January 23, 2022

Answering God’s Call

Passage: Jeremiah 1:4-10

A Man was telling his neighbour, “I just bought a new hearing aid.  It cost me $4000-00, but it's the best you can buy.”  “Really, what kind is it?”, replied the neighbour.  The man answered, “Twelve thirty.”  It wasn't that he couldn't hear with the new hearing aids.  It was just that he heard what he wanted to hear.  Theologian Paul Tillich once said, “The first duty of love is to listen.”  When God speaks and calls us, how well do we listen?  There are so many people who never respond to God's call.  They deliberately shut themselves off from all the calls they receive from God.  And then we all will agree – there are many other calls we receive; calls from a secular world that so easily can draw us in.  I once had a conversation with a man who learned that I'm a minister.  He said, “My wife and I used to attend church when we were just married, but then through friends and work we went on a different path.  It was like those calls became more important than God's call.”  You see, my friends, each day of our lives, we are confronted with the question, “Have you answered God's call in every given situation?”

This afternoon we're going to meditate on the calling of the prophet Jeremiah.    There is a term in theological circles that was very relevant in the prophet's life – 1 Predestination.  God predestined his life, long before he was born.  We read in verse 5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”  God had a wonderful plan for Jeremiah – his purpose in life was more than just to be a man with a family or a profession.  He was to become a prominent figure among God's people.  God planned him beforehand to be the speaker of His Word.  Jeremiah prophesied, “The Word of the Lord came to me.”  It wasn't him who went out in search of God.  No, it was God Who took the initiative and found Jeremiah first.  It was His calling; it's always His calling.  That's the way God has been operating through the ages.  He was the One Who went to Moses at the burning bush and called him for His purpose.  Think about it – Moses had no intention to return to Egypt to go and tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go.  No, that prospect was so intimidating to him that he complained to God that he couldn't speak well.  But, he delivered God's people.  His calling in life was to do that.  When most unexpected, Gideon was called as one of the judges.  He too had no intentions for the task before him.  He said, “I am the least of my people.”  And so it continued as God called people to serve Him – all the prophets we find in the Old Testament and leaders to deliver His people.  And later men had to answer the call of Jesus when He told them, “Come with me and I will make you fishers of men.”  Let's think about it – that call became the call to all of Jesus' followers.  Evangelists, missionaries and pastors heard that call and went to a missions field or a ministry.  Rev. Dr. Billy Graham who had great success as an evangelist, was once asked by a reporter, “Have you always had this vision to be the person reaching others with the Gospel?”  Graham responded, “It had nothing to do with me.  It was God  calling me and I answered.”

Like most people Jeremiah demonstrated a human characteristic – 2 To Question Your Purpose In Life.  He was trying to think of the things that might have disqualified him when God came to him.  “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”  Most people, in Jeremiah's time and after, would have thought – he showed humility when he spoke those words to God.  Think about what must have gone through his mind – “Here Almighty God is calling me, but there is so much I still have to learn.  The best option for me is to go to a real prophet and become an apprentice.  Then I can learn all the skills of how to represent God before people.”  It's in our human nature to make excuses when God calls us – “Who me Lord?  There must be someone else who is far more competent than me.”  But God made it clear to Jeremiah – “You are the man I'm calling.”  He wasn't concerned about Jeremiah's lack of eloquent speech – He was going to put His own words in the prophet's mouth.  You see, God doesn't have a concern about our abilities.  All that He is concerned about is that we make ourselves available to His service.  On more than one occasion when God called someone in the Old Testament, He asked, “Whom shall we send?  Who shall go for us?”  That's a question we all are confronted with, but more than that, it's a question that goes out to every part of the world – “Who will answer my call?  Who will see that his or her purpose in life goes far beyond own interests?”  My friends, in this time that we live right now with so many secular voices going up, God comes and He says, “Now is the time I need you to make a stand for me.  I call you to speak up in the midst of worldly ideologies, philosophies and perceptions.”  When we had our Bible study Wednesday evening we shared the reality that in our time too many people place God way down their priority list.  What they really do is to decline God's call over and over again.  They are just like the rich young man Jesus told to go and sell everything he owned and then to follow Him.  We all know what his response was.  He wasn't willing to do that.  He couldn't part with what he thought the purpose of his life was – riches and possessions.  Let's answer these questions – “What is the purpose of your life?  What stands out as the most important priority?  Is it to first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness and the all things will be added to your life?”  My friends, just like Jeremiah God planned our lives before He laid the foundations of the world.  His purpose for us was to come to faith and to answer to the call to serve Him.

From Jeremiah's calling we see that 3 God Empowers Us.  His response to Jeremiah's excuse was compassionate as only God can be.  He didn't act with rebuke, but with love and understanding – “But the Lord said to me, 'Do not say, “I am only a child.”  You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.  Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you”, declares the Lord.  Then the Lord reached out His hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth.”  You know my friends, that wasn't just a word for Jeremiah – it became a word for all the other prophets, a word for the apostles Jesus appointed, a word for evangelists, pastors and missionaries.  It's a word for each one of us – we are empowered by the grace of God.  I can tell you that every thought and word I spoke over a career of more than 31 years, I received from the Holy Spirit.  With every sermon I preached and every prayer I prayed in the Name of Jesus Christ, I heard the voice of God, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth.”  Again, in this moment God comes and He says that to each one of us.  Do you know, we are in no way different from Moses or Joshua or Isaiah or Jeremiah or Paul or Peter or any of God's servants.  No, the affirmation is the same – “I will empower you, for I have given you my Spirit.”  There is something I always think of – disciples who followed Jesus for more than three years, were hiding in fear after the crucifixion, but Jesus empowered them when He said, “Received the Holy Spirit.”  They were empowered and we are empowered.  Let's answer God's call each time we receive it.