By Rev. Rob Prince
Smoke went up when I said “Yes” to God’s call into full time ministry. It wasn’t a “white-smoke-out-of-the-chimney-like-when-they-elect-a-pope” kind of smoke; it was more like a “too-much-wet-wood-on-the-fire” kind of smoke.
I was sitting beside a campfire on the Church of the Nazarene’s Eastern Michigan District Campgrounds at a teenage “afterglow” following a campmeeting service when I first thought that God was calling me into some kind of Christian service.
I was in the seventh grade.
I didn’t see any writing on the walls. (We were outside—no walls).
I didn’t hear an audible voice. (Except for the guy leading at the campfire and trying to get a bunch of musically challenged Jr. Highers to sing, “Do Lord,” no one was talking or singing.)
But I knew deep into my bones that God was calling me.
Why would God call me to ministry?
I had never spoken publicly.
I was a pretty squirrely, 75 pound, weak-hitting little league second baseman.
I really was not skilled at much of anything except collecting baseball cards and annoying my siblings.
I had no clue as to what a pastor really did. (Maybe I was thinking they only worked Sundays and Wednesday nights. I was pretty lazy at the time.)
Still I knew that God was calling me.
I didn’t know that the calling would lead me to Olivet Nazarene College (University now) and Nazarene Theological Seminary. I would have never guessed I would serve on the pastoral staff of a Presbyterian church while in seminary and Nazarene churches in Alanson, Bad Axe, Roseville, and Otisville, Michigan and now in Lenexa, Kansas. I didn’t know that I would be able to preach not only in the wonderful churches that allowed me to stand behind their pulpits each week—but I have had the privilege of also preaching in Dominica, Russia, El Salvador, Swaziland, Israel, Jordan, and now Cuba. I cannot adequately describe for you how blessed I have been in my life since saying “Yes” to God around that campfire.
There was no smoke that went up in my office at the Metropolitan Church of the Nazarene when God called me to write. Again, I didn’t see any writing on the walls (there were walls there—but no writing on them). I didn’t hear an audible voice. But once again, I knew deep in my bones that God was calling me.
Why would God call me to write?
I was not an English major. (I was a psychology major—which kind of explains a few things, doesn’t it?)
I’m a bad spellar. (Do you see what I did there?)
My grammar ain’t no good. (I did it again, Ha!)
My typing stinks. (If you scratch and sniff your computer screen, you would smell some foul typing techniques.)
Still I knew that God was calling me.
I’ve written a few articles here and there in publications that just about no one reads. In fact, one magazine that published an article of mine is now defunct; and another one, after publishing several of my articles, has gone to an on-line only version. I don’t think I’ve been kind to the publishing world. Mr. Pulitzer has not been recommending me for any writing assignments.
In spite of that history (possibly with fear and trembling), the Nazarene Publishing House has agreed to publish my book, Following Jesus with a Migraine. I will be signing the contract today. I am not sure when the book will be released. I am not sure if anyone will actually read it. Here’s what I know: God called me to write− and this book in many ways is a fulfillment of that call.
I didn’t know that I would experience a brain hemorrhage to give me a topic on which to write.
I didn’t know that it would be fifteen years after sensing that call that an actual book would be written.
I didn’t know a lot of things.
I just knew that God called, and for me to be obedient meant I had to write.
Maybe God is calling you to something that you are not technically qualified to do.
Maybe it’s something you think there is no way you could do.
Maybe you think you are too young, too old, too uneducated, too busy, too overworked already to accomplish God’s calling.
Maybe it will take some time before the calling comes to fruition. (It was 15 years for me− remember).
Maybe someone will be less than encouraging. (For the efforts of my very first book submitted for publication, I received a “Thanks, but no thanks” form letter.)
Maybe other factors out of your control will happen. (I had a few chapters lost when my computer crashed a while ago).
But if you are called by God to some task and you know it deep in your bones—don’t worry about the reasons why you can’t accomplish God’s plan. Just do it. Follow that calling!
I love what Jeremiah said when he knew God was calling him to speak. He wrote: But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot (Jeremiah 20:9).
If God is calling you—and you can’t hold it in, you can’t let it go, you can’t do anything but follow the calling— then follow it! Will there be challenges ahead? Probably. Will you be tempted to quit? Maybe. Will it be easy? Nothing great usually is. Still, God has great things in store. When He calls—He enables and empowers you to realize that calling. If God is calling, He will make a way for you to achieve what He is calling you to do.
There might not be smoke rising when you say “yes”—but then again maybe there will be.