Several years ago, I was running from my calling, living in sin and making some pretty dumb decisions. My life started to spiral out of control. I started to lose things and people that I wanted to hang onto, but I couldn’t stop the madness. When my first wife told me she was leaving me, it was a wake up call. Up to that moment, I always felt like I could get back to where I needed to be in my life, but when that happened, I felt like I had even lost the calling of God on my life. It was too much for me to have lost that too. Some time later, I explained to a friend how I had lost the calling of God on my life and my purpose. He asked, “Who do you think you are that you have the power to revoke God’s purpose and calling on your life?”
I wonder if David felt the same way after he had his affair with Bathsheba and murdered her husband. Maybe Peter did too after he denied Jesus three times. I can hear him beating himself up saying, “You we’re going to be the rock that Jesus built His Church on. You blew it!” Yet, despite both of their failures, and public ones at that, God continued to use them. David and Bathsheba later had a son they named Solomon. He became Israel’s next king and was the wisest person to ever live. Peter, after being restored by Jesus, went on to lead the Early Church and turn the world upside down. Despite their failures, God never removed their calling or purpose.
Romans 11:29 says, “For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn” (NLT). To me, that’s pretty clear that no matter what I’ve done, God designed me with a purpose and no matter what I do, He’s not going to withdraw it. If you’ve been hearing that voice inside telling you that it’s too late or you’ve done too much for God to ever use you, combat it with this verse. God uses our failures and humanity in our calling. He has a way of using them to humble us, to make us approachable and as a testimony to others that God can use or save anyone. No one is beyond His love or ability to forgive. No one is beyond His ability to use. You and I lack the power to revoke God’s calling though we may run from it for a lifetime. God’s plan for you is still in place. Quit running from it or believing the lie that you’re damaged goods. Gods not done with you yet.
I’m always intrigued by the story of Joseph found in Genesis 37-45. No matter how many times I read it, I come away with a new respect for him. God gave him a dream as a young man that one day his family would bow down to him, including his own parents. His brothers were so outraged that they wanted to kill him. His own father was so disrespected that he rebuked him. Even through that, he still believed in the dream that God had given him. That wouldn’t be the end of it though. For the next several years, he would face one trial after the other without wavering in his belief of that dream. Psalm 105:19 says, “Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character. (NLT)”
When God gives you a dream, hard times are sure to come. There will be people who will openly resist you in your efforts to bring about your calling. It will not be an easy road. In fact, fulfilling your calling will be one of the hardest things you do. God does not choose the weak to carry out his plans. He calls the faithful ones who will endure anything to see it come to pass. He gives His assignments to those who will survive the pits of despair that they will be thrown in. He gives them to those who are willing to leave family and friends to travel to distant lands that are engulfed in spiritual famines so that others may find the spiritual food that God gives.
Joseph wasn’t the only one this happened to. Think of Peter and the early Church. Jesus told Peter that He would build His Church through him. When Peter was emboldened by the Holy Spirit, he was beaten repeatedly and thrown in jail. He was opposed by people he knew. He didn’t quit because there were hard times. He let that fuel the fire that God had placed in him. He used those hard times to grow his faith and endurance. Because he didn’t quit, the early Church grew and Christianity spread like wildfire in that region. He trusted the calling he was given over his external circumstances.
Paul was another person who faced opposition. He went from being someone who killed Christians to one who was martyred for his faith. He was stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked, bitten by a poisonous snake and carried off to Rome because he would not keep quiet about the dream God gave him. Because he was willing to endure the hard times, God used him to write most of the New Testament. The Gospel didn’t just stay in one region, it began to cover the known world. His character was tested over and over and he proved to be the person God saw in him.
God tests those He trust His message to because He knows it develops character. Romans 5:3-4 says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. (NLT)” When God calls you, He tests you in order to develop in you the characteristics necessary to fulfill that calling. He allows you to be moved around in order to create the relationships you need in your life and to put you into position. Don’t quit because hard times come. Let them do the work God intends them to do and continue to walk in your calling.
