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Wanted! Volunteers!

I would like for us to look at the subject of God’s call and man’s response to it. The burden for this message comes out of the fact that as I’ve traveled the United States and met many of you, I hear a question over and over: “How did God call you to the mission field/Ghana/the Konkombas? How did you know that God wanted you to leave America and travel all the way across the ocean and live your life in Africa?”

Many times when people ask that question, I think they’re expecting some kind of earth-shattering answer: “Well, one day I was lying on my back and looking up at the clouds, and I saw the word ‘Ghana’ formed in the clouds.” Or, “One day lightning struck me, and God spoke ‘Konkomba.’ From then on I knew that that was God’s call for me!” I know that seems a little bit humorous; but honestly, many of us want God to speak to us in ways just like that. We sometimes want God to speak to us something extraordinary, when God has already made it ordinary through His Word. Now there are times when God directs through extraordinary means, but normally He directs us through reading His Word, praying, guiding our steps, opening and closing doors.

The call of God upon our lives—and by that I mean a sense of destiny, a sense of purpose, a sense of direction, a recognition from my heart to God’s heart that God has something for me to do in this world—that sort of call is not something that we need to be struck by lightning to understand. That call of God is throughout the pages of the Bible from the very front to the back. Yes, God may need to direct our lives, opening and closing doors in a specific way. But we don’t need anything extraordinary to acknowledge: “God has placed me upon this earth with a specific purpose. And I am going to bend my energies and allow my heart to yield to God in what He’s directing me.” Not all of us are called to live among the Konkombas, but all of us need to have beating within our hearts the passion of God. All of us also need to have a way to work that out in the world—whether it means serving in Africa or being passionately involved in a ministry in the church, or in my community, or in a prison, or in a city, or with another family in the church that I’m reaching out to. God wants all of us to have a sense of purpose, and then to be willing to say “yes” and go do it.

We’re going to look at four kinds of responses to God’s calling. The first is:

Willing—With No Reserves

We will first look at Isaiah’s response to God’s call. Isaiah 6:1-9:“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His Glory.’ And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, ‘Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.’ Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth and said, ‘Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.’ Also, I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then said I, ‘Here am I; send me.’ And He said, ‘Go…’”

Look at these verses as a spiritual journal entry. Isaiah says that in the year that King Uzziah died, he had a spiritual experience, an encounter with God. It seems as though it was something out of the ordinary, even as you and I have at times if we’re being faithful, walking with God, walking by faith, worshipping God, being in His presence. Isaiah says: “I had a vision of God. I had a vision of the immensity of God and His holiness. I heard the voice of the Lord, and His voice made even the posts of the door to tremble!”

Now look at Isaiah’s immediate response to God’s presence and holiness: “Woe is me! I am undone! I’m ruined; I’m destroyed, because I don’t have clean lips, and I live in the midst of people who don’t have clean lips! I’ve seen the Lord!” If you’ve ever been in the presence of God and had a revelation of God’s holiness, you suddenly realize who you are in a renewed way.

Isaiah cried out in repentance, and immediately there came a seraphim, a heavenly being, who took a coal from off the altar, flew to Isaiah, and touched his lips, cleansing him. This is a type or shadow of what happens when we cry out to God in repentance. God cleans our hearts, washing us with the blood of Christ.

Then Isaiah says that he heard the voice of the Lord: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” We know that the eyes of the Lord go to and fro in the earth (that’s continuous) looking for those whose hearts are right towards Him (see 2 Chronicles 16:9). If the eyes of the Lord are roaming like that, and have been for thousands of years, I believe that the heart of God has been speaking for thousands of years the message that Isaiah suddenly heard. Anyone who gets in a right place before God suddenly hears that voice: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”

Isaiah’s response is our example of “Willing—With No Reserves.” He heard the voice of the Lord, and he immediately volunteered: “Here am I; send me!” When we are in a place where we are truly willing to do whatever God may ask of us, God will then ask it of us! Many times we don’t hear the voice of God because we’re not really willing for what God may ask of us. When you hear the voice of God and respond with an open, willing, volunteer spirit, God will say to you, “Go!” God is looking for people with a volunteer spirit. “Wanted! Volunteers!”

The life of Saul (Paul) is another example of a man who was “Willing—With No Reserves.” Acts 9:3-6: “And as he [Saul] journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, ‘Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?’ And he said, ‘Who art thou, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.’ And he trembling and astonished said, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ And the Lord said unto him, ‘Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.’”

Here’s a man who has spent his life working against the cause of Christ. He has authority to go to Damascus, find a few Christians who are there, and bring them bound to Jerusalem where they can be tried for their crimes. Now God does call Saul in a unique way—this is one of those “lightning strikes.” God strikes him down, and Saul falls on his face, blinded by a great light. Immediately he cries out, “Who art thou, Lord?” First, he identifies who is speaking to him, and that’s important. You can go off on a whim if you’re not being led by the Spirit of God. As soon as Jesus identifies Himself, Saul, with trembling and astonishment says, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Willing—with no reserves. And God said, “Arise, and go into the city, and you will be told what you need to do.” Saul did just that, and his life from here on out is one story after another of his willingness, his suffering, and his sacrifice to live out the call of God.

