Unbelievable: The Call
Well, here we are.
Less than 2 weeks before Easter.
It’s coming, friends. Can you feel it?
In the season of lent, the 40 days before Easter, we prepare our hearts and minds to grieve the suffering of Jesus
and celebrate His triumph over death and sin for us.
Personally, the season of lent helps me to both linger in the mystery of Jesus’ love for me, and also excitedly anticipate
the reality that because He lives today,
His story is far from over.
And because I follow him, His still-unfolding-story includes ME!
THAT means we’re right in the middle of it.
For the month of March (and the majority of lent) we’ve been studying the book of Acts together as we’ve listened to the unbelievable story of Pastor Sunder Krishnan’s still unfolding journey of faith. The book of Acts is actually the recorded history of the establishment of the church after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. It recounts the journey of the message of Jesus from Jerusalem to the surrounding cities, countries and even continents through His followers (called disciples or apostles).
It’s the story of the church – God’s plan for getting His message of redemption and reconciliation out to all mankind.
But what is the church?
It is the people who follow Jesus.
(Do you see where I’m going with this?!?!)
If the church is just people who follow Jesus…
and if you are someone who considers yourself a follower of Jesus…
then the book of Acts is actually part of YOUR history!
It is a part of your journey – just like it’s part of Paul’s, and Barnabas’, and Pastor Sunder’s and mine.
In the teaching this past Sunday Pastor Sunder shared about his decision to switch career paths,
leaving engineering to go into full-time vocational ministry.
Often people will refer to actions like this as answering “the call” or “being called” into ministry.
But here’s the thing – if you call yourself a follower of Jesus, I have news for you.
You. Are. Called.
In fact, if you aren’t a follower of Jesus, you are being called.
We are ALL called to follow, and know, and love, and obey, and share Jesus in whichever space and place and paid or unpaid job we have.
You. Are. Called.
This week we are in a section of the book of Acts that describes and recounts the travels of Paul and other followers of Jesus as they tell more and more people about who Jesus is and what He has done for them.
It is the story of them answering the “call” on their lives.
For an overview of where we are in the book of Acts, check this out:
Let’s see what God has for you and your story this week.
Answering the Call
Day 1: Expect Mixed Reviews
Read: Acts 13
Maybe it’s just me, but I assume that when I follow directions things should go smoothly.
I should be rewarded with clarity, and no opposition, and maybe even a little bit of praise.
In this chapter we see that Saul (also known as Paul) and his buddy Barnabas are “called” and set apart and sent away from their home to share the good news of Jesus.
1. Read the chapter and record the way people responded to Saul and Barnabas’ message. Record anything you notice.
Make a chart in your notes that looks like this:
|Place||Who they met||Response|
2. Record the places you frequent, the people you know/ come in contact with, and how they respond to you when you speak about anything deeper than the weather (in particular if you’ve ever shared your faith with them). Make a second chart that looks like this:
|Places I go/work/play||Friends/Family/Others||Response|
How does it make you feel when people don’t respond to you in the way you had hoped? How do you respond in return?
Confess the ways that you’ve neglected to acknowledge the call on your life.
Ask God to make you attuned to His leading in your relationships – to know when to speak and when to listen.
Ask Him to help you navigate the “mixed reviews” you may be experiencing.
Day 2: Expect the Mess
Read: Acts 14 and 15
Is it just me, or do you also assume that if you are living and working and moving in the direction you feel that God is calling you, things should go smoothly?Like, ease or harmony or acceptance must mean that you are doing the right thing, right?
And trials and obstacles and problems would mean that maybe you heard the call wrong?
Maybe you just wish you felt sure about what God’s “call” even is.
I couldn’t help but laugh as I read these chapters, realizing the different ways Paul and Barnabas were misunderstood (can’t you picture them panicking as people began to worship them?!?!), or the hours they probably debated within the council in Jerusalem to figure out the whole Gentile circumcision thing – only to end up with a very brief letter of explanation to take with them on their travels.