On my last trip to Haiti, our group sang a song by Jesus Culture called “I’m a lover of your presence”. The part in the song that stands out to me says, “I’m a lover of your presence and it’s all I wanna be.” I can still hear our voices calling out into the night sky to God how much we love His presence. It became my prayer then and I still pray it today. I don’t want to live a day without walking in God’s presence. I know it’s possible and that God wants that relationship with us too.
Adam walked in God’s presence each night in the garden. Abraham lived in God’s presence according to genesis 24:40. Enoch also walked daily with God. Moses spent so much time in God’s presence that his face became bright. He had to wear a veil because it was too bright for the people to look at him. David loved God’s presence so much they he wanted to build a house for Him to dwell in. Peter spoke of the times of refreshment that come from the presence of The Lord. The Bible is full of examples of people who spent time in God’s presence.
If they can do it, you and I can do it. You may be thinking, “Yeah, but those were saints and holy men in the Bible. I’m just me.” Each of the people I listed above and the many more that you will find in the Bible who spent time in God’s presence were ordinary, flawed people just like you and me. The difference was that they took time to be in God’s presence each day. They knew they were unworthy of it, but they trusted God’s grace enough to enter His presence.
They knew that when they stood before God, in His presence, even their hidden sins would be exposed. Yet they entered it anyway. Why? Because they knew that the only way to get sin out of their life is to expose it to God. They knew that it was a good thing to get it out. But somehow, our minds think that we shouldn’t enter His presence because of our sins. We use that as an excuse to stay away from His presence. We cannot buy into that lie!
That’s just like people I know who won’t go to the doctor. I ask them why they won’t and they answer, “Because every time I go, they find something wrong.” They see it as a negative thing when a doctor finds something wrong. I see it as a good thing. If there’s something wrong in me, I want to find it quickly and have it dealt with. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. Dealing with it does. Being in God’s presence forces us to deal with what’s wrong in our lives. We should want to have Him find what’s wrong so we can get forgiveness and move into a closer relationship with Him. Find time today to spend in His presence.
If you’d like to listen to the song on YouTube, you can click here.
One of my regular prayers is that God would shift the prism through which I see Him and others. I see almost everything in black and white. I was raised in an unbroken home and at the same church my whole life. There hasn’t been a whole lot of shifting where I change my perspective of who He is and how I see Him. Over time and with life experience, I have shifted and changed. I see God differently because of what I’ve seen Him do in my life and in the lives of others. I just don’t want to get complacent with where I am or how I see Him. I don’t want to box Him in to what I think He should be.
The early church went through a lot of shifting. In Acts 10, Peter was praying on the balcony while he was waiting for lunch. God gave him a vision of a blanket being lowered down with religiously unclean animals in it. God told Peter to kill and eat, but he refused because he had never touched food that wasn’t Kosher. God came back and said, “Don’t call unclean what I have called clean.” It was then that he was awakened by his vision from visitors knocking. A man named Cornelius was told by an angel to get Peter so he could hear what he had to say.
Peter traveled the next day to Cornelius’ house with the group that came for him. When he spoke to the people who had gathered, they were filled with Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues. Peter was shocked. How could non-Jews have received God’s gift? He turned to the Jews who had traveled with them and said, “Do I hear any objections to baptizing these friends with water? They’ve received the Holy Spirit exactly as we did.” That event created a fundamental shift in how they saw God. They now saw that God’s plan of salvation was for Jews and non-Jews alike. It changed their ministry.
My prayer is that God would radically change me so that I see deeper into His Word than I do now. I pray that He shifts my focus so that I can connect things that I’ve never seen or understood in it. When I understand what He says, then I can know Him more. When I know Him more, my life is forever altered. I cannot accept that I know God as much as I will ever know Him. I cannot believe that I know everything that I will ever know about Scripture. I have to put myself in position to be shifted. I have to spend time in prayer so He can show me. I have to be willing to go with strangers to see what God is doing.
