‘I have called him… and he will succeed in his mission.’ Isaiah 48:15 NIV
God told Jeremiah, ‘Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work.’ (Jeremiah 1:5 NCV)
When God decides to use you, five things happen:
First, there is a call. God asks common people to do uncommon things, like Peter getting out of a boat and walking on water.
Second, there is fear. When God called Moses to stand before Pharaoh, he basically said, ‘I’m not a good enough speaker; use somebody else.’
Third, there is reassurance. The thought of filling Moses’ shoes must have shaken Joshua to the core, so God told him, ‘As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.’ (Joshua 1:5 NKJV)
Fourth, there is a decision. Sometimes we say ‘yes’ to God and sometimes we say ‘no’. When we say ‘yes’ we live with joy; when we say ‘no’ we forfeit that joy. But there’s always a decision.
Fifth, there is a changed life. Those who say ‘yes’ to God’s call don’t walk perfectly, not by a long shot. But because they say ‘yes’, they learn and grow even from their failures. Indeed, their failures often become part of their ability to minister to others. And those who say ‘no’ to God are changed too; they become a little harder, a little more resistant to His calling, and a little more likely to say ‘no’ next time.
In the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), Jesus’ command to "follow me" appears repeatedly (e.g., Matthew 8:22; 9:9, Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27; John 1:43). In many cases, Jesus was calling the twelve men who would become His disciples (Matthew 10:3–4). But other times, He was speaking to anyone who wanted what He had to offer (John 3:16; Mark 8:34).
In Matthew 10:34–39, Jesus stated clearly what it means to follow Him. He said, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it."
Jesus’ bringing a “sword” and turning family members against each other can seem a little harsh after words like "whosoever believes on Him shall not perish" (John 3:16). But Jesus never softened the truth, and the truth is that following Him leads to difficult choices. Sometimes turning back may seem very appealing. When Jesus’ teaching went from the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3–11) to the coming cross, many who had followed him turned away (John 6:66). Even the disciples decided that following Jesus was too difficult the night He was arrested. Every one of them deserted Him (Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50). On that night, following Christ meant possible arrest and execution. Rather than risk his own life, Peter denied that he even knew Jesus three times (Matthew 26:69–75).
To truly follow Christ means He has become everything to us. Everyone follows something: friends, popular culture, family, selfish desires, or God. We can only follow one thing at a time (Matthew 6:24). God states we are to have no other gods before Him (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7; Mark 12:30). To truly follow Christ means we do not follow anything else. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." There is no such thing as a "halfway disciple." As the disciples demonstrated, no one can follow Christ by the strength of his own willpower. The Pharisees were good examples of those who were trying to obey God in their own strength. Their self-effort led only to arrogance and distortion of the whole purpose of God’s Law (Luke 11:39; Matthew 23:24).
Jesus gave His disciples the secret to faithfully following Him, but they did not recognize it at the time. He said, "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing" (John 6:63). And "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them” (verse 65). The disciples had walked with Jesus for three years, learning, observing, and participating in His miracles. Yet, even they could not follow Him faithfully in their own strength. They needed a Helper.
Jesus promised many times that, once He had ascended to the Father, He would send a "Helper" to them—the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26). In fact, He told them that it was for their good that He was going away so that the Holy Spirit could come (John 16:7). The Holy Spirit indwells the heart of every believer (Galatians 2:20; Romans 8:16; Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:20). Jesus warned His followers that they were not to begin testifying of Him "until you have been clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4). When the Holy Spirit came upon those first believers at Pentecost, they suddenly had all the power they needed to follow Christ, even to the death, if needed (Acts 2:1–4; 4:31; 7:59-60).
