Why would God call us to do something and then allow much difficulty and travail to come our way as we seek to be obedient? I am not completely sure. But as I take a look at Scripture I can recall many whose callings were tested–who suffered while being obedient. I’ve written about this before, but I’ll write about it again today to encourage myself and anyone who might stumble upon this site. Let’s seek mutual encouragement from God’s word.
Abraham. At seventy-five years old, he moved. In Genesis 12, God told him to leave his country. He went to Canaan, a foreign land–where he was unknown and unappreciated. He was going because God told him that he would bless him there and that he and Sarai would have plentiful offspring although she was childless and barren. God said, “Just look at the stars and the grains of sand in the desert and you’ll get an idea of how I will bless you forever. You will be a blessing to the entire earth.”
But the problem was that Abraham and Sarah were really old. Sarah heard God’s prediction and laughed–God’s prediction was so unbelievable. At least twenty-five years lapsed between Abraham’s call in Haran and Isaac’s birth in Canaan. Do you think Abraham could’ve imagined at the outset that it’d be twenty-five years before God fulfilled the first part of his promise–offspring? No, Abraham couldn’t imagine it. Both he and Sarah got tired of waitng, so they took matters into their own hands. Abraham slept with Hagar and Ishmael was born. God still fulfilled his promise to Abraham through Isaac, but there was great strife in the family because of Abraham and Sarah’s disobedience (a disobedience resulting from impatience). Twenty-five years is a long time to wait.
Joseph. Some say he was an arrogant young man. He dreamed that he’d be a ruler and that because of his leadership, many would be blessed. His older brothers would serve him. And he told them so. They responded, “Oh really?” and tossed him in a pit. “How do you like them apples Joseph? You’re lucky we don’t kill you.” You probably know the rest of the story. Joseph was sold as a slave, falsely accused, and forgotten for years while he spent day after day in jail until the moment that Pharoah needed someone to interpret his dreams. Why didn’t God make Joseph ruler soon after his dreams (divine revelation)? Perhaps God needed that much time and those particular circumstances to form Joseph into the leader he desired.
Moses. At forty years old, he was probably being groomed to inherit Pharaoh’s throne. Although a Hebrew, he was adopted by the Egyptian princess (Pharaoh’s daughter) and brought up in the lap of luxury, courtside. Some how or other, he had an intuition that he was supposed to do something on behalf of the Hebrews. Perhaps he was to deliver his people from Egyptian oppression. He’d start by helping that poor fellow over there, abused by an Egyptian overseer. He killed the overseer for abusing the poor fellow and then fled to the wilderness lest Pharaoh should execute him.
Forty years he spent in the wilderness. It was not Egypt. On the contrary, it was monotonous, excruciatingly difficult to live in, and lacked the society he had grown accustomed to. Although he had a family he loved, this was not the life he pictured for himself. During Moses’ forty years in the wilderness, God put to death the Egyptian life in Moses. Moses probably thought his life was over, that he’d live the rest of his days not as a deliverer, but as fugitive. And then when he was 80 years old, God called him to deliver the Hebrews. By that time though, Moses had no self-confidence left. He didn’t think he was the man for the job. I am sure that as he reflected on his own life during those forty long years, he probably figured that the aspirations he had as a forty year-old were pipe dreams.
David. Samuel anointed him king at a young age. But did David take the throne right away? No. He spent between 14-20 years in the wilderness as a captive, as Saul’s prey. David and his family probably thought that Samuel had it all wrong-that he wasn’t supposed to be king after all. He had many trials and tribulations before he ascended to the throne. And then because of disobedience, he had many more. Yet despite David’s sin (and our own) God was faithful to his promise to David and to those before him (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob). 14-20 years is a long time to wait for God’s promise.
Jesus. He is God and he knew that while on earth. The problem was, not even his own family believed in him at first. Neither did most of his hearers. He lived in obscurity for thirty years, growing in stature and wisdom in order that he might turn the world upside down in only three years. Even in Gethsemane, he asked the Father to take the cup from him–if it were possible. Jesus’ (God Almighty) call was tested over and over again.
So why are we surprised when our callings are tested? Why are we surprised that obedience to the call, becoming worthy of our calling, is difficult? We see that it is par for the course in biblical and post-biblical history. As saints, our callings are tested. But the thing is, if God has called us, and we’ve had external validation of our callings from the Church, then we need to press on.
But it is hard to do when we are apparently thwarted on every side. Sometimes, as a grain of wheat, we have to fall to the ground and die before the fruit of our toil and affliction grows (see Mark 12). I think of many martyrs whose life and death were the seeds of the church. Perhaps ours will be.
So today dear reader, whoever you may be, I comfort myself and maybe you with words of encouragement from Scripture. I am waiting to see God’s faithfulness to me in the land of the living (if that is his will). After all, he is the one who has called me. But today, I deal again with what I perceive to be a setback or a rejection. I am tempted to despair. But this thing I know, I am to be faithful in the little things, faithful in the very things that are right in front of me. And I am to cherish everything around me while I am waiting on God–not despise the blessings that I have. I am to wait patiently and joyfully even in the wilderness of my calling.