The Calling of God Is Not Like Winning the Lottery – Ask Abraham. Blogging Through Our Sermon Series

I’ve had the privilege of leading our OASIS classes these past few weeks as our Pastor of Discipleship recovers from heart surgery. The class is targeted to our LIFE Community Leaders whose small groups are following our current sermon series “Living God’s Story”. My role is to focus on a particular passage that is connected to the sermon, point out its context and features and offer possible group application questions. As always, you can listen to the sermon here.

In preparing for the Abrahamic story a few weeks ago, I was quite taken by the nature of God’s call to Abraham. As I mentioned in the post last week, the calling out of Ur led Abraham and Sarah out of the comfortable life in Ur to an unknown but promised land. As you read the story, it’s common to notice your inner monologue telling Abraham to turn back, go home, and get therapy for those voices. You know he doesn’t because he is convinced that God called him to this.

If you have been around church-life for a while, you know the idea of “calling” is a tricky one. It’s often used a trump card in attempted negotiations, “God is calling me to tell you to agree with me” or in other self-serving motives like, “God is telling me to to tell you that you need to read this blog ever day. Yep even when there aren’t new posts.” The idea of calling has been terribly abused by many.

While I do believe that God is always speaking into our lives, I am using “calling” in this sense of a God given invitation to posture your life in a particular way. It could be vocational, it could be a holistic perspective, it could be a short-term window, an indefinite season of life, or a longterm one. The common denominator is that it is “of God.” While this is not exhaustive, I hope this framing helps.

What I find interesting about the “calling” of God is how difficult it can be. We all want direction in life and having God speak into our lives sounds like a fabulous idea … until He does. Now I may be guilty of exaggerating the point but hearing from God is not really like hitting the lottery. The lure of the lottery is free money with supposedly no strings attached. We always hear these crazy stories of people who win the lottery and they lose themselves in the newfound lifestyle, they lose their marriages, children, family, become paranoid, suicidal and they even lose the money that they initially thought would make life better. After hearing these stories, most of us are often inclined to say, “Yeah, I’m thinking that I would have done a better job had I won the lottery.” I am among them. And as soon as I get real serious about my prayer life, I am going to start playing :)

I have found that the way we sometimes describe “calling” sounds a bit like winning the “spiritual lottery”. It’s like God showing up at your front door with balloons and instead of giant check, it’s a giant scroll with a divine life plan! Sounds awesome until you live out the fine print. Take Abraham for instance. He believes God enough to move out of Ur but as soon as he gets to Egypt, he lies to the Pharaoh about Sarah being his wife, telling him that she’s his sister. He does this because he is afraid that the Pharaoh will kill him and take her into his harem. I would love to know the next thought in that game plan. Was he just going to camp out there for the rest of his life and allow his wife to grow old in the harem, was he going to stock up on supplies, get some really fast camels, “wifenap” Sarah and make a run for it in the middle of the night? Would really like to know but I digress.

Two things are for sure, he believed that God was calling him to something but did not trust that God would provide, in this case, protection. So he took matters into his hands and if you read the story, God bailed him out (this scene tends to repeat itself). I too have found myself “hedging my bets” with God, how about you?

We like to think that God is going to call us into something that is not only pain-free but something equivalent to winning the “life lottery” – that’s not how it works. See Abraham, see Moses, see David, see the Prophets, see Jesus, see Paul and the stories of thousands of faithful people. My point to this post is calling is always accompanied by sacrifice, and it’s a good thing. It’s the only way the obedience of God can be fulfilled. It’s here when it’s helpful for me to remember the words of Jesus, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it” (Mark 8:35, New Living Translation). What is God calling us to? Seems fitting to always be seeking that answer.

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