Last week I began a series of messages that I’m going to be preaching for a few Sundays about the Call of God. In the first message I shared that God chooses to have a unique, personal and real relationship with us. And because it is unique, God does not deal with all of us in the same way. God dealings with me are unique to me.God uses this relationship that He has established with me to reach others. And therefore since God chooses to deal with man by man, what He calls us to do is varied so that all people can be reached.
Today, I want to continue to expand on what I introduced the last time I spoke and begin to dive into the heart of the call of God and how it develops in our personal lives.
There was a time where Jesus was ministering to a crowd of people and a rich person came up and asked Jesus what He should do to inherit eternal life. This rich man asks a question that is on the heart’s of many people today. So many people like the rich young ruler have a desire for significance – a desire for something greater than what they have now. In Jesus, this rich young ruler saw the opportunity for something greater and wondered how he might obtain it.
Jesus acutely saw to the heart of the young man’s request. He made the observation that the young ruler had lived a good life by religious standards. He was a morally upright and good man. Yet even then there was still something missing. There was something that still needed to be done internally in this man’s life and something he had to understand about the kingdom of heaven and the call of God.
Scripture says that Jesus looked at the man with love as he spoke His “cut to the heart” words. It was tough to say, but in love, Jesus pointed out the internal change required in the young man. Jesus said,
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Mark 10:21 (NIV)
The Bible records that when the young man heard these words his face fell because he was had great wealth. Although the Bible doesn’t say what the young man ended up doing you get the impression that this was a really tough thing for him to do. Jesus goes on to make the declaration to those around that it’s really hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God and to emphasize his point Jesus draws an image,
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Mark 10:25 (NIV)
Of course there’s many lessons that can be drawn from this window into the ministry and words of Jesus – among them the tendency for success and affluence to create a false sense of security and self-sufficiency that is the endemic to a life of dependency and true fulfillment in God through Jesus.
However, I think Jesus also gives us a lesson about the nature of God’s calling on every person’s life. From this story we can learn that…
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!!!
The rich young man had the external stuff down pat. He told Jesus He had followed the law of God from when He was a boy. Understanding God’s calling however involves the realization that it’s not essentially about what you do for God but what you do with God! He wants you to be involved with your heart as well as with your hands. Notice, Jesus’ answer to the rich young ruler took things further than the guy probably thought he’d have to go. And that’s the problem. When people think of the calling of God they think of God wanting you to do something for Him. Certainly that’s an element of the call – afterall Jesus did say, “Sell all you own and give it to the poor…” but Jesus went on to say, “Then come, follow me”. Remember this – God always calls you to the where He wants you to participate in what He’s doing! He wants you to follow Him!
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)
“Make no mistake about it, this drama and this Kingdom’s agenda is at the center of the meaning of cosmic history and your own individual story. Like a grand conductor who calls in the flutes at just the right time, your Father has brought you into the Cosmic Symphony at your unique place in time and space so you can be a vibrant outpost in your sphere of influence. In short, you are here to be an apprentice of the Lord Jesus to learn how to live your life well as part of God’s broader purposes. This is your calling, this is your destiny, this is your only chance to have a life of genuine, full human flourishing.” – J.P. Moreland, Kingdom Triangle (Zondervan, 2007)
1. God calls us to a certain place in life in which He can have the best opportunity for an on-going daily relationship with us. (Genesis 3)
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
Genesis 3:8 (NIV)
A. In the Garden, God allowed Adam to name all the animals. He would walk in the Garden with Adam in the cool of the day. God made woman out of Adam.
B. The purpose of all these activities was to establishing relationship with Him.
2. In order to maintain that relationship He desires, God will always deal we me on the basis of His love.
5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
Hebrews 12:5-6 (NIV)
A. In the Garden, what did God do? He dealt with Adam and Eve on the basis of love.
B. God killed an animal to provide clothing for their nakedness. He promised a Messiah for their sin nature.
C. When you need to make decisions in your life, remember that God always deals with you on the basis of His love and where He feels will best maintain that relationship with Him that He has called you to.
