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“No Regrets”: The Call on the Life of the Believer

Jackson Snyder, June 25, 2004; upd. March 16, 2007

 

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Elohymns

   87. Yah! Yah! Yah!  Ps 68     6.  Yahweh Saw to That  Ps 124    13. This Day I Have Begotten Thee  Ps 2

   25. You Shall Arise  PS 102     45. O Elohim, Do Not Be Silent  Ps 83    67.  Seek My Face  Ps 27

   66.  I Sought my Sovereign 

  

By the light of burning martyrs, Son, thy bleeding feet we track.

Toiling up new Calvaries ever, with the stake that turns not back.

New occasions teach new duties; time makes ancient good uncouth;

They must upward still and onward who would keep abreast of truth.

 

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet ‘tis truth alone is strong;

Though her portion be the scaffold and upon the throne be wrong –

Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown

Standeth Yahweh in the shadows, keeping watch above His own.

  -- The Poems of James Russell Lowell

 

“Elohim judges now, but for those who abuse his children, He will pass judgment later.” – Leonard Ravenhill

 

The Calling of Elisha:  1 Kings 19:13b. A voice came to Elijah, which said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14. He replied, “I am full of jealous zeal for Yahweh Sabaoth, because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant, have torn down your altars and put your prophets to the sword. I am the only one left and now they want to kill me.” 15. ‘Go,” Yahweh said, “go back by the same way to the desert of Damascus. You must go and anoint Hazael as king of Aram. 16. You must anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king of Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat, of Abel-Meholah, as prophet to succeed you.”

    19. Leaving there, he came on Elisha son of Shaphat as he was ploughing behind twelve yoke of oxen, he himself being with the twelfth. Elijah passed near to him and threw his cloak over him.  20. Elisha left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother, then I will follow you,” he said. Elijah answered, “Go, go back; for have I done anything to you?” 21. Elisha turned away, took a yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He used the oxen’s tackle for cooking the meat, which he gave the people to eat. He then rose and, following Elijah, became his servant.

 

Various Callings: Luke 9:51.  When the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.

   57.  As they were going along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”  58.  And Yahshua said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.”  59.  To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Master, let me first go and bury my father.”  60.  But he said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of Elohim.”  61.  Another said, “I will follow you, Master; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”   62.  Yahshua said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of Yahweh.”

 

The Fate of Martyrs: Revelation 6:1.  I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four creatures say, as with a voice of thunder, “Go!”  2.  And I saw a white horse, and its rider had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.  3.  When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Go!”  4.  And out came another horse, bright red; its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that men should slay one another; and he was given a great sword.  5.  When he opened the third seal, I heard the third creature say, “Go!” And I saw a black horse, and its rider had a balance in his hand;  6. and I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a [a day’s pay], and three quarts of barley for [a day’s pay]; but no oil and wine!”  7.  When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth creature say, “Go!”  8.  And I saw a pale horse, and its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him; and they were given power over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts.   9.  When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of Yahweh and for the witness they had borne; 10. they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign, set-apart and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood upon those on the land?”  11. Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. 

 

Elijah Succeeded, Elisha Called

   Elijah was the greatest of the prophets of Yahweh.  We pick up his story at the end of his career, soon after he’s defeated the prophets of the Master Ba’al on Mount Carmel.  (You can read about this in 1 Kings 18.)  He’s been hiding in a cave because he’s earned a death sentence.  Despite the great show of fire falling from heaven and devouring the priests of Ba’al, the people of Israel still haven’t forsaken the national “church” and returned to true worship   Then as now, the leaders give lip service to Yahweh while worshiping others – and the people continue to follow their leaders in matters of faith rather than the true prophet.  Why?  Because national religion is fun and entertaining and requires so little commitment.

