En route to the African Crusades in 1960, Leighton Ford made a brief stop at Dakar, West Africa. A French missionary of the Reformed Church met with him for a coffee. This missionary had laboured in that Muslim country for ten years. During conversations one of Leighton Ford’s colleagues asked the missionary: “How many converts have you had?” “Oh,” thought the missionary, “one, two, perhaps three.” “Three converts in ten years!” exclaimed the enquirer, “why do you stay?” The missionary’s face mirrored his surprise at the thoughtless question. “I stay because God has called me here!”
The call of God. Every Christian is familiar with it in some way, shape or form – after all, if we are ‘in Christ’ then we have at the very least responded affirmatively to God’s call upon our lives unto salvation.
In recent weeks my church and I have been exploring together the dynamics associated with the call of God upon the life of Abraham.
It is reasonable to conclude that Abraham had all he ever needed whilst living in Ur of the Chaldeans. He was well provided for and deeply attached to his family and friends. All he knew of security and love was in Ur – his home town since birth. We can be sure that it was no small matter for him to break-up his camp, to tear himself away from his nearest and dearest, and to start out for a land which, as yet, he did not know!
And so it will always be. The divine summons will ever involve a wrench from much that nature holds dear.
Jesus said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
In spite of the cost, the call of God upon our lives is eminently wise. It could be argued that Abraham would not have become the man of faith if he remained at Ur! Abraham was required to quit his happy home, and journey into the unknown, that faith might rise to its glorious proportions in his soul.
So long as we are quietly at rest amid favourable, familiar and undisturbed surroundings, faith sleeps within us and remains undeveloped; a thread, a germ, an idea. But when we are pushed out from all these surroundings, with nothing (and no-one) but God to look to, then faith grows suddenly, becoming strong within us, a master-principle of life.
If a bird lingers at the nest, it will not know flight. If a boy holds to the bank and toes the bottom, he will not learn to swim. If you and I cling to the material, we cannot appreciate the realities of God’s promises.
We have to learn to withdraw from our hearts desires and deepest dependence from all earthly props and supports if we are to learn how to trust simply and absolutely in the eternal God.
St. Francis de Sales used to say: “When the house is on fire, men are ready to throw everything out of the window; and when the heart is full of God’s true love, men are sure to count all else but worthless.”