While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. (Acts 13:2-4 ESV)
A call from the Lord rarely involves glamor and fame, but always involves sacrifice. This truth becomes more and more real as I continue living life away from my family and friends. Moving and starting over includes many sacrifices, but when chasing after the will of the Lord it all seems worth it.
In my last musing over how people in Scripture teach us about obedience, I looked through the lens of Abram, who left everything he knew to follow God. The lesson I found and shared? We do not obey because of the promise, we obey because of the One who promised. As I flesh out the idea further, I find myself examining the call to obedience itself. For proper biblical missions must involve a call from the Lord and obedience from the called.
From Genesis to Revelation, the central character of Scripture remains God, with focus falling on how he chooses to work through people. Jump with me into Acts 13, the launch of Paul’s first missionary journey alongside Barnabas.
Immediately I see their calling comes about in the midst of worshiping and fasting. A key. How can we hear from the Lord if we never listen? The second point I see comes from the stress put on the one who calls. The Blue Letter Bible defines “called” in this particular passage as, “the Divine call in entrusting men with the preaching of the Gospel.”1 The phrases, “the Holy Spirit said” and “sent on their way by the Holy Spirit,” emphasize the divine nature of this call.
The Bible shows time and time again, no matter the call, no matter the hardship, we must go. We see Paul and Barnabas went. Our anti-hero, Jonah, responds with delayed obedience and we see the consequences of this. We also see the persistence of the Lord to complete what he started, in spite of Jonah’s delay.
I’m learning when we focus on him who calls, every call—big or small—is great. I did not want to move across the country. I did not envision myself going back to school so soon, but I knew I needed to respond to the will of God. I did not obey because of the call, however, I obeyed because of the One who called.
I still experience challenges and some blessings as I continue through this enormous change in my life. Perhaps you can relate. I know I—and we—might face discouragement as we follow the call of the Lord in our lives. But as Corrie ten Boom so eloquently penned, “There are no ‘ifs’ in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety – let us pray that we may always know it!”
I pray this for you and for me! Let us remain bold in our desire to follow the One who calls.