Daniel 3

WHEN GOD CALLS

(January 12, 2023) Dr Jim McClure shares a personal experience, encouraging us to move ahead in God … 

When God called me to serve Him in the ministry, my initial response was, ‘No!’

For various reasons I considered the call unwelcome, unacceptable, impractical and untimely… so initially I pushed back! My response was in some ways similar to that of Jeremiah who, when God called him, expressed absolutely no enthusiasm for the task.  He replied to God, ‘Ah, I do not know how to speak; I am only a child’  (Jeremiah 1:6).  

The word translated ‘Ah’ is pronounced in exactly the same way in Hebrew!  It is actually more a sigh of distress and reluctance than a word.  Jeremiah really did not want to be a prophet and so he made his rather weak excuse.  But, however reluctantly, he agreed to submit to God’s call.

And so did I! I went to a theological college in Manchester for five years.

Brief testimony
However, about a year before I started my college course,  I preached my first sermon.

That was 61 years ago in my home church, Abbots Cross Congregational Church in Northern Ireland, and the sermon was based on Psalm 73.  I remember it well.  As I stood in the pulpit that Sunday morning and looked at the congregation, I was terrified! 

With shaking legs and trembling voice I raced through the sermon I had prepared. And it was terrible!  In fact, it was so bad that someone left me an anonymous note advising me never to preach again! But now, more than six decades later I am still preaching regularly.  (In case you are wondering – No, I never did discover who wrote that note).

My point is this – whether or not I personally wanted to be a pastor and preacher was irrelevant. As a young Christian, I had placed myself into God’s hands and so agreed (with some reluctance) to agree with His call on my life.  Do I regret the decision I made?  Not at all!  At times it has not been easy for many reasons but the journey has been amazing.  I could never have anticipated the things I have done, the congregations to which I have preached God’s Word, the students I have taught, the people I have met, the countries I have visited and in which I have taught, the friends I have made and so on.

And God has blessed me abundantly by giving me a loving, encouraging and supportive wife, Jean, to be by my side through all the hard times and the good.  How rich my life has been because I said, ‘Yes’ to God – however reluctantly.

God does not promise prosperity and success
In truth, when we follow God’s plan for our lives, prosperity and success in all we attempt is not guaranteed. Indeed God may lead us into difficult, uncomfortable and painful situations to further His purposes.  There are many examples in the Bible to support this statement. For example, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would have been greatly concerned when they were sentenced to a fiery death (Daniel 3).

My point here is – when God calls us to do something, it is better to say, ‘Yes,’ even with reluctance! It is so much better to place our lives into God’s hands than to live outside His will.

King David wisely declared to God, ‘My times are in your hands’ (Psalm 31:15). The old hymn simply and magnificently proclaims –

‘My times are in your hand;
my God, I wish them there!
My life, my friends, my soul,
‘My times are in your hand;
my God, I wish them there!
My life, my friends, my soul,
I leave entirely to your care.’

Beware of discouragements! 
(i) Beware of discouraging others
 
You don’t know the full picture and are in no position to pontificate to others! Discouragement  can have unanticipated consequences for a person’s development and it may even hinder God’s plans for a person’s life.

I have noted during the years that, while churches should be places of encouragement, the spirit of discouragement is often all too active!

(ii) Beware of allowing discouragement to shape us
It can crush our spirit and damage our relationship with God.

Had I listened to and been crushed by the discouraging words of my anonymous critic all those decades ago, not only would God’s plans for my life have been unfulfilled but my life and that of my family would have been so impoverished.

(iii) Beware of surrendering to self-discouragement
Throughout his 40 years ministry Jeremiah experienced one discouragement after another as the people of Judah mocked him and the religious leaders rejected his messages from God.

He wrote about the people, ‘If you do not listen, I will weep in secret because of your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly, overflowing with tears, because the Lord’s flock will be taken captive’  (Jeremiah 13:17). 

But he remained committed to his calling, declaring, ‘If I say, “I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name,” His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot’ (Jeremiah 20:9). 

Final thoughts
As we move on into 2023 and God is calling you, may you respond to that call – even somewhat reluctantly. May His word, His fire, so burn in your heart that you will achieve all He has planned for you – whatever that may be.

Don’t yield to discouragement, rather yield to encouragement!

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Dr Jim McClure has authored several books and Bible studies. Offered free in electronic version in EPUB, Kindle and PDF formats Looking for Answers in a Confusing World, is highly recommended.

Questions seeking enlightenment on biblical perspectives are welcomed. Link: OnlinerConnect@gmail.com
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SUBMISSION TO THE AUTHORITIES?

(September 28, 2020) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, brings a timely challenge…

I’m sure that we are all weary of the unavoidable and unrelenting news about Corona-19 and the responses to it by various political leaders in Australia. So many questions have been raised concerning the limits of political authority and police functions and personal rights.

Inconsistent political positions and, at times, authoritarian and uncompassionate directives, have not only created confusion but have also stirred the deep concerns of many loyal citizens – including many committed Christians.

This has raised questions such as:

  • ‘What principles should guide Christians when we see political leaders lying or abusing their position of trust or promoting values that stand opposed to biblical values or pursuing policies that suggest self-aggrandisement rather than the benefit of the people they lead?’
  • ‘Should they be challenged and their policies be opposed or should we meekly, quietly, uncomplainingly submit to and support their dictates?’

Recently I’ve read a number of articles by Christians who have expressed profound concern and have challenged many of the political decisions that some of our leaders have been making.  And I have also read many responses from other Christians who rebuke those who express their concern and dare to criticise those leaders whose government policies and pronouncements with which they disagree. Often they quote Romans 13:1-7 (particularly the first two verses) in support of their rebuke.

So what should be the Christian position in regard to political leaders when their guidelines, strategies and directives run contrary to democratic values, and more especially to biblical values?  Obviously both sides cannot be right!  Does Roman 13 endorse a position of acquiescence and impassivity when confronted by overreaching and, at times, tyrannical government officials and policies? (more…)