In the book What Good is God? author Phillip Yancey tells the story of Stephen Alfred – a believer he met in India. Yancey writes: “[Stephen] had studied in England, married an English woman, and built up a thriving surgery practice until one night he had a kind of vision. He heard God ask him three questions: Why did I make you Indian? Why did I make you good? What are you doing about it? Haunted by those questions, he left his practice, moved his family to India, and opened a hospital that focuses on serving the poor.”
I imagine that Stephen could have lived out the rest of his years in comfort and contributed to the needs of his homeland with dutiful checks sent out each month. But God sent out the command: Go!
I sat in a small country church in rural Tennessee one morning and heard the same call. I had always been unnerved by the Great Commission. If God called me, would I go? I wasn’t even sure I wanted to. I finally struck up a bargain with God that brought me some peace. I reasoned with God that my primary barrier to missions work was money. If I only had the means to go… I would go. But I was just a struggling college student with a part-time youth ministry position… I knew such a call would never come.
Then came a Sunday morning in East Tennessee when the pastor from the pulpit announced a mission trip to Venezuela. If anyone felt the call to go, the church would pay all the expenses. I was caught… and I knew it. I went forward that morning at the altar call. A few months from then I was on a plane to South America.
Back in Chapter 11 of Genesis, we are introduced to a man named Terah. Terah had the radical idea of moving his entire family from the large city of Ur to a sparsely populated region known as Canaan. So his clan pack up their possessions, put their families on camels and set out. But they didn’t get very far. They ended up settling in a town called Haran. Haran was a flourishing caravan city in 19th Century B.C. and was heavy into the worship of the Moon-God. Terah, we learn in Jos 24:2, was an idolater and would have felt right at home in Haran. Genesis 11:31 reads: “When they came to Haran, they settled there.” We then learn in verse 32 that Terah died in Haran.
It is when they are in Haran that Terah’s son, Abram, receives a unique call from God: “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; 2 And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; 3 And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
Yahweh’s first command of Abram is: Go. It is a radical, life altering, exciting, and mind-blowing command. Such is the call of God! It is the parent bird kicking the baby bird from the nest. And that is why it can be so hard to to obey when God calls. We get ourselves nestled in here on earth.
Look at Abram. He was tied in to Haran! His family was there. Family back then was everything. He was being called from his family’s homeland… to march out to no-where-land. Haran was an up and coming city. Abram had lots of possessions. He could take a lot with him… but he would leave behind a lot… primarily land. And he had flocks and herds… they aren’t the easiest things to travel with. Then he had the model of Terah. Terah made big plans to conquer the unknown and then settled. He would live in die in Haran… not in the Promised Land. Bucking one’s family’s tendencies takes some strong resolve.
Face it: Pulling up roots is hard. But when the clear call of God comes, the call out of our comfort zone and into the unknown, what are we to do? We don’t get to see the inner struggle within Abram at the calling (if indeed there was one). The next verse in Scripture reads: 4 So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him…
Perhaps today you are wrestling with a calling… God is calling you out. You feel you don’t have the resources (I certainly felt that way about missions as a young man); you feel too old and settled (so did aging Abram); you feel uncertain about the details of such a decision (so has anyone that has ever stepped out in faith).
Just answer these three questions: 1) Why did God make you? 2) Why did God make you good? and 3) What are you going to do about it?
The answer to those questions might just send you packing… to a new career, to a new city, to a new mission. But that’s okay… the one who commands is the One who provides, the One who makes young, the One who fills in the details. Ours is to listen; ours is to obey. In the words of Oswald Chambers: “A life lived listening to the decisive call of God is a life lived before one audience that trumps all others—the Audience of One. The caller is God.”