They Do Not Fear in the Year of Drought
(Called to be God’s own people)
We are called in Christ to belong to God, to be the people of God. This is our primary calling. The same can be stated in different ways. We can also say that our calling is ‘to follow Christ’. Or that our calling is ‘to love God with all our hearts, soul and mind’. Or that ‘you are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body’. Or as the Westminster Catechism puts it as the chief end of man, ‘to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever’.
The roles we are given in life or the vocations and ministries we do, all these are secondary and must be subservient to this primary call. Whether we are called to be preachers and teachers of the word of God or to be pastors of churches or even to provide leadership in any realm of work or ministry – our careers in the world or the church, all these constitute secondary calling. I am going to stick my neck out to say that even ‘evangelism & missions’ or what is popularly known as ‘the great commission’ also constitutes secondary calling.
The tragedy of the hour is that universally the whole Christian world today has reversed the order and substituted the secondary for the primary. This is the bane of the hour.
The secondary calling seems more concrete and tangible. It gives itself to engaging in quantifiable activity, which can be explained in terms of figures, reports, statistics, salaries, rewards and a host of other things that makes it very prospective and attractive. This is one reason why the primary calling is often subsumed under the second. Herein lies the danger. When the secondary becomes the primary we end up making all kinds of compromises and engage in rationalisations and justifications in the name of doing so much for God. Not so Moses of the Old Testament.
Let me illustrate, how keeping our primary calling primary is so crucial in order to fulfil any roles and vocations we are called to do in life.
It is said about Moses in Hebrews 11, “24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”
I believe, Moses here understood that his primary calling was to be identified with the people of God. Hence his refusal to be identified with the Egyptians. If he considered delivering the people of Israel from bondage in Egypt as primary purpose of his life or as primary calling, his decision would have been different. Continuing in his position in Egypt as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter would actually make it easy to fulfil his calling to deliver the people of Israel. He could have reasoned that being brought to the palace of Pharaoh was God’s providential working. And that to be considered as Pharaoh’s daughter’s son was a sure way of becoming the future Pharaoh of Egypt. And what better way to fulfil God’s calling for his life? All he needed to do was remain silent, continue with the identity given him in Egypt and enjoy the pleasures, the privileges and riches of Egypt. But Moses never lost sight of his primary calling that he belonged to a people called of God to be His own. Hence his refusal of the identities of Egypt and the rejection of its securities and riches. This is the difference between Moses and Christians of our day.
When working for God and doing ministry and reaching millions for Christ is considered primary, when our professions and jobs or the ministries we do become the source of the purpose of life, and the raison d’être then we have a sure recipe for compromise with the world. When these are substituted for our calling to belong to God as His people, to live for Him and to glorify Him then spiritual bankruptcy follows. And when we get high on the heady mix of pursuing the securities and identities of the world we shall have our vision obscured, our calling confused and shall have not only compromised with the flesh and with the world but the line of separation between us and the world would have been obliterated. Moral turbidity, spiritual burnout and mental depression shall not be far behind. We shall have lost our witness and our lights dimmed. Rather than being liberators we end up living in bondage to self, the world and the devil. Just imagine Moses thinking that it was God’s providential working that he was the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and that it was God’s will for him to be there so that he could deliver the people of Israel later. He would have accepted the securities and the identities of Egypt and ended up not only compromising his calling but would have lost his calling and his credibility and authority both with the Israelites and the Egyptians. Isn’t this the story of many Christians today and of many in the ministry as well? As a result both the church and the world suffers!
How many well-meaning and sincere people of God today are chasing the riches of the world, striving for the security and identity the world gives, with the goal of ‘giving to God’ for ministry. And to reach more people or people in high places with the gospel. The saddest irony is there are minsters and ministries who egg people on to seek these positions of power and build their own security and identity around the ‘ministry’ of egging people on to seek these identities and securities. Could there be anything more scandalous than this?!
In the story of Prophet Daniel we find that he took decisions that were actually detrimental to his rising to the top in the Babylonian kingdom. It can be clearly understood that for him rising to the top in order to influence the king or his kingdom was not primary nor was it Daniel’s objective. For him living as the people of God and to please Him was primary. Hence he determined that he will not do anything that would defile him and thus set him against his own God. It was despite such a stand he went on to head the government under Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel and his friends lived in the assurance of their calling to be God’s people. And therefore they did not care what the king or any other power on earth could do to them. Their watch word was what Esther said in a similar context “If I die, I die”, but they did not yield to the criteria set by the world.
Our strength and confidence for living comes from the fact of who has called us and what we are called to. We are called to be the people of God and this must never be forgotten. This must be held primary at all times. Such people of God live by totally different criteria of living. And therefore they do not define themselves nor allow to be defined by the parameters and values of the world. All decisions in life, regarding education – what they should study, regarding employment – what jobs they should do or where they should work, regarding marriages – when and who to marry, where to live, the kind of houses they live in, and the things they buy and possess, all these decisions are taken on the basis of who called them and what they are called to. Such people are not affected by delays in life – delays in employment, delays with marriages or anything else. Employed or unemployed and whatever the size of their pay-packet, they know that their sustenance, their security, and their identity is in their calling and not in anything that this world has to offer. They know that they have a heavenly Father who cares for them and provides for them. That they are valued of Him more than anything else in the world. They live in the confidence that,
“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom 8:31-39 (ESV)
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jer 17:7-8 (ESV)
It is only when we forget who we are called to be and substitute it with what we do then do we not only lose our calling but also our witness and then rather than looking to the Lord we begin to look to the world. And to those who trust in the things of the world the word of the God is: “Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.” Jer 17:5-6 (ESV)
But the people of God have the assurance:
For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Cor 6:16-18 (ESV).
THIS IS THE SABBATH REST IN CHRIST. SHALLOM.