Samuel was asleep in the tabernacle when he heard a voice calling in the night. He ran to Eli to find out what he wanted, only to be sent back to bed. After it happened twice more, Eli gave Samuel some advice. Samuel returned to bed but this time when the Lord called “Samuel!” he knew how to respond: “Speak, for Your servant is listening”.
Do you feel called by God? Are you waiting for a calling just like Samuel’s call?
The language of the ‘call’ is common amongst Christians. “Why did you go into this ministry?” people ask. Often the answer is: “I was called to it”. But what does that mean? It seems so super spiritual – as if God leaned down and whispered directly into the ear of this person saying ‘Go to deepest darkest X and start awesome ministry Y’. It is easy to see how the ‘call’ can be abused and so we must go to God’s word for clarity.
What does the Bible mean by the ‘call’? This exact question intrigued a young Michael Bennett who grew up in a Christian community where the language of the ‘call to ministry’ was common, but it left him wondering whether he was missing out on something. He desired to serve, but where was his call? Well, after many years of full time ministry, Bennett finally wrote the book that he wished he had available when he was a young Christian man.
Bennett’s book is entitled ‘Do you feel called by God?’. It is a concise investigation of what the Bible has to say on this important question. When it comes to the Old Testament, Bennett summarises: “The word of God comes directly and personally to one of God’s people, specifically directing that individual to assume a defined role or task as God’s chosen leader, representative or spokesperson” (page 37). This is what we saw in 1 Samuel last week.
The rubber hits the road for us when we look at the various uses of the word ‘call’ in the New Testament. There are over 300 uses of ‘call’ and Bennett does the hard work of categorising and analysing these for us. I won’t even attempt to replicate his work here but instead point you to his conclusion and challenge you to do this work for yourself!
What is the bottom line? Bennett argues that there are really just two ways in which New Testament believers are called:
(1) We are called to be Christians – to be disciples of Jesus
(2) We are called to be holy – to grow in Christ-likeness
Are you surprised by these conclusions?
Some of us might wonder whether this simple summary of the Christian call might undermine the determination required of missionaries as they head out into the unknown. It is a fair enough concern. However, the solution is not to over spiritualise the idea of the call. The motivation for all Christian service – even that which some people see as crazy! - is found in the gospel itself.
Remember the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:13-15:
For if we are out of our mind, it is for God; if we have a sound mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If One died for all, then all died. 15 And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised.
Do you feel called by God? You should! Jesus calls to all people: “follow me”. That is the call that matters. Are you a follower of Jesus? He is calling you to trust him now and to keep following him and calling others to come along as well. That’s our call!
“Do you feel called by God?” by Michael Bennett is available from www.matthiasmedia.com.au