Are you screening your calls?
As I fast approach my 47th year in this world, I find myself taking a hard look back over my life, and evaluating a lot of the decisions I’ve made, sifting and sorting through the many milestones and events and turns-left-instead-of-right that have led me to my current station in life. Several of those junctions, several key “forks in the road” really begin stand out to me. Invariably, they are the points where I had to make a decision whether to follow where God was leading…or to pursue my own path chasing after my own desires. Sadly, more often than I care to admit I’ve made the wrong choice.
It makes me wonder why we struggle so hard against what we see as the “demands” of Christ’s Kingdom? I think sometimes we tend to think only about all the things we’ll have to give up, of all the sacrifices we’ll have to make. Maybe we picture a life of monastic austerity, kind of like a kid trapped inside on a summer day while he watches through the window as the other kids get to go out and play. A life spent serving God is seen as something all those “saintly” people do, but really, isn’t that a bit much to ask of the average joe?
BUT. If we truly believe that we are created by God, if we truly believe that He has gifted and equipped and will call each of us to serve Him in a way uniquely suited to who and what we are, why do we still hesitate to answer this call?
For far too many of us, it’s not enough to just be what God has created us to be. We want and demand that we become more, or maybe something just more to our liking, something that fits a little better into what and who we think we ought to be; you know, something more! We treat a life lived in service to God as “Plan B.” Maybe something to get around to once we’ve finished doing all the other stuff WE want to do. In other words, we put ourselves first. We put our desires and our goals ahead of what God has laid out for us.
This is THE VERY SAME SIN that doomed mankind from the start. The first sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden was not the sin of disobedience. The disobedience was a RESULT of an earlier sin; the first sin of Man was the sin of pride.
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Gen. 3:3-6
Seduced by the smooth and persuasive words of the Serpent, Adam and Eve felt the first stirrings of the desire to be MORE. They were created in God’s own image. They were quite possibly either immortal, or incredibly long-lived. They knew no shame, hurt, fear or want. They were given a position of unique and important responsibility in caring for God’s creation. And then, suddenly, it wasn’t enough. God’s given call on their lives, his intended purpose, no longer sufficed. They wanted more. They wanted to be “as God.” They wanted to “know,” to have their eyes opened, to take on an aspect other than that for which they were created. And this desire led them into death. It led them into separation from God. It shattered a bond, a faith, a unique trust between them and their Creator. In effect, they chose the words of the Serpent over the words of God. They said, in their hearts, “Father, what you have given us is not enough. We see what you are apparently denying us, and now we want MORE!”
Be careful what you ask for. Especially when you ask in ignorance, without faith, in disobedience.
In how many ways do we see this same sin, this same legacy born out day after day in our own lives? God calls and equips us for a certain work, and in our pride we decide that it’s not “good enough.” We see all the things we think God could provide us, and isn’t, and we decide that God can’t possibly be calling me to teach third graders. I’m meant to be a church planter! How come I’m stuck cleaning up after the youth group, when I should be leading the worship team up on stage?! God must be punishing me for something; otherwise I’d have a much more (glamorous, visible, better-paying, more influential, etc) position.
Even the early Disciples struggle with this same pride, this same desire to be something MORE. In Mark Chapt. 9:33-35, we here them jostling for position amongst one another:
And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
The mission, the purpose for which God has called each of us as Believers, and equipped us (if even for just a season) is too often considered “beneath” us. Not important enough. Not worth “our” time. And so we refuse to fulfill that calling, that role. We disobey. We let ourselves be seduced by the allure of all those bright, shiny things seemingly held just beyond our reach, instead of focusing on the anointing God has already placed on our lives. We become discontented, impatient and selfish, not content to merely serve in humility. We become so focused on our position, on our status, even among other Christians, that we lose site of what “servanthood” really means.
And too often, what happens next? Well, from hard-won personal experience, let me tell you.
We decide that if that’s all God has for us, if that’s all the more famous we’re going to get, well then, no thanks. We turn away. We stop serving the Kingdom altogether. It’s too hard, too embarrassing, too boring, too this, too that. We find 101 reasons why this really just isn’t working out for us. Maybe we storm off in a huff, or maybe we just step away from the plow. Maybe we storm up the stairs and slam our bedroom door, or just quietly unplug the phone and turn out the lights. Whatever it looks like, we turn away from the words of God and trust in our own wisdom as to what is best. And so the Serpent wins. Again.
The Enemy wants nothing more than to keep us so distracted by shiny things, things that are a “delight to the eyes,” so focused on our “felt needs” and our earthly desires and the praise of man that when the phone rings and we realize that it’s God calling, we’ll just let it go to voicemail.
Whether through fear, or pride, inattention, laziness, or just plain unbelief, we can sometimes let ourselves miss a calling that promises so much more for our life than anything we can scrounge up ourselves. So the next time you think you might be hearing God’s call on your life, hearing Him call you out of where you are to where He wants you to be…
PICK UP THE PHONE!