It was a day like any other. Peter and Andrew, seasoned fisherman, casting their nets into the sea expecting the usual catch of fish, and hoping for a little bit more. On the shore James and John mended their well‐used nets, under the watchful eye of their father Zebedee. It was their routine, their job, their way‐of‐life.
Until they met Jesus and everything changed – forever.
“And He said to them, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” And they immediately left the nets, and their father, and followed Him” (Matthew 4:18‐22). Imagine an exasperated Zebedee suddenly alone on the boat’s deck, a knotted net hanging from his hands, yelling, “Hey, where are you going? We still have work to do!” What compelled these men to leave their boats and nets and freshly caught fish – and their father – behind, to follow Christ immediately? Was it His voice? Imagine hearing the call of God audibly – that’s what we’d all like, right?
Jesus led these four from the seashore to the synagogue where He amazed them with His authoritative teaching, and astounded them with His power to rebuke an unclean spirit. They went from the synagogue to Simon Peter’s house where Jesus healed his host’s mother‐in‐law, and by the time the sun began to set that very evening, “the whole city gathered at the door,” bringing to Jesus all who were ill and demon‐possessed.
As I turn the pages of the gospel accounts, I see a leper cleansed, a paralytic walk, a man’s withered hand restored, eight more men chosen and called as disciples, a woman 12 years in her sickness healed, and a little girl is raised from the dead. All of this, and more, took place within the course of a few days.
Woven throughout these miraculous events, Jesus explains that His purpose for coming was to preach forgiveness of sins and the kingdom of God. And, as we study the gospels, we watch God’s call unfold for the chosen twelve, and ultimately for anyone who follows Christ and culminates in the Great Commission:
“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with your always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18‐20).
In my experience I have found that while the Great Commission includes every believer, there’s a process of ownership that takes place over time. And, while the basic premise remains the same for all of us, I believe the Holy Spirit speaks to each of us differently – what compels and motivates me will most likely look different for you.
The Lord uses our experiences, moments of surrender, inspiring people, unique events, along with His Word to shape what I like to describe as our Core Call – a sort of beacon that helps us make logistical decisions along the way. Who we choose to marry, where we work and live, how we spend our money or treat our neighbor are all important decisions.
Once we determine our core call, then we’re able to make decisions that keep us on track. Let me explain. After I attended the spring retreat and experienced a community of growing believers, I continued attending the Bible Study that Kathy led and began going to Cru meetings on campus. I learned how to share my faith and began talking to my friends and family about how Jesus changed my life. Within a few months, my younger brother received Christ. Within a year, my Mom did too. I started leading a Bible study of my own on campus, even though I barely knew anything about the Bible.
I received great ministry training on campus (for which I’m so grateful) and it was during those initial few years as a student that I began to understand Cru's distinctives: Win students to Christ, Build them in their faith, and Send them to the world to Win, Build and Send. John 15:16 became my “battle cry” on campus:
“[Jesus said] You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you.”
In addition to ministry opportunities on campus, I also began attending a local church. Within a short period of time, I was teaching the Bible to women in the church. The first book of the Bible that I ever studied in depth was Philippians, which remains one of my all‐time favorites. Philippians 3:7‐8 stood out to me right from the beginning:
“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ....”
And, one year later Bob asked me to marry him. We were engaged for a year while I finished school, and then just two weeks after our wedding I joined the staff of Cru. Can I tell you how excited I was? God answered my prayers in ways that far exceeded my expectations. When I look back and think about where my life could have been and where it is today I’m humbled and amazed. By the grace of God I surrendered my desire to marry, and in His goodness He blessed me with “exceeding abundantly beyond all that I could ever ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).
It was those God‐ordained experiences that shaped my Core Call to follow Christ. There were times, during our early years of marriage (and sometimes now) that Bob would talk about leaving full‐time ministry to get a job as either a mailman or a cashier at 7‐Eleven. These “aspirations” usually came on days when he felt discouraged or frustrated, but I remember one particular day when the Lord seemed to challenge me to explore the idea of leaving “the ministry”.
