This weeks speaker: Bri Sherman
Please remember that sermon notes are meant to be a guide and may not be exactly what was preached.
When Americans answer the telephone, most of them simply say, “Hello.” But I have heard the response is different in other countries. Germans answer with their last name, which around here is probably fairly common. In Denmark, they answer with both their first and last names. Russians say, “I’m listening.” The curious French, say “Hello, whose on the line?” Italians answer “Ready!” And then the caller asks, “Who’s speaking?” The Spanish are a bit commanding, “Speak!” And the Chinese proclaim, “Hey, Hey, who are you?” Plus I’m sure many other variations. Just as there are different ways of answering phone calls, there are also different ways to respond to God’s call. God has called each and every one of us. 1 Corinthians 1:9 says God is faithful; you were called by him into fellowship with his Son,Jesus Christ our Lord. And 2 Timothy 1:9 says He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. So today we’re going to look at Abram’s life to see what God’s call looks like and just how we should respond.
READ GENESIS 12:1-5
First of all, God’s call will be uncomfortable and inconvenient. Picture this: It’s Saturday and you are home working hard to get the never ending to-do list done. You are multi-tasking, trying to accomplish more than one thing at a time. The phone rings. It’s your boss. Since your boss doesn’t usually call on the weekend, you decide it must be important and continue the conversation. Meanwhile, the kids come into the room and the chaos increases. You listen to what your boss is saying and reply as necessary, though you aren’t fully paying attention. “Yes, of course, I completely agree.” The conversation comes to an end and as you hang up, the words “I love you” leave your mouth… As your finger hits the end button you stand there staring at the phone, quite a bit uncomfortable.
Thankfully, when God calls us to be uncomfortable, it doesn’t usually require an embarrassing moment. Abraham was called to leave his country, his family – everything that he knew. This calling was uncomfortable! In Biblical times, it was common for families to be nomadic, moving from place to place within a country. When the patriarch died, the entire family usually decided to settle there. But as it says in Luke 14:26, If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. Leaving his family was a big ask. When God called him to go forth, Abraham was 75, his father had passed, it was time for him to rest and settle. This call was anti-cultural. It would be extremely uncomfortable, inconvenient, and even painful, for a man of his age to start fresh. He wasn’t the only one to receive uncomfortable and inconvenient instruction from God: David was called to defeat Goliath – but he was made fun of, put down – how could the smallest among them defeat the giant? David had to go against what he was told. Christ commanded Peter to walk on the water – but the wind was terrible and that was impossible! Can you imagine how uncomfortable Peter was taking that first step? Paul was called to turn his life completely around and join the very people he had been murdering – can you imagine those uncomfortable moments – the disciples didn’t even want to accept him! Even Jesus was called to something he didn’t want to do. In the garden of Gethsemane he sweat blood as he asked Christ to take the cup of the Crucifixion. God’s call is not easy. But there is always a purpose. Abram’s call was two-fold, just as ours is. This call was meant to test his faith and obedience (which we will get to in a moment) AND set him apart for service. His country, quite possibly, his family was idolatrous, worshipping multiple gods. God was calling him out of sin, never an easy thing. But necessary – Matthew 5:29 states If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. Leaving sin, whether pride or drug abuse or something else, will be uncomfortable and inconvenient. In our Sunday school book, the Kingdom Matrix, a story is shared about Pastor Jack Conner – he is explained like this: “He loved Jesus so recklessly that following Him seemed to always mean many personal inconveniences…but his love for Jesus was obvious in every category of his life.” God’s call often seems reckless and, as stated earlier, is often counter-cultural. In Crazy Love, Francis Chan states, “The goals of American Christianity are often a nice marriage, children who don’t swear, and good church attendance. Taking the words of Christ literally and seriously is rarely considered. That’s for the “radicals” who are “unbalanced” and who go “overboard.” Most of us want a balanced life that we can control, that is safe, and that does not involve suffering.” A faith that makes no sacrifices, that doesn’t suffer, is no good. Do you need to sacrifice your time? Your money? Your priorities?
Think about the first time God called you to something uncomfortable or inconvenient – how did you respond and what was the result? God pushes us out of our comfort zones for a purpose – to grow us, to shape us into His image, to draw us closer to Him.
