I have respect for people who are on-call for their work. Be it to answer a question or to actually go in and fix a problem, being on call takes a certain level of dedication that goes beyond whatever monetary compensation is involved. I have to believe that staying at the campfire (I wish) is more appealing than going to repair an air conditioner in a dormitory or that staying wrapped in the blankets (like today when it is 5 degrees above 0 outside) has a bigger upside than re-starting a furnace at a local business. But agreeing to be on call means you are willing, no matter the circumstances, to go do what is required of you.
Though being on call requires a level of commitment, a true follow of Jesus Christ is called to an even higher purpose. Followers of Christ are to be always ‘on call’ It’s not like waiting for something to break that needs your fixing, rather your life is to be 24/7 for the cause of Jesus Christ. A disciple of Jesus is to be sharing the love of God will all, everywhere. To be on call in this way, however, you must first respond to being called.
Make no mistake, the call of Jesus will not be subtle. Our response should not be either. I love the clarity of the ‘first responders’ to the call of Jesus found in Matthew 4:19-22. This account tells us Jesus first came upon Peter and his brother Andrew and then the sons of Zebedee, James and John. To each set of brothers Jesus presented a challenge: trade in your old life that you know so well and step into the unknown with me.
All four brothers immediately responded by following Jesus. What a step they took! The bible tells us that these men were fishermen, working for their livelihood on the sea, just as their father did. In fact, James and John were with their dad when Jesus first approached them. I think it is very important to grasp the gravity of the decision these four young men made. They literally dropped what they were doing to cast (pun intended) their lives with this new teacher on the scene, Jesus.
What was it that made them take this life-changing step? Jesus was just starting on his earthly ministry when He invited these guys along. The bible records no miracles prior to this time, merely stating that Jesus began preaching after He was baptized by John the Baptist. The calming of the storm, the feeding of 5,000 and the many recorded healings were yet to occur. So, what was it that caused Peter, Andrew, James and John to drop everything to answer the call of Jesus?
The bible gives us no clear-cut answer, only that these men didn’t hesitate when called. Therein lies the timeless truth for all of us. Jesus called, they responded positively. Obviously, the call to individual Christians is different today than it was when Jesus reached out to His first disciples. What needs to be the same is our heart position. We have a great advantage over those first four in that we know how the ministry of Christ played out.
I have to wonder that if they had a better idea of what they were getting into, would they have left everything they knew so quickly. If Jesus had said, “Come follow me for three years of nomadic living, with plenty of persecution and threats to your safety, after which time I will be put to death and you all will be scattered and left wondering what to next,” would they still have so eagerly have said yes?
Regardless, jump at it they did, going all in from the start. How about us? What is holding us back from answering the call of Jesus? Is it the uncertainty of what lies ahead? That is certainly a valid concern. Allow me to share my wrestling with that question in hopes it may give you some clarity and encouragement in your own decision.
As I have shared before, my journey into alcoholism ruined my family financially. By God’s grace, once I accepted Jesus as Savior my recovery began. Then God, in His providential care, set a chain of events in motion that allowed me to get out from under the mountain of debt I had brought on us. Furthermore, I was blessed to learn a trade during this process which allowed us even more financial stability. While I was aware and gave thanks to God for His blessing, I was also aware of (but trying my best to ignore) a tug on my heart that was calling me to something else.
Being honest, I knew it was God calling me to full-time ministry, yet I was able to rationalize my not responding by telling myself that we have bills to pay, the kids need college, I’d like to buy a house, etc.… Thankfully, God is as persistent as He is patient. Understand that Betsy and I had been active-church going folks all this time. We played and sang with worship teams, led bible studies and even preached occasionally. God was working on us. We started a home church, going through the long legal process to make everything proper (www.lakesidechristianministries.org if you would like to check it out) and became even more active in serving in our community for Jesus. Still, a sense of missing what God had planned for us was still there.
I wrestled with the same basic argument I had for years: I want to do more for His kingdom, but this working 50 hours a week as a painter (plus the commute) didn’t allow enough time for it. As we prayed and talked about this we began to wonder, is this what Peter and the others felt when Jesus called them? Maybe, just maybe, this was what faith in action was to look like.
My wife and I are financially conservative people; a result no doubt of my riotous wasting of our resources in that past life. We carefully looked at our home budget, checking to see if this change to one income was plausible. This was not my most faith-filled period, as initially I decided it just couldn’t be done. Those two sets of brothers in Matthew Chapter 4 might have jumped at the invitation of Jesus, I somehow felt I needed more assurance.
God gave it to me. No, not in the form of some financial windfall, but rather in the peace that only He can give as together Betsy and I sought Him out through prayer and felt His assurance that we could trust Him in this matter. At the end of this two year period soul-searching, and feeling more than a little like the prodigal son (again), I handed in my notice to my employer that I would be leaving there to pursue what God has in store us. It should be noted, for God’s glory, that on the very day I tendered my resignation, our ministry received an anonymous donation of $1,500! God wanted me to really understand that He did have this all under control.
Fast forward to today, one and a half years later, and I can better appreciate what Peter, Andrew, James and John did when Jesus called them. It is also much easier to relate to the feelings they must have had as to what lies ahead. Like them, I find following the call of Jesus still presents questions and wondering as to the particulars of what we get involved with.
My takeaway is this: As precious as I am (and so are you!) to God, there is nothing so special about my circumstances (or yours) that He cannot handle. I trust Him completely for salvation, I am learning all the more to trust Him as well in the day to day aspects of life lived for Him. My advice to anyone contemplating the call of God on their life is to answer it! Yes, allow yourself the time necessary to seek out His direction through prayer, but jump in when He calls. The peace that comes from whole-hearted trust in God cannot be measured.