“What will you have me to do?” Have you ever asked that of God—really, truly, asked it? If your heart is yielded and you are truly listening to the voice of God, He will not leave you sitting idle. God has far more jobs to fill than He has people to fill them. Like Isaiah, there is no argument with God here. Make the heart of your Father in Heaven rejoice. Be willing—with no reserves!

But not everyone whom God calls falls under this first category. The second category of people is:

Willing—But With Reserves

Moses was a man who was willing, but with some reserves. After the story of God calling Moses from the burning bush, we read: “’Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.’ And Moses said unto God, ‘Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ And he said, ‘Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain’” (Exodus 3:10-12).

Here’s a man being called of God to lead a whole nation of people out of bondage and into serving God with freedom. Note Moses’ response: “Who am I? Who am I that I should go unto Pharaoh and bring forth the children of Israel?”

Have you ever sensed that God is asking you to do something? It may not necessarily be to go serve the rest of your life somewhere far away, but maybe just asking you to go speak to someone after church, or to take a position of leadership in a youth group, or to pray in a prayer circle, or to get involved in some other ministry, and you’ve said: “Who am I that I should be the one? What about that brother or sister?”

A whole chapter later we still see God and Moses going back and forth. God assured Moses in chapter 3 that “certainly I’m going to be with you.” But here are Moses’ words now: “‘O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue’” (4:10).

“God,” Moses said, “You’ve called the wrong man! Can’t you tell? I’ve never spoken well, and even in the last hour that we’ve been negotiating, I still can’t speak well. You’re asking me to go and stand in front of Pharaoh [one of the greatest leaders of the known world at that time], and I don’t even know how to talk. I have a very slow tongue.”

“And the Lord said unto him (and it seems to me that God is getting just a little bit tired of these negotiations), ‘Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say’” (vv.11, 12).

But Moses wasn’t done yet: “ ‘O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.’ And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses, and he said, ‘Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart. And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do’” (vv.13-15).

Finally, Moses gives in. God has had to give Moses a spokesman, but Moses does go on to achieve and do what God asks him to do. He obeys God’s voice and fulfills God’s purpose—but he had a lot of reserves.

Let’s look at another example of a person who was willing, but with reserves: Jeremiah. “Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, ‘Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.’ Then said I, ‘Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child’” (Jeremiah 1:4-6). Jeremiah was not a child as we understand a child. He was saying, “God, I’m too young when viewed over against what you’ve asked me to do.” If God has asked you to do something that seems to you to be too great, too much of a load, too difficult, or beyond your abilities, hear what God says to Jeremiah: “’Say not, “I am a child:” for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee, thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee,’ saith the Lord” (vv.7, 8).

There is a third class of men:

Draft Only

Jonah is a classic for this category—someone who did not respond willingly to God’s call. He was a servant of the Lord, but he was a “draft-only” servant. “Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me’” (Jonah 1:1, 2). That was the call of God to Jonah, but Jonah didn’t even talk to God. Jonah fled to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord—as if that really could be done. But God “caught up with him,” and after three days in the belly of a great fish, he eventually went. He preached in Nineveh, the people repented, and a city was saved from destruction. God does use “draft-only” people.

If you’ve been hearing the call of God for quite some time, don’t force God to draft you. Don’t force God to tear apart your life—and I say that not to scare you, but as a warning. God will do what He must do to fulfill His purposes in the world, even if it means putting you in the belly of a fish for three days so that, shredded from your dignity and removed from all of your own will, you’ll then be willing to go and do what God wants you to do. Jonah served God, but there’s not much honor that goes along with serving God from this kind of situation. God’s Word is clear that we will be rewarded, not only according to what we’ve done, but also according to the willingness with which we’ve done it.

Saul is one more example of a “draft-only” response to God’s call. This is the Old Testament Saul in 1 Samuel chapter 10. Saul was chosen of God to be the first king of Israel. But when they looked for him, he could not be found. So the people asked, “Lord, is this man going to come?” And the Lord answered, “Behold, he hath hid himself among the stuff" (v. 22).

God calls all of us to fulfill a specific plan and purpose. Is God calling you and you’re hiding—not just unwilling to go and do what God has called you to do, but looking for a way around it, looking for a way to ensure that what God has called you to do, you will not be asked to fulfill? Are you hiding “among the stuff”? There’s a lot of “stuff” in this land, so it’s pretty easy to hide. But it doesn’t even take a lot of stuff to hide behind. It just takes a heart that doesn’t want to fulfill God’s will. All it takes is someone who is intensely interested in getting behind something so that he will be overlooked and not chosen, and not have to step forward and fulfill what God is asking of him. Don’t be a “draft-only” servant. Bring glory to God and joy to your Father’s heart by being a willing volunteer!

