Wisdom International Mission - "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved" Mark 16:16


 
 
Our Predestined Call
Revision 11/02/2017
 
 
 
     Understanding the concept of spiritual destiny and terms such as calling, chosen, and predestined, is essential in our understanding of God and finding our purpose for being.  These terms are scriptural facts of life that need to be understood before a Christian can come to the fullness of his faith.  When it comes to these subjects, the concepts go from the extreme right to the extreme left.  When we consider the ideology of predestination and choosing by God, on one hand there is the concept that every detail of a life is unchangeably predetermined by God; therefore, there is no freewill involved on man’s part, thus leaving humankind to simply act out a script until death brings their ultimate end or until Christ returns.  The other extreme is to simply ignore the subject completely.  People often cannot find any justification for the extreme view that leaves the destiny of life in an inevitable state that cannot be changed.  Because they do not accept the extreme concept and they lack understanding, they will simply ignore the scriptures concerning the subject.  Like any subject in life, the answer is in the scriptures.  The truth can only be known in its entirety when we put aside our preconceived concepts and we bring all of the consequential scriptures into application and not simply into consideration.     
  
 
Chapter One
The Master Plan
 
     In order to have a comprehensive understanding of predestination we need to consider the mind of God.  God works through a matrix of plans that range from the micro to the macro in order to come to the eventual end that He has predetermined.  In Romans 8:28-30 Paul said:
 
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30 New King James Version).
 
     In this passage Paul gives us a picture of God’s predestined plan to justify many and for their being conformed to the image of His son.  Paul stated:
 
“ And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8:28).
 
     Everything that happens in this life, whether it is good or bad in our perception, is for the purpose of fulfilling this ultimate plan of bringing people to God. 
    
      Further witness of this predestined plan is found in Ephesians 1:
 
     “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will “(Eph 1:3-5).

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     In both of these cases the subject is concerning the overall plan of God upon the collective body of those who have been called and consequently chosen.  All things work together for the fulfilling of this plan.  The continued existence of this world is dependent on God’s desire for as many as possible to come to Him:
 
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
 
     We can see that the ultimate predestined plan is to bring us to God as His dear adopted children.  This ultimate plan is brought about through a series of smaller (micro) plans which develop into many intermediate and larger (macro) plans, but they all work to bring us to the ultimate master plan of our salvation at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  All of the components together comprise this master plan.  Consider Paul the apostle for an example.  After Saul (Paul) had seen the vision on the road to Damascus, he asked what he was to do. He was told to arise, enter the city, and there he would be told what to do.  After three days the Lord sent Ananias to deliver the message of what Saul must do.  When Ananias was apprehensive, the Lord said:
 
“Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake" (Acts 9:15-16).
 
     In this brief statement we can see that God had a plan for Saul’s life.  He had a plan that involved his preaching to Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.   God’s plan included all the suffering that he would have to endure as his witness of faith and love.  This plan was a component of the ultimate plan.  In the same way, God has a plan for each of our lives.  We have each been given abilities that make us a piece of the master plan.  In 1 Corinthians chapter 12 Paul was writing to the church in order to convey the concept that the church was a body which consisted of various members for the purpose of functioning to its full potential.  He compared it to a physical body that has many different components fulfilling their predetermined function, but they all work together as part of the whole.  In the process of his teaching, Paul said:

But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased” (1 Cor 12:18). 
 
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     God has given certain abilities to you that make you part of the master plan.  Jesus reinforces this concept in the parable of the talents that is found in Matthew 25:14-30.  In this parable Jesus compares the kingdom of God to the scenario of an earthly lord and his stewards.  In this system each servant was entrusted with a certain amount of money to transact business while the master was away.  Upon the return of the earthly master, he rendered a reward or a rebuke for the achievement or the lack thereof to each servant.  Jesus compares this scenario to His leaving the kingdom entrusted to His followers until His return.  In Matthew 25:15 Jesus stated:
 
“And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey” (Matt 25:15).
 
     God knows the ability of every steward.  He has entrusted you with a stewardship in His kingdom.  No matter how small the component may be or how large it may be, each component is part of the whole and has a predetermined function in the master plan. 
As we look deeper into this matter, we will return to both scenarios concerning Paul and the church body for further understanding. 
 
Chapter 2
Predestination and Freewill
 
     In the minds of many people, the concepts of predestination and freewill do not seem to have a parallel existence.  How can you have a predestined plan by God and yet have the freewill to choose not to obey the plan?  Won’t one’s disobedience circumvent the whole plan?  The answer to this dilemma can be found in the scenarios we see in the scriptures.  The story of Esther is a good example of how God’s predestined plan is set, but one still has to choose to obey from his own freewill.  Esther had come into the position of being the queen under Ahasuerus the king of Persia.  Ahasuerus did not know that Esther was a Jew.  Ahasuerus had set a man over the affairs of the nation by the name of Haman.  Haman hated the Jews.  Haman duped the king into believing that the Jews were an evil people that needed to be destroyed.  Ahasuerus unwittingly signed a decree proclaiming that on a certain day all of the Jews were to be slaughtered.  Esther was unaware of the decree, but when she had seen that the Jews were in a state of mourning and fasting, she sent Hathach, one of the eunuchs, to her cousin, Mordecai, to see what the matter was.  Mordecai sent her word of the case and a copy of the decree through Hathach and asked her to go the king.  We will pick up the story from Esther 4:10:
 
     “Then Esther spoke to Hathach, and gave him a command for Mordecai: ‘All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days.’ So they told Mordecai Esther's words.  And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: ‘Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king's palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?’" (Esther 4:10-14).
 
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     The response of Mordecai convinced Esther to do the right thing.   In his words we gain insight into the working of God in this matter.  He told Esther that the reason for her being in the kingdom at this time might well be for this situation.  We know from history that he was correct.  Esther’s bravery saved her and her people, yet Mordecai made it clear that she had a choice.  She could choose to do or not to do the right thing.  If Esther chose not to do what was right in this matter two things would occur.  First, God would raise up a deliverer from somewhere else.  God had a contingency plan.  If Esther had failed, the plan of God would still be fulfilled through someone else.  The second thing was that Esther and her family would perish.  When someone does not fulfill his or her calling, that person will suffer the consequences of unbelief, but the plan of God will still be fulfilled. 
 
     There is another scenario that verifies this understanding.  We are told of the rise and fall of King Saul in the book of I Samuel.  Saul had been chosen by God to be the king of Israel, but when Saul was put to the test, he failed in his obedience to God.  In 1 Samuel 13 we see the beginning of Saul’s downfall.  Israel had been oppressed by the Philistines for years.  They were now trying to break their bonds through war.  The Israelites were outnumbered, and they were about to enter into a great conflict with the Philistines.  Saul had been told to wait for Samuel the high priest to come and make the sacrifice before Israel went into battle.  After Saul had received a report that the Philistines had gathered together at Michmash, he waited for Samuel seven days.  When Samuel did not come, he took it upon himself to make the sacrifice.  We will pick up on the words of Samuel as he confronts Saul:
 
“And Samuel said to Saul, ‘You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you. For now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you’" (1 Sam. 13:13-14).  