   Elijah was a very serious, authoritarian prophet.  Through faith, assertiveness and his close relationship with Yahweh, he was able to accomplish powerful works.  But Elijah was so results-oriented that, even when signs abounded, if the people didn’t turn, he considered his ministry a failure.  Elijah was a perfectionist, looking for results as the measure of his success.  Because of his perfectionism, Elijah was susceptible to deep depression.  That’s why he’d been in the cave: he wasn’t as fearful as he was depressed over his perceived failure.  He wallowed in the stink of this foul haunt of demons until Yahweh commanded him to get out of there and go up the mountain for further instructions.

   He’s there given his orders: Go anoint Hazael as king of Aram (Syria) and Jehu as king of Israel.  And while you’re at it, anoint your successor – the man who’ll take over your ministry in just three short chapters – a wealthy young kid named Elisha.  Elijah learns his time is about up; that gives him more to be mad about.  He goes first to find Elisha, who’s plowing with a huge team of oxen.  Elijah doesn’t anoint Elisha as he’s told, but throws his cloak, or mantle, on Elisha’s shoulders, then Elijah just keeps on walking. 

   This mantle is something of a uniform.  Those who see it know that the man who wears it is a prophet of Yahweh.  This “anointing” comes as a complete surprise to Elisha – but he knows exactly what it means.  Yahweh is calling him to prophesy – to be his mouthpiece – to kings and potentates – and to reform the tribes and lead them back to true worship.

   By the time Elisha realizes what’s come upon him, Elijah is a block ahead.  Elisha runs after the older man and shouts as loud as he can, “Wait for me to kiss my folks goodbye.”  Elijah replies (in effect), “Do what you please; I don’t care.”  Elijah’s a loner; he doesn’t want a successor or a slave – he’s just doing what Yahweh said.  But Elijah’s bad attitude only makes Elisha more eager to go.  He doesn’t kiss mother goodbye.  Instead, he gets his crew together, sacrifices oxen and hosts a feast.  Then off he goes to catch up: to become the slave of a man who doesn’t even want him. 

 

Comparison and Contrast

   There are several points of contrast between Elijah and Elisha worth mentioning.  Elijah was a poor man, but Elisha a wealthy man.  Elijah was a solitary, unfriendly man, but Elisha was outgoing and amicable.  Elijah was a country man, but Elisha was comfortable in the city.  Elijah was often out-of-favor while Elisha was in favor.  Elijah performed great miracles of judgment, but Elisha did deeds of grace and kindness.  Elijah’s first recorded supernatural act was to prophesy a famine.  Elisha’s first recorded supernatural act was to purify water.  Elijah was the voice of condemnation; Elisha healed the sick.  Like Gufus and Gallant, Elijah and Elisha were opposites, but both valiant servants of the Most High.

   It’s to Elisha that Yahshua refers when a man tells him he’ll follow him if he can say goodbye to his mother first.  Yahshua tells this man, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of Yahweh.”  Although this reply, and the reply of Elijah to Elisha, seems quite harsh, the fact of the matter is that neither of these men, having once gone home, would’ve returned.  Elisha knew that if he went back, he’d miss his chance to be in Yahweh’s perfect will.

   Yet Elijah and Elisha were also similar in that they recognized who they were in Yahweh and followed him immediately and irrevocably.  Elisha killed his oxen – he couldn’t come back to them.  As in the Gospels, John the Baptist gave up his birthright – to become a Levite of the temple and be set for life.  And Yahshua, who had a legitimate claim to the throne of Israel, gave up his stake in politics for another kind of stake – a torture stake.

   Why were these men of promise so willing to give all for such a rough and thankless life?  And why are so many people with gifts, talents and wealth – favorable commodities that could be put to use to further their own purposes – willing to “slaughter their oxen” to follow the will of Yahweh?  Well, because of the call.

 

The Call

   Today when someone in our group starts exploring the ministry, the first matter of discussion with his mentors is “the call.”  After months of further exploration and discovery, and the ministry candidate goes on to new mentors, again, the first discussion is in regards to the potential minister’s call.  Then, if the candidate gets so far as being assigned a place in professional ministry, the first thing he or she will again examine, I assure you, is the call.  “What am I doing here?” 