Following Jesus means striving to be like Him. He always obeyed His Father, so that’s what we strive to do (John 8:29; 15:10). To truly follow Christ means to make Him the Boss. That’s what it means to make Jesus Lord of our lives (Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 2 Corinthians 4:5). Every decision and dream is filtered through His Word with the goal of glorifying Him in everything (1 Corinthians 10:31). We are not saved by the things we do for Christ (Ephesians 2:8–9) but by what He has done for us. Because of His grace, we want to please Him in everything. All this is accomplished as we allow the Holy Spirit to have complete control of every area of our lives (Ephesians 5:18). He explains the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 2:14), empowers us with spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-11), comforts us (John 14:16), and guides us (John 14:26). To follow Christ means we apply the truths we learn from His Word and live as if Jesus walked beside us in person.
God is asking for your participation; will you answer him?
"LORD, SEND SOMEONE ELSE.” EVER SAID THAT?
Do you have a favorite person from the Bible? (Besides Jesus, of course!) Moses is a personal favorite of mine. I find him very relatable. Not the plague thing or the Red Sea thing. It’s that scene at the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-3), but a very specific part of it. Exodus 4:13 was actually one of my ‘life verses’; “But Moses pleaded again, ‘Lord, please! Send someone else.’” It was right up there with, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13) as long as he doesn’t ask me to do anything. It’s easy to have faith in God and trust him when we’re sitting on the couch binging Netflix. And the truth is, that’s where I related most strongly with Moses, telling God no. Well, more like dragging my feet and whining a lot, hoping that God will eventually get the message and just give up on me and change his mind.
I’m wondering if the idea of God as Father comes from us acting like children so much of the time:
- “Have you dumped the garbage yet?” “I will; as soon as I finish this episode.”
- “Have you gone to talk to Pharoah yet?” “I will; as soon as I finish roasting these marshmallows.”
What exactly was it that Moses was so dead-set against doing, and why?
God had gotten Moses’ attention with the burning bush and was now speaking with him. Let’s look at what God was asking.
‘Then the Lord told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey—the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live. 9 Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. 10 Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt”’ (Exodus 3:7-10, NLT).
The first thing we notice is that there is a lot about what God has done and will do, and very little with regard to Moses.
- God has seen their oppression.
- God has heard their cries.
- God knows their suffering.
- God has now come down.
- God intends to rescue them.
- God is providing a new homeland.
- God is sending Moses.
Moses was to go and lead. God is going to deliver his people and he wants Moses to lead them when it happens. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? So begins one of my favorite conversations in all of Scripture.
"But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11).
Moses knew who he was. He had spent the last 40 years defining himself. He had tried to deliver his people 40 years ago, and that ended in murder and his being rejected by his people. This event is what drove him into the wilderness in the first place. He was an exiled murderer and he knew God was talking to the wrong guy.
But God tells Moses exactly who he is; or does he?
God answered, “I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12a).
Look at what God is saying here:
- You are the one I will be with.
- Who you are outside of that isn’t of concern to me.
- Your identity is tied to my presence in your life.
But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?” (Exodus 3:13).
Now Moses is talking to God. “Oh yeah? Well who are you?”
Moses had been waiting for 40 years, but the Hebrews hadn’t heard from God in over 400. To them, he was literally the God of their ancestors; a people long dead and gone. They knew the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but did it mean anything to them? Was God relevant to them now? And that was all just a few hundred years earlier.
What expectations are we to have of God when we look back 2,000 years to the time when he walked the earth with the disciples? We hear stories of miracles and great moves of God from the past, but is that the same God who’s calling us now?
Is God still relevant today?
‘God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.
This is my eternal name, my name to remember for all generations”’ (Exodus 3:14-15).
Here, God drops the mic with this phrase, I AM WHO I AM. This is a verb, not a proper noun. It carries with it the idea of identification through action. It also transcends time and has been translation by some scholars as I will be who I will be. God is declaring himself the ever existing one; who I WAS then, is who I AM now, and who I WILL BE in the future.
This is not the name that others call God; the descriptors of his character, but what God calls himself. This is the name only God is holy enough to utter. And—just like those who saw the opening of the ark in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark—Moses’ ears should have exploded on the hearing of it and his face melted off his head.
This is God’s name yesterday, today, and forever.
