Over the last 10 weeks I’ve been reflecting in Tiddbits on what it is to be “called” by God or “hearing from God.” While my sense of being “called” by God to be a pastor the last 38 years has been very strong and largely satisfying, I hasten to add that for many of those years I resented being called and was not happy with God about what I felt I was being asked to do.
You may find a similar comfort as I do that there are many people in the Bible whom God “called” who were full of doubts and reluctance yet fulfilled their call.
Jonah comes to mind as an example of someone who did NOT want to do what God asked. Jonah wasn’t at all unclear that God was asking him to go preach to the wicked city Nineveh in Assyria, yet scriptures say, “But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish (Spain).” Ultimately Jonah fulfills his calling, but he was never happy about it!
Moses was enjoying a quiet life as a shepherd when God called him to deliver the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. He asked God: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” God answered, “I will be with you.” It would take more than that for Moses to say “Yes” to God. He applied for disability saying to God, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent … I am slow of speech and tongue … Please send someone else to do it.” Ultimately Moses fulfills his calling because God lets his brother Aaron be his spokesperson.
When the Israelites were in bondage to their Midianite overlords, an angel of the Lord called on Gideon to set them free, reminding him that God chose him for this mission. Gideon tried to play the pathetic card, saying: “But Lord, how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my family.” The Angel responded, just as with Moses, “I will be with you….”
Israel was in a very bad way when God “called” the reluctant prophet, Jeremiah, to speak to the nations. Like others, Jeremiah applied for disability saying “Ah, Sovereign Lord, I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.” God answered, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you…” for 40 years, but no one listened to him. Sometimes we are called to do something whether or not it produces the fruit we’d hope for.
When I was leaving a church I had pastored for years, one cranky old Dutch guy who had told me the first time he met me that he didn’t like me had some parting words: “Mark, we’ve been butting heads the last 15 years [understatement!]. But I’ll never forget the time in one of your messages you said, …”
I was stunned. After 15 years of trying to fulfill my calling at this church, this man is telling me that there is one thing I said that he’d never forget. But here’s the thing: what he remembered is something I NEVER said and never would say because I disagree with it completely! Ah, what a legacy my calling had with him! While he drove me crazy, it didn’t make me question my calling.
A farmer doesn’t cease to be a farmer just because some of the seeds he sows don’t produce fruit (or fruit that he can see).
Keep listening and following, dearly beloved!