God’s calling us (Part 2)
Sermon by Rev Stuart Simpson on 1 September 2019
Readings were Genesis 12:1-5 and Matthew 16: 24-26
Last week we explored God’s call in our lives. I asked you to remember three things, which were?
- Like Prophet Jeramiah, we have all been called by God.
- Because of God’s call to us, we are to live, think and act for God with God, where ever we are and in whatever we are doing.
- And the only really way we can do this is by following Jesus, who not only is with us, and who makes it possible to live the call, but shows us what it looks like.
I also said we would be continuing to explore God’s call this week.
As I’ve been preparing these sermons, I’ve been thinking about how God has called me throughout my life. I’ve recognised God’s quiet calling, through my baptism, where these words were spoken:
Jesus Christ came into the world,
lived, died, rose in newness of life,
and ascended to God’s right hand.
All this he did for you, [for us],
though you do not know it yet.
And so the word of scripture is fulfilled:
“We love because God first loved us.”
I’ve come to know God’s call through my parent’s faith in Christ, along with the faith communities I’ve been a part of over the years. But probably the most times I’ve heard God’s call has been when I’ve been deeply affected by a situation that I know touches the heart of God and I have to respond.
Let me tell you a story.
Most of you know I have been brought up in a Christian home, my parents were missionaries, my father a ministers, my uncle a minister, my aunty a minister – so you could say there was in good chance one of my parents’ four sons would work for the church. I’m not sure this had anything to do with a call, except, our family culture, our conversations, our thought patterns and decision were infused with stories of church, missionaries and theology.
Every family has a culture which will model particular thoughts, desires and dreams. Are these desires and dreams God’s call? I believe they are a general call, in the sense that God speaks into every aspect of our lives but the question we have to ask is ‘which god is calling?’
Anyway, growing up I was always influenced by church talk and culture, it was always in the back of my mind, which of course God knew and I believe used, when I experienced my first, secondary call, which was to apply for the Training in Mission programme run by CWM (London Missionary Society). I had been working as an electronic technician at Tait Electronics, in Christchurch, for six years and had begun wondering if this was what I would be doing for ever, not because the work was bad, just that I had discovered that I enjoyed talking with people rather than looking at electronic components all day.
One day when I was visiting my parents, dad showed me a small article in the national churches newspaper, Crosslink, inviting applicants for TIM. At the time I thought it was interesting but nothing more, however the following days and weeks the desire to know more grew, something about the programme, (the travel sounded exciting) and the chance to learn more about God, touched my heart.
If I look back now, it was as though I was being gently pushed to apply, which I eventually did and after months of waiting, was accepted to represent the PCANZ on TIM. This experience has taught me a number of lessons about God’s call. God works in and through our desires, our dreams, as long as they line up with His.
I believe, knowing we have first been called to God, by God, for God, we are constantly being provided doors to go through, NOT one, or two, but many and if they are in obedience to God’s call, then God will bless each and every one we walk through.
I’ve often pray now, when I believe God is calling me to do something, that if it is really from God, then the door will stay open, if it is not from God that the door is closed in ways that I can’t miss.
Another thing about God’s call is that not everyone around us will understand it. When I told some of my friends and colleagues at Tait Electronics that I was leaving to go on an 11-month mission training programme, they thought I was crazy. Why would I give up a good job, a good income and ongoing security, and with the possibility of promotion? All I can say, is none of these things seemed to answer my questions about my purpose, my calling, at that time.
If we look at the Genesis reading today, Abraham’s call is to live a life of truth in God as he journeys before God – even if he (Abram) has no idea where he is going, where he is going to sleep, how he is going to grow food, and how he will provide for his family. God’s call to Abraham is asking him to see, in the midst of all those watching, that the only one who ultimately counts, is God.
It is the same for us, as much as we might be bombarded by peoples’ advice (some good, some bad). However much we want to please some of them because we love them or respect them, or however much we are tempted to give in to those who call us foolish or tell us we are crazy, we have to first remember that we live for God, and are therefore guided by what pulls at God’s heart. Not the heart strings of others.
I’ve learnt that following God’s call is not a recipe for an easy life, just hearing Jesus’ words to carry our cross tells us this. Doing what I believe is God’s call in my life, has not always meant a life of ease. Following Christ didn’t stop me from suffering from depression or experiencing times of doubt or seeing my family go without certain things.
However, if you asked me if I would have done something else, my answer would be ‘no’ because going through the doors God has shown me and not always knowing where they lead, has meant I have had to trust God. Like my son who leaped off the trampoline knowing I would catch him, I have come to know that God will catch me, even if at times I fall and there is pain – I have also learnt to leap!
God’s call doesn’t mean you won’t fall, but man, it makes you want to leap again and again, because ultimately our leaping with God is eternal and it is exciting!
And finally, there can be more than one call at a time. As much as I know I am called by God at this time to be a minister in a church, I also know that I am called to be a father and husband. I am not called to solely focus on one and ignore the others but
- as a minister to proclaim God’s Word of love, justice, grace and forgiveness in word and action, to God’s people here
- as a father, to love, protect, provide as God loves, protect and provides for us
- as a husband, to seek to see Lala flourish (and vice-versa) as God desires our flourishing.
There is more I can say about God’s call but I will finish it here – what I would ask you do is reflect on how you are living out your call now, being Christ’s followers where you are, in what you do, with what you think. As you reflect do you hear God encouraging you in your call or might God be calling you to try another door?
If you feel God is calling you to try another door (s) but you are afraid, might it because you are worried what others might say or do? We need to remember that we follow God’s call in Jesus Christ, which can be scary but also life giving for ourselves, others and the world – what can be better?