The Effectiveness of God’s calling in our life depends on our response.
1. We are called to respond to His call by exhibiting the character of Christ.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Romans 8:28-29 (NIV)
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)
A. In other words, God is telling you the place I have you, I put you, because this is the place that I can best have that on going relationship I desire with you. And this is the place that I’ve already prepared to work out my plan through you!
B. You might not particularly like that place, but we must respond out of the character that God desires for us.
C. God does not always put us in the most comfortable place because in that place we might not maintain that on going relationship. He might place you in a difficult spot so that the relationship might be more vital.
D. In either case we are to exercise the character of Christ as our response. In fact it is often in those places that the character of Christ is refined within us.
2. Our responses to God’s call have significance both now and in eternity.
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)
A. How I respond to where God has placed me will not only affect me today but it will also affect me in eternity.
When Jesus told the rich young man to sell everything he had and give it to the poor he also said, “…and you will have treasure in heaven”. God’s calling in your life may not always bear fruit in this world. We might not see the outcome or the reward of the effort and the obedience in following Him immediately! But you can bank on the assurance that you are storing up treasure in heaven.
B. If I am fighting God now, I am also losing rewards in eternity.
C. If I am exercising character where I am placed, I am maintaining my relationship with God now and I will be benefiting in eternity.
i. God will reward you for seeking Him through spiritual acts such as fasting and praying
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Matthew 6:6 (NIV)
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)
ii. God will reward you for submitting to your employer as a faithful steward
45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
Matthew 24:45-47 (NIV)
because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. Ephesians 6:8 (NIV)
22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 3:22-24 (NIV)
iii. God will reward you for self-denial in His service
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.
Matthew 16:24-27 (NIV)
iv. God will reward you for serving those in need in His name.
I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.
Mark 9:41 (NIV)
v. God will reward you for suffering for His name and reputation.
22 Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
Luke 6:22-23 (NIV)
vi. God will reward you for sacrifices you make for Him.
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
Luke 6:35 (NIV)
In fact, Jesus said that every person who sacrifices to follow Him will be rewarded a hundredfold!
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.
Matthew 19:29 (NIV)
vii. God will reward you for sharing of your time, talent, and treasure to further His kingdom.
3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Matthew 6:3-4 (NIV)
18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
1 Timothy 6:18-19 (NIV)
(A Life God Rewards by Dr. Bruce Wikinson, pp. 38-39)
3. God calls us to a place where He can work through us to reach others.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
2 Corinthians 5:18 (NIV)
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.
1 Peter 2:12 (NIV)
A. God may have you in the place He has you just to reach one person. And that is worth it. The truth is, every single one of us has a sphere of influence. There are people we come into contact with every day and whether you believe it or not those contacts are not accidental. You have a choice on how to respond to the realization that God wants to work through you in the influences you have!
4. Because God is the one who initiates the relationship, I may have to make major adjustments in my plans to fulfill His plans.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
John 15:16 (NIV)
who has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
2 Timothy 1:9 (NIV)
A. God initiated the relationship. I may have to make major adjustments to what I think I want to do so that I can fulfill His plans. Here’s the thing. Sometimes people think they’ve got their lives figured out – that they know what they want to do and what will fulfill them. And then along comes someone saying that God is calling them to something. Sometimes it works out alright and what God calls you to is what you think you want to do. However, many people have a fear that God will “call” them to some thing that is leagues away from what they think they want to do. Truthfully? Most times this does happen. But never forget – that those who obey God’s calling and make whatever major adjustments in their lives that need to be made often discover that His calling fulfills the deepest desires of their heart and what they thought they wanted pales in comparison!
B. He says I appointed you. I want you to go. Some may not want to change their plans…
God call in my life is based on His love for me and for others. I must respond in the character of God with a willing heart to change my plans if they are not in line with His plans.
1. God’s call isn’t so much about what He wants us to do for Him but more importantly about what He wants to do with us!!
2. The Effectiveness of God’s calling in our life depends on our response.