An old story is told about a young farmer, standing in his field, observes a peculiar cloud formation. The clouds form the letters G, P, and C, and he thinks them a call from God: Go preach Christ!
The farmer rushes to the deacons of his church and insists that he has been called to preach. Respectful of his ardor, they invite him to fill the pulpit.
That Sunday, the sermon is long, tedious, and virtually incoherent. When it finally ends, the leaders sit in stunned silence. Finally, a wise deacon mutters to the would-be preacher, “Seems to me the clouds were saying ‘Go plant corn.'”If it really happened that way, it wouldn’t be the first time there’s been confusion about what it means to be called. Sometimes, we can feel like the Version commercial—“CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?” that while God may be talking our reception seems bad.
The stories we sometimes hear about calling are like lightning strikes. Moses sees the burning bush, Sarah was told she was pregnant, Mary was visited by angels, Jeremiah heard a call even when he didn’t know what to say. We tell ourselves being called is for pastors and full time missionaries, for the super religious or dedicated prayer warriors, when what we are going to see as our sermon series the GREAT EXCHANGE continues is that God is trying to craft our character, set us apart by a commission, so we could universally be faithful to our CALL.
Paul wrote in (2 Timothy 1:8-9,14) So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the Gospel by the power of God. 9 He 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…14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you to guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal quoted St. Francis of Assisi who when asked why God had called him reportedly replied: “God picks the weakest, the smallest, the meanest of men on the face of the earth and he uses them.” God’s call can come to anyone and everyone. Friend or foe. Think John the Baptist versus Saul the Pharisee.
In 2nd Timothy, chapter 2, the Apostle Paul gives us 3 analogies that can help us be faithful to our calling and allow our life to change when we start to live life with God.
A Soldier’s Focus (Committing Treason) 2 Timothy 2:1-4 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Paul wrote in the 1st century, but he could have been writing about our church. For some of you our church history is your family history. This is where marriages have started, loved one laid to rest, children dedicated. Yet, what’s astounding is their legacy lives on at the crossroads, not because the building still stands, but because faith is still the focus. They loved you enough to preserve the truth and answer the call of planting a church. It hasn’t always been easy. Even for WGCC, there have been Great Depression, World Wars, presidential assassination, up and downs, good times and bad but Paul says FOCUS. Endure hardness with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer.
Paul lays out a concept that is more pressing today than it was then, we have an urgent need to prioritize and focus— to decide what’s most important and what is irrelevant. As we are commission by our Christ, his call is focused and clear, we need to be passing on what we have learned, preparing the next batch of leaders, encouraging a faith interchange of ideas and theology. What does this require though? Let’s the soldier’s call be simple: What would it look like if you gave 3 hours a week beyond sitting in church—an hour in Bible study or small group, an hour in service, and put in an hour of relationship building? In one year we could together spend 15,600 hours fostering a focus on eternity.
A thirty-six year old mother was discovered to be in the advanced stages of terminal cancer. One doctor advised her to spend her remaining days on vacation. A second physician offered her the hope of living two more years with the grueling side effects of radiation. She penned the following words to her three small children: “I’ve chosen to try to survive for you. This has some horrible costs, including pain, loss of good humor, and moods I won’t be able to control. But, I must try this, if only on the outside chance that I might live one minute longer. And that minute could be the one you might need me when no one else will do. For this I intend to struggle tooth and nail, so help me God.” She articulated what the famous solider William Tecumseh Sherman wrote to Ulysses S. Grant: “I knew whenever I was that you thought of me, if I got in a tight place you would come after me—if alive.” What if we used our 15,600 hours a year with the same tagline as our military soldier: Leave no one behind. (Ministry 127)
Growing up we heard —Give everything 100%, or even more demanding Yogi Berra famously quipped, “90% of the game is mental and the other half is physical…”yet think through that…Do you want to give as much attention to keeping your car clean as you do keeping your life clean of sin? Do you want to invest as much or more energy into dominating the YMCA basketball league as you do trying to dedicate yourself to being in God’s word? You cannot be everything to everyone, do everything for everyone—you have to decide if you will heed the commission you’ve been given—not removing yourself from the world, but carrying out God’s calling while keeping yourself unstained by the world. Paul reminds us of the alternative in Philippians 1:21- For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Laser like focus. Jesus embodies it speaking to the Father-I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. This is radical I know, it always has been and always will be. Don’t give everything 100%, give the things that matter 100%, instead of dying letting your family legacy involves only your 401K, life insurance policy, and never having revolved around life itself—to live is Christ and to die is gain! One author wrote, “This requires saying no to good things that may steal our time from godly things.”