By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. (Hebrews 11:8)
I have recently been wrestling with what it means to be ‘called’ to something. We often hear in church, “I felt called to go to the mission field so I left my job and moved my family.” How do you know if you are called to something? Do you hear an audible voice? Is it a nudging in your spirit? And what does it look like to obey your calling?
Abraham audibly heard God’s voice calling him to leave all his possessions and move his family to an unknown land (Gen. 12:1-5). I am envious of how the Old Testament saints received their calling. They heard God’s audible voice. It’s tempting to believe if only I heard God’s voice booming down from heaven or written in the clouds, I would know what to do with my life. However, Peter reminds us in 2 Peter 1:19 that we have something even greater than God’s audible voice. We have the written word of God as ‘something completely reliable’ to direct our paths.
However, receiving God’s ‘calling’ is not enough. We must obey the calling once and for all. Why is it many receive the call but few obey? It is because we may be waiting for things to get ‘easier’ or ‘the right timing’ before we obey. I love the analogy that Charles Spurgeon gives.
“The man who waits until he shall find it more easy to bear the yoke of obedience, is like the woodman who found his faggot too heavy for his idle shoulder, and, placing, it upon the ground, gathered more wood and added to the bundle, then tried it, but finding it still an unpleasant load, repeated the experiment of heaping on more, in the vain hope that by-and-by it might be of a shape more suitable for his shoulder. How foolish to go on adding, sin to sin, increasing the hardness of the heart, increasing the distance between the soul and Christ, and all the while fondly dreaming of some enchanted hour in which it will be more easy to yield to the divine call, and part with sin.” (Spurgeon, 1875)
If we wait until it is ‘the right timing’ to walk in obedience we may never obey. Obedience may not be easy because it requires faith. Abraham was able to obey because he had faith in God. He believed God’s promises which fueled the fire to keep his perspective on the future, his heavenly home, rather than the present loss of his earthly home. His faith helped him to be ready for the risks involved in his obedience. When Abraham moved, he and his descendants became strangers in a foreign land and were mistreated there.
When we choose to obey God’s calling in our lives, it may not make sense to people. You may feel like a stranger and you may be mistreated. However, your act in obedience will richly bless you, your family and descendants to come. I would love to be added onto the list of the heroes of the faith and be commended for my faith by the One who is preparing something greater than anything I can imagine on earth. Would you?
Spurgeon, C.H. Abraham’s Prompt Obedience to the Call of God. A Sermon. Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. (1875)