When I was in seminary and going through the ordination process, I was forced to use the language of call. I was supposed to be able to share the story of God’s call on my life and particularly how I felt called to ministry as a full-time vocation. This was a consistent conversation in those days with seminary admissions counselors, professors, classmates, denominational committees, and the floor of Presbytery.
Saturday, July 15 was the 5-year anniversary of my ordination. As I look back, it is rather striking the difference between my seminary and ordination days and now. The language of call that was so valuable in those days is almost non-existent in the church. So I am taking some time in sermons and blogs to reflect on what it means to listen to and follow God’s calling and leading in our own lives.We begin with the calling of Father Abraham, then still called Abram, in Gen 12:
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
We see two important lessons about following God’s lead:
1. God does not give us the whole plan. Notice that with Abraham God tells him to go to the land that he will show him. This is part of our problem with God’s calling. Most of the time he does not give us the destination. Just go and I’ll tell you when we get there. Take a step and I will give you the next step. Abraham does not get the whole plane, but has to step out into the great unknown.
2. We see that God’s call is often not just one call, but two calls. God often calls us away from something and also toward something. Though not always, not always at the same time, and not always at the same volume or clarity. But we often hear God in stereo. We hear stop this behavior and move in this new direction. We hear leave this place and go somewhere else. We hear get off this path and do something different. I have known a lot of people who find the love of their life on the rebound. They leave a relationship and end up walking into a great relationship.
So God calls Abraham to leave his father’s house and go to the land God will show him, but he doesn’t know what it is yet. At the same time, God gives four promises to Abraham.
The first promise is “I will make of you a great nation.” – This is the promise to do something big and lasting. This must have been crazy talk to Abraham. He is 75 and childless. How could he be a nation? I can see Abraham wondering how this is going to work and what it might mean. I can see him like that, because I get like that, as we all do. We only have vision for what we feel and what we are going through immediately. But God is always seeing more than we can see. His call is always bigger than what you think. We just want relief in the moment, but God is brewing something much bigger.
The second promise is “I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” This is the promise to have your best at heart. God’s calling does not always seem like a good thing. Sometimes God asks you to do hard things. It doesn’t seem at the start like a blessing-to lose a job, or get bad news about your health, or when God calls you to do something that is more serving than leading? But God will do what is best for you. He will bless you and make your name great, even if you can’t see how.
The third promise is “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse.”This is the promise to fight for you. Some people are going to support you when you follow God’s will, some will dishonor you. This can be especially bad for your reputation. Imagine how scary it was for Abraham to leave all that he knew. What did his family say? What did his neighbors think? It is easy to defend yourself. But tou don’t have to worry about how the world reacts. Don’t waste time with that. As the great poet of our day, Taylor Swift said, “Haters gonna hate.” Let God fight for you. This is a huge theme of the Psalms. Abraham does not have to defend himself
The fourth promise is “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” This is the promise to bless the world through you. God does not bless Abraham, or you or I, just for our sake. The people of God are blessed to be a blessing. We are not called and blessed for our own benefit. God’s call in our lives always has the blessing of the world in its sights.
Abraham is called to do hard things, but he is also given some great promises with his call.
What might God be calling you to?
This blog is written from a sermon that you CAN LISTEN TO HERE.