We are continuing in a sermon series on uncommon courage and what we can learn from those in the Bible who had such courage. Last week we learned from Job how to keep going even when you feel like giving up. Today we’re going to look at another person from the Old Testament who had an uncommon courage and then one from the New Testament. These two people had tremendous courage to follow their calling.
Being that it is the Sunday before the Fourth of July, can you imagine what courage it took for those who were chosen to be members of the first Continental Congress. They had a vision for a new nation conceived in liberty. They had courage to follow their calling to participate in birthing this new nation. They had no idea if they would be successful or not. They certainly couldn’t see what we see today, we who are the beneficiaries of their courage. They had no idea what the United States of America would look like almost two hundred and fifty years later. They had the courage to follow their calling even though they couldn’t see the impact of their work on future generations.
We never get to see in advance the impact of our destinies. God doesn’t show us what our lives are going to do in the future for future generations. What we can know is that our destinies are set by God. The Bible says, “God determines the time set for each of us and the exact places where we should live.” (Acts 17:26) When God decided when you would be born and where you would be born, that determined a lot of your destiny. We also know that our destinies are intertwined with each other. We weren’t made simply to live for ourselves and for our own purposes. The Bible says, “For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.” (Romans 14:7) Your destiny is connected to my destiny, and my destiny is connected to your destiny. We impact each other. God created each one of us for a specific vocation. The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word meaning “calling.” Every person has a calling. Every person has a destiny. Every person has a mission to fulfill. A calling isn’t just for priests or pastors. Every person has a calling.
On your outline the FIRST fill in has to do with the fact that GOD HAS DESIGNED YOU FOR A UNIQUE CALLING. He has shaped and molded you for a unique calling. Your gifts and talents, your experiences and education, your opportunities and even your trials and tribulations, have all shaped and molded you for a unique calling. Everyone has a unique calling. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, your unique calling is still in effect.
The SECOND fill in has to do with the fact that ONLY YOU CAN FULFILL YOUR UNIQUE CALLING. No one else can do what God destined you to do. What that means is: if you don’t answer your calling, no one else will. No one else can do what God has called you to do in life. It simply won’t get done. You are the only one who can fulfill the unique calling God has made you for. If you ignore God’s calling you will miss out on contributing to future generations. The apostle Paul writes, “I beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God!” (Ephesians 4:1)
Let’s look now at what we can learn from a fellow named Caleb. He lived at a very important time in the history of the Hebrew people. Moses had lead the Hebrews out of Egypt. They were in search of their destiny—the Promised Land. It’s called that because it was promised to them by God, “a land full of milk and honey,” which meant it would be rich with resources they would need to fulfill their destiny of being a great nation. They come to the edge of the Promised Land and rather than rushing right in, Moses says, “Let’s send in some spies to see what we’re up against so we’ll know what kind of battles we’re going to have to fight.” Twelve spies are sent in to get a lay of the land.
When they come back to Moses, the spies gave a majority report and a minority report. The majority report went like this: “They gave Moses this account: ‘We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does indeed flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are well fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live there… and the Hittites, the Jebusites, the Amorites, and the Canaanites all live there!” (Numbers 13:27-29) Ten of the twelve spies agreed it would be impossible for the Hebrews to win the land. They would surely be wiped out if they tried.
The Bible says, “Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it!’” (Numbers 13:30) Caleb displayed uncommon courage as he gave the minority report. But the others, save only Joshua, disagreed. They said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” (Numbers 13:31) But they didn’t listen to Caleb. As a result they were made to wander around the desert for the next 40 years.
What does Caleb teach us? What do we learn from the life of Caleb about following our life calling, a calling that will impact future generations even though we can’t see how that will be played out?
FIRST, YOU MUST BELIEVE YOU CAN DO IT EVEN WHEN YOU’RE AFRAID. That’s the first step in fulfilling your life mission. You must believe you can do it, even when you’re scared to death. That’s the faith factor. No life mission is fulfilled without it. You must have faith. Caleb said, “…we should…” and “…we can….” This past week, Paul and I had our little grandson with us. Brady is three and a half. When we ask him to do something he doesn’t want to do he says, “I can’t.” I got really tired of hearing that and I know God gets really tired of hearing that from us. If we’re going to fulfill our unique calling, we’re going to have to believe we should and we can. That’s the starting point for success. I should do it and I can do it. Once you know what God wants to do with your life, you say, “I should and I can.” That’s exactly what Caleb said. Why was he so courageous? Because he trusted God. Caleb says, “The Lord will lead us into that land and will give us that fertile land. Don’t turn against the Lord! Don’t be afraid of the people in that land! We will chew them up. They have no protection, but the Lord is with us.” (Numbers 14:8-9)
SECOND, YOU MUST BE WILLING TO REJECT NEGATIVE ADVICE. That’s what Caleb had to do. And that’s what you’ll have to do if you want to fulfill your unique calling in life. Anytime you get serious about using your life the way God wants you to use it, all hell is going to break lose. There will be people who oppose you. You’re friends, maybe even your family, will tell you they think it’s a bad idea. They will try to talk you out of it. Satan will use people to try and keep you from fulfilling your calling. You just have to know that going into it. There will be people who will give you negative advice and try to talk you out of it. In fact, to fulfill your unique calling, you’re going to have to ignore popular opinion. That’s hard to do! That’s why so many people fail to fulfill their unique calling from God. It’s not popular.