What about you? Are you willing to allow God to reveal more of Himself to you? Are you open to Him showing things that will fundamentally alter how you see Him? What can you do to put yourself in position to be shifted so you see Him in a different light? My prayer is that God would radically change us in the Church who have become complacent with our view of Him. I pray that He would reveal Himself to us like we’ve never seen. We don’t need to fix the Church. It’s not our responsibility. We need to fix our relationship with Him and that will change the Church. We need to change the prism through which we view God and that will change the world.
Transitions in life are hard. They mean that one part of your life’s story is over and a new one is about to begin. They are the space between where faith is tested and fear fights to creep in. They are a temporary no man’s land that we have to walk through in order to grow. As we walk through them, it’s hard to see what’s coming next. The territory is so unknown to is that we put our attention and focus on the transition rather than on where we’re being transitioned to. We question God’s providence in our situation during these times.
I remember one of the first lessons I learned working in a child care center was with transitions. Kids hated transitions as much as adults. I learned that if I told them we were going to be making a change in activities in a few minutes, it would give them time to finish what they were doing and to prepare mentally for what was coming next. Now, when I talk to sales reps, I talk to them about transitions in the sale. It’s important for the buyer to know where they are in the sale and what’s coming next. I even encourage them to share with the buyer the why behind the transition.
As I’ve thought about all of that, I started wishing God would give us the warnings about transitions approaching in our lives and the why’s behind them. As I prayed about it, God reminded me how many times Jesus told the disciples what was going to happen to Him in Jerusalem and why. They never heard a word of it and were shocked in the Garden of Gethsemane. They entered a time of transition between having Jesus walk with them daily and having the Holy Spirit coming as their guide. Like us, they were confused, frightened and wondered where God was in the transition.
God speaks to each of us daily. He says things we ignore or don’t want to hear so we block Him. We use our selective hearing when He speaks of things that scare us. The disciples heard Jesus tell them about the transition, but they weren’t listening. Even when we know a transition is coming, it’s still natural to be scared. We’re afraid of change. The last few years have taught me that change is necessary for growth. When we fight it, we fight growing, we fight the future God had for us and we fight God’s will. Our times of transition help prepare us for the change. They grow our faith and trust in God’s plan for our life. It’s something we can only see when we take the time to look back.
Imagine if Peter and the others had stayed locked up in their house and never went to the upper room. Out of 500 people whom Jesus told to go and wait, only 120 made it through the transition. They were tough enough to stick it out and trusted that God had something more on the other side of the transition. As He did for them, so He does for you. God has something greater for you on the other side of this time of transition. It may take longer than you expected, but hang on. The reward will be worth it. The growth you will experience will be like no other time in your life. Don’t give up in the time of transition. Hold strong to your faith and trust God to see you through.
When American Idol first came on TV, it was one of the most popular shows ever. People couldn’t get enough of it. Since that time several shows with the same premise have begun. The draw to reality shows like this is that it gives a nobody the chance to be somebody. It tells us that there’s a chance for each of us to be great, famous or known. It gives us a cut in the line to stardom, to bypass years of plugging away following the normal route. In essence, shows like that give each of us hope that we too will be discovered one day.
As I was reading Paul’s account of Abraham in Romans 4:17-18, it occurred to me that God only uses nobodies. When you look through the scripture and think of the great people of faith, they were nobodies. David was a shepherd minding his own business tending his father’s sheep when God chose him to be king. Abraham was a devoted husband who just wanted to give his wife a child. He was taking care of his possessions when God asked him to move. Mary and Joseph were just two young lovers trying to plan a wedding when God chose them to be the parents of Jesus.
Look at the disciples too. Most were ordinary fishermen, tax collectors and every day blue collar workers when Jesus gave the call to follow Him. Joseph was a teenager who ratted on his brothers one too many times when he was sold into slavery and dragged to a foreign land. He lived his life in obscurity until God chose to make him second in command of one of the greatest civilizations of all time. Moses was an abandoned child, who ran away from his adopted parents and was tending sheep in the desert when he had the burning bush experience.
