he concept of calling is very important to the Christians. Before we were believers we were called to be saved (2 Thess 2:13–14), along with that comes the call to be holy (1 Peter 1:15–16). In addition to these we are also called to minister for the Lord (Rom 12:6–8; 1 Cor 12:7; 1 Peter 4:10–11). These truths are inescapable, because they are firmly rooted in Scripture. In the remainder of this article I would like to focus on the believer’s call to ministry. As I stated above, this is something that all believers in Christ have. It may not be to professional ministry (pastor, missionary, etc.), but every believer is expected to be involved in ministry. God is the one who initiates the call; He selects His vessel. The Lord determines who is assigned to each task. His decisions in this matter are based, at least in part, on a person’s gifting and their location, that is, their sphere of influence. This divine call is powerful, though not irresistible.
Our call to ministry is a high honour and it should not be refused. The appropriate response to the Lord is always obedience. The call can be a stabilizing force in the life of the one who receives it. It can provide them with focus and keep them on track. In Scripture there are a number of accounts of people who received very powerful calls to ministry. I would like to focus on one such individual in the Old Testament; let us turn our attention now to Samuel the prophet. Some of the details of his experience provide us with valid and valuable insights for the believers to learn today.
God is the one who initiates the call; He selects His vessel. The Lord determines who is assigned to each task. His decisions in this matter are based on a person’s gifting and their location, that is, their sphere of influence.
First Samuel 3 is a well-known portion of Scripture. In this chapter the Lord called Samuel, three times in the same night; He spoke directly to him. This was a defining event in his life. Before we proceed further let us think for a moment about the events leading up to his call. Before he was born, his mother, Hannah, made a vow and told the Lord that if He gave her a son she would dedicate him to the Lord for life (1 Sam 1:11). Shortly after he was born he was placed in the care of Eli, the priest. Samuel was a young boy at the time, and it was at this time that the Lord called him. Often we have the idea that in order for a person to minister for the Lord they need to be older, they need to have some measure of maturity. This is a logical idea and in many cases it is very true. However, it is not true in all cases. This passage demonstrates that age, in and of itself, is not a determining factor in the commissioning for ministry, the Lord can use whomever He wishes. The call, and not age, determines the qualification for ministry.
Because Samuel was young when he was called he was also probably not highly educated at the time. In our day we tend to attach a great deal of importance to formal education. Without a doubt it can be helpful. However, intellect alone does not make a minister. In fact, knowledge alone could potentially destroy a minister. Paul tells us in the New Testament that knowledge can puff one up (1 Cor 8:1), that is, it can lead to pride. So Samuel seems to be lacking two things that we typically esteem. But here again we see that his apparent lack did not disqualify him from ministry. He had what he needed; he had a call.
In addition to being young and not highly educated he did not have the best ministry models. Eli’s sons, who were priests, were corrupt. First Samuel 2:12 indicates that they were not quality people, they did not respect the Lord. These men inappropriately took meat from the Lord’s offerings (2:13–16) and committed sexual immorality with women who served outside the tent of meeting (2:22). The Lord also charged them with blasphemy (3:13). These men broke a number of the Ten Commandments, and they were the clergy of the day! They were not good examples. And Eli, their father, who was also a priest, was not a good example either, for he knew about his sons’ sins but did nothing about them (3:13). Negative circumstances may dampen the spiritual zeal of some but this was not the case with Samuel. He may not have had good role models but he had something else; he had a call.
Do not minimise the importance of your call and the part you play in God’s plan. Do not miss, or dismiss, your calling. You too can impact others through your obedience.
Samuel also did not seem to be very astute spiritually. When the Lord called him three times in one night he thought Eli was calling him. There were probably a number of reasons why he thought it was Eli. We can understand his mistake. First of all he was young. Second, who else would be calling him at that hour anyway? And third, he may have thought Eli was calling him because in those days the Lord did not communicate with His people frequently (1 Sam 3:1); the word of the Lord was rare in those day. However, his lack of spiritual experience did not disqualify him either. He learned as he grew, and he had a call.
In spite of all of these apparent deficiencies Samuel was greatly used by the Lord. He had been dedicated to the Lord and he remained true to Him. When his call came he responded by telling the Lord to speak because he was listening (3:10). He had been growing prior to the call (see 1 Samuel 2:26) and he continued to do so. His obedience set him on the path to continue to stand steady and holy in the midst of many challenges. The Lord was with him and did not let any of his words prove false (3:19), he was recognised as a prophet in Israel (3:20), and he served as the leader of the Israelite nation (7:6). If we have a call on our life (and we do) it will become apparent in time, and if we obey it fruit will come from it; there will be results. Never underestimate the power of your call. Samuel’s relationship with the Lord grew (3:21). That is critical. We not only need to start with the Lord in obedience but we need to continue on with Him.
Samuel is an example of what God can do with a life that is yielded to Him (other things that we deem to be essentials or qualifications are secondary). His call and commitment kept him over the long haul. The prophet’s actions and dedication to the Lord impacted others. Our lives too can make a difference if we respond in obedience to the Lord. The call is essential but we must exercise our free will in cooperation with His leading. Samuel’s call was an event, but it had far reaching effects. Do not minimise the importance of your call and the part you play in God’s plan. Do not miss, or dismiss, your calling. You too can impact others through your obedience. Your experience may not be as dramatic as Samuel’s, and you may not be directed to impact a nation like he was but you are called to serve and impact others no matter how large or small the number. There is power in the call. Are you obeying yours?