The Glory of the Call
Imagine answering the telephone one day and hearing an authoritative voice on the other end offering you a position of immense opportunity. As long as we are imagining (my youngest daughter used to call it ‘imaginating’), let’s take it a step further. Let’s consider that this dignitary is powerful, resourceful, kind, prestigious. Let us add that he is a man of extreme vision. He wants to recruit you. He promises to underwrite all the expenses of your training. He promises to support you as you work in his enterprises. He also is willing to travel with you and personally advise you. How do you think you would react to such a proposal?
May I suggest to you that you have already received such a proposal? It is the call of God but on a grander scale—the scale of faith. Often, too much consideration is placed on the “call” rather than the caller and can be unnerving. The call is always beyond the means or expertise of the called.
One dark windy night the disciples of Jesus were in the midst of the sea. They had been rowing and rowing without any progress. The sea was wild and churning with the rushing wind impeding their way. Suddenly in the darkness, they saw a figure walking on the water. They cried out. A familiar voice called to them, “Be of good cheer, it is I. Do not be afraid.”
Peter, immediately recognizing the voice of Jesus, responded, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” To this request, Jesus replied simply, “Come.”
Now this scene is problematic to me. Peter had no walking-on-water expertise. He had never been trained in water aerobics 101. He didn’t know the laws of physics or the atomic composition of water. Peter was no superhero with divine powers. He was an ordinary fisherman from the shores of Galilee.
How easily Jesus could have answered Peter’s request with, “Peter, you can’t walk on water. You are a man. I am able to do these things because I am the Son of God. Don’t you remember? I heal the sick. I do miracles every day. You catch fish. There’s a difference there Peter.” However, this was not even close to the response of Jesus. Jesus said, “Come.” Jesus was beckoning Peter to do what only Jesus could do. Jesus was beckoning Peter to do what was physically impossible. Jesus was urging Peter to climb out of the safety and security of the boat onto a churning sea. Jesus was inviting Peter to do what he had never imagined himself doing.
The narrative continues. Peter climbed out of the boat and walked on the water to Jesus. Incredible! Peter, in response to the invitation of Jesus, did what he could never do in the natural. Peter walked on water.
Yet, Peter began to sink when he realized what he was doing. Isn’t that so typical? Something in Peter suddenly caught hold of the glory of what he was doing—walking on water—and in that moment a flood of doubts washed over him. It was then he began to sink. As he cried out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out His hand to Peter and rescued him. Together they climbed into the little boat and made their way to shore. Jesus had only a mild rebuke for Peter, “Oh, you of little faith, why did you doubt?” In other words, Jesus was commending Peter. “Peter, do you realize what you did by placing your faith in Me? The impossible! Peter, there was never a cause to doubt. You were never in danger.”
I remember when my dad took the training wheels off my bike and announced that it was time for me to learn to ride a two-wheeler. Oh, the dread that washed over my five-year-old frame. As I looked out the living room window, I could see kids were riding their two-wheelers up and down the sidewalk. It was time.
My dad took me outside. I climbed on the bike while he steadied it with his strong arms. He held the back of the bike and ran behind me, keeping the bike balanced while I pedaled. It was exhilarating. I kept up a running conversation with him as I pedaled. His voice of encouragement spurred me on and on until suddenly it seemed to grow fainter. It didn’t matter. I, Cheryl Smith, was riding a two-wheeler all by myself. Suddenly, the thought grasped me. I, Cheryl Smith, did not know how to ride a two-wheeler! I, Cheryl Smith, did not feel ready for this two-wheeling experience. Fear gripped me. The handlebars wobbled this way and that. The bike began to dip to the right and then to the left. I called out to my dad. His voice answered from a vast distance, “You’re doing great!” I knew better. As I turned to see him, that’s when it happened. I hit a telephone pole. Dad rushed to me. He brushed me off. There was only a mild rebuke, “You were doing so well. Why did you doubt?” Back on the bike, we went until, by the end of the day, I was riding independently with the kids out in the front of our house.
Dad was always with me while I was learning. The dangers were minimal but the rewards of learning to ride a two-wheeler were great. I still carry that amazing skill with me today.
God is always beckoning us to do what seems to be impossible. He wants to move His people out of the earthly into the divine. He wants to do in and through us what does not come naturally.