The somebodies in the Bible all started out as nobodies. They didn’t follow the normal routes to greatness. They were just doing their normal every day routines when God stepped in. The difference between them and others was that they were willing to be obedient to the voice of God. David was willing to tend sheep as the king, Abraham was willing to leave his homeland with no questions asked, Mary and Joseph were willing to be ridiculed for having a child out of wedlock, the disciples were willing to leave everything behind to follow, Moses was willing to go home and face his past. Each person was willing to be obedient when it didn’t make sense.
That’s the difference in being a nobody and a somebody. Blind faith. God is still looking among the nobodies of this world to find somebody who will blindly obey. He’s looking for somebody to be great. He has not changed His methods. Blind obedience is still what He desires from you and me. Being willing to do whatever He asks even when it doesn’t make sense or defies logic is the trait He most admires. You and I have a choice when He comes our way. We have the choice to remain a nobody because we aren’t willing to do what He asks, or we have the choice to obey and be somebody great. What will your obedience look like today?
Have you ever had a car break down on you? I had one break down on me in high school late at night after I dropped off my girlfriend. It was a cold night and she lived way out in the middle of no where. I was listening to the radio, signing along, when there was a noise from the engine and the car died. I coasted to a stop and began to look for lights. Cell phones were a luxury for the rich back then so calling someone was out. I got out and walked down the road until I came to a house. I went up and knocked on the door. A voice from inside asked what I wanted. When I explained what happened, they said, “We don’t open the door for anyone!”
I went down the road looking for another house. I was freezing cold and starting to jog to get my blood moving. I saw another house. It has the blinking, purple light flashing from a TV in the windows. I knocked and the TV turned off. I told them I knew they were awake and I just needed to make a call. No answer. Down the road I went to the next house. When I knocked, the door immediately opened. They were having a party. I asked for a phone, they let me use it and then drove me back to my car. I’m not sure how many doors I was going to have to knock on that night, but if was going to until I found someone available to help.
Our guest preacher yesterday mentioned in his sermon how God is looking for us to be available to Him. We say we want God to use us, but when He asks, we’re too busy. We have so many things going on in our lives that we’ve failed to be available to God when He wants to use us. He comes and knocks on our door, but it’s too late in the day or we just pretend not to hear it. We want to be used by God, but only when it’s convenient for us. We don’t want it to be in public, at a restaurant, in front of other people or when we’re in the middle of something else. We want to be used only when it’s at our convenience.
Sadly, He passes us by continuing to knock on the doors of hearts until someone is available to help. We wonder why He doesn’t use us very often. We think we are the model Christians, yet every time He knocks, we disregard it because it isn’t convenient. God wants our availability. Either we’re willing to be used by Him whenever He wants or we’re just not really available. What if Moses had been too busy doing his daily tasks to notice the burning bush? What if David had said he was too busy to go to the house to see Samuel? What if Peter was too busy to go to the upper room? You probably wouldn’t know their names. Instead you’d know the names of people who would’ve been available.
How’s your availability to God? Have you told Him you want to be used by Him, but haven’t made yourself available on His schedule? The good news is that you can change that in an instant. You simply have to let Him know that you’re ready when He’s ready, that His plans are more important than your plans and that when He asks, you’ll say, “Yes!” If you aren’t available when He knocks, He will move on to someone who will say yes. There is nothing here more important than what God wants you to do. It may not be convenient or easy to do, but it is the most important thing on your to-do list today. Will you be available when He knocks?
In one of the classes I teach, I have people introduce themselves and tell me a hobby they have outside of work. It provides opportunities for connection early in the class as well as information I can tie back to throughout the day. Yesterday, while training this class, a guy answered that he liked to play music. I followed up with, “What kind?” He responded with, “Worship. I’ve felt called to lead worship since I was young, but I’ve been too scared to step out and do it.” He admitted in front of our group what so many of us Christians are afraid to say.
God’s call on our life can be scary. I think it’s supposed to be. If it were anything less than scary, we’d do it without hesitation. The problem with that is we would think it was done in our own ability. We need to understand that we are simply vessels to be used by Him. It is He who performs the work, we simply provide the channel. Our inability to do whatever He called us to is His greatest opportunity to do something amazing.
