You didn’t choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatever you will ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (John 15:16 WEB)
As I grow older I see more and more change. I have the sneaking suspicion I was less observant as a young man. Still, while growing up my Father was excellent at teaching me to observe things. Not just big things that you can’t miss but the small, almost insignificant, changes.
Teaching me this was very important for working in a technical field. When it comes to troubleshooting problems, accuracy involves noticing small changes and then discovering why. There is a mystical gift for good troubleshooting. My father taught me how to use the gift.
Over the years I worked with many engineers and technicians. Some were excellent at noticing the small things. Hearing the slight change in pitch from a blower, catching a scent of ozone from some failed part or noticing the tell tale wisp of smoke escaping a component were second nature. Others couldn’t find the problem when the transmitter was in flames before their eyes.
Following the Holy Spirit’s lead is much like troubleshooting. Sometimes the direction is obvious. At other times it’s noticing the small changes in life, family, work, prayer time, and studying God’s word that tweak our heart to change. We each have a gift to recognize this prompting. Responding to God’s call for change is important in our Christian walk.
Calling us to the mission field was a major undertaking for God. I am rather thick headed at times and can easily choose to ignore the signs and wonders which are so obvious. Still, once we were called, we knew it and responded to that call.
A calling it is. I emphasize the calling because it was not the choice I, nor Beth, would have made. As a matter of fact mission work was far from our thoughts and not part of our plan as a newlywed couple. And yet God prepared the way during my schooling and through the friends Beth established in Wilmore.
Reading missionary biographies, being introduced to furloughing missionaries, and being burdened for the lost were just some of the methods God used to put our feet on the right path. Because God did the calling, because God did the directing, because it was God’s direction and not ours we see things with a different perspective than some.
Granted, there are many missionaries who understand what is involved in being called by God. Others, including some missionaries on the field and some full time Christian workers, don’t appear to have a clue. It appears illogical, from a human standpoint, to work outside our training.
When our work is a calling we can either obey or run. This is like Jonah and the whale. If we choose to run, there is no place we can escape God’s hand or voice. If we obey, we may not immediately know the results but can trust God to accomplish his purposes.
Hearing requires listening, obedience requires following. The problems for us can begin when God’s calling is not to do what we feel we are trained or prepared to do! We use logic to try and avoid or ignore God’s call in our lives. “Surely the Lord will want me to use my training and education to serve him,” we say when God’s leading doesn’t fit in our earthly plans.
According to Beth’s training and education she is a physical therapist. According to my education and training I am a theologian and an engineer. When we arrived on Guam they didn’t need a physical therapist or a theologian. They needed a secretary and a ditch digger. While this was not our training, God used these jobs to teach us to trust in Him. It was not a question of using our skills. It was a question of obedience to God’s calling.
Through the years we haven’t always been so willing to follow when called to work outside our skills and training. Still, God used us in areas we never expected. In each case God provided the skills, understanding, and abilities to accomplish his task.
As I listen to people clamor about their rights, their need to use their training and skills, I am concerned. The concept of a calling appears to have faded. I think many of God’s prophets were working outside of their training and abilities. They were willing, sometimes through divine encouragement, to obey God’s calling regardless of the task ahead. What are we willing to do?
Are we guided by the Spirit or are we guiding the Spirit? Cleaning toilets, mopping floors, digging ditches for water pipes are not the normal activities for theologians, technicians or physical therapists. But God can and will work through us in these, and other areas outside our expertise, when we are willing to heed the calling and obey. I pray the Lord will remind me of this next time I kick against the calling because of my own selfish desires. I pray He’ll remind me and I’ll listen and obey.