Allow me to introduce a man whom I deeply respect. His name is Ray. I won’t give his last name because he’d be upset at the recognition. At almost 70, Pastor Ray is a cowboy, cut from the old cloth of real leather, traversing missionary travels, and a 1960’s Berkley Revolution. He carries Tolstoy in his leather satchel, has walked with the spiritual giants of the twentieth century, and can with marvelous prophetic clarity, attribute the Holy Scripture profoundly into the life of any person he comes across.
Pastor Ray would not stand for me to “boast of him” in his presence and will not be found tweeting or blogging. When influencers unite, he sneaks away to pray and counsel the homeless. While the big conferences meet, you’ll find him ministering to prisoners in out-of-the-way penitentiaries of New Mexico. And, that’s what makes Ray so special. He, like John the Baptist, is a man not pursuant of acclaim, but of whom Jesus will certainly testify, is a great man on earth – Not consumed with what “should be tomorrow” but walking in a holy surrender to “what now is today” completely available to what God would requests in the moment. In three years, I have yet to see Pastor Ray leave one conversation, no matter how brief, without prayer and supplication of the Almighty God.
Yet, regardless of his private ministry walks with the likes of Francis Schaeffer and spiritual knowledge beyond any Ivy League professor, Pastor Ray refuses to be called “Pastor” and asks that he be termed “Brother.” For, in his words, special titles should be reserved for special people.
And, regardless of his voracious appetite for books, which a modern generation will not, and often cannot, read, Brother Ray doesn’t speak unless you’ve asked him to and when he does speak he speaks about Jesus and about you.
And, regardless of a hidden resume that boasts fifty years of ministry experience across three continents, brother Ray refuses to accept any compliment, instead shuffling with bold steps away toward the Spirit’s next spiritual rendezvous. Meek. Submitted. Encouraging. Gentle. Faithful. True. Passionate. Strong.
Brother Ray, so committed to the local church, has held membership in only two churches these last fifty years. In retirement, his family found a new church home and he recently attended his second membership class in five decades. After class a church leader, recognizing his gifts, approached him, asking if he’d begin serving in a variety of ways. Certainly, this seasoned minister would be ready to minister? Certainly, he would not be okay with taking a seat in the pew? Certainly, he would commend them for seeing his experience and regarding his usefulness? Not Brother Ray. Instead, Brother Ray sat down with the young man and kindly mentioned that he was new and there were likely to be unknown “corners” of his life. Thus, he handed a list of references to the man stating, “The first two men are my friends and are likely to say some kind things. The second two names are neutral and may provide objective analysis. The final two names do not like me very much and may provide you the best testament of my character.” Honest. Available. Holy. Humorous. Pure. Kind. Understanding. Unafraid.
Oswald Chambers wrote much of a man so “constrained” by Christ that his life is no longer his own. In fact, a man of this spiritual caliber literally lives every breath and word as “Unto Christ” and it is impossible to see where the natural man has ended and Christ has begun. It is a rare treat in 2014, to meet a man of this spiritual caliber. But, when you meet Brother Ray, you’ll have no doubt that you have indeed, and that for a precious few moments you are walking in the shadow of a spiritual giant.
And, how deeply I beg young American Christians learn from Brother Ray.
We, young Americans have been told from early in life that we should “Chase our dreams” and, “We can do anything we put our mind to” and we should, “Rock the vote” and, “Raise our voice” and, “The more we know” and, “Live happily ever after” and, “If it feels right, it must be right” and on and on…
Thus, prompting that we speak but never listen. Thus prompting that we dream for tomorrow instead of working in today. Thus, prompting that we pray in our name instead of in Christ’s name. Thus, prompting that we believe God is joyful when we are glorified instead of we joyful when God is glorified. Thus, prompting that we run far affront of God instead of waiting on His timing and purpose.
Because of this, time and again, young people approach me and say things like, “I know God has called me to world change and I’m just not sure about where…” or “I know God has big plans for me…” I am surprised at how they always know so much. It is has taken me thirty-five years to know that I don’t know all that much.
May, I answer the question once and for all?
IF IT IS GOD THAT CALLS, THEN HE HAS CALLED YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY FOR THE NEED BEFORE YOU TODAY. AND AS YOU DO RIGHT TODAY, HE WILL DETERMINE WHAT AND WHERE YOU MAY DO RIGHT AGAIN TOMORROW.
I do not believe this is an oversimplification.
Without being punitive and with tears and a whisper, listen as I say, God doesn’t need your help! The story isn’t about you. He can save the world any way he wants but has allowed you participate, partly for the great commission, but quite often for your own process of sanctification towards glory! Quite often your “feelings” that God has great things for you tomorrow is simple arrogant speculation derived from insecurities surrounding today’s listless idleness.
God isn’t hamstrung in the cosmos attempting to work out the details. He’s not confused about your gifts. He’s not crossing his fingers hoping you’ll find the next open door, select the right church, say the right thing, pass the right test, or attend the right school. He’s God. He’s sovereign. He knows it all. He’s not bending to your will. He’s simply waiting and TRAINING you, as His infant, to finally follow His. Thus, when you say “You know what but don’t know where” you’re missing the key component of God’s sovereign power over your life – Namely, that he has already placed you here, wherever that here may be, because he wants you here for today. And, to worry about where tomorrow, proves you aren’t spiritually where he wants you today.
As long as “God’s call” in your life is contingent on a next thing, it’s not God’s call at all, because God isn’t constrained by time or space. God doesn’t have a tomorrow in which to want you, He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever, and awaits you meet Him today.
American Christian, as long as “God’s call” is simply about an office at the local mega-church where you lazily accept a paycheck, while working soft hours, you’re not “called by God” at all, you’re simply working for hire. God’s true call will have very little to do with a paycheck and starts there flipping burgers at Burger King.
American Christian, as long as “God’s call” is about a someday mission in another country while your heart isn’t breaking over your today mission in your own city, then you’re not yet “called by God” at all. Instead, you’re simply entertaining a dream that the magic of African sand will sway your heart towards an obedience you didn’t find here. God’s true call will have very little to do with travel plans and begins as you weep over your hell bound friends.
American Christian, as long as “God’s call” is about reaching for gifts that you wish you had instead of walking in the gifts you were clearly given, you aren’t “called by God” but simply insecure and selfish, believing that your place in the body isn’t valued enough. Our world desperately needs more resolute lawmakers, more integrity-laden police officers, more discerning grocery checkers, more encouraging professors, and more worshipful stay-at-home-mothers. God’s true call has very little to do with entrepreneurialism and the foolish things of the world will shame the wise.
Instead, the first step in God’s call for tomorrow is accepting His ever-abiding presence today – Learning to meet Him each morning, aware of the unconscionable depravities of our natural flesh, overjoyed at His gracious redemptions, becoming a deep cavern of His biblical counsels, and confronting every friend or foe of this day with discernment of word and deed.
If I attend school, then I do it with His ever-abiding presence as rear guard. If I work in an office, I spark the Great Commission across cubicles. If I stay at home with children, I boast encouraging prophecy over my children. And, as this form of surrendered obedience overtakes me, I can be certain that Christ Jesus will open the next door for my life ministry, as He operates with sovereign authority, ordaining the epochs of time itself, utilizing my life as one among billions, to bring Him greater glory. In obedience today, I can be assured of service for Him in the morrow.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith… it is the gift of God… that no one should boast.”
Thank you Pastor Ray.