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    The words of Samuel are clear, “For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever” (vs. 13).  It was God’s plan to establish the kingdom through Saul, but God had chosen another to take his place.  This is exactly what Mordecai had said would happen in Esther’s case if she did not fulfill her calling from God.  When God allowed Saul to be put to the test, he failed.  Because he could not learn to obey God, he could not fulfill the plan God had for him.  However, God’s plan did not fail.  God selected a man by the name of David to fulfill His will and to establish the kingdom through his lineage.  Even after Samuel had declared God’s judgment upon Saul in chapter 13, it appeared as though Saul had another chance to redeem himself in chapter 15 of I Samuel.  Saul was commanded by God to go and utterly destroy the Amalekites.  He was to leave no one alive, including the animals.   Again, he failed to obey God by keeping the animals alive and also their king Agag.  Samuel the prophet was then told to go to Saul and deliver the edict of God to Saul.  We will pick up on the words of Samuel beginning from 1 Sam 15:22:   
 
“So Samuel said:
 
‘Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.’
 
     Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.  Now therefore, please pardon my sin, and return with me, that I may worship the LORD.’  But Samuel said to Saul, ‘I will not return with you, for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.’ And as Samuel turned around to go away, Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore. So Samuel said to him, ‘The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you’” (I Sam. 15:22-28).
    
     Notice the reasoning of Samuel’s statement in verse 26:
 
“I will not return with you, for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel"(1 Sam. 15:26).
 
      Saul was rejected because he rejected God:

“Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14).
 
     God chose someone to take Saul’s place; someone who was better than him:
 
“The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.” (1 Sam. 15:28).
 
        The scenarios of Esther and Saul prove that there is no irresistible influence from God that will not allow someone to make a choice that is against the calling that God has for him or her.  Whatever plan God has made that involves the wellbeing of others, He will fulfill it.  Whether it is through the one He has called originally or one He has to choose in contingency, He will fulfill His plan.  Each and every one of us has been chosen by God for a purpose.  Like Saul, we must be tested and proven before we can fulfill that plan.  If we do not first learn to obey the direct commands of God from the scriptures, we will never be able to fulfill the personal calling that God has for us individually.

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Chapter 3
The Heart of God
 
     When you consider all of the scenarios that can occur when the execution of God’s plan is contingent on man’s decisiveness, God’s system of predestination becomes very complex.  Many people like the concept of a heartless predestination with no risks or contingencies because it is simple.  However, the mind of God is far from simple.  His purpose requires complexity.  In order to understand the reason for such complexity, we must consider the heart of God.  This subject is controversial to many.  Some of the concepts that have to be considered cut against the grain of some rigid ideals.  The idea that God somehow has a heart and, therefore, feelings is somehow sacrilegious to some people.  In some minds it “humanizes” God and makes Him vulnerable and weak.  The answer to any contemplation is never in how people perceive God or want to perceive God.  The answer is in how the scriptures portray God overall and not in one or only a few scenarios that fit what one desires to believe.  It is, rather, in what all the scriptures portray as a whole. 
 
     The way to find truth is by asking questions and answering them from the proper context of the scriptures without bias.
   
      Does God have a heart?  According to the book of Genesis He does:
 
“ And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart”  (Gen. 6:6);

“And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground for man's sake, although the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done’” (Gen. 8:21).

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     The word heart is translated from the Hebrew word “labe.”  It can mean the physical heart, being the core of physical man, or it can refer to the core of one’s feelings, spirit, and passion.  In the scriptures, the word “labe” is used exclusively for the latter.  If God has a heart, does He, therefore, feel?
 
     Does God feel grief? 
 
“And the Lord was sorry that He made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (Gen. 6:6 NKJV).
 
     Does God feel anger?  
 
“Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp” (Num. 11:1).
 
     Does God feel jealousy?
 
“For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me” (Ex. 20:5 NKJV).
 
     Does God feel love?
 
“Nevertheless the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam, but the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you” (Deut. 23:5);
 
“for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God” (Jn. 16:27).

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     There are those who would attempt to relegate love into the realm of stoic acts that are simply based on one’s intellect and knowledge of God. Stoicism is based in the concept that peace can only be found in the absence of emotions, since emotions cause turmoil. The idea of feelings and emotions make many conservatives nervous.  Since there are many liberals who have gone for a pseudo love that exalts itself over truth and obedience, conservatives often want to dispel the value and reality of feelings in the picture of God and in serving God. 
 
     The truth is not hard to find.  God is love.  Love that is absent from God is not the real deal.  John wrote:
 
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (I Jn. 5:3).
 
     Loving God cannot exist in the absence of obedience.  On the other hand, love cannot exist only in the realm of obedience.  This was the failure of the law.  The law was not from the heart.  It was an attempt at the conformity of the outer man without the transformation of the heart.  In the first three verses of I Cor. 13, Paul clarifies this point before he goes into listing the attributes of love:
 
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing” (I Cor. 13:1-3).
  
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     All of these scenarios that Paul has listed are great acts of obedience and faith.  His point was that you could perform all of the outward acts that identify with faith and love, even to the point of giving all of your goods to the poor and dying for the faith, but it could all be done without love.  It would all be done in futility.  Later, Paul begins to list the attributes of love.  He is not telling us that doing these things makes us a loving people.  He is saying that if you have love this is what you will be.  I have often heard it said, by those who lean toward stoicism, that love is not a feeling; love is a commitment.  While it is true that commitment is an attribute of true love, love cannot be contained in the box of only being one of its attributes.  Love must be felt.  Love is a matter of the heart.  The entire Old Testament is a love story filled with triumph and pain.  It is a story of endearment, betrayal, jealousy, anger, grief, sorrow, divorce, and forgiveness.  Our seeing these things is not humanizing God; rather, it is seeing the image of God that He stamped into man.  When God created man He said:
 
"Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth" (Gen. 1:26). 
 
     God did not have a physical image when He created man.  The image He stamped in us was a spiritual image.  He gave us His attributes of creativity, comprehension, compassion, anger, jealousy, reason, love, and etc. so that man could have dominion over all the other creatures and come to know God.  If we do not have these attributes from God, we cannot understand His purpose in us and in our having been created.
 
     God’s purpose in creating mankind was so we could become His children.  It was so we could learn to love Him and know His Love:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:3-6).
 
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     Why did God have to make such a complex system to achieve this?  Why did God allow temptation?  Why did He allow Satan to exist?  Why did He not stop Adam and Eve from sinning?  The answers to these questions come by forming our understanding through the attributes God has given us.  Imagine yourself at the height of creative genius at a time when all the technology was available to create your own mechanical child.  You could manufacture bones and synthetic skin that would match your own.  You could make the child look just like you if you wished.  You could install a computer brain.  You could even set a growth scenario starting at whatever age you wished.  You could program that child to never cry or get sick (provided you did not connect him to the internet).   It would never disobey your command.  It could only follow the program.  It could be a “perfect” child.  Now compare that child to one of the many imperfect ones we have today.  They cry, they mess in their diapers, and they get sick. As they get older they yield to temptation and they disobey.  Of these two children, which one has the ability to love us, and which one will we love?  Could we truly love a machine that has no spirit to choose?  Could a machine love us back?  What is the difference?  Without attributes such as emotion, creativity, and the power of choice, there is no spirit.  If God did not create us with these attributes we could not know love or be loved.
 
