorded in Matthew’s testimony:
“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [food, clothing and shelter] will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
When God called each of us individually to His Son and into community, He had a purpose in mind. Often that purpose is intended at a specific time in history.
For example, Noah found favour with the Lord and is remembered as a key player in a salvation narrative. Abraham, as God’s friend, was also a notable protagonist in a bigger generational story. Moses talked with the Lord as with a friend, and is remembered as powerfully pivotal in God’s hands. Esther was a woman of her time, called and raised to save her people from genocide. Ruth the Moabite woman stands notably in the lineage of Jesus Christ. Also born for his time was Peter who later led the first century church. Paul, an intriguing man of his time, took the gospel to the Gentiles with great fervour and tireless energy.
What about us? God’s call is also an invitation, and it can be thrust on us when we perhaps least expect it. Moses was called into service at 80 years of age, and we’re quite familiar with how he protested at the mere thought of what was before him. Samuel was called to serving ministry just after being weaned. Jeremiah experienced God’s call at just 17 years of age. “Don’t say that you’re too young,” God told Jeremiah. Elisha also had some quick decisions to make when calling and ministry was thrust upon him.
You see, the prophet Elijah’s ministry was coming to the end, and God told him, among other things to anoint Elisha into service. (See 1 Kings 19:19-21)
Elisha immediately realised that there was no turning back from the LORD’s beckoning. So, what did he do? He killed his twelve oxen.
Remember, animal stock was often the primary source of wealth and provision in ancient times. However, Elisha invited his neighbours and friends, lit a big BBQ with the timber yokes of the twelve oxen, sacrificed to the Lord and hosted a feast for everyone that day. Elisha truly “burned his bridges” in the sense that he was determined to never be tempted to return to his former occupation. He then followed Elijah in ministry.
If we follow the narrative, Elisha wasn’t shy about embracing the daunting scope of work he was called to facilitate in the legacy and footsteps of Elijah. He asked for a double portion of the Holy Spirit! And from the ensuing story, it seems that God granted just what he asked for!
Let’s fast forward to the gospel accounts, as recorded in John chapter 21. Peter and Andrew, together with John and James, were former fishermen. They were the sons of promise for their father’s seafaring livelihood.
However, Jesus had called them three years earlier to become “fishers of men”. After the confusing horrors of Jesus’ crucifixion, however, the post-traumatised disciples returned to Galilee. “I’m going fishing,” said Peter. The others followed. So they fished all night, and caught nothing.
In the morning, Jesus was waiting for them on the shore, with freshly baked bread and barbequed fish on a welcoming fire. Jesus fed them breakfast before re-commissioning Peter back into ministry service with four injunctions. He said to Peter, “Feed my lambs,” “Tend my sheep,” “Feed my sheep,” and finally, “Follow me.”
The early chapters of Acts then show a remarkably transformed Peter. He was fearless, articulate, and passionate for His Saviour. Never would he again deny his Lord!
The Body of Christ today, at home and around the world, is in need of Godly men and women to hear and respond to God’s calling in their lives. We’ve heard that in our current post-COVID era that church attendance is significantly down throughout the Christianised world. Perhaps it is.
We are undoubtedly in an age of increasing unbelief and faithlessness. But that’s not where we the people of God are. We endure and grow by faith. We learn how to respond. We learn what sacrifices have to be made. We learn to implicitly trust Jesus, and to put our hands to the plough for the Kingdom of God – and all it might mean!
Within our churches we see a new generation of young people embracing God’s calling for their lives. And those of us who are older in the faith must mentor, edify and encourage this next generation so they more clearly see and embrace God’s purpose for them.
Do we see every little boy attending church services with their family as a potential pastor, a missionary, a man of God? Are we equipping our little girls into Godly service and mission?
Should we not pray that God would raise many faithful, humble, servant leaders in our time who are willing to take up the mantle (pick up their cross) and run their race in the name of Jesus? Such prayers or aspirations are not presumptive. They’re absolutely necessary.
God has called us to be faithful with the gifts He’s already given us. We need to ask what strides of faith we have taken to develop those individual gifts for the benefit of the Body of Christ? And, moreover, are we willing to suffer for Christ in His service? The message of scripture is clear. Deny yourself. Pick up your cross. And, follow our LORD.
Think back to our early days of faith in Christ when we were compelled to seek baptism. “I surrender all, Lord Jesus,” we may have cried out in prayer. What we experienced is known as “first love”. And as we were raised from that watery grave, in the Holy Spirit, we became a new creation. Then, growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, into His stature and image, at some point the call of discipleship became unmistakably clear.
We learn to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. The Holy Spirit gives voice to Jesus’ words, and if we are listening carefully, it is a call to Kingdom service and ongoing testimony.
God’s hand is on you; don’t resist Him. Don’t follow a path counter to what He’s calling you to. Jesus knew the risks of those who turn back. He said of when He returns, “Will the Son of Man find faith on earth?”
God is encouraging and imploring us today into service and stewardship. His calling and gifts are irrevocable, as they are precious and priceless. May we eagerly embrace all our Lord calls and equips us for! The apostle Paul signed off from one of his letters with the certainty that: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7 ESV)
On that glorious day, may we too hear our Lord’s crowning words: “Well done, good and faithful servant…” (Matthew 25:21 ESV)