This is the second part of my message from last Sunday on the "Spiritual Discipline of Suiting Up." It's a bit lengthy today as I thought I'd wrap up this section before the weekend.
18 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—fishing with a net, for they were commercial fishermen. 19 Jesus called out to them, “Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 20 And they left their nets at once and went with him.
21 A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, mending their nets. And he called them to come, too. 22 They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind. (NLT)
In a church like ours, we have constant needs. Needs for Sunday School teachers and greeters, worship leaders, small group leaders, Stephen ministers and the like. But what we really want are people who feel called—at least for this season of time—to be part of a particular ministry that is bigger than they are. We don’t just want lots people who are responding to the needs, we want people who are heeding the call of Jesus. If we all heed the call, all the needs will be met.
So how do we heed the call of Jesus? How do we practice the spiritual discipline of suiting up, of standing ready to hear and heed Jesus’ call to join him in his ministry in this church and to a hurting world?
First and foremost by recognizing what a call from Jesus sounds like. So, let’s begin by looking again at the way Jesus called these disciples, these four who assumed, like you and I often assume, that they wouldn’t be called to do anything but sit on the sides and cheer on others. And what we find will help us to “suit up”, to ready ourselves for something bigger than ourselves, to open ourselves to the call of Jesus in your life. So, since Jesus called four disciples, let me offer you four points.
- Jesus’ call interrupts you.
When we focus on meeting needs, we focus on what we can do, what we have time to do, if we have space to do it. But the call of Jesus is different from what we expect.
Many of us assume that Jesus’ call will come to us when we are completely at prayer, completely at rest, at a calm crossroad in our lives. We think, “I know when I’ll receive a call to do something great for Jesus: It will be when I retire, when the kids are grown, when the 401K is full, when the business can stand on its own.” If we are young, we think, “After I get a good job and make a lot of money. After I am married. Or once I pay off these credit cards.”
My friends, I believe that we can be hear different calls in different seasons of life, but the call to follow Jesus, to dedicate yourself to Jesus, to participate in what he is doing in the world, usually comes as a complete interruption to whatever else we may have planned.
Look at these four would be disciples. The text reminds us that they are “commercial fishermen.” They were not some brothers killing time on a vacation, but were hard at work making a living taking care of families. And when Jesus calls Peter and Andrew it was “while they were fishing,” right in the middle of the day.
Can you imagine? You are sitting on the phone with a client, and your assistant breaks in: “Excuse me but Jesus is on the line and he says I should interrupt you and tell you that you are to follow him.”
It seems crazy, but that is exactly what he did here. And I can’t tell you how many people have told me over the years how the call of God in their lives to a particular, meaningful ministry completely rearranged their lives and plans.
The first point we learn from this passage is that Jesus’ call interrupts you. And the second point is very much like the first:
- Jesus’ call inconveniences you.
Again, if we focus on meeting needs, we focus on those needs that are convenient for us or that we are able to squeeze into already busy lives. But one of the most interesting points in this little story is the seeming throw away line: “he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, mending their nets…”
Being a fisherman is hard work, and it is unpredictable work. If the nets have holes, the fish aren’t going to be caught. So this is a particularly busy time for these two men. It’s like being an accountant and the call of Jesus comes to you during tax season.
Further, to be a fisherman in the first century was a lucrative job. They made good money. And when James and John are called by Jesus and they not only leave behind their business, they leave behind their father, Zebedee. Even in the first century this was understood to be a most radical decision. Sons are expected to stay in the family business at least until the father dies.
Most scholars assume that Jesus himself didn’t start his ministry until he was thirty because he waited until Joseph passed away. Instead, he stayed home working as a carpenter until his time came. But when Jesus himself calls these particular men, he calls them from their father and his business.
The call of Jesus comes and inconveniences an entire family. But it is a call from Jesus, so they go.
So far we have learned that a call from Jesus interrupts you, a call from Jesus inconveniences you. Now in all fairness, Jesus doesn’t always interrupt or inconvenience us, but it is important to remember that Jesus doesn’t just call us when we have nothing else to do, nor any other commitments. This passage takes away two of our common objections. But these last two points, I think occur in every call of Jesus. So the third part:
- Jesus’ call includes partners for you.