     In the same aspect, God could not circumvent all this by hovering over us and not allowing us to choose.  If a parent were to hover over a child every minute of every day never allowing them to choose their direction, the child would never learn to love the parent.  They would despise them for never allowing them to exercise the attributes they had been given.  It is because of this that God separated Himself from man.  Even before the fall the all-seeing God turned His back on the situation when Eve was tempted by Satan.  He did not intervene.  

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     As we look at history, we see all that the Lord has gone through with His creation: from the flood, to the rejection of Israel, to the apostasy of the church, to humanity’s love of the flesh over the love of the Father.  With all of these hassles and the pain that God had ahead of Him you might wonder why He created man.  It is the same reason we as humans decide to have children in spite of the ups and downs, the cost, and all of the hassles.  For most parents the reason is simple.  It is so we can love them and they will come to love us.  Isn’t that what God wants from us, that we will love Him because He first loved us?  We must again refer back to the scripture of Ephesians 1:3-5:
 
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:3-5).
 
     It was the plan of God for us to come to Him as loving children.  This plan was created before the foundation of the world.  Everything that happened in the history of the world before the coming of the Christ was leading up to the perfecting of this plan in Christ. Everything that has happened since the coming of Christ is for the purpose of bringing mankind to that perfected plan.  Every trial and every blessing is either to drive us or to allure us to God.  We must make the choice through our own will to accept His offer of adoption or reject His offer of adoption.  
 
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 Chapter 4
 All Things Work Together
 
     Once we know that God’s purpose for mankind is to draw us to Him in a loving relationship, we can fully understand the scripture that is given to us in Romans 8:28-29:

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:28-29).
 
     Every event that occurs in this life has a purpose in the plan of God. 
Whether we see those things that occur as bad or good, God uses it for the good.  Many people have a hard time understanding this concept.  How can bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people and that can somehow be fair?   Understanding the answer requires one to have the maturity to see the spiritual realm as being far, far, far above anything that is physical.  No matter what physical trial or injustice we may go through in this life, it is nothing compared to the spiritual blessing it is meant to bring.  
 
     When we look at the history and the nature of man, it is not difficult to see why bad things happen to “good” people.  What happens to “good” people when everything is “good”?  When there are no trials and sufferings, then what happens?  What happened to Adam and Eve when they were in paradise with everything going well?  Did it prevent them from doing evil?  No!  They rejected God and did their own thing.  What happened at the tower of Babel when the people were all of one mind and one language and all was going well?  Did they glorify God and do what was good?  No!  They defied God. In their arrogance they built a tower as a symbolic monument of their unified power.  When God blessed Israel with prosperity and power, did they continue to glorify God who brought them out of the land of Egypt and into the land of milk and honey?  No!   They turned to worship false gods that allowed them to follow the lusts of their own flesh.  But what happened when the times of suffering came?  Then they were ready to turn back to God.  It is in the trials and struggles that we draw near to God.  This concept is not hard to see at all.  You do not have to look any further than home.  When do you pray the most?  Is it when things are going well or when things are going poorly?  If things are going well for too long, we become slack in our prayer life.  When things get bad, when we are sick, out of work, or when our family is in crisis, then we are hitting our knees.  In the hard times we draw near to God.  The fact that we know these things to be true is proof of one thing we tend to forget - we are not so “good” as we like to think.  

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     On the macro scale there are many things that God uses to bring us near to Him - such as political unrest, natural disaster, economic crisis, and so forth.  In Deuteronomy 28-29 Moses warned Israel of all the things that would happen to them as a curse if they did not keep the commands of the Lord.  He even warned them that they would be taken captive and carried away by other nations, but in chapter 30 he lets them know that if they return to God He will again bless them:
 
     “Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God drives you,  and you return to the Lord your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul,  that the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the Lord your God has scattered you” (Deut. 30:1-3).

     Historically we have seen that God often used what we would consider evil governments to bring Israel into the fear of God.  God allows such governments to exist because He has a purpose for them.  One such government was the government of Babylon.  When Israel had turned to following false gods and they had put their faith in other nations rather than in God, God used the Babylonian Kingdom to subdue Judah and complete the collapse of the nation of Israel.  Years later the king of Babylon Nebuchadnezzar had come to know God through the work of Daniel the prophet and others who had been taken captive by him.  God used Nebuchadnezzar in many ways to fulfill His plan, but Nebuchadnezzar became self-centered and did not glorify God.  Because of this God sent an evil spirit upon him.  He became mad and wandered in the wilderness as a wild man.  After a certain time, God returned him to his senses.  Years later Daniel was rehearsing the story to Belshazzar, an heir to the throne, after Belshazzar had become arrogant and spurned God.  In the process of the story we get a great insight from Daniel as to the working of God and His plan:
 
“Then he was driven from the sons of men, his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. They fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till he knew that the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomever He chooses” (Daniel 5:21).

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     Whether a kingdom is good or evil in our eyes, it is God who appoints them, and it is for His purpose.  If the nation fears God, He will raise up good leaders to bring them into a good direction.  If the nation is forgetting God, He will raise up corrupt leaders from within to bring them down, or He will raise up leaders from other nations to try them and turn them to Him.
 
     Let’s consider again the tower of Babel from Genesis 11.  God divided the nations because He knew that the division He created would be too much for their carnal minds to overcome.  It was their carnal unity that brought their arrogance in the first place.  God knew that the carnal mind would not be able to overcome their physical and cultural differences to have that same arrogant unity.   We can see God’s purpose in what Paul said in Acts 17:26-27:
 
“And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27).
 
     The division of nations is for the purpose of bringing about an atmosphere that prevents the same arrogance that was seen at Babel.  The only way to find unity is through the mind of the Spirit, as the carnal mind will never be able to overcome the physical and cultural differences.  All the wars and rumors of wars are there to destabilize the vain confidence of man and point him to the only hope for stability and peace in the eternal realm.

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     God also uses economic and natural disaster to bring a nation to repentance.  In the reign of Ahab, Elijah prayed that it would not rain for three years and six months in order to get Israel to repent.  One can only imagine the devastation that would occur upon any nation if it did not rain for that length of time.  How could Elijah pray for such a disaster?  How could he, knowing what suffering would come, still pray this prayer?  How could he pray this prayer knowing that he himself would suffer along with them?  Elijah knew that changing the spiritual condition of the nation was far, far, far more to be valued than any physical blessing or prosperity.  These scenarios do not just apply to Israel.  They apply to every nation that forgets God:  
 
“The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the nations that forget God” (Psalms 9:17).
 