Then God goes on for another seven verses, finishing out the chapter as if this should have settled everything with Moses: you’ll say this to the people and they’ll say ok, then you’ll tell Pharoah the plan, but I know he’ll say no, so then I’ll flex and he’ll finally say yes and then you’ll do this… And it should have settled it.
But Moses was too broken to fully accept that. He was still too caught up in himself to accept the power and importance of God’s presence in his life. He knew God was wrong about him.
‘But Moses protested again, “What if they won’t believe me or listen to me? What if they say, ‘The Lord never appeared to you’?”’ (Exodus 4:1).
This goes back to identity, but not what we think of ourselves. Rather it’s what we think others think about us. We prejudge ourselves before others have a chance to. And doesn’t that all begin with the idea that I’m nobody that God would ever use? This false humility is the most evil form of pride because it says right to God’s face, “You’re wrong about me. I’m not the one you’re looking for. You’ve made a mistake.”
When we don’t answer God’s call, we’re saying we know better than he does.
Then God answers Moses’ concerns with three miraculous signs. God recognizes the game Moses is playing and pulls out the stops. First there’s this thing with the staff turning into a snake. Then there’s Moses’ hand turning leprous and being restored. And just to make sure there’s no longer any confusion who is God in this situation, God turns water from the Nile into blood (Exodus 4:2-9). Personally, I think this would have made me more nervous.
‘But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.”’ (Exodus 4:10).
This verse is often said to have the meaning that Moses had a stutter. I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I think it might have had more to do with Moses being an introvert and having spent the last 40 years in the middle of nowhere, with no one but sheep to talk to. I won’t go into why I think Moses was an introvert, but we don’t know exactly what he’s referring to here. What we do know is that Moses lacked confidence in his ability to do what God was calling him to do. Again, he’s questioning God’s judgement. But I don’t really think Moses was intentionally calling God out. I think he was afraid and disparately clawing at any excuse that might get him out of God’s plan. I think he had become so comfortable with his sheep and the situation he ended up in, that he didn’t want to leave. He may have thought he had little time left in this world, so why start some new project? His time to make a difference had passed.
‘Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say”’ (Exodus 4:11-12).
I nearly weep at the graciousness behind this verse every time I read it. God is saying, I made you the way you are. I know it’s not easy. Nothing of any worth ever is. Now let’s go. I’m right here with you and I won’t leave you alone. Take my hand, we’ll do this together. I’ll teach you everything you need to know.
Does this sound familiar? Come to me; take my yoke; learn from me; I will be with you always (Matthew 11:28-30).
God is calling all of us. How will you answer the call? How did Moses?
‘But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else”’ (Exodus 4:13).
Moses finally resorts to honesty. He didn’t want to do it. Moses was simply afraid. And I think it was this honesty that God had been waiting for.
Then the Lord became angry with Moses. “All right,” he said. “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he speaks well. And look! He is on his way to meet you now. He will be delighted to see you. 15 Talk to him, and put the words in his mouth. I will be with both of you as you speak, and I will instruct you both in what to do. 16 Aaron will be your spokesman to the people. He will be your mouthpiece, and you will stand in the place of God for him, telling him what to say. 17 And take your shepherd’s staff with you, and use it to perform the miraculous signs I have shown you” (Exodus 4:14-17).
A lot of the commentaries speak of this passage as a rebuke, that God is so angry that he’s punishing Moses by making him share the spotlight with his brother. Honestly, until I started preparing for this, I saw it the same way. It’s a great motivator, “Do what God calls you to do or he’ll get mad and punish you.” Personally, I’ve grown tired of being scared into following God.
The New American Standard Bible is a more literal, word for word translation and puts it this way, “Then the anger of the LORD burned against Moses.” Looking at this more literal sentence structure and the original language, it could also be understood to say, “The face or breath (the countenance) of the LORD enflamed or blazed up.” I think this paints a vivid dual picture of God’s anger and the burning bush.
Remember the burning bush? I can imagine the gentle warming flames flashing into a raging inferno in response to Moses’ declaration, the scorching heat pushing him back in startled terror. God had gotten Moses’ attention. He was letting Moses know that he’s not going to win this argument. Moses was getting too comfortable standing there talking to smoldering shrubbery. It was time for Moses to feel the heat. Those previous signs were just that; God manipulating the world. This was an experience of the raw power of God.
