Being Called by God
Galatians 1:15; “But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased.” Let’s look at what it means to be called by God.
My kids never leave phone messages. I don’t know, maybe it’s me, but when they call my cell phone they never leave messages. I’ve asked them about this and they say something like, “You saw that I called, right? You called me back, right? That was the message.” In some ways I can relate to that. I hate it when someone leaves you a two minute message with all sorts of details and questions and stuff and then they finish off with, “Well, anyway, call me back and we can talk about it.” I would have rather had the two minutes back from my life and just called them and had a better discussion to begin with.
Throughout the Bible there are occurrences where God calls people. He calls people to give them a message, to reassure them, to warn them, or to let them know He is going to use them. One of my favorite stories of God calling someone to service is found in 1 Samuel chapter 3: “The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. Then the LORD called Samuel. Samuel answered, "Here I am." And he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." But Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." So he went and lay down. Again the LORD called, "Samuel!" And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." "My son," Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD : The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.' " So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening." And the LORD said to Samuel: "See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them. Therefore, I swore to the house of Eli, 'The guilt of Eli's house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.' "
Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the LORD. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, but Eli called him and said, "Samuel, my son." Samuel answered, "Here I am." "What was it he said to you?" Eli asked. "Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you." So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, "He is the LORD; let him do what is good in his eyes."The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground.” (verses 1:19).
If anyone ever says that God doesn’t have a sense of humor, show them an ostrich, then read them this story. Poor old, almost blind Eli is trying to get some sleep while God keeps messing with Samuel to go wake him up! I have to think God chuckled after the second time this happened.
Besides God’s playfulness, a few other things stick out to me in this scripture. First, the part that says, “In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.” That kind of makes me feel better. Sometimes I read the Bible and think that God is always there talking to these people and telling them what to do and reassuring them and loving them and performing miracles and I feel bad that I don’t see that happening now; in my life. Of course, I can point to many miraculous events in my life, but I hope you know what I mean.
The second thing that sticks out is the fact that Samuel was sleeping in the temple with the ark of God. Remember the first Indiana Jones movie and the ark? How when the guys opened the ark it sucked their faces off? Lightning, thunder, wind, everything was happening from that box and here is Samuel sleeping next to it? It must have been the first night light in history.
Besides those two kind of off the subject observations, I see six things in this story that might help us today understand how God called Samuel and apply it to how He might call us. Now I think I have already established that I don’t like lists of things. I also don’t like numbered steps like “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People,” “Twelve Step Rehabilitation Programs,” or “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.” Way too many things to remember, and, that’s how many steps it took the writer to accomplish the task, what if I can skip a few steps or if I need a few more? Anyways, I am going to go against my better judgment and share with you these six observations.
- We don’t listen for or expect the calling of the Lord; we expect the normal not the super-normal. What did Samuel do each of the first three times God called to him? He went to Eli. Samuel expected a voice to be calling him to be his mentor, his trainer, his boss, not his God.
- We need to make ourselves available to God’s calling. Where was Samuel when God called him? He was in the Lord’s temple where he had been serving God for years. While his service at the temple wasn’t what God eventually wanted him to do, Samuel wasn’t sitting at home waiting for God’s call, he was doing what he could to serve the Lord even before his call up to the big leagues.
- We need to be able to recognize the voice of the Lord. Why did Samuel keep going and waking up Eli when the Lord called? Did God sound so much like Sam’s old master that he thought it was him? I don’t think so. I think that Samuel didn’t know the voice of the Lord so he went to the voice he knew.
- We sometimes need the wisdom of a more spiritually mature person to recognize God’s calling for us. Since Samuel didn’t know God’s voice, it took Eli to tell his student who it was who was calling him.
- The Lord keeps calling until He gets an answer. This calling may not be like Samuel’s where it’s repeated several times in one night, but it may be a prompting that you feel in your heart over several years.
- If it’s the Lord’s calling, you will bear fruit. I love the last verse that says, “The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground.”. Maybe if you’re pounding away at a ministry and nothing is happening it’s not your gig. Of course we need to balance this out with the reality that sometimes we won’t see the fruit of our labor for many years, so we need to be sure to utilize number 4 above.
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