My wife and I have been preparing to send my eldest daughter across the nation to be a college freshman at Valor Christian College in just a few weeks from now. We are excited and nervous for her, but we are proud that she is seeking to prepare herself for a life of service to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Will that service be from a pulpit or in some form of full-time ministry? I have no idea and it truly does not matter to me. My prayer is that her entire life will be spent serving the Lord; fulfilling the call that He has placed upon her life. The calling of God upon each of our lives is one of faith and service. We are called to believe, we are called to discipleship and we are called to service.
The Holy Spirit may never lay the burden of fulltime ministry on your heart but each of us receives the call to discipleship; each of us receives the call to evangelism and each of us receives the call to service.
Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”
I said, “Here I am. Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)
These words are easy enough to read from the pages of scripture or sing in the middle of a praise song but they are very challenging to utter in sincerity before a Holy God, “Here am I, send me.”
The calling of God may lead you to your neighbor’s front door or it may lead you to another nation. You and I really do not have control over where He leads us; we only have control over, “Here am I, send me.”
Every generation of believers is faced with the call to go and the call to serve. The calling of God frequently interrupts our plans and frequently takes us away from that which is comfortable. The calling of God upon our lives leads us to a place where we are forced to live by faith; the place where we become dependent upon the Lord.
What are you doing in your life that requires you to live by faith?
If we can accomplish everything we are doing in our lives without the intervention of the Lord I think that it is fair to say that we are not living by faith. I am not talking about faith in Christ for salvation. I am talking about a life and calling that is dependent upon the Lord; His provision, His empowerment, His grace, etc. You and I will never truly fulfill the call of God upon our lives in the strength of our will or in the strength of our own resources. God will never create a life or lifestyle for us in which He is unnecessary.
When we gave our lives to Jesus we surrendered our will to His. We abdicated as the lord our own life and we made Him the Lord of our lives. Life before Christ is normally very self-centered. We were focused upon our dreams, our goals, our ambitions, etc. When we place our faith in Christ we become a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17) who has a new heart that must echo the words of Christ, “not my will, but thine be done” (Luke 22:42).
Our joy comes from fulfilling the calling of God upon our lives. We are fulfilled in Him. Our lives find significance in being used by God to affect the lives of other people.
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. (2 Corinthians 4:7)
Life in Christ is not about me and it is not about you. Jesus is the star of our show. He is the head and we are the body. Our lives must be submitted to the desires of our God. Think about it this way: who’s dreams and desires do we spend most of our time fulfilling? I think it is fair to say that that is the person who is truly in charge of our lives.
Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
For some believers this verse will manifest itself in actual physical ways. There are significant amounts of persecution facing our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. For those of us who live in areas of the world where we are free to worship as we please this verse directly attacks our will. Jesus calls us to turn away from building our own kingdom of comfort and join with Him in building the Kingdom of heaven.
“No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. (Isaiah 58:6-7)
The heart of Christianity is found at the place where followers of Christ share the love of God with someone in need. The needs that people have come in a multitude of forms; we are called to meet those needs with grace, with love and with compassion. We are called to minister in word and deed under the anointing of the Holy Spirit so that the world may see Jesus through us.
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
The priorities of our cultures and nations are many times very different from the priorities of heaven. Most of our cultures measure success based on the accumulation of wealth, possessions and experiences. Treasures in heaven are not measured by what we earn and keep but by what we give. We are followers of Christ. He is not only Savior and Lord but He is our example. Jesus gave it all; He held nothing in reserve from us. It is easy to write but much more challenging to live but we should hold nothing in reserve from Him. There should be no boundaries in our life that He cannot cross. There should be nothing that we are unwilling to do or give should He ask. He is the King of our kingdom.
Most Christians are aware that an estimated 5 billion people on earth have yet to believe the gospel. These are men and women that Christ died upon the cross to redeem. We must never relent in our willingness to support and become missionaries throughout the earth. You may be called to go and come back. You may be called to go and stay. You may be called to send. I do not know which one but from reading scripture I can safely proclaim that you are called.