     Another reason why we experience trials in our lives is to refine us.  The trials that we experience prepare us for whatever calling we have in life.  It was Friedrich Nietzsche who said, “What does not kill me makes me stronger.”  Like the athlete who painstakingly exercises his body to bring it to peak condition, the spirit is perfected through the rigorous trials of this life.  James said:
 
     “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4).
 
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    At the time we are going through a trial in life it may be difficult to see the purpose of it, but if we grow by it rather than groan about it, we will glorify God and inspire others.  We can use our trials to be strengthened by them, or they can become a crutch in our lives, an excuse for becoming weak.  It is like the person who has been molested but then goes on to counsel others in their distress, compared to another who turns to drugs or mimics the same behavior.  The victim of a devastating disease can go on to advocate for help on behalf of others who are diseased, or they can lash out and hurt others because of self-pity.  At one time two men were interviewed about their choice of lifestyles.  One was an alcoholic, while the other had never drunk alcohol in his life.  When asked what made them choose the life they had chosen, they both had the same answer, “With a father like mine, what else would you expect?”  They were brothers.        
                      
     Another reason for the trials of our lives is opportunity.  It is during the trials of our lives that we have the greatest opportunity to prove who God is and to prove what we are because of Him.  If someone gives glory to God when life seems to be in fair condition, it may not have a great impact; but when we glorify God during the tough times it has far more impact and meaning.  This was the message that Paul was portraying in 2 Corinthians 12.  He was telling the Corinthians of how he had prayed to God three times that He would remove an infirmity of the flesh from him. God’s answer to him was:
 
"My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness”(2 Cor. 12:9).
 
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     The message to Paul is twofold.  The first part of the message was that he has already been given more than what is sufficient in that he has received God’s grace.  The picture is simple.  God sent His beloved Son to give life to us who were in no way worthy of His grace and love.  We were not worthy, yet He loved us anyway.  That being the case, even if we have to suffer every day for the remainder of our lives, we have still been blessed far beyond our worth.  The second message is that the strength of God is made perfect in weakness.  The term perfect refers to that which is made complete.  The strength of God is made complete when we are in times of weakness.  When we are going through the ringer, it is then that we can shine for God.  Just as when Paul and Silas were beaten and sent to prison, recorded in Acts 16.  They prayed and sang even while in stocks.  The result was the help of God with an earthquake and the jailor knowing who to go to when he needed to find answers. 
 
     One of the greatest inspirational stories of all time is the story of Job.  Job was a man who is described as: “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1).  After this we see that in one day Job lost all of his children and all of his livestock due to violent men and “natural” disaster:
 
“Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house; and a messenger came to Job and said, ‘The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, when the Sabeans raided them and took them away--indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!’  While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you!; While he was still speaking, another also came and said, ‘The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and tookthem away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!’ While he was still speaking, another also came and said, ‘Your sons and daughters  eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!’" (Job 1:13-19).

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     Upon Job’s hearing these things we are told:
 
“Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped.  And he said: ‘Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.’  In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:20-22).
     The inspiration of the story is due to the trial that spawned it.  When you read the prelude to the events, you find that Satan had come before God after having gone back and forth on the earth.  It was then that God asked Satan if he had considered His servant Job:
     “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. And the LORD said to Satan, ‘From where do you come?’ So Satan answered the LORD and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.’ Then the LORD said toSatan, ‘Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?’ (Job 1:6-8).
     God threw Job under the bus.  It was God who brought up Job.  It was God who was putting forth the challenge to Satan through Job. God did it because He knew that Job could win the battle.  We are God’s army.  When God allows us to go through such trials, it is a battle that God has entrusted to us for His glory.  He has challenged Satan through us. God has every expectation you will win, as He will never allow you to be tested above your ability (1 Cor. 10:13).   Every challenge of our lives is an opportunity to win the battle against Satan and to prove what is: “…that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2).       
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     God also uses good things to bring us to Him.  Paul said:
 
“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4).
 
      God could not just give us hard times to lead us to Him.  He also gives us His goodness.  When Jesus was demonstrating how we should do good to those who are evil as well as those who are good He said:
 
“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,  that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:44-45).
 
     God has demonstrated His goodness to us so that we can know His love and the purpose that He has for us.  Whatever comes in our lives, whether it is good or bad, it is for His purpose and for the good of all who love Him.  When trials come they are to push us toward God.  When the blessings come they are to draw us to God.  We can be assured that in all things God is in control and that:
 
“All things work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8:28).
 
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Chapter 5
Knowing Our Calling
 
     When we look at the macro plan of God in all of His sovereignty, we can often feel very insignificant in such a large scale.  God has designed His plan to include each and every one of us.  God has also designed the scriptures to teach us this very important principle.  In the text of I Corinthians 12, Paul addressed this issue with the church at Corinth because of the controversy they were having in this area.  Some of them were exalting themselves because of their gifts.  Paul was teaching that each member of the body is of value and plays an important role in the work:

“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body?  And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body?  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?  But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Cor. 12:12-27).
 
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     Each member has a specific function to which God has called them.  The body will not function properly if each one is not doing his part no matter how significant or insignificant we may deem that function to be.  There are many parts to an automobile.  The engine and transmission are the heart and strength of the vehicle, but if one of the tires is flat or if one of those tiny computer chips is malfunctioning, the vehicle is crippled.  Each one of us must do our part for the kingdom to function to its full extent.  But how do you know what your calling is?  There are some criteria that we need to examine closely so we can determine what our calling is, and so we can fulfill it by faith.
 
The Gospel Call
 
     Before one can discover and fulfill his unique individual calling from God, he will have to submit to the general calling of God that goes out to all of mankind.  God has called all of us through the same gospel:

    “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2Thess. 2:13-14).
 
     The gospel, or the good news, has been given to us through the scriptures.  Everything that is written in the scriptures is for us to know God and to obey God.  If we have not learned to submit to the calling of God that is clearly written, we have no hope of fulfilling our individual calling from Him.  Going back to the story of King Saul, we realize that God had a plan for him to be the king of Israel and to establish Saul’s kingdom forever.  Because Saul could not learn to obey a direct command from God, he was not able to fulfill his destiny:

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“And Samuel said, ‘What have you done?’ And Saul said, ‘When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash,  then I said, “The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the Lord.” Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering.’  And Samuel said to Saul, ‘You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.  But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you’" (I Sam 13:11-14).
 
     Like Saul we must learn to fully obey God in order to find and fulfill what God has called us to.  We are to examine ourselves to see if we have fulfilled what God requires from us in His word in order to be equipped for the work to which He has called us.  It is imperative that we are willing to obey all of the teachings of the New Covenant without selective bias.
 
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17).
  
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Ability
 
     The next thing we must consider is the purpose for which God has given us an ability.  In the parable of the talents it is clear that each person had their own ability which God took into account.
 
     "For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey”(Matt 25:14-15).
 
