Sunday, November 23, 2008

More "nonreligious" callings

In "The Glory of the Ordinary" (September), Abraham appears--as a man who was called by God but who never, to my knowledge, preached or played any of the roles we normally associate with a religious calling or vocation. On the front end of his life, he most definitely was called by God to a great destiny:

". . . all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Gen. 12:3).

The end of it all was the birth of a nation from which sprung heroes of faith, and unfolding revelation of God --and Jesus. In between this portentous beginning and this awesome result was what would appear to be a pretty ordinary life.

What about Joseph? He, too, was called by God through two dreams he received as a young man. Then the Lord took him by a circuitous route from his home in Canaan to the palace of the Pharoah of Egypt. Having an administrative position in government doesn’t sound religious, but in that capacity, he was able to prepare a haven for the first 70 descendants of Abraham--God's Chosen People--who would otherwise have died of starvation.

And then consider Moses. When he killed the Egyptian who was oppressing a Hebrew slave, he appears to have been sensing that he was to help free his people from their bondage. Forty years later, he received a clear, momentous call from God from the midst of the burning bush. He actually did “preach” during his time as deliverer and leader of the Hebrew nation. But his main day-to-day role was hardly religious. He was food-and-water provider, peacemaker, and travel guide.

What was the difference between Abraham and every other father in the world? Between Joseph and other government officials? Between Moses and other civil rights leaders?

Each one of them was submitted to a God and a purpose that was bigger than their own goals, ambitions, desires, and comfort. They were captivated by a God who honored them by calling them to partner with him and responded with radical obedience and humble persistance. They did things that were not understood by those around them. Abraham left his family behind and headed out with no fixed destination in mind--believing that God would let him know when he had arrived. Moses stood in the face of Pharoah's obstinence, the specter of starvation in the wilderness, the mutinous anxiety and rebellion of his followers--and trusted in God's deliverance and provision.

They were so tuned in to their God that their very natures began to reflect the nature of God. Abraham became the "father of faith" and the "friend of God." Joseph behaved with integrity and diligence in the midst of slavery and imprisonment. In the midst of his own misfortune, he ministered to others perplexed by dreams. He harbored no bitterness toward God because of the manner in which God had brought him to his position of prominence, and he freely forgave his brothers for their crime against him. Moses was privileged to talk to God "face to face." He was willing for God to strike him instead of destroying the nation for their persistent waywardness. He was called "the meekest of men."

Because their eyes were on God, these men did ordinary things in unusual--and extraordinary--ways. They saw the eternal issues in the midst of mundane occupations. They were walking demonstrations to succeeding generations of God's nature and his ways.

What insight has God given you for solving problems in the company for which you work? How many of your neighbors will observe that God answers your prayers and thus be encouraged to approach him with their needs? What simple, God-inspired words will you speak that will change the course of another person's life?

You don't have to become a minster, rabbi, or priest to have a godly impact on the world. Look at the family, the community, the workplace where you are and ask God to show you what he is calling you to do for him in that place. He is needed there!

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