The 2nd thing about God’s call is that it will require faith. The African impala can jump to a height of over 10 feet and cover a distance of greater than 30 feet. Yet, they can easily be kept in an enclosure with just a 3 foot wall. Why? They won’t jump if they can’t see where their feet will fall. How often do we act like this? We can’t see the next step, so we stay where we’re at…. Notice that God calls Abram to the land that He will show him. He doesn’t say, to the land that I will give you. And He certainly doesn’t give a specific place. God intentionally leaves this open ended to test Abram’s faith. We can’t always see the step we are called to step onto. And let’s face it, if you’re like me, even when you can see the next step, sometimes you miss it and fall flat on your face. Which is why it says in Corinthians that we walk by faith and not by sight. Taking the Next step doesn’t mean we see the next step – it just means we keep moving forward! Abram had to take God at His word and so do we. Hebrews 11:8 states that Abram went out even though he didn’t know where he was going! But he knew who he was following and under whose direction he went. I want you to put yourself in Abram’s shoes for a minute. He was called to leave everything he knew to go forth to some place God would show him. Think about how you would respond to that call…
Because lastly, and most importantly, God’s call requires obedience! The cult classic, The Princess Bride begins with a love story. The peasant girl bosses around the “farm boy,” Wesley – constantly telling him what to do. Fetch me water, get me that pot, etc. His consistent reply is always, “As you wish” as he complies with her wishes. She eventually realizes, though no other words are ever spoken, that every time Wesley was saying “as you wish,” he was really saying “I love you.” His persistent obedience was a form of love.
I’m beginning to learn that everything in God’s word points back to obedience. If there was an overall theme for the entire Bible, first would be love, and then obedience. In reality, the two go hand in hand. Love IS obedience. Abram’s response was immediate, no delay, and there was no dispute or questioning. Abram didn’t go, “you know God, I don’t get this. Why is all of this necessary, why aren’t you giving me more info? I need to see the whole picture. Give me the blueprint. You, know, I’ve heard the story of Noah – if you want me to build a giant boat, I’m out!” No! He didn’t stop to ask why. He didn’t stop to ask where. He simply went forth as he had been told… The Hebrew word for went forth (and the earlier command of go forth) is halak which can be translated “go more and more” – it is continual. God is never going to stop calling you further! And we can never stop going. We must endure – like Abraham, we cannot stop until we have reached the land he has promised. For us, that is eternity. Until we reach eternity, one way or another, He will never stop calling us deeper. Not when we’re 40, not even when we’re 75 or older! On this side of eternity, we have never arrived. When it comes to building the Kingdom, there is no such thing as a legal working age or retirement. We are all called to something! And when we obey, as Abram did, there are blessings on the other side – success and comfort, by God’s standards. Abram was promised many, many great blessings – a nation (though he had no child), a great name, favor, and through him all the families of the earth would be blessed – this is the Messiah. I can’t imagine Abram could even fathom how far that blessing would reach. WE are an outcome of that blessing!! The story you are living, your choice to obey, will outlast you! We may not always get it right, Abraham certainly didn’t. But I firmly believe that’s why God shares the nitty gritty details of Abram’s mistakes – because despite all of that (even repetitive sin), God still used Abram as He had promised and blessed him for his persistent, though imperfect, obedience. When Abram went forth, it changed the trajectory of his life, his definition of success, the very drive that kept him going – everything and the only thing he sought was the fulfillment of God’s call. God’s way is the only way we can live. No matter how uncomfortable, no matter how inconvenient, no matter the change required, no matter the expense – it is His way or no way. Larry Osborne states it this way: “A consultant is someone whose wisdom we highly value and listen to, but at the end of the day, we make the final decision. That’s why they’re called consultants. Here’s the problem: God doesn’t do consulting. Never has. Never will. He does God. When we treat Him as a consultant, He simply stops showing up for the meetings.” He is everything or He is nothing.
The next time you realize God is calling you to do something or go somewhere or whatever it may be – don’t rationalize, don’t hesitate, respond to Him with “As you wish” and let your actions match your words.
God is calling you! He is calling you deeper. He is calling you to be uncomfortable. He is calling you to take a step of blind faith. How are you responding to that call? Does He want you to teach a class? To love someone who doesn’t deserve it? To leave the sin that brings you comfort? To leave a job that forces your priorities away from His call? By the end of the week, I want each of you to identify just one way that God is asking you to be uncomfortable or inconvenienced. And then obey, commit to it. At a church we were privileged to visit in Erie, one of their mottos was “committed to being inconvenienced.” I love that! In order to make a difference for the Kingdom, we must be committed to being inconvenienced. We cannot take the next step or turn communities upside down if we are never uncomfortable or inconvenienced.
“I didn’t know who I was called to be until I gave up trying to be who I wanted to be.” – The Tattooed Theist