(Summary of Sunday Sermon, 02 Aug 2015)
THE CALL OF GOD
We all enjoy being called by God. That is the desire of our hearts too. Maybe not all of us are called to be pastors and evangelists. But God is calling us to unexpected pulpits in our neighborhoods, communities and work places to embody the Gospel. That’s the life purpose of every follower of Jesus.
But this call often comes at a cost.
Let’s look at Nehemiah’s life in this regard.
CUPBEARER OR PRIEST?
Nehemiah lived in the palace as the cupbearer to the King of Persia. One day, one of his brethren came to visit and told him about the condition of their hometown. He said that Jerusalem was in a pitiful condition. Gates had been burnt. Walls were broken down.
Nehemiah was filled with sorrow.
He decided to fast and pray. He repented on behalf of the nation of Israel. Usually, standing in the gap and praying on behalf of the people was the duty of a priest. But here Nehemiah stepped into that role and agonized before God. He reminded God of His Word to return to them and forgive them if they repented. So he pled with God to redeem Jerusalem.
RESPONSE TO THE CALL
Atrocities happen around us every day. What is our response? Does it fill us with sorrow and cause us to be just talebearers? Are we moved when something is happening which is not pleasing to God? Or do we plead out of the responsibility citing our busy schedule? God reveals things to us because we are Christ’s embodiment.
Our country was one of the first to hear the Gospel. But its impact in our nation is still very limited. Just like Nehemiah, we are called too. Our calling is to share the Good News to people around us. Nehemiah lived a very comfortable life in the palace. But when he heard about the broken walls of Jerusalem he lost his sleep. His heart was shaken. When we respond to God’s call in our lives, it will bring us great joy.
FAVOR OF GOD v/s ARMING TWISTING GOD
Suppose one official decides to slowly wind up a particular department. Now imagine that another official approaches him and says that he’d like to build that department up. How will it sound?
That was the case with Nehemiah too. At the time Nehemiah approached the king, the world politics was changing rapidly. Persia was required to keep its position secure which meant dominating Israel.
But the King granted his request because the hand of the Lord was on Nehemiah.
Is God’s hand present in our lives? When God’s hand is upon our lives then there are conditions attached to it too. Samson was a terrific example in this regard. He thought that the Spirit of God was in him, so he attacked the Philistines. But he didn’t realize that God’s Spirit had left him because of his disobedience. We may be regular churchgoers. But God’s hand may not be present on our life because of our disobedience, pride and sin. We shouldn’t twist God’s arm and claim His presence in our lives when it’s not true.
COST OF THE CALL
Then the king said to me, “What do you request?”
So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.”
Nehemiah sent up a quick prayer while petitioning to the king. But God heard his prayer because his life had been obedient and pleasing. Our short prayers won’t make a difference until our lives are consecrated before God every day. The King granted his request and Nehemiah set out to Jerusalem armed with resources to build up the wall.
But on arriving there, Nehemiah was in for a surprise. He faced stiff opposition from certain men in the city. They started mocking him!
When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of it, they were deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel
Every time we rise up to respond to a call there might be people who mock us. Sadly, some of this mocking and humiliation gets to us and makes us shy away from acknowledging our faith. We might profess loving God and being faithful in the church but when we get into the world we become one among them. We’d rather hide than be found out to be a follower of Jesus and mocked for our faith. God calls us to cast off our fear of ridicule and stand up for Him.
A GENTLE WITNESS
Our calling includes being a hope giver. Recently, I met one of our erstwhile church members in Singapore. His name is Charles. He was a quiet, unassuming chap and I was glad to spend time with him. While chatting, I asked him about how he ended up coming to our church. He had an interesting tale to tell. He used to live in T. Nagar and knew another of our other church members, Vinod. He said that Vinod would give him and a few others a lift in his car. During the drive, Gospel music would play in the background. Slowly, they got talking about the Gospel and Vinod shared with them about the hope of and life in Jesus. Soon, he started coming to church. God met him; and made him and his wife His children. Today they lead exciting lives for Jesus in Singapore. A gentleman rose to his calling and shared the hope of Jesus. See what a difference it made in two lives!
There are many broken lives around us. We may think that we are incapable of doing anything about it. But an encouraging word, a warm hug and a loving smile could touch a person’s life forever. If we fear the scorn of this world, we will never be able to live out our calling.
Now let’s assess why we are mocked because of our faith. We are mocked often because of the exclusive message of the Cross. Jesus is not one of the options for people to try out. He is the only answer and only hope to our problems. He is THE way, THE truth and THE life!
That changes the tone.
When we offer Jesus as our only way, it offends people. They scorn, ridicule and mock us. But the truth is that we can’t water down the message of the Cross. Nehemiah knew that Jerusalem wasn’t just any random city. It was the only city! We are called to lead our lives believing in and living this truth out. This is the cost that we have to pay for our calling.
A couple of years ago, I was able to reconnect with my childhood friends. One of them was an officer in the CBI, another a Colonel in the army and the third was a leading journalist. So when we went to Delhi, I met up with them. They picked up Anjali, Sean and me and set out. To my horror, they took us to a bar and served us drinks. Now, they knew my past life but didn’t know that God had changed me and that I was now a pastor. When I refused the drinks and explained my reason they laughed out loud. They kept mocking my ‘Preacher’ tag. It was disappointing to be mocked at.
Anyway, recently I got an opportunity to invite them to church. They readily agreed and came. They sat through the whole service. Let me tell you this, my friends haven’t been the same since then. They don’t mock me anymore. Today, they call me for prayer anytime they have a problem.
Mocking and scorning will change once we are ready to not compromise our call. Jesus is holy, separated and exclusive. He demands a life that is pleasing to Him. In order to live out our call, we may have to pay a price. That doesn’t mean that we have to live in isolation. We are meant to live in the world and yet maintain our exclusiveness. When we do that, God will bestow us with His blessings. Let us rise up to the call sacrificially in whatever way we can.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on this message in the comments section below.