There is one more category of people we’re going to look at:

More Than Willing

I put this one last because I believe God and His Word would lift this one up as being the best. In Genesis chapter 18 we read that God sent some angels down to meet Abraham. As they left, they informed him of God’s impending judgment against Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham knew the wickedness of these cities, but he also thought of the people there who might be righteous. Putting himself out on a limb, he pleaded the case of these two cities. Here we have a man who was not called by God to stand in the gap—he was volunteering. Abraham stood in the gap between a holy God and a wicked world—willingly. For Abraham, the need equaled the call. Here was a man who was more than willing.

If you question the idea of being more than willing, of begging God to use you, think of the verse in 1 Timothy 3:1: “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” If God says it is honorable to desire the office of a bishop, then it is not wrong to desire that the God of Heaven would give you something to do in His kingdom, right? Now I know that there are fleshly motives, and they are not right. If a person desires to be a minister so that he can lord it over the people, God’s Word is very clear that that is not right. But I’m not talking about those kinds of desires. I’m talking about a heart that looks at the world, and sees the needs, and sees the life-changing power that God has and says, “God, please use me!”

Desiring a work from God: this is God’s best. This is not just being before God in His presence and saying, “God, if you want me to leave this wonderful land and go serve in one of the worst places in the world, I’m willing.” But this is a heart that says: “God, I see the lost over here dying without any knowledge of Christ. Lord, please send me!” That’s taking it to a whole new level, isn’t it? I’m yearning and longing to be a more-than-willing servant. I’m longing to be willing, with no reserves for the call that God places on my life. I want to be one of those who sees the need and says, “God, please send me to fulfill it!”

Which kind of a servant of God are you and I? Maybe we fit all of these categories at different times. There are times that I’ve begged God to use me in His work. But there are also times when I’ve negotiated with God, and told God that He’d chosen the wrong person. I see those times as a sin, as an affront to God’s direction in my life. Which kind of a servant are you? Wanted! Volunteers!

Many times throughout Scripture, Paul uses the example of the lives of athletes or soldiers. I’d like to draw another one from the military world. We’re non-resistant, and I’m thankful that we are; but we are an army, and we can learn something from the armies of this world. During the build-up to World War II, Europe was slowly descending into all-out war. A lot of fighting was going on, but America was not entering the war. Americans basically said: “This is Europe’s problem; we want to stay out of this. We want to keep our boys at home; we don’t want to lose any soldiers. We’re not going to get involved.”

Then Pearl Harbor came, and the Japanese attacked our land. Immediately, across the whole United States, there was a surge of patriotic feeling. It only took a few hours, and America joined the war. Over the next couple years, America lost many thousands of soldiers and mobilized to an unbelievable degree in the war effort. But in the weeks immediately after we declared war on Japan, Germany and Italy, the American government set up recruiting centers for the military. During those first couple of weeks, something interesting occurred.

History tells us that tens of thousands of young American men and ladies volunteered to serve in the American military. Later on, during the war, there was a draft and many people who did not want to go, had to go. But during those first few weeks, there was a surge of patriotic feeling in their hearts, and they said, “Nobody is going to attack this nation; we’re not going to take it lying down!” And they lined up in the droves to volunteer. For what? For war! Why? They believed in a cause. They considered it an honor to serve their country. But they didn’t want to wait until they were drafted. It’s an honor to serve your country if you’re drafted, they said; but it’s so much greater an honor to volunteer to serve your country.

Young men lined up early in the morning, waiting for the recruitment officers. The American military was tighter in those days than it is now on what they required. Men begged not to be rejected, but some were rejected. History tells us that young men stood outside those recruitment centers with tears streaming down their face. Isn’t that a marvel to you? Men would beg for an opportunity to do something for their country, to be sent to the front lines, and then bawl their eyes out because they couldn’t go!

That is the “more than willing.” May God challenge all of our hearts with their example. They were doing it for what? A flag! Just a flag, representing a country! They volunteered, went over there, and were willing to die, as many did. What a marvel! It seems we don’t understand spiritually what they understood physically, or God’s recruitment centers would be overrun. We’re defending the name of Christ—which is so much greater than a flag, even of this nation! God’s Word, God’s work in the world, His kingdom spreading from the great river to the ends of the earth as the Bible says, is so much greater!

Like God’s voice to Isaiah, the voice of God is still crying, “WHOM SHALL I SEND? WHO WILL GO FOR US?” That message has been repeated for thousands of years in an unbroken line from the pleading heart of God, looking at a lost and dying world, and knowing what is necessary for them to come to salvation. The heart of God has been pleading and yearning for people to send—not just to Konkomba land, but also to your next-door neighbor, to the people you work with, to the youth group, to the cities around you, to the prison. God is longing to send you there. Do you hear His voice? If you’re not hearing the voice of God, then plead with God to tune your heart.

God has one heartbeat, and it is for the lost of this world. Does your heart beat with His? Scientists tell us that if I use a receptor and project my heartbeat for you to hear its rhythm, over the next 30 minutes to an hour, the rhythm of your heartbeat will begin to line up with mine. Oh, that we would hear God’s heartbeat loudly enough and long enough and clearly enough that our heart would begin to beat with God’s heart!
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