Rowing without Oars

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series The Call of God


Recap messages:
– 1st message: I spoke on how God chose to have a unique, personal and real relationship with us. Because this relationship is unique for each one of us, God does not deal with all of us in the same way.
– 2nd message: I shared two important truths about he call of God that point to where it begins. First, “The Call of God isn’t so much about what He wants US to do FOR Him but more importantly about what HE wants to do WITH us!!!

3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
2 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV)

Second, “The Effectiveness of God’s calling our life depends on our response” It is important that we respond to God’s call by exhibiting the character of Christ. Our responses to God’s call have significance both now and in eternity, God calls us to a place where He can work through us to reach others and our response will determine effectiveness! Because God is the one who initiates the relationship, I may have to make major adjustments in my plans to fulfill His plans.

– It is upon this final point that I wish to expand today. You see, you can’t talk about where God has you in life without talking about obedience.

Share illustration of rowing without oars or motoring without gas…either one won’t get you anywhere! Obedience is an absolutely essential requirement in fulfilling the call of God for your life! We won’t get anywhere without obedience!

Our greatest struggle isn’t knowing what God desires of us; it is choosing to be obedient to God.

7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered
Hebrews 5:7-8 (NIV)

Jesus was clear on his call – and though he suffered he was obedient. In fact it was in the face of his suffering that Jesus teaches us what obedience means.

Obedience is a struggle because it is hard. Sometimes it goes against the grain to be obedient. Sometimes it requires a little effort to be obedient. Why? Because more often than not obedience goes hand in glove with another difficult word – surrender or submission. Obedience most often requires submitting to the will of someone other than yourself. And that isn’t always easy to do.

You know, when I read my Bible I find that often what God wants people to do is something that is not normal. It is something that is often impossible by human standards and usually is something that the person would not choose to do themselves. (perhaps share some examples) Yet, it is equally true that unless that person is obedient – what God wants to do through their lives will not be accomplished. Of course we know that God is sovereign and because of that He already knows what our choices will be and so His overall plan remains unchanged. However those who disobey risk missing out on being a part of God’s plan. (refer to “ordinary people who are part of an extraordinary plan”

The sad thing is that there are far too many people in our world who are not fulfilling the call of God for their lives because of their lack of obedience. Either they want nothing to do with God (forsaking the call to salvation) or they are ever searching for the will of God (i.e. what God is telling them to do they don’t like…) There are many excuses that people will have for disobedience – today I want to share some of these excuses that are found in the life of some people we find in the Bible. We’re also going to look at what happens (or doesn’t happen) because of their lack of obedience.

Sometimes people are disobedient because they are not in the mood to be obedient.

This is probably the lamest of all excuses. But there are usually a number of reasons why people are not in the mood to obey God.

6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” 8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Genesis 4:6-8 (NIV)

God told Cain that he must do the right thing but Cain was not in the mood to be obedient. He was angry because his brothers offering had been pleasing to God but his offering had not. (see Genesis 4:2-5) There are many suggestions for why God did not look on Cain’s offering with favor but I believe it is because there is a clear distinction between their two offerings. Cain brought “some of the fruits” of the soil as an offering to God whereas Abel brought “the fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock” – Abel’s offering was “right” because it demonstrated how valuable God was to Him. His offering required sacrifice whereas Cain’s offering was casual. It was that casual attitude towards God that Cain was being warned about. And sure enough sin was “crouching at the door” and reared it’s ugly head when Cain later killed his brother.

Some people don’t obey the call of God on their life because they are not in the mood. They have a casual indifference to what God is asking them to do. I don’t know if this is true for any other parents with us tonight but I’ve got to tell you that I’ve seen this at work in the lives of my own children!

This is a dangerous place to be because this casual indifference towards what God is calling you creates a sitting place for sin in your life.

Sometimes people are disobedient because they don’t like God’s timing!

24 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” 26 At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.
Acts 24:24-26 (NIV)

How often do we put off something that God has asked us to do because we don’t like the timing? To this I say, God’s timing is always perfect!! But if we aren’t obedient when God wants us to act then that moment, that opportunity may never return again…

Could you imagine how the story of Esther might have turned out differently if she had not been obedient…

Perhaps no greater example of the perfect timing of God is found in the First Coming of Jesus Christ…

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:6-8 (NIV)

Paul speaks against this excuse to the Colossians and Ephesians,

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.
Colossians 4:5 (NIV)

15 Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
Ephesians 5:15-18 (NIV)

The next excuse is closely related to this one, it is…

Sometimes people are disobedient because they think God needs a little help…

Sometimes people hear the call of God but they try to fulfill it themselves or they do things that God never asked them to do! Remember two weeks ago I emphasized that the call of God isn’t so much about what God wants us to do for Him but more about what He wants to do with us!! A good example of this is found in Genesis…

• In Genesis 12, 13, and 15 God gave Abraham a number of promises among which was the promise that his offspring would be numerous “like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted” (Genesis 13:16). “…Look up at the heavens and count the stars – if indeed you can count them….So shall your offspring be” (Genesis 15:5)

• In Genesis 15:4, God promised that He would give Abraham a son from his own body as his heir. The problem was that Abraham and Sarai at this time were way, way, way past their child-bearing years!

