Monday, January 29, 2007

When God Calls Your Name

What do you do when the LORD calls your name? What do you do when he has a message and a mission for you? Will you listen? Will you respond? Will you obey?

It was night time. All was quiet in the Tent of Meeting. Lights were burning low, almost out. The High Priest, Eli was sleeping. I don’t know how soundly he slept. I can imagine his sleep wasn’t too restful these days. His sons Hophni and Phinehas, had become quite evil in their conduct. Eli had confronted them, but didn’t remove them from their positions of power they were abusing. They were dishonest and immoral. Add to that, an unknown prophet had recently condemned Eli’s family in the name of God. God hadn’t been speaking for years! According to 1 Samuel 3:1, In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions. The only bright light in Eli’s life right now was the teenage protégé, Samuel who was sleeping in a nearby compartment.

Samuel wakes up to the voice of someone calling his name. Samuel says, Here I am! Thinking it is Eli (who else would it be?), he runs into Eli’s compartment—Here I am! But something doesn’t seem right—Eli looks as if he has been asleep. Samuel adds uncertainly: You called me? Eli perhaps irritated at being woken replies: I didn’t call; go back and lie down. Three times Samuel hears a voice calling him—three times he disturbs Eli. At the third time Eli is now quite awake and has begun to do some heavy thinking on his own. Samuel, go back and lie down—if you hear the voice again, say: "Speak LORD, for you servant is listening."

Samuel hears the voice: Samuel! Samuel! And he says, Speak LORD, for your servant is listening. And God gives him a terrifying message of judgment and doom against the house of Eli. Samuel lies back down. In the morning he begins his chores around the Tent of Meeting. He is afraid to tell Eli the message but now it is Eli who calls: Samuel, my son! And Samuel once again says: Here I am. What did God say—and don’t hide anything from me—? So Samuel tells God’s message fully. I can imagine Eli taking a big swallow. But then he smiles feebly and says: He is the LORD; let him do what is good in his eyes.

The story ends in a similar way it began. It begins with Samuel serving the LORD, but instead of saying the word of the LORD was rare it now says the LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word. And Samuel’s word came to all Israel. The point is pretty clear—Samuel has been chosen to be God’s spokesman. Not only will he become a judge or military leader of Israel, he will be the most prominent in a line of God’s servants: prophets.

What do you do when the LORD calls your name? A strange question, isn’t it? After all, the word of the LORD seems rare, doesn’t it? God doesn’t seem to make it a habit to appear to folks and talk with them. We reserve that for crazy people or for folks who seem to think every little thing in their life is a direct message from God. But is it really possible God might call my name?

I think God is always in the business of calling his people into service. Sometimes the calling is dramatic, sometimes it is gradual, most always it is surprising. We usually expect God to call mighty men and women who are already in positions of power and prestige. But that really isn’t the case. The books of 1 Samuel through 2 Kings are filled with stories of how God chooses the most unlikely of people to accomplish his will. These books also show us the ones whom we would expect God to call tend to end up disappointing us. The leaders, the kings, the mighty men all tend to let their power and reputations go to their heads and end up disqualifying themselves. But God continues to call those who don’t seem powerful or strong or even particularly gifted. He calls the ones who are available.

It’s kind of funny how God chooses people who have no intention of being chosen. Perhaps they don’t think of themselves a great or particularly useful to God. He chooses Moses, an 80-year-old shepherd to lead Israel to become a great nation. He calls Gideon to be a mighty warrior—while Gideon is hiding from the Midianites. He calls shepherd boys, young teenagers, salty fishermen, old men and women—even violent persecutors of his people to carry out his agenda to change the world. And in every case: they’re surprised! In most every case, they object and try to talk their way out of it. But in every case, they are the ones best suited for the job at hand.
So what do you do when God calls your name? How do I know he’s calling me? Let me point out to you right now—he’s calling you. It’s not a matter of if it’s a matter of to what or to where. According to Paul in Ephesians, all of those who are followers of Christ have been chosen to works of service. All have been called to live to God’s glory.

The question then is: how to hear God’s call to service? Here are some ideas: 1) Start asking and looking. It’s terribly important for us to be open to where God may want to use us. Since we know we are called to serve, it only makes sense we begin by being in prayer and keeping our eyes open for opportunities. I can’t help but think of how the organization HUGS International began when Judy Broom, a lady who had become beset with physical challenges, had been praying for guidance. She turned the television on to see orphans in Romania in incredible need. She said: That’s it! And she threw herself into the work creating a care agency serving thousands of orphans annually. 2) Listen to people whom you recognize as spiritually aware. Seek counsel and advice. Pay attention. 3) Watch for opportunities to serve and experiment. Don’t reject an opportunity just because you’ve never tried or it doesn’t seem terribly interesting. Remember: many of the heroes of the Bible did their best to get out of serving! Is it possible God calls your name through a person asking you to help? A lot has been said in the past about spiritual gifts, abilities, and skills. The truth is, I don’t believe we can determine our spiritual giftedness by utilizing a man-made skills assessment inventory. The best way is to find an opportunity, start serving, and see where service leads us.

So, may you listen closely for God’s call. May you hear him call your name. May you respond, not with excuses—but with an obedient heart ready to serve.

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