     Even from the very earliest witness of the scriptures, we see that God has made each of us with varied and unique talents:
 
“Then Lamech took for himself two wives: the name of one was Adah, and the name of the second was Zillah.  And Adah bore Jabal. He was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock.  His brother's name was Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute.  And as for Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron. And the sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah”(Gen. 4:19-22);
 
“And Moses said to the children of Israel, "See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah;  and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship,  todesign artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze,  in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of artistic workmanship.  And He has put in his heart the ability to teach, in him and Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan.  He has filled them with skill to do all manner of work of the engraver and the designer and the tapestry maker, in blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine linen, andof the weaver--those who do every work and those who design artistic works” (Ex 35:30-35).
 
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    Whatever talent anyone has, it is from the Lord, but we choose whether to use it for the Lord or not.  Someone may have a great calling of God in business.  They may use that talent in a selfish way, or they may use it to support the work of the Lord.  Someone may have a great talent as a musician.  They can use that talent to glorify God, or they can use it in a way that it does not glorify God.  An athlete who has great talent can use his ability to exalt himself, or he can glorify God for how he has been fearfully and wonderfully made.  Whatever ability you have, it is for service to God.  Whether you are an artisan, like Aholiab and Bezalel, or whether you are a great singer or an athlete, use your talent for God.  No ability is small or insignificant in God.  Paul’s point from I Corinthians 12 was that each member in the body has value.  The value of each member is in accordance to what God has created that member for.  Each member’s value can only be assessed in regard to what God has created that member for.  As humans we may set values in accordance with what we see as the greater contribution, but God places value in regard to our obedience to what He has created us for, whether it seems glorious in the eyes of men or not. 
 
     God has given us a great story to show this spiritual principle.  It is about a woman in the church of Joppa whose name was Tabitha, which is translated as Dorcas:
 
     “At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did.  But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. And since Lydda was near Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he had come, they brought him to the upper room. And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them. But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, "Tabitha, arise." And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive.  And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord. So it was that he stayed many days in Joppa with Simon, a tanner” (Acts 9:36-43).
 
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     At a shallow glance this may seem as though it is just another story about the healing power of an Apostle, but the story has a far more reaching lesson for us.  Here was a woman in the church of Joppa who had died, and the church was in great distress over the loss of this woman; so much so that men were sent to Lydda to bring the renowned Apostle Peter to Joppa.  When Peter came to Joppa, God used him to raise this woman from the dead.  What had this woman done that was so influential in the church that it brought all of this commotion, the effort of the Apostle, and the miracle of God?  Was she a renowned teacher?  Was she an Apostle?  Was she a rich contributor to the church building fund?  No! She made clothes.  She was a seamstress. What was the big deal about that?  In man’s eyes this does not seem like such a great gift, but God was making a point.  It was not about the stature of the gift.  It was about the love that compelled her to use the gift that God had given her.  She did not make excuses about what she did not have the ability to do.  She simply took what she could do, and, with love, she used it to share with others.  Perhaps mankind would see the ability to sew as some trite talent, and they would never see it as a gift from God; but when God looked down from heaven in the midst of all the apostles, teachers, preachers, elders, deacons, rich contributors, and the like, He saw the love and service of this seamstress and exalted her faith by raising her from the dead.  God wants us to understand that when we use whatever ability we have for Him, He sees from heaven, and He knows those who are His.  God knows those who diligently seek Him, and He rewards them according to their faith.
 
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     There is one more important point I would like to make concerning this idea of everyone being important in their calling.  Even babes in Christ, those who are weak in the faith, are of great importance to the church.  When we look at a family, do we grade each member’s value as to their age or ability?  Is the small baby of less value than the teenager who is able to feed himself or clean his own room?  Do we say that the parents are more to be valued because they have the ability to be more productive than the children?  The truth is that our instinct to protect and nourish the weaker ones makes them more valuable than ourselves.  That is the way it is to be in the church.  Without babes in Christ the church is a dying church.  Without those who are weak and need nurturing, the leadership is useless. You cannot be a teacher without disciples.  If there are no weaker vessels, the teacher’s talents are useless.  I have even come to the conclusion that it inspires me to have a few hypocrites around.  I find that I am much more inspired and fired up in my message when I know there are a few hypocrites in the crowd.  If I am preaching to a group of well-seasoned Christians, I am not near as zealous as when I am preaching to a group with a contingent of hypocrites.  Everyone in the church has value, even if it is to test the others.  Paul said:
 
“For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you” (1 Cor. 11:18-19 – Underline Added).
                  
     It is important to note, however, that the value of the weak becomes complete when they grow into what they are to become.  If they remain in their weak state they will succumb to sin, and they will fall into the judgment of God:
 
“If we go on sinning after we have learned the truth, no sacrifice can take away our sins. All that is left is a terrifying wait for judgment and a raging fire that will consume God's enemies” (Heb. 10:26-27 God’s Word).
 
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Conviction
 
     The next thing to look for in your quest for finding your calling is conviction.  When you are being called by God to a work for Him, there is a spiritual conviction to do the right thing.  At one time Jeremiah the prophet had become so distraught over the lack of influence his preaching was having that he made the decision to resist the calling of God to preach.  The end result was that conviction won out:

“O LORD, You induced me, and I was persuaded; You are stronger than I, and have prevailed. I am in derision daily; everyone mocks me. For when I spoke, I cried out; I shouted, "Violence and plunder!" Because the word of the LORD was made to me a reproach and a derision daily. Then I said, "I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name." But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not” (Jer. 20:7-9 New King James Version).
 
     When Peter and John were told not to preach in the name of Jesus any longer, the result was the same:
 
“But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard’" (Acts 4:19-20).
 
     Whenever we feel a conviction to do what we know is a good and a godly work, there is a good chance that it is from God.  At times the conviction to do something is instantaneous.  At other times it requires more contemplation.  It is up to us to determine whether a conviction is only from ourselves, or if it is from God, through prayer and fasting.  It was during fasting and prayer that the church at Antioch was convicted to send out Paul and Barnabas.  They did not stop there, but, afterward, they fasted and prayed to confirm the mission and send them out: 

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“Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away’”
 (Acts 13:1-3).
 
    Before I made the decision to enter into evangelism in foreign nations, I prayed and fasted for three days.  If I had not been sure it was the will of God and not my own will, I would have turned back in the trials that followed.  One thing we should never do is ignore the conviction we are having.  If we do we may quench the Spirit of God. 
 
Opportunity
 
     There is yet another point to consider in finding our calling.  It is opportunity.  There are times when opportunity comes knocking, and we have an obligation to answer the call.  When Paul wrote to the Christians of Corinth he said:
 
Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord” (2 Cor. 2:12).
 
     It was God who opened the door for Paul.  When a door of opportunity opens to us, it could be, and often is, the calling of God.  Once again, we should never ignore the opportunity or the conviction.  If God has opened the door, and He has given the conviction, we must fulfill the calling of God, just as Mordecai informed Esther: 

For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"  (Esther 4:14).

