In spite of the fact that I travel internationally and minister to individuals and large crowds; regular believers and leaders; non-Christians and people of many faiths … I often feel inadequate or unqualified. When that happens I remember that God called Moses, a murderer. And that He called David, an adulterer. And Rahab, a prostitute. Not only did God call people who did really bad things, but He also called unusual, insecure, and inconsistent people.
Just consider some of God’s chosen messengers, ministers, prophets, and leaders. There’s Noah, who got drunk; Isaac, who was a daydreamer; Joseph, who was abandoned; and Gideon, who was afraid. There’s Jeremiah, who was too young, and Abraham, who was too old. Elijah, who battled depression. Naomi, who became bitter. Martha, who was a worrywart. And John the Baptist, who ate bugs.
Not exactly the Avengers, these folks. A far cry from any collection of super-saints. But still God called the and used them even though they were far from perfect.
God has not changed. The same God who called imperfect people still does. Now He’s calling you. Inviting you, nudging you, pulling you. God’s call prompts you to live beyond yourself,, to not just be about your own comfort but to completely surrender to His call and bidding. To go. To serve. To build. To love. To fight. To pray. To give. To lead.
So how do you respond when God calls you? In the Old Testament we see at least three different responses.
1> The prophet Jonah represents one of the most common responses: “Here I am, Lord, but I’n not going.”
When the God of the universe saw a need in the city of Nineveh, He chose Jonah to go preach to the sinful and rebellious people there. Now Jonah had the gifts. He had the power. He had the ability. The problem is that he didn’t have the availability. Jonah wasn’t willing and flat-out told God, “No.” And please understand, when God spoke, his assignment was clear: “Go to the city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before Me.” (Jonah 1:2)
Jonah could have said, “Yes, anything for You, God. You are my Lord, and I will do what you ask.” But that didn’t happen. Instead of a willing heart, Jonah balked. He didn’t just hesitate or make excuses; he ran away from God (see Jonah 1:3). And I have to wonder, did Jonah really think he could go far enough away? Or was it just a case of cultivating moment-by-moment denial to avoid the truth and the call of God on his life? Putting your head in the sand, or in Jonah’s case, in the belly of a big fish. Trying to pretend – hoping – that God will just go away. Or change His mind about what He’s called you to do.
Have you ever responded this way?
2> The leader Moses also responded as some of us do still today
The second response to God’s call may not be as outwardly rebellious, but it’s just as dangerous to our spiritual health. When God saw the oppressive power of Pharaoh to God’s chosen people, He called Moses. God said, “So now go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring My people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:10). Couldn’t be clearer, right? God said, “I’m sending you! Now go! Out of all the people alive today, you’re the one I selected. You’re the one I called. You have what it takes. I’m sending you.”
But Moses has a different response than Jonah. Instead of living in the confidence of God’s calling, Moses was buried in his own insecurities. When God called His chosen vessel, Moses respond, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt? (Exodus 3:11). Then Moses quickly told God all the reasons that he wasn’t the right person. “I’m not a good speaker. I stutter. I’m not good enough. Someone else would be way better than me.”
We still do this today. When God prompts us to do something, we’re tempted to tell Him all the reasons we aren’t His best person for the task. We don’t know enough. We aren’t talented enough. We aren’t good enough. There are so many others better qualified for this than us. “Here I am, God but send someone else.”
3> The third response is, “Here am I, send me.”
This third response is the one that God wants to hear from us. This one isn’t just a statement to God, it is a prayer from the heart. It’s dangerous. It’s not a safe, benign, or self-centered prayer. This prayer requires great faith. It’s risky because it will almost always move you to action. It will probably lead you to do something that may not seem natural or easy. It will cause you to step out of your comfort zone.
Isaiah prayed such a prayer of unreserved availability in the presence of God. The Old Testament prophet retells of his encounter with the Holy One when God asked, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8a) And without knowing the details, without knowing when or where, Isaiah prayer this stunning, life-altering prayer: “Here am I. Send me” (Isaiah 6:8b).
Isaiah was not a super-saint nor a member of an earlier Avengers team. He was just an ordinary person willing to give his all to God.
Where do you stand today? As a Jonah? As a Moses? Or as a Isaiah?