1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.”
Genesis 16:1-5 (NIV)

– Sometimes people hear the call of God and they welcome his call but they set out to fulfill things their way because they think God needs a little help… Sadly, the result is that we will never fulfill God’s call until He works through us…in the meantime there will be consequences…

– As important as it is to be obedient to God’s call for your life – it’s also important to understand what His call is not! (remember King David and Uzzah in 1 Chronicles 13)

– Of course the question that many of you would probably ask is, “I think I’ve finally got a handle on what His call is but how do I know what His call is not?”…The key is to listen – listen to the voice of the Spirit, listen to God’s word, listen in prayer, listen to godly people that God places in your life to guide you in His calling. Remember that God will never contradict Himself and require you to do something contrary to His word!

– Sarah and Abraham had the right intentions but if they had of listened…

– David and Uzzah had the right intentions but if they had of listened…

– To finish this point I want to share the positive example of Mary, the mother of Jesus…

26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Luke 1:26-33 (NIV)

Imagine if Mary had of left at that point thinking, “Why this is great news, of course I’m going to be obedient and fulfill God’s calling for my life, except I’m a virgin…O Joseph…Joseph…” But that isn’t what happened…Mary Listened…

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
Luke 1:34-38 (NIV)

for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
Philippians 2:13 (NIV)

Sometimes people are disobedient because they don’t think it is in their best interest to be obedient

A classic example of this excuse is found in the life of Jonah…

1 But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. 2 He prayed to the LORD, “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
Jonah 4:1-3 (NIV)

I like Max Lucado’s introduction to the book of Jonah in The Inspirational Study Bible,

He had every right to run (he thought). Why should he go to that stinking city? He hated the place. Why should he warn the Ninevites about God’s judgment? After how they had treated his people, they deserved to be wiped out. The last thing Jonah wanted was for his enemies to receive God’s blessing.

So he ran…as fast and as far as he could away from what God wanted him to do.

But God had other plans.

You know the story: God stirred up a storm. Jonah bailed out of the boat and ended up in the belly of a fish.
God gave Jonah time to think over his actions and attitudes. For the first time Jonah didn’t complain, he prayed. (Probably the only time anyone prayed for a fish-burp).

The prayer was answered and Jonah eventually traveled to hated Ninevah. He preached to the people there. Though his odor wasn’t appealing, his message was and the Ninevites repented. God relented (as Jonah knew he would), and Jonah fumed, furious over the turn of events. He sulked.

We can be so difficult.

But God can be so patient.

The book of Jonah is more than a fascinating account of one man’s futile attempt to run away from God. It is a story of God’s love for even the most unlovable, despicable people we can imagine – and of our responsibility to tell them the Good News. (p. 1077)

• Sometimes God will ask us to do things that don’t seem to be in our best interests but our responsibility is to simply be obedient.

• Look at when Jesus called Peter and his brother Andrew and then James and John in Matthew 4,

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Matthew 4:18-22 (NIV)

Sometimes people are disobedient because they’re concerned about what others might think!!

Look at the life of Noah!

11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.
Genesis 6:11-14 (NIV)

– Noah could have easily said no to God because people were going to think he was crazy. There had never before been a flood – much less rain on the scale needed to create such a flood!

In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul pointed out the fact that fulfilling the call of God in your life will appear foolish to the world…

Read 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. 26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
1 Corinthians 1:18-27 (NIV)

Yet it is also important to remember the words of the apostle Paul as he talked about his “foolish” ministry in his letter to the Thessalonian church…

On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.
1 Thessalonians 2:4 (NIV)

We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you,
1 Thessalonians 2:6 (NIV)

Noah was obedient to the call of God in his life and as a result he and his family and the animals God placed on the Ark were saved from God’s judgment.

Ultimately the call of God in our life will always be related in some way to sharing the gospel of Christ – the message that saves – with a world that is lost. Here’s a thought provoking question, how many people have died without receiving Jesus Christ as their Saviour because of somebody disobeying the call of God for their life in an effort to appear “normal”?

I think when it comes to the call of God we must be prepared to state as Paul so eloquently put, “We are fools for Christ…” (1 Corinthians 4:10a)


I’ve shared with you some reasons for why many people are disobedient when faced with the call of God for their lives. But no matter how hard it is to be obedient, God’s Word tells us and shows us that disobedience results in a far harder life.

Good understanding wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard.
Proverbs 13:15 (NIV)

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2 Responses to Rowing without Oars

  1. Trish Tibbo says:

    Hi Pastor Darren, I’ve missed you and KerryAnn and I’ve missed your sermons. This was very encouraging and convicting at the same time. God often speaks to me through your sermons…I hope to read more.
    Blessings, Trish

  2. Heya Trish!
    Nice to see you here 🙂 I’m glad you find the sermons beneficial. Praise God!


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