What does Jesus tell us again? I will give you rest for I am gentle and humble in heart (Matthew 11:29). Remember I AM, the same yesterday, today, and forever. And look at what follows. God, again, goes out of his way to accommodate Moses. Oh look, there’s your brother who’s “just happening” to be coming this way, and what do you know, he’s a great speaker. What luck! And it says Aaron was already coming to see Moses, before this whole thing started.
God is not going to call you to do something without providing you with everything you need to accomplish his work. You may not get everything you want. And it may not be easy. But I can tell you from experience, well, a little experience, that it’s a blessing beyond description.
ANSWERING THE CALL
How do you know you’ve been called? Right there in the second half of Exodus 3:12, “And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.”
The fact that you’re here today is the sign that you have been called. God has called you for something; that’s why you’re here.
What is it that God is calling you to do? What have you been trying to avoid? What Excuses have you been making? It’s nothing God hasn’t already heard. Or maybe you’re right where God wants you, doing what he has for you to do, but you’re stressed and burned out because you’re relying too much on your own ability.
What might you need to let go of? Or maybe you’re doing God’s will and are constantly blessed and joyful. In that case, you really need to be up here sharing with us your secret.
What does answering the call look like? I can show you one example of what answering the call looks like. It looks like me following through on God’s call for me to share this message with you.
What will it look like for you? I have no idea. Maybe it’s to go to another country with the Gospel. Or maybe just next door. Maybe it’s going to the homeless on the street, or maybe a family member you haven’t spoken to in a while. Maybe God’s given you a testimony and he wants you sharing it, or maybe he’s leading you to serve in some other way. What God has called you to do is between you and God and whoever he might have called you to.
What is God saying now? I have come down to this earth, I have seen through your eyes, I have heard through your ears, I have experienced your suffering. I came to rescue you from the power of sin in your lives and lead you into a new kingdom flowing with mercy and grace.
Now go! God is sending you out into the world to lead people to him. I want to leave you today the way Moses left the people of Israel he had been leading for 40 years. Passing the mantle of leadership to Joshua, Moses—the man who was afraid to talk to Pharoah—stands before hundreds of thousands of Hebrews and declares, “be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid. The Lord will prepare the way and be with you”
“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
God is calling you, but it’s up to you to respond.
In 1 Timothy 2:4 it says: “God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” God has an incredible plan, and He wants to use you! He wants to save you from a life of sin and unhappiness, to a life of true peace and joy. He wants to prepare you for eternity. He wants to use your life to glorify His name. God is calling you. He loves you and wants to help you!
So how does God call you? Maybe you meet someone whose godly life challenges you, or you read or hear something that creates a longing for something more. Maybe you try to live a good life and react in a good way, but always fall short, and you feel empty deep down inside. This is God calling you. He is drawing you, but it’s up to you to respond.
In Hebrews 1:1-2 it says, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.” God sent His Son Jesus to earth as a human being, where He experienced the same temptations and trials we do, but never gave in to sin. In this way He left us an example to follow.
Now He is inviting you to let Him into your life, to guide, strengthen and help you live the same overcoming life. “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me.” Revelation 3:20.
This call of love is like a powerful magnet, always pulling in one direction; to turn completely from everything that is bad, corrupt, evil and self-seeking (sin) towards God’s Son Jesus Christ, to follow His example and come to a life of righteousness, peace and joy. But the choice is always yours, because God has given you a free will.
Opening your heart to Jesus is making a decision to stop living for yourself completely, and giving Him full control, as your Lord and Savior. It is a totally life-changing decision. You don’t have to carry on sinning, losing your temper, being irritable, being offended. Jesus came to save you, and make a way out of all these things, and this amazing new life is what God will lead you into, step by step, if you will answer His call.
Don’t let anything hinder you from making life’s most important choice – open the door of your heart to Jesus today!