   Even those who have a strong call on their lives find it hard to explain.  It’s almost too spiritual to put into words.  It’s a feeling that words haven’t the capacity to describe.  This is because a person isn’t called by circumstances, events, career goals, knowledge, education, parents or peers, or any person or human situation, but by the Spirit of Yahweh in the inner man.  How can you explain that?  You can, but your explanation may differ every single time you do.  In the Bible, there’re many callings described in some detail – especially the more miraculous callings.  I think of the call of Isaiah (YeshaYahu):

Isaiah 6:8. I then heard the voice of Elohim saying: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”

or Jeremiah:

1: 7. “Do not say, ‘I am only a child,’ for you must go to all to whom I send you and say whatever I command you.”

or Paul, when:

Acts 9:4. He fell to the ground, and then he heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

And we see the resulting actions from the call; deeds of courage, love, sacrifice.  But we never have anyone in Scripture explaining what it feels like.  Never.  The effect of the call of Yahweh upon the inner man is never actually described.  This is because the call is, in many respects, indescribable – and it’s always very personal and unique. 

   Those times I’ve tried to speak of my own calling, I go back to circumstances rather than feelings.  As for the feeling of it, I have great difficulty finding words.  However, one aspect of the call that all the called have in common seems to be the almost desperate drive to do something for the poor or the poor in spirit – something Kingdom-style – something like Yahshua or Elisha or Paul might do.  And to be something set-apart, as Yahweh is set-apart; humble, as Yahshua is humble; honest, as a James or an Elijah.  And then we consider from where we’ve come – then how far we’ve yet to go.

 

Home and Abroad

   Your call might be to a ministry of some type, or to a vocation, or out of a vocation.  Vocation, in fact, doesn’t mean “job” but “calling” (L. vox, “voice”; vocare, “to call”).  A believer might be called to another, or to many; called to be a bookkeeper, a nurse or a helper in the assembly – many are called with many callings.  In its very definition, “calling” implies a “caller,” and for the believer, the caller is Yahweh.  His call is to be one’s first consideration.  ¿Has Yahweh called you to this (for instance), or is this just what you ended up doing or had an aptitude for?   There’s a big difference.  There’s a distinction between being trained for a job and being called for a ministry; there’s a vast differentiation between caring for people because you have to and being called by Yahweh to care.  Being called might even mean you’re to care for those you least like, or to love the unlovely.  Thousands have been called to be the spiritual fathers and mothers to those of different cultures, races or economic statuses.  And they fulfill their callings not out of altruism or fond feelings or human compassion, but because they’ve heard from the heavenly Father.  Go!  Do!  Be!

   Many are called away from home and family for years or forever.  On the other hand, many are called back to their earthly home.  After a revival meeting, a mother of nine went up for prayer.  She told the evangelist she thought she was being called to be a pastor.  “That’s wonderful,” said the evangelist.  “Elohim is not only calling you, but I can see he’s already provided you with your congregation.”  The ex-demoniac was called to: “Go home and tell what Yahweh has done for you.”  Peter was called with the words: “(Leave home and) follow me!”  Sometimes you’re called to leave and sometimes to stay: sometimes for short-term duty, sometimes on the long – but always for a lifetime.  The call never quits – if you choose not to follow the call, it follows you like a ball and chain: Yahshua never lets you forget that you’re his slave.

 

Out the Window

   The call can be immediate or can take years to set in.  It can be dramatic or, as in the case of Elijah, the still small voice.  It’s never the same twice.  In my life, I’ve seen hundreds called and some follow.  I’ve also seen a few actually fulfill their calling.

   Years ago, I ministered a revival at the Luthersville United Methodist Church.  There we heard about a meeting long before in which a missionary to China gave an altar call.  One of the parishioners, a man who wasn’t particularly religious, received the call to go to China so strongly that he suddenly yanked himself up, ran across the church, jumped through the glass window and ran out into the woods trying to get away from the Set-apart Spirit.  Needless to say, he ended up in China and did a great work for Yahweh there.

