The world looks for strategies and programs; God looks for a man.
I recently heard a sermon by John MacArthur on the prophet Jeremiah. In reference to the call of Jeremiah, MacArthur explained, “When there is a crisis, people look for a program. But God looks for a man. When there is a crisis, people look for some system to fix it and God looks for a man, and God looks for a woman.” Is it not true that we constantly look for some magical program to take our church to the next level? We think, if only we could find the right program or curriculum, our church would grow and thrive. But more than programs and strategic planning, God is looking for men and women of faith. When God says, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” God is looking for people like Isaiah who say, “Here I am! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8). First and foremost, there must be a willingness to obey the call of God.
The “call” is not based on the skills/abilities/gifts of the man.
Jesus didn’t pick the 12 disciples because they were the most gifted men he could find. They were just ordinary men with an extraordinary calling. I am sure they were skilled in their various trades and occupations, but no one would have suggested they would change the world. Yet in only a few decades, that’s exactly what happened. “The gospel….which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister” (Colossians 1:23). How remarkable that this ordinary cast of men took the gospel all over the known world in such a short time. What this demonstrates is the power of God. As Paul explains, “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
The “called” often feel weak and inadequate for the task at hand.
Moses thought he was a poor communicator (Exodus 4:10) and Jeremiah thought he was too young (Jeremiah 1:6). What is ironic is that God knew these men better than they knew themselves. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” he said to Jeremiah. God was aware of weaknesses they had no clue about, but none of that mattered. If God had truly called them as His chosen instruments, He would certainly give them the spiritual equipment for the task at hand. We might also add that too much pride and confidence in one’s own abilities is actually a hindrance to fulfilling God’s plans. Pride has a tendency to produce self-reliance and not God-dependence. That’s why Paul says, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Faith and courage were required for the assignment.
It’s safe to say that Joshua never forgot God’s instructions to him, “be strong and very courageous” (Joshua 1:7). Joshua would face giants as he led the Israelites in the conquest of Canaan. Their enemies would not simply hand over the land without a fight and therefore, strength and courage would be absolutely essential to victory. This is true for every man of God. I love how God tells Jeremiah, “But you, dress yourself for work; arise and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them” (Jeremiah 1:17). In other words, it’s almost as if God is saying, “if you don’t trust me, I will humiliate you before the people.” Lesson being those called must have tremendous faith in the power of God. As Jesus said, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
Success was not always guaranteed.
Those of you who are familiar with the ministry of Jeremiah will know that it was not a great success. He was not a prophet who witnessed revival after revival in response to his preaching. But we also know that Jeremiah was faithful and obedient to God. Popularity was not something he enjoyed throughout his life, but he faithfully delivered the Word of God, so there is a sense in which he was successful. Think of all the missionaries around the world who have labored for years on end with few converts to show for their work. Does that mean they were failures? Of course not! The man of God must speak the words of God and then leave the results up to Him. “And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear” (Ezekiel 2:7).
The guidebook for the man of God – the Word of God.
Every year, thousands of new books are published. In my personally library, I have at least 800 books and have access to thousands more on the internet. Indeed, as King Solomon reminds us, “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). What is amazing about this verse is that it was written 3000 years ago, long before the publishing industry flooded the world with books. But for the man of God, there is only the need to master one book – God’s book. As God told Joshua, “Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7). Paul adds to this in saying, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). In short, God’s Word is sufficient in every way!
Those “called” could always count on the presence of God.
God told Moses, “I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12). God told Joshua, “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you” (Joshua 1:5). God told Jeremiah, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:8). And just as the Spirit of God entered into Ezekiel (2:2), so too did Jesus give his disciples the Holy Spirit (John 20:22) before he left them.
Certainly, much more could be said, but as I close, once again I want to turn to the words of the great apostle, to his young apprentice Timothy. “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 6:11-14).