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     We are obligated to fulfill the calling of God no matter how difficult it is. There are those who begin to fulfill their calling from God and then they quit because it is difficult.  They reason that if it is truly the calling of God, it would be an easier road.  This is certainly numbskull theology.  Difficulty is more an indication that it is the calling of God than that it is not.  When Jesus was telling His disciples about all of the things they would receive if they fulfilled their calling, He added a little disclaimer:
 
“So Jesus answered and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time--houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions--and in the age to come, eternal life’” (Mark 10:29-30 – Bold print and underline added).
 
     The opportunity was going to come with persecutions.  For the Apostles, this was certainly the case.  Opportunity does not equal easy.  Consider what Paul said to the Corinthians:
 
But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Cor. 16:8-9).
 
     The difficulty of the calling had no bearing on the obligation to fulfill it.  I have known of some people who had determined that they were called to go into missions, but as soon as some bump in the road came, they gave up. They said, “It must not have been God’s will.”  This is why it is so important for us to fast and pray before we make such a decision.  I can tell you that in my own ministry all of these things have come into play.  For a long time I had the conviction, the ability, and the opportunity to preach the gospel, but I did not want to do it.  I had been discouraged at what I had seen in many preachers and in what I had seen done too many preachers by churches.  I did not want any part of it.  In the end I could not find satisfaction in my life until I succumbed to the calling of God.

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      Years after I began preaching, I was feeling emptiness in my life.  I knew that I needed something to fulfill me and to make me feel complete.  For more than a year, I prayed that God would open the door of opportunity for me.  In the year 2000 I received an invitation to go to Africa to speak at a family camp.  During that time I toured the most remote and impoverished areas of northern Ghana.  I was greatly convicted to go and start a work there, but I wanted to be sure.  I set a return date for two years later.  In 2002 I returned with my wife, my children, my grandchildren, and another church member.  After one month we returned.  I fasted and prayed for three days before I made the decision to go.  I knew it was God’s calling for me.  As I had previously mentioned, if I had not done that, I would not have been sure that it was God’s calling.  If I had not been sure, I would have never continued in the work.  I received criticism from some family members, friends, and church members.  While some people were encouraging about my decision, even more were indifferent at best, and others were outright angry.  My wife and I lost a lot of moral and financial support.  We sold many of our possessions to afford to go.  We could not afford a good vehicle when we arrived in Africa.  We were often broken down in remote and dangerous areas.  I often traveled to villages riding on the tops of market trucks.  We lived in tents in the villages.  The first year we went to Ghana, my wife, Rose, had to leave early because of family illness.  We were apart for longer than we had been in almost 30 years of knowing one another.  I got malaria more times than I care to count. I broke out in boils from my neck to my waist.  In the midst of all this, however, souls were being won to Christ.  Sometimes people would say something like, “Do you think maybe God is trying to tell you something?”  I soon learned to say, “Get behind me Satan.”  Certainly God had a message for me in all of this, as He always has a message for us in the trials of life.  His message for me was to stand fast in the faith and act like a man (i.e. 1 Cor. 16:13). 

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     The world is starving for men of strength today, and I do not plan on disappointing my God by wimping out.  I want to clarify that I do not say these things as a boast of myself.  God knows that when I look at the perils of Jesus, Paul, and the other apostles, it humbles me to see how short I come compared to them.  Even when I look at those who went to evangelize in foreign nations a century ago or more and I consider that they did not have airplanes, automobiles, Moneygram, malaria medicine, and the like, I cannot even compare myself to them.  My zeal in this matter is only due to my conviction concerning the present emasculated society that brings the majority of men into a state of complacency; and not only men, many women have lost their zeal for self-sacrifice to serve the living God.
 
     We cannot be ignorant of Satan’s devices.  Abraham did not turn from his calling to sacrifice his son and say, “This must not be from God because it is too difficult.”  Paul did not whine and quit when he was beaten, thrown in prison, stoned, shipwrecked, or whatever else came upon him.  Jesus did not sneak out of the garden and say, “Surely, God does not want Me to go through this.”  If I had not determined beforehand that it was the calling of God for me to evangelize, I would have second guessed myself and probably quit the ministry of evangelism long ago.  Because I knew it was the calling of God, there was no trial or tribulation that would turn me away.  We must be sure of what our calling is so we can faithfully fulfill it without doubting: “…for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6). Know your calling, whatever it is, and fulfill it at all costs.                 
 
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Chapter 6
Predestination and the Plan of Salvation
 
     It is vitally important for us to see the correlation in the scriptures between God’s predestination and salvation.  In order to see the full extent of the correlation, we have to see salvation in accordance with its scriptural tense.  In the language and thoughts of most people, they speak of salvation as a past event that has been fulfilled.  In the scriptures, however, the tense of being saved or of salvation is usually that of an active on going action or of a future event.  You do not have to know Greek tenses to see this.  When Paul was writing to the church at Rome, he was warning the Christians that they needed to wake up and fly right with these words:
 
 “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11).
 
     Paul told these believing Christians that their salvation was nearer than when they first believed, but it was not a done deal.  We can also consider the words of Paul in Philippians 2:12:

    “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).
 
     In this case Paul shows salvation as a process that is being worked out.  Again, it is not a “done deal.”  Salvation is not over when you have come to a mental understanding of who Christ is.  That is an essential part of salvation, but it is not the complete picture.  Salvation is not complete when we come to repentance.  That is an essential part of the process, but it is not the complete picture.  Salvation is not complete when we obey the scriptures through confession of Christ and baptism.  Obedience through these acts is an essential part of the salvation process, but it is not the complete picture.  When Jesus sent the disciples to preach the gospel, He warned them of all they would have to go through.  In the process of warning them He said, 

“And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10:22).
 
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     Now we are getting the picture of a completion point - when you are dead.  Those who will be saved are those who will endure to the end.  Once one can see this picture, he will be able to understand the scriptures in a complete way, and he will understand how predestination fits into the plan of salvation.  When the process is broken down into steps, it is easy to see how God works.  The first step is conviction.  God has instilled a conscience of good and evil in every human being and, therefore, an innate understanding that there is a God.  Anyone who feels conviction about what is right or wrong or has felt compassion upon others has been influenced by attributes that come from God.  God is the source of goodness and love:
 
 “No one is good but One, that is, God” (Matt. 19:17).
 
      And:
 
“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).
 
     Previously in this book we saw the work of conviction in the hearts of those who were finding their personal calling from God.  We must realize that in the same way God has given every human a conscience as an innate mechanism for making choices.  When Paul was writing to the Roman church about those who had lived under the law, he told them that even the Gentiles who were not under the Mosaic Law were a law unto themselves through the conviction of their consciences: 

“for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel” (Romans 2:14-16).

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     God has also given us His word for conviction:
 
 “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17)
 
     When Peter preached the first message of the New Covenant in Acts chapter 2, he used the scriptures from the Old Covenant and the message of God from the New Covenant to convince the people that Jesus was the Messiah whom they had crucified.  In Acts 2:37 we are told:

“Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37).
 
     It was the word of God that gave them conviction.  No person is exempt from these influences.  That may seem like a presumptuous statement to some people, especially as to everyone having heard the word of God, but the scriptures and the creation have spoken.  In Psalms 19 the Holy Spirit spoke through the prophet saying:
 
    “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world” (Ps. 19:1-4a).
 
