How did you ever end up in Cleveland?
- Thursday, September 05, 2002
If I had a dollar for every time I am asked that question I would be in good financial shape. As you might expect, it tends to be asked by people who are not from Cleveland, many of whom have never even been here. Implicit in the question is the notion that presumably, if I had been better informed, I would have known that there are flocks to shepherd in finer pastures, with better climates and greater opportunity. This is not the place for me to defend the merits of the city that has been home for our family for the past 16 years. But this is the place to address the question of the call of God upon our lives.
The Bible makes it clear that God's call is not primarily about geography. Indeed that comes way down the list. Fifteen minutes spent with a good concordance will allow us to create a helpful summary of the call of God in the life of the Christian. We are called:
According to God's purpose. Romans 8:28
By His grace. Galatians 1:15
Through the gospel. 2 Thessalonians 2:14
Heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14
Out of darkness. 1 Peter 2:9
To belong to Jesus. Romans 1:6
To be saints. Romans 1:7
To be holy. 1Corinthians 1:2
To live in peace. 1 Corinthians 7:15
To one hope. Ephesians 4:4
To His eternal glory. 1 Peter 5:10
When we consider even this brief selection, it is immediately apparent that God is more concerned about WHAT is happening than WHERE it is happening. We need to be thinking theologically rather than geographically. We must also affirm that pastoral or missionary work us not the only way to "really serve God."
God has given unique roles to individuals in the arts and medicine; in manufacturing and education; in business and politics; in short - in the marketplace of life. We need to view our "daily round and common task" as the realm in which we fulfill God's call upon our lives and not rush to be done with these "secular" pursuits so that we might turn to "spiritual" activiies.
Many young people have committed themselves to a lifetime of pastoral or missionary service who clearly should never have done so. This problem has been further compounded by those who teach, without biblical warrant, that every young man of ability and attainment should devote himself to the gospel ministry, unless he can show some special reason why he should not. This is the very reverse of what needs to happen. No one is to show cause why he ought NOT to be a pastor; he is to show just cause why he SHOULD be a pastor.
In Ephesians Chapter 4 we discover that the Christian pastor is one of the ascension gifts of the Redeemer. It is then the privileged responsibility of the pastor-teacher to prepare God's people for works of service. It is then that the body of Christ is built up and grows to maturity as each part does its work. It is the responsibility of every Christian to understand the way in which they have been gifted and then to put the gift or gifts to use in the ministry.
In too many of our churches people do not understand that a variety of gifts are important. Everyone wants to be a teacher, because that is held up as the task of real significance, or everyone ends up working in the nursery because that is the area of greatest need. In reality, all that a Christian undertakes provides an opportunity to commend the cause of the gospel and build up the church.
It is said that for many years, Ruth Graham had a sign above her kitchen sink, which read, "Divine service conducted here three times a day." When this biblical principle is grasped by the salesman, then the way in which he makes his calls is going to be different. Not that he provides a piece of Christian literature with every sales presentation, but that he sees every presentation as an opportunity to display integrity, sensitivity, and reasonableness, and by so doing commend his Master.
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