When God calls a person to a specific task or ministry, resistance is often the first response of the called. Jeremiah claimed that he was too young. Gideon feared he was too weak. Isaiah considered himself too sinful, “a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5 ESV). This resistance to God’s call comes from two sources. The first is a belief that we know better than God what will be required, and a need to explain to the Almighty why we are not qualified.
Moses had a loving family and a quiet life as a shepherd when God’s call came to him in “mid-career,” as we might say. From a burning bush came God’s vocational call that Moses should go confront Pharoah and demand the immediate release of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt. It’s not unusual for God to ask things of His children that seem beyond our competency. But it turns out that the old trite saying is true: “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.”
In Moses, we might recognize some of the excuses that we ourselves have used for resisting God’s call when it has become clear. “‘Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?’” (Exodus 3:13 ESV) One common excuse for resisting God’s call is that I don’t have all the answers. This was my greatest fear when the Lord first called me to study for ordained ministry. I was afraid of not being able to answer every question that my future flock(s) would pose. In Moses’ case, his years as a shepherd had not prepared him to stand up to the wisdom and might of a powerful political leader like Pharoah.
However, what Moses failed to recognize was that he was not the most important factor in God’s plan. When we wrongly perceive that God’s plan hinges on our abilities, we will fear failure. We will fear embarrassment and the judgment of others. But the Lord God is not impeded by such anxiety. When Moses asks, “What should I tell them?” God replies, “I AM WHO I AM. Say to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:13-14 ESV).
Moses had to learn that his call had nothing to do with his own ability and everything to do with God’s sovereignty! As a pastor, when I consider the responsibility of proclaiming the Gospel and teaching God’s Word, I often feel unworthy and incompetent. But when I do these things in the awareness that the I AM of the Scriptures is speaking through me, I can be confident that His Word does what it says and accomplishes every purpose for which He sends it.
The second excuse that many of us have in common with Moses is the fear that people won’t accept me. Moses had a past. Having fled Egypt as an outlaw and a murderer, he could be perceived as not only having broken God’s commandment, but as abandoning his own people. His profound sense of inadequacy led Moses to object, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” (Exodus 4:1 ESV).
Fear clouds our perspective and makes us dwell on the worst possible outcomes. Fear keeps the focus on the self rather than on the Lord. It magnifies our weakness and underestimates God’s power. Thus, God gave Moses two practical demonstrations of His power, first by turning Moses’ staff into a snake, and then back again into a staff; and second, by making Moses’ hand wither, and then restoring it again. Through these signs, the Lord bolstered Moses’ confidence that God Himself would do the work. Similarly, when God chooses you for a particular task or ministry, He will provide all that is necessary and show you the next step you are to take.
Moses, still unconvinced about God’s plan, offers a final critique: his speech impediment would obviously make him ineligible to serve, since confronting Pharoah would require public speaking. The excuse here is that my deficiencies are insurmountable. But God has a different perspective. “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” (Exodus 4:11-12 ESV).
In the light of God’s design for our lives, even disabilities are overcome and transformed. By now, Moses was running out of excuses, so in one last effort to avoid his assignment, he blurts out, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” But God didn’t let Moses off the hook. Instead, he called Moses’ brother Aaron to be his helper and spokesperson. The Lord doesn’t need anything “special” from you or me. He definitely doesn’t need our advice. But it’s easy to get so caught up in our excuses that we miss the entire point of God’s call. The Lord wants to accomplish something significant through you by doing something significant in you. Often part of God’s purpose in calling a disciple into a particular assignment or ministry is to grow their faith, so that they learn to trust His provision and depend on His promises.
Lastly, I mentioned that resistance to God’s call comes from two sources. The first is a belief that we know better than God what the call will require. And the second source of resistance is the Evil One, of whom Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV). Whenever a person gets clarity regarding God’s call and is trusting God’s promise of abundance, the Enemy will show up to create doubt and raise objections. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 ESV).
Therefore, when it comes to God’s call at any phase of your life, resistance is good and necessary. But as the apostle James exhorts believers, the one to be resisted is the devil, so that he might flee from you. To resist means to withstand, strive against, or oppose in some manner. Most often, this means trusting in the promises of God, as Jesus did when the tempter met him in the desert to challenge both his identity and calling from the Father.
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). It is in this submitting and resisting that objections are overcome, and you are free to pursue God’s call on your life without hesitation.
The Rev. Jeff Morlock is Director of Vocational Discernment at the North American Lutheran Seminary. email@example.com.