Pastor Jerry Donovan
“Must be nice to know for sure what God wants you to do in life.” Some will say. “How come other people don’t get ‘called’ the way ministers do?” I always try to assure these people that all are called—all people. In Jeremiah 1:4-10 we find a lyric example of providence and the divine call in action. It’s also a reminder to all Christians—and not just pastors or those called to high profile jobs in the church—that our God is a never-ending blur of activity who is constantly preparing people for various calls and, simultaneously unbeknownst to the people involved, God is constantly equipping people for the call that will come.
How often is it true that people end up getting called into a line of work they never before considered, that they never in their wildest dreams ever thought they would do, only to engage in that work and discover that God had been equipping them for years for a task they were not even aiming at! Most of the time in our lives providence is best recognized in retrospect. True, there are dramatic “Ah-Ha” moments that we all experience now and then, but in the ordinary run of our lives God’s work is quiet, behind the scenes, and unrecognized by us at the time as being the very work of God. “Ohhhh . . . now I understand why Pilot fired me twelve years ago!” Or, “Now I understand why God had for so long made me so interested in mission work: as it turns out, God was preparing me for this job all along!”
Jeremiah starts to do what any number of divinely appointed figures in the Bible have done: he resists the call. He makes up an excuse. “I’m too young, I’m not a public speaker, what could a child like me have to say anyway, and who’d listen even if I tried? No, no, Sovereign God, you’ve got the wrong guy.” But God will have none of it.
Providence is, as noted above, often best recognized in retrospect. Only in looking back do we see how things fit together and then we are, often, astounded at how much work God was doing even when we were so very unaware of it. When our vocation lands us in situations from which we need rescue, even when the prophetic words we speak have the effect of uprooting and tearing down certain things and so land us in hot water, the God who was so busy preparing us for this work when we were unawares has not stopped performing all that busy work even when the hard times come.
In the throes of a crisis, we may be as unable to detect all of what God is up to as we were years earlier when God was quietly prepping us for the work to which he was planning to call us. But recalling that God is always at work in just such sure and steady ways can be a comfort in crisis, We are not alone. Rescue will come. God is faithful and he will not let us go. When we “cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed” (Isaiah 1:17 NRSV), we find joy. John Wesley encouraged followers to follow the simple rules of do no harm; do good; and stay in love with God. There is deep satisfaction of following these simple rules in life. Doing justice in our relationships with our neighbors, and community spreads joy around and makes the world a better place.