A former neighbor told us about one night being ready to go to bed and God distinctly told her to go to the house of one of her friends. This friend lived with her daughter and both of them had no sense of smell. Our neighbor argued with God, then finally got dressed and went to her friend’s house. As soon as the door was opened to her knock, she realized her friend’s house was full of gas, normally odorless but equipped with an additive so it can easily be smelled. She got her friends outside and called the fire department. Later she said, “What if I had not listened?”
This incident illustrates how Paul was compelled to preach the gospel . . .
For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16)
He had to do it. He may have resisted like our neighbor, but he did it with a great sense of compulsion. This is a good way to describe a calling.
One writer said if you cannot ‘not write’ then this is the thing you must do. I’m not sure about this statement, for such determination might not be a ‘calling’ but an obsession. Instead, God’s call is about deep motivation that comes from a heart to obey. An obsession has other motivations, such as ‘I must do this or I have no worth’ or ‘I must do this to impress my girl friend’ and so on.
Yet as Chambers says, all Christians must be wary of plugging our ears to the call of God. In this verse, the call was about preaching, but whatever God asks us to do, we need to recognize and obey Him with that same sense of knowing this is from God and is important, even a necessity.
Having that dedication to the Lord’s commands is what it means to be a servant of Jesus Christ. He does not say anything like, “Would you mind doing this for Me?” Instead, He simply tells me what to do. I can refuse, but the “woe to me” part is also part of this obedience. I don’t want that sense of failure nor the grief that goes with ignoring God. His command might seem difficult, inconvenient, even senseless, but ‘woe’ of grieving the Holy Spirit and myself is far worse than whatever obedience might cost me.
When Jesus broke bread, He said “This is my body broken for you . . . .” Later on, Paul calls Christians the Body of Christ. We are broken for Him, poured out like wine to please Him. He writes that he was “separated unto the gospel” meaning that he heard the call of God, and in hearing it, he entered into that sense of ‘I must do this’ meaning ‘I must do whatever He says.’
Paul responded to the voice of God whole-heartedly. It may take more time and training for others, and certainly has taken many years for me. Yet the goal of God is to push back all other ambitions, quenching all my desires, leaving only one: to serve the Lord, listening for His voice and obeying Him.
Chambers says, “Woe be to the soul who tries to put his foot in any other direction when once that call has come to him.” I understand that woe. I know the threats of competition to His call. Life is full of voices, but only One is important; only One is necessary.
This afternoon the respirator specialists took Bob off the oxygen and tested him without it – a quick walk up and down the halls. Then they took his blood oxygen and it was normal. We are delighted! The doctor said earlier that once he can breathe on his own and the blood oxygen stays up there, he can go home. It will take 8-10 weeks for his lungs to clear, and perhaps a few weeks for his cough to go away, but at home he will be able to sleep as long as he wants to. Joy!
He had H1N1, viral pneumonia, bacterial pneumonia, and a few other viruses all at the same time, on top of CLL with a weakened immune system. This has been a long two weeks. Good Lord, we are grateful for Your grace, mercy and the power of healing.