Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 23, 2012

A Call to Go Beyond

Houston, Texas en route to Cartagena, Colombia

Over the past few months I have had conversations with several people who are wrestling with whether God is calling them to some type of full-time vocational ministry. These conversations have centered around what characterizes a call to ministry. I have offered the same feedback and advice to each of these individuals, some of whom are college students, who are earnestly seeking God’s leadership concerning the future. While in transit in Miami today, I received an email from yet another individual who wants to chat about God’s call and where God might be leading him to serve.

The Scriptures are the best source for understanding the nature of God’s call to ministry. From the call of Abraham in the book of Genesis to the call of the disciples and the Apostle Paul in the New Testament, a call from God is a call to go beyond — to be willing to leave behind everything that is familiar and comfortable in order to serve His purposes wherever He may lead.

When Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John He said, “Follow Me” (Matt. 4:19). The word “follow” implies movement away from something or someplace. To follow means to move behind someone in the same direction. In the case of these fishermen, to follow Jesus meant leaving what was most familiar to them in order to venture toward new horizons. Jesus knew that in order for these men to reach their highest potential in life and to make their greatest contributions to the kingdom of God they would have to leave the context of the Sea of Galilee.

Being willing to leave the context of familiar places is imperative to anyone who answers a divine call. We must have the attitude expressed by the words of the old hymn, “Wherever He leads I’ll go … I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so, wherever He leads I’ll go.” I have had to remind myself more than once through the years that the words of that hymn are not “Wherever I’m comfortable I’ll stay.” As A.W. Tozer once said, the kingdom of God does not advance at our convenience but at our inconvenience. He was right. Yet, in some cases the call to go beyond is indeed a call to stay where you are — but to live in a radically new way for the kingdom of God.

The Gospel of Mark records the account of Jesus healing a demon-possessed man. This man was so grateful for what Jesus had done for him that he asked to follow Jesus. He was willing to go beyond. However, in this case, Jesus told the man, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mk. 5:19). Before being told to stay at home this man had expressed a willingness to go — to follow Jesus. It was only after he had expressed his willingness to go that Jesus instructed him to stay and then charged him with a new responsibility — to tell others “how much Jesus had done for him” (Mk. 5:12). This man left the choice with Jesus. We must do the same.

Regardless of whether you are wrestling with a call to vocational ministry, each of us must be willing to follow Jesus, to go beyond. The last command of Christ was a command to go and tell — a command that each of us must obey. For some, this means actually leaving home to go to another city or another nation. One of my mentors often reminded me that we are called to follow and commanded to go but never assured that we will return — and that’s ok. Over the past thirty-three years that I have served in full-time ministry, the places where I have felt most at home are the places where He has led me. And, I have learned to not hold on to places or things too tightly so that I can continue to go where He leads. There is no better place to be.

As I look back over the years, I am grateful for how God has faithfully led me to places where I had to depend on Him and where He allowed me to serve His purposes in new and exciting ways. Living adventurously for God is all about allowing Him to place us in new and unfamiliar contexts or to give us new assignments in our present context — to put us in a position where we have to depend on Him, where He can use us to advance His interests, and where we can bring greater glory to Him. I can honestly say that I have no regrets about answering His call and following Him. I believe that life’s greatest adventures are reserved for those who have the courage to heed God’s call and to go beyond.


Responses

  1. Thank you Omar for your timely wisdom.

  2. Hi Omar,

    For the last five or six years I have felt God’s call to do more, but I did not know in what way and have had to wait and pray.

    We moved from southern California to Boise Idaho ten months ago and I knew that God had something for me to do here, but again I did not know what it was.

    We found an amazing church here called The Pursuit and over the last months, myself and another man have developed a completely Christ based recovery program for those suffering from addictions and alcoholism. We had the first meeting last Sunday with nine people in attendance and I finally felt like I now know what God has been leading me to do.

    Your writings Omar, have been such an inspiration to me over the last couple of years. I feel like I have a friend I’ve never met face to face but I hope I do meet you one day as you are a true blessing to myself and so many others.

    Thank you,

    Chad

    • God bless you, Chad. Thanks for sharing your story of following God’s leadership. I too hope that we can meet face to face one day and am grateful for our online friendship.


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