    Then there’s Paul Wilson (O.B.M.), who received his call to be a missionary when he was young and, dragging it around for a lifetime, answered the call at age seventy-nine, spending five productive years on the foreign field (though his body was wracked with pain).  Here in this church a year and a half ago, we witnessed the call on the life of a dying man.  His service on this earth only lasted a few weeks before he entered eternity, but he went forth in fulfillment.

   This week I heard that a seventeen year-old thinks she is being called to become an apostle – for that’s what a missionary is.  If it’s a true call, she can say yes or no – but if she says no, she will regret it the rest of her life.

 

The Call Not An Escape Mechanism

   The call isn’t heard because it’s convenient or because someone’s trying to escape a bad situation.  Once upon a time an Alabama field worker had had about enough of the scorching heat and the backbreaking work in the cotton field.  He looked up to the sky and cried, “O lord, dis sun so hot and de wook so hahd and de cotton so fulla grass dat I believe you callin’ me ta be a preachah.”  There’re lots of cotton field callings and jailhouse conversions that aren’t from the Almighty.  That’s why there’s a church on every street corner.  However, let’s not forget that everyone who confesses Yahshua as Sovereign is called to some kind of ministry – some form of mission.  Paul the Apostle addresses you “brethren” when he says,

Philippians 3:13,14.  I don’t consider that I’ve made it on my own.  But one thing I do: I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of Yahweh. 

And regarding your upward calling, whatever it is, he commands you,

1 Timothy 1:8,9.  Do not be ashamed of testifying ... but share in suffering for the good tidings in the power of Yahweh, who saved us and called us with a set-apart calling.

   How seriously have you taken your calling and mission?  Do you as yet know what it is?  Where you’re to go?  I can’t tell you.  You’ve got to get on your knees until you hear the voice of Yahweh!  Then you choose.  Have you said yes or no?  My friend, as Francis Schaeffer wrote early on in his calling, “There are no little ministries; no little missions.”  There’re no insignificant callings, either.  Listen again for what Yahweh wants of you.  When you hear his voice or feel his call, devote your life to whatever it is, realizing that this vocation is a set-apart thing.  Start today.  If you’ll take up your call zealously and totally and be serious in your mission; he’ll see that you accomplish what he sets you to doing, and you’ll one day find that you’ve made a measurable difference in the quality of the future. 

   If not, I warn you: you may live a full life, a gracious life, an exciting life.  But you’ll never live a fulfilled life; and at the end of it, you’ll have regrets that you didn’t press toward the goal of the upward call.

 

Kim Sun-il

   Let me finish with the stories of two extraordinary calls.  Kim Sun-il was born in the port city of Busan, South Korea in 1970, the seventh of eight children.  He was a quiet and dedicated student and, from his earliest recollections, felt the call of Yahweh on his life.  He answered the call by studying theology in college in anticipation of becoming an ordained minister.  His intention was to be a missionary evangelist in an area closed to the Good News – the Arab World.  After his study of theology and English, Mr. Kim received an advanced degree in Arabic.  Many missionaries use language studies to help get them into closed countries with the Good News.  Though Kim had a lot of education for a man of small means, his calling was clear, and Yahweh made his way through by years of hard work, study and financial miracles.

   Mr. Kim was offered a job with Gana General Trading, a company that supplies goods for the US military.  Now fluent in Korean, English and Arabic, he requested to work in Iraq, the mission field to which Yahweh called him.  He arrived June 15, 2003.  During his year’s stay, he had many opportunities to show love for the people and speak on behalf of Yahweh in this war-torn land.  “Don’t worry about me, mom, I feel comfortable here,” he told his mother, then promised to be home for his father’s birthday.

   The next time his family saw Kim Sun-il, he was on Korean television June 23th.  He was videotaped in the process of fulfilling his calling to the fullest degree – upon his knees before the mass murderer Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi and his Al Qaeda henchman – where, after their usual demonic rantings, they executed this Lamb of Elohim in a horrible manner.  The whole world witnessed Brother Kim Sun-il, aged 34, martyred for the Sovereign Yahshua Messiah. 