Too many people measure the call of God by what they are comfortable or familiar with. In so doing they miss the divine measure of the call. God calls the weak to do the work of the strong. He calls the foolish to do the work of the wise. He calls the unskilled to do the work of the skilled. God is creating in us a dependency on Him. “Without Me, you can do nothing.” This dependency assures God’s presence in the call. God is also developing a testimony. People are always ready to commend the called. They, like Delilah, are begging to know the secret of Samson’s strength. They want to find a natural cause for every supernatural work of God.
When you as the called are doing what is unnatural, you are able to give glory to God. “Not I, but Christ.” It is noteworthy to realize that the apostle Paul’s expertise was in Jewish history, law, and traditions. Yet, God sent Paul to the Gentiles who had little respect for his vast storehouse of knowledge. They wanted simply to know about Christ and why He was crucified for their sins.
On the other hand, Peter was ignorant of the weightier matters of the Hebrew culture. He was a fisherman raised outside the precincts of Jerusalem along the shores of the predominately Gentile populated Galilee. Yet, God called Peter to minister to the Jewish people.
Years ago, 1965 to be exact, my father received an invitation to pastor a small church in Costa Mesa, California. The church had split from a larger church and the people had a reputation for being disgruntled. Because they were disillusioned with the original church, they started their own fellowship. They soon became disenchanted with the pastor they had chosen and now were looking for another.
The church was small. The facility was inadequate. There was hardly any parking, and they had rented the garage of the woman’s house next to the church to serve as both Sunday school classrooms and a fellowship hall.
In the meantime, my dad was experiencing a rising success at the church he was pastoring. It was a non-denominational church and a growing fellowship. At the time of the invitation to Costa Mesa, it was the largest church he had ever pastored.
He also enjoyed success in the place where he resided. He and my mom owned a beautiful new house. Dad had a radio program that was gaining in popularity. He was also teaching a psychology class at a local college and was well-loved by his students.
However, there was something about the invitation to Costa Mesa that moved him. He couldn’t get away from it. The salary being offered was less than what dad was receiving. The move would mean that he would have to get a second job. Mom was not happy that dad was even considering it. I remember some of their lengthy discussions. In the end, he couldn’t get away from the feeling of being “called” to Costa Mesa. We moved from all the security we had enjoyed for such a short time.
By the time I started my second semester in kindergarten, we had moved six times. I remember commenting to my teacher that I didn’t think my dad was very stable. (Oh, the things kids divulge!)
Dad had a simple desire. He felt led to simply teach the Word of God to the people in the church in Costa Mesa. At first they were a bit put off. They were used to testimonies and moving stories. Dad was not a dynamic teacher in that sense. He taught through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. I remember a Sunday night where dad went faithfully to church to teach and only two people showed up for the study. What did dad do? He taught them the chapters of the Bible that were scheduled for that night. Slowly but perceptibly the church began to grow. Young people, hippies, desperate for the truth, began to show up. They found what they were looking for in dad’s simple teaching of the book of truth. The parents of the hippies came and discovered what their children had found—the truth of God’s Word was compelling.
I remember the day that my dad took the advertisement for Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa out of the local paper. He confided in me that there was no need to waste good money on a newspaper ad when the church already had as many people as he felt confident to pastor. However, that was not the end of it. The church outgrew the facility. A second facility was built. That facility was maxed out within just two years of being erected. Finally, a third facility was built.
Soon, the church began to draw people’s attention because of the masses of people attending. This growth surge began to attract the curious. People came seeking a “cause” for the growth. They sized up my dad—a simple man with a simple style—and almost immediately dismissed him. They studied the format of the services, the facility, the demeanor of the people. All sorts of causes were suggested for the phenomenal growth of Calvary, but in the end, people had to declare, “It is a work of God!”
Dad always credits God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit for the success of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. In answering God’s call on his life, dad stepped out of his comfort zone and what seemed to be success onto a churning sea. Jesus was waiting for him. The move to Costa Mesa required a greater measure of faith and dependency on the Lord than dad had known before. The growth of Calvary brought a testimony to what only God can do!
So the call of God will often be a call to the seemingly impossible and almost definitely to the improbable. If you are searching the Christian “want ads” for something you feel comfortable with and that matches your expertise, put the paper down and sit by the spiritual phone. Get ready for a call from God to get out of the fishing boat and walk on a stormy sea with Jesus. Do you hear Him calling even now? “Come!”