“For the gifts and callings of God are without repentance” (Romans 11:29).
The word “repentance” in this verse might not mean what we think. Among the best translators that I have trusted over the years, the majority say that the word means “with no change.” In other words, God doesn’t change His mind, and that’s a good thing. When He asks an individual to do a certain thing, go a particular place or act in such a way, He knows then the why and how of it all — even when we humans do not comprehend.
A dear friend of mine, someone I trust and love, recently said to me something that touched my heart: “I know what God wanted me to do, but I would not do it.” As he spoke, tears rolled down his wrinkled face, and he seemed to be relieving himself of a heavy burden by sharing his simple confession. My friend went on to tell me the story of his attending church as a young teen and later as a young adult, mostly due to his mother’s insistence, and of his going forward in an invitation given by the guest speaker in a meeting in his local church. He believed then (and he believes now) that God was speaking to him through the message, and for a while, he was willing to do what that message implied.
I admit I was fascinated listening to my friend as he spoke. I had not known his story. “I was impressed, very impressed, to complete my medical studies and go to a foreign country to give aid to those who needed it sorely,” he said. “I thought of Africa or one of the other of the countries that had so much illness, injury, pain and suffering, and I wrote mission boards and received and read brochures and pleas from each of them. But as I was nearing the end of my medical training, I saw the money to be made here in America, and I had gained the attention of a beautiful young lady. I knew in my heart that to submit to the call that I thought God had placed on my being in that church service would be to deny my heart’s desire to marry this woman and to build a comfortable life here in the states.
“As time went on, it became easier to forget about my calling, and I started making money and was willing to send gifts to the foreign fields,” he said. “I lived a good life and made a good life for my family, and I felt I was generous to others.” As we talked quietly, he said that he every so often felt that pull and gentle tug on his heart strings, and he remembered that he felt God had placed a call on his life as a young man to become a missionary abroad. Now, he wonders what might have happened had he obeyed.
I seldom ever meet anyone who has never been to church. Almost everyone with whom I visit can share a story: “I used to attend Sunday school,” “My parents took me to church,” “I once was faithful to teach the Word of God,” “I had a bad experience and vowed I’d never go back,” “I attended a church camp,” and on and on the stories go.
Truthfully, God has spoken to many a person who has never followed through on what God asked them to do. You know what is lovely about this story? It is never too late. If we really believe God is speaking to us about doing something specific in His work, we can start today. Surely, we will have missed the many years of blessing we could have received for serving, but it is better to start late than never to start at all.
Has God given you an assignment? It might be as simple as teaching a child’s Sunday school class, leading the singing, visiting a sick neighbor, or volunteering in a care center. Whatever it is, get up, get at it and start anew today.
For the sake of the call itself, let’s start serving where God wants us, for His sake and for ours.