I want to focus the second half of this message on meeting the physical needs of people throughout the world.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ (Matthew 25:34-40)
We cannot ignore the call to meet the needs of those who do not have enough. We cannot ignore the cries of the poor, the orphaned or the oppressed. The call of grace and mercy extends to every area of human life and thus our mandate as believers goes beyond the message of salvation to meeting the needs of hurting people.
As followers of Christ our service to Him is to be expressed in acts of charity and mercy. Our love for Him and for our fellow man must be filled with a genuine concern for those who are oppressed and in need. We do not fulfill this obligation by tithing and giving offers in the local church. We are called to share our food with the hungry and provide clothing for those who have none. We must make real and sincere efforts to determine the needs of others and commit ourselves to helping wherever we can.
There are times in our lives that we can feel pressured by our financial obligations. Depending on our situation we can feel overwhelmed, stressed out and sometimes even despair as to our future. There is nothing like knowing that what you currently have will not meet your needs. I have been there more than once. It is in these times that faith and fear tend to wage the greatest battles for our souls. Will we stand on the promises of God’s Word and depend upon Him or will we surrender to our doubts and fears?
Most of the people reading this message are living in nations of the world where there is abundance. There is poverty in every nation and there are needs in every nation but there are many nations whose needs are far more significant than others.
Here are some 2008 figures from the United Nations concerning household income by nation (the full statistics can be found here.)
- 42 of the 215 nations listed have annual household incomes less than $1,000 (USD)
- 106 of the 215 nations listed have annual household incomes less than $5,000 (USD)
- Only 50 of the 215 nations listed have annual household income greater than $20,000 (USD)
- The poverty level for a family of four in the US was any household earning less than $23,250 (USD) per year.
- The poverty level for a family of four in the EU was any household earning less than €23,640 (Euro) per year.
- The average household income for the United States was $45,230 (USD)
My family and I live in Orange County, California in the United States. We would never consider ourselves to be wealthy in relationship to those who live in the same area of the country that we do but we count ourselves truly blessed of the Lord. We have been faithful in the tithe and offering when we lived far below the poverty line and we have remained faithful in the tithe and offering now that we live far above the average household income level of the United States. We have always given to world missions and partnered with ministries who not only bring the gospel to those who are lost but also meet the physical needs of hurting people.
I do not know where you fall on the income scale. You may be in need of a financial miracle from the Lord. You may be just making ends meet or you may have more than enough. Faith and faithfulness is not determined by income; it is determined by our willingness to give.
Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins.
Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44)
This message has been stirring inside of me because I have begun to realize just how blessed of the Lord my family truly is. I have grown comfortable and God is dealing with me; He is breaking my need for the things of this world and is renewing a passion to give more than I ever have given before. The battle with materialism and cultural prestige is one that I fight every day. My flesh longs to have the finest things that money can buy but my spirit hears the call of the poor. My flesh longs for bigger, faster, newer and better things but my spirit hears the mandate of Christ, “how shall they go unless they are sent.”
Will we strive to establish our treasures here upon the earth or will we work to store up treasure in heaven? Will we seek comfort and ease in our lives upon the earth or will we give and work so that the Kingdom of heaven may be manifested in the lives of those for whom Jesus died upon the cross?
Our lives are no longer our own; Jesus paid for them with His own blood (1 Peter 1:18-19). Our willingness to follow, to serve and to give should far outshine our need to have.
- Sell out and surrender all to Jesus. Old time preachers used to say that Jesus is either Lord of all or He is not Lord at all.
- Answer the call to discipleship. Know the Word and know the God of the Word.
- Give. Give yourself. Give your time. Give your money. Give so that the Kingdom of heaven may be established in the hearts of people.
When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required. (Luke 12:48)
Serving Christ is about loving Him with our whole being and loving our neighbor as ourselves. We cannot live a life that seeks to make ourselves comfortable at the expense of loving our neighbor. I do not want to stand before Christ and be viewed as one of the men who gave large sums out of their abundance. I want to stand before Christ and know that I have given Him all that I am.