God sees in us what we cannot see. Peter was just another uneducated fisherman when Jesus called Him. He didn’t posses the ability to start the Church. He didn’t have the business acumen to take twelve men, start a worldwide movement and grow it. He didn’t have the boldness to stand in front of thousands to preach. He knew what fear was and it got the better of him from time to time. He denied Jesus and his calling in the same night.
The fear of his calling to be the rock that the church would be built on caused him to go back to fishing when he should have been preaching after the resurrection. He went back to what he knew instead of stepping out in faith to be the rock he was called to be. Jesus didn’t leave him in that boat though. He went to the waters edge in John 21, but they didn’t recognize Him. He called out to them, “Have you caught any fish?” They replied, “No.” Jesus called out, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you’ll catch some.” As soon as they did, the net teemed with fish. Peter recognized the man as Jesus and swam to shore.
Jesus reaffirmed to Peter that day what his role was. He didn’t worry about his failures or inabilities. He worried about his love for Him. Jesus knew that if he truly loved Him, he would obey his calling. He didn’t leave Peter in the boat catching the wrong kind of fish. He reiterated that he was to be a fisher of men from now on. I think that call goes out to you in whatever boat you’re sitting in today. Maybe you’re reading this in the place where you can accomplish things in your own strength. It’s the boat of what is familiar and easy to you. But God has more for you. Have you really caught anything where you are?
I encourage you today to recognize the fear that is paralyzing you and keeping you from your calling. If God called you to do something, it’s His strength and ability that will accomplish it, not yours. Release the fear that sent you back into the boat of the familiar and do what God has called you to do. Faith is about trusting God to do what He said He would do. It’s not about you doing things and giving Him credit. Don’t let fear hold you back another minute. If you love Him, feed His sheep.
I ran into my junior high basketball coach this weekend. We were talking about the good old days and how things change. He was mentioning how much coaching has changed in the past few years. One of the ways it has changed is that kids don’t ask to be put in. I was shocked. I can remember being pulled out of a game to rest and arguing with him. “Coach, I’m fine! Let me stay in a little longer,” I’d say. When I was on the bench for a few minutes, I’d look down the bench at him trying to catch his eye.
I wanted to be back in the action. I wasn’t content to sit on the side lines and watch. Not much has changed I guess. I’m not content to watch things happen. I want to be a part of things, especially good things. I want to help out in ministries. I want to go to other countries and be the hands and feet of Jesus. I want to stand in front of people and tell them what a difference Jesus made in my life.
I think Peter was a lot like that. He was the first to volunteer and the last one who wanted to be sat down. When Jesus asked, “Who do men say I am,” it was Peter who answered. When the guards came to take Jesus, it was Peter who grabbed his sword and swung it. When they were in a boat and the storm was raging, it was Peter who asked to walk on water. When the Holy Spirit came down and the people gathered around the upper room, it was Peter who stood up and preached.
Was he perfect? No. Did he often have to be corrected? Yes. He wasn’t afraid to go out and do something for Jesus, even if he made a mistake. He’d rather make a mistake in ministry than to make the mistake of sitting on the side lines. It was the other eleven who stayed in the boat sitting on the side lines. Every one of them had the opportunity to get out of the boat and join Peter. They could have known what it felt like to have water under their feet.
I don’t want to be one of the eleven who sat around a campfire asking Peter what it was like. I want to be the one telling the stories. I want to be the one experiencing the miraculous. It all starts with a desire to do something for Christ. It starts with not being content to sit in a pew Sunday after Sunday watching as others experience a move of God. It starts with me saying, “Put me in, Jesus.”
Where are you? Are you content to sit in a pew with the other eleven? Are you willing to step out of the boat and to walk on water? Are you looking at the other end of the bench, staring Jesus down, trying to get His attention? I am! I want nothing more than for Him to look down the row at the members of His team, give me a head nod and say, “Chris, go check in. I need you on the court.”