Notice how Jesus calls these men in pairs. Notice how both brothers are called to follow him. This is the normal way of operating in the kingdom, the call of Jesus is almost never to go it alone. Just think of all the pairs and teams we find in the New Testament. Jesus and the twelve; Peter, James and John, Barnabas and Paul, Paul and Silas, Paul and Timothy, Barnabas and Mark, Priscilla and Aquila, and on and on.
This reminds us that the call of Jesus is always a call to community. When we follow Jesus, we follow together.
Very often as a pastor, I’ll get an idea that I think may be call for me or for the church. Instead of running off and doing it, I have learned to pray and ask God to reveal someone else who should be my partner in it. If there is no partner, no sense of community, no shared responsibility and accountability, then I assume that there is not yet a call.
All of our ministries, both in this church and in the world need called partners to lead them. Jesus’ call interrupts you, inconveniences you, includes partners for you and lastly,
- Jesus’ call invites you to follow Jesus more closely.
Eugene Peterson wrote in a recent article in Christianity Today:
“One way to define the spiritual life is getting so tired and fed up with yourself you go on to something better, which is following Jesus.”
In essence that is what the invitation of Jesus does, it takes our eyes off ourselves. That is also why the need is not the call. When I am focusing on meeting needs, I am focusing on what I can do, what I can accomplish, what I can achieve. When I following Jesus, Jesus is then my focus.
This is, dear friends, the most important point of all. Jesus doesn’t just call you to use you. He calls you to be with him, to be close to him, to have your life so entirely transformed that you will become more and more like him. A genuine call of Jesus to an opportunity to be part of his amazing ministry is an opportunity to be with Jesus and do what he is doing.
Early in ministry I went on a retreat and the leader asked us to spend some time in quiet and imagine that Jesus was in front of us. Just imagine that Jesus had walked right up to us and asked us this question: What can I do for you?
The retreat leader said, in prayer, reflect on your life and your ministry and consider, what is your request? What would you want him to do in your life and ministry?
I have to tell you that many things crossed my mind: Would I ask him for a big ministry, a famous ministry, a successful ministry? Would I ask him for more resources, more opportunities? What did I really want?
And then it hit me and I remember sitting on a stump and simply, praying: “Jesus, take me with you. All I really want is to be with you. I want to be closer to you, to know you, to understand your heart. I want to do whatever you are doing in the world. Just take me with you.”
My friends, that remains my deepest prayer each day. All I want is to be doing what Jesus is doing in the world. I want our church to be a community of people who are all ready to do whatever it takes to follow the call of Jesus into the world.
Suiting up is readying yourself to become part of something bigger than yourself. It’s not necessarily responding, but it is readying.
So, you may be asking: What do I do to practice the spiritual discipline of suiting up, of readying myself for a particular call from Jesus?
Well, here it is: Try on the suit.
Most people don’t discover a genuine specific call from Jesus overnight. It usually takes awhile for those of us who have been so used to being spectators to even hear the call to “suit up” and get in the game. And in the course of our lifetimes we may be called to a number of different specific callings in different seasons. So, in order to be a person who is committed to something bigger than yourself, who is open to the call of Jesus that will rearrange your life, develop the spiritual discipline of trying on different “suits” to see what fits.
As you serve in this church or in the world, use it as a time of trying on the suit and considering your own calling.
Use these last days of Lent to consider what Jesus did for you and what you can do in return.
What do you think you might be called to do? Where is Christ putting a passion in your heart a desire in your soul? Where do you feel his “nudge”, his tap on the shoulder, his invitation to follow him more closely and be part of something bigger than yourself?
Is it a ministry with the poor? Is it a mission trip like we are taking to Africa?
Is it a ministry of hospitality with our friends at Camp Pendleton?
Is it learning how to share the gospel with unbelievers, defend the faith to skeptic or teach the faith to eager new Christians? Is it passing on the faith to the next generation? Is it mentoring young families? Or leading a small group?
Is it being part of the leadership of this church or a particular part of our mission to the world?
Maybe some young people in our church need to consider a call of becoming a pastor. Or maybe it is something that none of the rest of us have even thought of.
In the 18th century, missionary, William Carey urged his followers to “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.”
My friends, what do you want to attempt for God in your life?
You may not hear a specific calling at this particular moment. But it is time to open yourself to Jesus call in your life, using your specific gifts and unique talents. It’s time to “suit up” and be ready to be put in the game.