   Some wonder why a man educated for the mission field would die at the beginning of his “career,” and in such a public and gruesome way.  Some even ridicule him now, after his death.  Wasn’t that a waste?  Wasn’t he a foolish man?  Couldn’t his god stop these terrorists?  Cast fire down upon them?  No, you see, brother Kim was called to be a public martyr.  That was his destiny and mission.  And the world was watching.

   I’ve been very disturbed about Kim’s martyrdom all week.  It’s set me to examining my call.  It’s put me to prayer.  And it’s brought to my remembrance what the Revelator beheld and wrote about in,

Revelation 6:4.  I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom judgment was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Yahshua and for the word of Elohim, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life, and reigned with Messiah a thousand years. 

Maybe Brother Kim was called out to be the judge of the Arab world rather than their savior – for the one who was beheaded for his testimony is the one to whom judgment is committed.  In this light, I prefer to see Brother Kim alive and white-robed, at the judgment bar, using his education and experience to meet out equitable justice to those who’ve been assigned him.  In the meantime, I pray Yahweh rains fire on his murderers.

 

William Borden

  It’s surprising how many Believers in this modern world are called to be martyrs – over a quarter of a million every year.  Martyrdom isn’t the highest calling in our faith, as it is for Muslims.  The highest calling for a believer in Yahshua is whatever she’s called to do – and the highest honor is that she simply does it.  It’s just as Paul said to the fellow named Archippus,

Colossians 4:17 “See that you fulfill the ministry which you have received in Yahweh.” 

After all, we’ll all be martyrs one day – on the day of our redemption. 

   William Borden was the heir of the Borden Dairy estate – he was a millionaire.  As a high school graduation gift, his parents sent him around the world.  Yahweh called him to the Muslims during his trip.  He wrote home, “I’m going to give my life to prepare for the mission field,” and at the age of eighteen, he wrote in the back of his Bible, “No Reserves.”  After graduating from Yale, he entered two more words in his Bible: “No Retreats.” After finishing Princeton Seminary, Borden sailed to Egypt to begin his ministry.  He developed meningitis and died within the month.  “See,” his grieving parents might’ve said, “this wasn’t his calling after all.”  But underneath the words “No Reserves” and “No Retreats,” Borden had written the words “No Regrets” in his Bible.

   This is what I mean when I say that you can do anything in your life you want.  But if you don’t follow your heavenly call, your life can never be one of no regrets.  You’ve already outlived Kim Sun-il and William Borden.  You’re not called to be that kind of martyr.  Nevertheless, you are called.  See to it that, like Archippus, you fulfill the ministry to which you’re called.  If you fulfill it, it’ll fulfill you.  Amen

 

Sermon Checkoff

[  ] 1 Kings 19:13b. A voice came to Elijah

[  ] 1 Kings 19:20. Elisha to Elijah: “Let me kiss my father and mother ...”

[  ] Luke 9:60.  “Leave the dead to bury their own dead ...”

[  ] 1 Kings 19:15. “Go anoint Hazael as king of Aram ...”

[  ] 1 Kings 19:20 “Do what you please; I don’t care.” 

[  ] Isaiah 6:8. “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”

[  ] Jeremiah 1: 7. “Do not say, ‘I am only a child’ ...”

[  ] Acts 9:4. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

[  ] Vocation: “calling” (Latin. vox, “voice”; vocere, “to call”)

[  ] Mark 5:19 “Go home and tell what Yahweh has done ... “

[  ] Philippians 3:14.  The upward call of Yahweh in Messiah Yahshua. 

[  ] 1 Timothy 1:9. Yahweh saved us and called us with a set-apart calling ...

[  ] Kim received an advanced degree in Arabic.

[  ] Revelation 6:4.  I saw the beheaded. They came to life and reigned with Christ.

[  ] Colossians 4:17 “See that you fulfill the ministry

[  ] Borden was a millionaire.

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