And then even the partnership and friendship of Paul and Barnabas was tested as they moved, and worked, and lived in their “calling”.
It’s fair to say that none of us today would question that Paul and Barnabas – two of the most influential and effective Jesus-followers ever – weren’t gifted or suited to the jobs they were called to.
But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t messy. Or confusing. Or unclear at times.
1. What are some things (relationships/tasks/roles) you’ve written off in your life because it was too messy?
2. What are you most afraid of when things are unclear?
Ask God for what you need to be willing to expect the mess in your own life, relationships and the areas He is asking you to grow.
Day 3: Expect true friends
Read Acts 16
You cannot read the book of Acts, and in particular the journeys of Paul without losing track of all the names of people he spoke with, ministered to, and received care from.
Our calling is never just for us.
God is so good, and His plan is always for us to be in relationships that are life-giving and supportive and anointed.
I mean, that’s what the church is meant to be.
And regardless of what we are doing – sitting in jail, sailing, walking the streets, working (remember Paul was a tentmaker…his missionary gig was his “side hustle”) – we are not meant to do it alone.
1. As you read this chapter of Acts, take note of all the people who come alongside Paul. Write their names and how they helped him.
2. Now think about the people, the major characters in your life. Who you work with, live with, play with. How do they help you (regardless of whether they are followers of Jesus or not) encounter God and live out your calling.
3. Are you the kind of friend to someone that helps them live out the calling God has on them?
Talk to God about whatever has come up.
Thank Him for the friends He’s given you, or ask Him for life-giving friendships if you are feeling lack in this area.
Day 4: Expect a lifetime
Read Acts 17 and 18
Do you remember summers as a kid? How they felt like they lasted forever! 2 months of no classes – glorious!
As you age, time goes by faster. And we get used to that.
Days turn into weeks and before we know it an entire month has gone by (I know, I know. I sound old. I AM old!)
And because time moves faster, we grow more and more impatient. We get frustrated when things seem to take a long time – I mean, unless it has Prime I’m not ordering it because I need it within 2 days. Anything more than that is simply asking too much of me.
But that’s not how life really is.
Living out the calling on our lives takes a lifetime.
It isn’t a one and done commitment.
Its a daily, often hourly, submission to the Lordship of Jesus in all areas of our lives, often without any real sense of its purpose.
In the chapters we read today, we see Paul living patiently – taking days to explain scripture at the synagogue, hanging out in the marketplace for hours and hours, teaching in Corinth for a year and a half. Paul was in this for the long haul with whoever God brought into his life and wherever God was taking him. He had a posture of patience and obedience to go, to stay, to speak, to listen – whatever, however, wherever God had placed him.
What about you?
What is an area in your life you are feeling frustrated? Is it relational? Vocational? Do you feel like you need more direction or insight?
Talk to God about how you’re feeling. Why is it so hard to be patient?
Admit where you are feeling frustrated and ask Him to comfort you and give you clarity, eyes to see what He is doing.
Day 5: Expect the miraculous
Read: Acts 19 and 20
See how God works? In big and small ways!
Whether it is changing hearts or raising people from the dead – nothing is too hard for our God.
When we live with an expectancy for God to show up, when we follow His ways even when we don’t know where He is leading, when we recognize that we are all “called” whether we are kids, or students, or parents, or pastors or managers or bus drivers or retired or you fill-in-the-blank
– then we have front row seats to the miraculous.
Let these chapters encourage you today!
1. What miracles have you experienced? Big and Small? Relationships reconciled? Healing? Answered prayers?
List them…and if you’re having trouble thinking of any ask Holy Spirit to help.
2. What miracles are you waiting for? What prayers aren’t being answered? List them.
Sometimes we need to remember how we’ve experienced miracles, but sometimes we just need to ask for more faith to see how God is at work in our lives. Here we are, in the season of lent, where God turned death to life through Jesus’ suffering and triumphant resurrection.
Let this song fuel your prayer, or be your prayer.
We serve and follow the God of miracles!