     The creation of God itself cries out, “I Am.”  Paul presses this same issue in Romans 1:18-20:
 
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20).

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     The atheist claims to believe that there is no God, but the truth is that there are no atheists.  There are those who claim to be atheist, and, therefore, declare that they, without conscience, do not believe in the existence of God.  However, that is not true.  They may bury the knowledge of God under a mass of human reasoning, but the knowledge is still there.  Whenever someone informs me that they an atheist, I simply tell them that I do not believe in atheists.  The word of God has been spoken in every language through His creation which cries out His existence so that no one has an excuse.  Everyone knows it whether they admit it or not. 
 
     It is God’s plan that every person comes to conviction through these avenues of one’s conscience and the word.  This is how God callsus to Him: 
 
     “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:13-14).
 
     In each person’s life there is a point where conviction comes, and it even reaches a climactic point.  It is at this point that one needs to act upon that conviction.  If a person hardens his heart to the conviction, he will eventually come to a point where the conscience is seared.  At that point that person cannot receive the truth:
 
The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.  And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2Thess. 2:9-12).

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     The opposite side of this negative condition is when one reacts positively to the calling of God.  God has promised that “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). These are the chosen of God.  When Jesus gave the parable of the wedding feast, He told of one who was called into the wedding feast, and he had come, but he was rejected:   
 
So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen’" (Matt. 22:12-14).
 
     Like many people this man was called, but he was not chosen.  The wedding feast is the marriage supper of the lamb.  It represents those who will be found worthy at the second coming of Christ.  Later, in the book of Revelation, we are told what the wedding garments represent: 
 
“’Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’  And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev. 19:7-8).
 
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     The garments are the righteous acts of the saints.  Those who are chosen are those who diligently seek God in their righteous acts.  Those who misrepresent God’s word by saying that our acts have nothing to do with our salvation are woefully inaccurate.  Works are part of God’s predestined plan for us, and if we refuse to obey God, we are a faithless and lost generation.  Paul is often misrepresented in his teachings on this matter by those who are either misinformed or those who twist the truth for their own desires.  In Ephesians 2:8-9 Paul wrote:
 
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
 
     Those who are in error, not knowing the scriptures, will claim that this means we are saved whether we are faithful to God in works and obedience or not.  They conclude that if we have to do something, it means we are saved by works.  The only way that concept makes sense is if you are willfully ignorant.  You have to ignore about 99% of the scriptures so you can believe that. Even verse 10 of the same text says:
 
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
 
     We were created for the purpose of doing good works.  Paul’s point was not to say, “Don’t do anything and you will be saved anyway.”  His point was that no amount of work could ever pay what we owe.  Jesus was making the same point in Luke 17:7-10.  After the disciples had asked Him to increase their faith, He said:
 
“And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and sit down to eat'? But will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink?' Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do" (Luke 17:7-10).
 
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       The message here is simple. His point is that we are to do all that is commanded of us, but at the end of it all, we are to realize that we are unprofitable servants.  We are to obey all that is commanded and every calling of God to the utmost by presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, but at the end of the day, we still owe a debt that we cannot pay.  We are unprofitable servants. We have only done what was our duty to do.  We haven’t earned a thing.  It is only by the grace of the Master that we are allowed to live and receive the inheritance - the salvation of our souls. 
 
     By looking to some scriptural examples, we can see how these points – conviction, diligently seeking God, and God’s rewarding intervention -  all come to play in a practical, complete, and cohesive way.  Consider the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch:
 
     “Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, ‘Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ This is desert. So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go near and overtake this chariot.’ So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.
The place in the Scripture which he read was this:
 
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 ‘He was led as a sheep to the slaughter;And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,So He opened not His mouth.  In His humiliation His justice was taken away,And who will declare His generation?For His life is taken from the earth.’

     So the eunuch answered Philip and said, ‘I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?’ Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.  Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?’ Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea” (Acts 8:26-40).
 
     This story of the conversion of the Ethiopian is a complete and beautiful story.  The Ethiopian had come to Jerusalem to worship.  This man was diligently seeking God.  He was in the employ of the queen of Ethiopia, but he had not come to Jerusalem on business.  He had come all the way from Ethiopia to worship God.  We do not know what convictions brought him to this point, but he was diligently seeking God, and he lacked the complete knowledge of what to do to be saved.  It was at this point that God intervened by rewarding his diligence. An angel of the Lord spoke to Philip and told him to take a journey down the Gaza road.  The Holy Spirit told Philip to join the Ethiopian in the chariot.  At that point he informed the Ethiopian of what he needed to know:
 
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Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35).
 
     The message included revealing how Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah as the Lamb of God and instruction on what he needed to obey.  Then they came upon water in a desert.  Then the Ethiopian stopped the chariot and asked a simple question, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” (Vs. 36b).  The answer was simple: "If you believe with all your heart, you may" (Vs. 37a). Belief is what it takes.  The only thing that prevents people from obedience to baptism is disbelief.  Those who do not believe doubt the power of God.  Excuses are often plentiful with doubting Thomas scenarios: “What about the guy who comes to believe, but he is in the desert and can’t get to water?”  “What about the guy who is witnessed to on an airplane and believes the message, but the plane crashes before he is immersed?”  O ye of little faith.  Is God’s arm shortened?  Who made the water and the desert?  Who created the design of flight?  Who holds the breath of life in His hands?  If God provided the preacher, the message, and the water on the desert road to him who was seeking, can’t He do the same thing now?  If one person on that descending plane believes from his heart and is convicted to obey and be baptized, the plane will make it to the airport.  Even in the event of a crash, there will be at least one survivor.
 
      Is Satan more powerful than God?  If Satan could have just knocked the wheels off the chariot at full speed moments before the Ethiopian’s immersion, wouldn’t he have done it?  Would he not do the same thing to every person who is about to accept the message or make the confession if it was within his power?  In my travels I often go into dry desert areas nearing the Sahara Desert of Africa to evangelize.  I am in shock when I go there.  I have never seen anyone crawling around the dessert looking for water to be immersed.  As many times as I have heard that excuse for disobedience to God’s command to be baptized, I would have expected to see thousands of them.    Those who use such scenarios are in error, not knowing the scriptures or the power of God.  God predestined a plan.  Satan cannot circumvent that plan.  God made a promise:
 
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“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call’" (Acts 2:38-39).
 
     God made this promise to everyone whom He calls.  Can the promise of God be broken by Satan or by a preponderance of nay-sayers who claim that God is not able to deliver?  If it is the predestined promise of God, no one can prevent it.  It does not matter how many doubters there are.  God has called all people to receive this promise.  The only thing that prevents people from being chosen is their own unbelief in the promise.  On the day of Peter’s message Luke recorded:
 
“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:41).
 
     The scenario is simple.  If you gladly receive His word, you will gladly obey.  If you do not gladly receive it, you will make excuses and you will not obey.  Many are called, but few are chosen.    
 