What if we did leave vocational ministry?, I reflected back on my life as a follower of Christ and realized that it didn’t really matter what I did vocationally. I was chosen and appointed as God’s child to go and bear fruit, to count all things as loss in view of knowing and serving Jesus. Ultimately, whether I was a Cru staff member, the wife of a mailman or a 7‐Eleven cashier, I was called to follow Jesus, and commissioned to win, build and send.
That “particular day” I mentioned was about twenty years ago. Since then, I’ve found that while the “logistics” of my life have changed in numerous ways, the Lord has strengthened and matured His Core Call on my life.
Stop here for awhile and reflect on your life and experience with the Lord. In Lesson One, you looked at and remembered how God called you to Himself, the people He used, the way in which He drew you, etc.
Now take some time and think about the people and circumstances that the Lord has used the most to influence and shape you as His follower. Make a list both of the people and/or circumstances and the reason behind your choice.
One of the people that I include on my list of influencers is a woman named Amy Carmichael. She was a self‐sent missionary to India in the early 1900’s. From the time she was a young teenager until the day she died, Amy was passionate about sharing the Gospel. She spent some time in China in her early 20’s, but due to health problems was sent home; then, because of her Core Call to follow God, she eventually ended up starting her own mission in India.
After a serious injury, Amy was basically bedridden the last 20 years of her life (she lived into her 80’s). She never left India and continued serving the Lord from her bed by writing and praying. She inspires me because despite all kinds of obstacles throughout her life she followed Christ and obeyed His call.
Reading missionary biographies is inspiring and can be quite challenging. I’d suggest some or all of the following:
Imagine what it was like when Peter, Andrew, James and John took a walk “down memory road” and reminisced about that fateful day when Jesus showed up on their dock. Nothing in their lives was ever the same after taking that initial step of faith to follow the Son of God. In fact, for the next three years they followed Jesus all over Galilee, and even watched Him go to the cross.
As they recalled Jesus hanging on the cross, I’m sure a hush fell in the room. What a terrifying moment in their three-year history together. They all abandoned Him, left Him to face the authorities and death alone. Fortunately, the story didn’t end there – Jesus rose from the grave! What was it like for the disciples, huddled in the same room where they’d enjoyed a great meal with Jesus just days before, to conceive, one minute, that He’s dead – gone forever, and the next, to see Him appear right before their eyes?
Everything began to fall into place over the next several weeks. Just before Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, He commissioned His followers:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me; Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18‐20).
Their core call was clear: “Go make disciples of all nations...” on the authority of the King of kings and Lord of lords.
The book of Acts records some of the amazing things that happened after Jesus ascended – the first of which was the giving of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ didn’t leave His disciples alone, but sent His Spirit to live inside each one, giving them power to be His witnesses. Acts gives us a great picture of men and women who followed Christ and listened to His call (along with those who didn’t).
The result of their commitment to follow Christ led to great revival. Thousands believed in Jesus! Riots ensued, tearing apart cities and families. Death orders came for some, imprisonment for others. Miracles of various kinds, performed by the power of the Holy Spirit, reminded many of Jesus’ own actions on earth. Jesus Christ was at the center of these disciples’ core call. They understood, in a very personal way, what His death, burial and resurrection was meant for them and for “all nations”.
I firmly believe that we need God’s Word at the foundation of our Core Call. God and His Word don’t change. Because our feelings and circumstances do, it really helps to have the stability of the Word at the “core” of our call. I cannot tell you the number of times, when in great despair, fear and frustration, I’ve wanted to quit. I’m not sure I ever wanted to be a 7‐Eleven cashier, but I’ve definitely questioned myself and God along the way.
It’s always during one of those days that God’s has used His Word to give me perspective and to remind me of His call on my life. Philippians 3:7‐8 and John 15:16 are like plumb‐lines God uses to bring me back to His purpose for my life.
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