Our Personal Calling in Salvation’s Plan
 
     The understanding of predestination and salvation is not complete until we move on to encompass the calling of God according to our individual abilities.  When we fully examine the parable of the talents, we see that God requires each of His servants to act in accordance with the ability that He has given that servant in whatever calling He has called him to:

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"For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.  And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money.  After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.' His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' He also who had received two talents came and said, 'Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.' His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' Then he who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.'  But his lord answered and said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth'” (Matt. 25:14-30).

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     Every parable has a physical side and a spiritual side.  The physical side is a picture that we can all relate to because it is commonly seen in life.  The spiritual side is what the physical picture represents, which we can only see by faith.  In this parable the man who is traveling represents Christ.  He has left the care of His church to us, His servants.  Each person in the church has abilities to which God appoints a measure of responsibility.  The measure of responsibility is represented by the talents, which were measures of money in the physical presentation of this parable.  In the days of Christ, a master would often leave for business and could be gone for months and even years.  You can imagine the difficulties of travel by foot, camel, or even archaic sail boats.  The responsibility of the steward was to transact business with the master’s property until he returned.  He entrusted an amount to each servant in accordance with what he knew that servant had the ability to do.  It was upon the return of the master that the accounts were evaluated and the servant received his reward, either good or bad. 
 
     In this parable there were two servants who received a righteous man’s reward and one who received an unrighteous man’s reward.  In the judgment of the unprofitable servant, the excuses for not doing his duty were of no value or consideration to the master.  He did not respond by saying, “Oh you poor man.  I am so sorry that I have been so scary that I made you feel this way.”  He cut right to the heart of the matter, saying: “You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed” (Vs. 26).   My paraphrased analogy is; You are absolutely right.  I expect a total and living sacrifice.  You were bought at a price, a very high price, the blood of God’s son.“  The servant was not seen as a poor misguided soul but as a lazy and unprofitable servant.  People have to somehow pull themselves out of the delusion that puff the magic marsh mellow god is going to be taken in by all of the lame excuses that will be poured out on the Day of Judgment, and he will just say, “Come on in.”  From Genesis to Revelation you are not going to find that picture.  Consider the words of Hebrews 10:24-31:

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“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,  not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.  Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The LORD will judge His people.’  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:24-31)
 
     Many translations, including this one, do not take into account the tense of the verb “sin” in verse 26.  The tense indicates an ongoing action rather than a singular act.  If one continues in sin after he has come to the knowledge of the truth, the sacrifice of Christ will no longer cover him.  Notice the context of what he is saying.  We need to be at the assemblies to prod one another on and to stir up love and good works. Why is that?  It is our responsibility to be there for one another in order to admonish one another to remain in the faith by continuance in good works.  If one is not into love and good works, he will be into sin.    The result is judgment and fiery indignation.  It is not a happy day for the unloving, lazy servants. It is a fearful day of vengeance.  Just like the servant in the parable of the talents, each of us has been called of God to do good works.  Recall the words of Ephesians 2:10:
 
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). 
   
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 And also:
 
“But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased” (1 Cor. 12:18).
 
     God has set each of the members in the body according to their God given abilities to do the work He has created them for.  God has a specific plan for each member to carry out.  It is our choice as to whether we will work as a living sacrifice to fulfill it, or whether we will be a lazy and unprofitable servant with a reserve of impotent excuses.  Consider the scenario of Paul the apostle when God called Him through Ananias.  He made it clear that He had a plan for his entire Christian life:
 
“But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake’" (Acts 9:15-16).
 
     God’s plan was not for Paul to simply believe, repent, confess, and get immersed.  He had a plan for him to preach to the Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.  What if Paul had gotten lazy after a few years and quit the race?  Would he still have gotten the prize at the end?  We can let Paul’s own words give the answer: 
 
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:24-27).

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 And also:
 
“For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16).
 
     If Paul does not fulfill his calling and preach the gospel, woe (a curse) is upon him. The case is clear.  If Paul continues to preach the gospel, he has nothing to boast of.  He is only doing his duty as a servant.  He is fulfilling the work for which he was made and to which he is obligated.  If he does not fulfill the plan, he is disqualified from the race. God did not see His plan for Paul’s salvation in the limited space of an incident on the Damascus road, three days of prayer, and his immersion.  God had a lifelong plan for him. 
 
     Consider another example in the scriptures.  In James 2, James was writing to the church to convince them that faith without works was dead, and that it would not save them.  He used Abraham as an example: 
 
“But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God” (James 2:20-23). 
 
     He stated that the scripture which said "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Gen. 15:6), was not fulfilled until Abraham offered his son upon the altar.  This statement was made decades before he offered his son on the altar.  Abraham believed the message at the point he heard it, but his belief was not complete until he had completed the calling.  The beginning of our faith is not the end of our faith.  The beginning of our salvation is not the end of our salvation.  When Peter was encouraging the Christians concerning the coming of Christ, he said:
 
“…receiving the end of your faith--the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9).

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     Consider also the words of Jude:

“But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe”(Jude 1:5).
 
     The situation of the Israelites leaving Egypt is a metaphor for the Christians.  Paul used the same scenario in 1 Corinthians chapter 10:
 
“Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food,  and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.’ Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1Cor. 12:1-10).

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     Egypt represents slavery.  It is a picture of the unbeliever’s slavery to sin.  Passing through the Red Sea pictures Christian baptism, which conveys the Christian from the land of slavery into the wilderness that leads to the promised land.  That is where the Christian is after his immersion.  He is traveling through the wilderness of sin to reach the Promised Land.  Both Paul and Jude were reminding the Christians that even though they were saved out of the land of slavery, their salvation was not complete until they reached the land of promise.  Many of them failed on the way because they lacked the faith to complete the journey.  They were called by God to pass through many trials and tests, but most of them failed.  It is our destiny to succeed by fulfilling whatever God has called us to, but we must complete the journey.  In the famous words of the philosopher Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
 
     At the end of Paul’s life, he was writing to Timothy in expectation of his departure from this earth.  In his letter Paul gives us great insight as to the confidence a Christian has when he knows that his journey is complete, when he has fulfilled his calling, and he is about to enter the promised land:
 
“But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:5-8).
 
     Shortly before his death, Paul had the comfort of knowing that his journey was complete.  He had kept the faith.  He had finished the race.  Now, finally, there was a crown of righteousness laid up for him; a crown that the Lord Himself would give to him.  This message was not only to him, it was to all who have loved his appearing, to all who have kept the faith, and to all who have fulfilled their calling. 
 
     In the end of life, nothing else will matter except this singular question: Are you prepared to give an account to the Lord as His steward?   

“For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26).
  
     A person’s fulfillment can never be found until that person has come to find the calling that God has for him.  Those who do not find God’s calling will never be satisfied in this life, and they will certainly not find satisfaction in the afterlife. My prayer for all who read this is that they will find their calling from God and fulfill it so that they might know the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, and that they might hear those words one day:
 
“Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matt. 25:23).
 
His servant
 
Bob Hartman 
Contact me at spiritualbackbone@yahoo.com to purchase hard copies of this book.
 
 
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