Look what Caleb had to put up with. The Bible says, “All the Israelites grumbled… and said, ‘If only we had died in Egypt or in this desert! Why is the Lord taking us to a new country only to let us die in battle? ...Let’s go back to Egypt where we’ve lived all our lives!’” (Numbers 14:2-4) The only one who stood with Caleb was Joshua and they turned on him too. The Bible says, “The whole community began to talk about stoning Joshua and Caleb!” (Numbers 14:10) They wanted to kill them and they would have if God hadn’t intervened. God had to show up and save Caleb and Joshua.
THIRD, YOU MUST BELIEVE IT’S NEVER TOO LATE. As long as you’re still alive, you can fulfill your life calling. You just need to discover what God wants you to do with the rest of your life. It’s never too late until you breath your last breath. Remember the ten spies who went into the Promised Land with Josh and Caleb? They said it’s too hard. It’s a great place but we can’t take it on. So God said, “Ok, because of your unbelief, you can wander around in the desert for forty years.” A whole generation of people had to die off, a whole generation of negative people, before the Hebrew people could take possession of the Promised Land. Caleb is now an old man, forty years later and this is what he says, “I’m now eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out, and I’m just as ready to fight now as I was then. So give me the mountain region the Lord promised me that day long ago. You know the giants live there and the cities are large with great walls.” (Joshua 14:10-12a) I love that. He didn’t want a save little corner of the Promised Land. He wanted to take on the toughest people—the giants who lived in the mountains. Caleb believed it was never too late to fulfill the unique calling God had given him, and I hope you won’t either. Caleb, at eighty-five years old was beginning the greatest adventure of his life. He was finally getting to fulfill his unique calling. So if you’re of Caleb’s generation, don’t let that stop you. It’s never too late to follow your calling.
The next three steps we learn from someone who came along generations later. Timothy was a very young man, the opposite of Caleb. He was young and just getting started on his journey of fulfilling his life calling. He traveled with the apostle Paul as a kind of apprentice in the mission field. Then Paul said, “Timothy, I want you to go to the city of Ephesus and start a new church there. And I don’t want you to be afraid. Apparently, Timothy was prone to panic attacks. Timothy had a problem with fear. Paul had to say to him, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.” (2nd Timothy 1:7)
So what do we learn from Timothy? What do we learn from the younger generation? Here’s the next step in fulfilling your calling.
FOURTH, YOU MUST DEVELOP THE GIFTS GOD GAVE YOU. Paul writes to Timothy, “Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example for the believers in your speech, your conduct, your love, faith, and purity… And do not neglect the spiritual gift that is in you… Practice these things and devote yourself to them, in order that your progress may be seen by all.” (1st Timothy 4:12, 14-15) If you’re going to fulfill your calling, you’ve got to develop the gifts God has given you. Far too many believers aren’t developing their gifts. You’ve got to let you light shine, not hide it under a bushel basket. Let is shine! Not for your glory, but for God’s glory. If you’re of the Timothy generation, the younger generation, you’ve got to devote yourself to developing your gifts. If you’re of the younger generation, God is calling you to be an example in the way you talk, the way you act, the way you love, the way you believe, and the way you keep yourself pure from the corruption of the world around you.
Paul writes in his second letter to Timothy, “…fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (2nd Timothy 1:6-7) If you’ve been baptized, you’ve had holy hands laid upon you. God had given you a gift. He’s given you a talent. What a wonderful image Paul uses here. It takes effort to fan into flame a glowing ember. As a young adult, your number one responsibility is to develop your talent. You are called to develop your talent. Develop the gift God has given you and wants you to use for the rest of your life.
The FIFTH step in fulfilling your unique calling is this: YOU MUST REFUSE TO BE DISTRACTED. In our affluent nation there are all kinds of distractions. Accumulating stuff is not a worthy calling for your life. Having fun is not a worthy calling for your life. Satisfying your appetite is not a worthy calling for your life. Being entertained is not a worthy calling for your life. God has created you for a far greater purpose. You must not let yourself get distracted from fulfilling God’s purpose for your life. Paul writes to Timothy, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right, and God will save you and those who hear you.” (1st Timothy 4:16) Paul writes, “Timothy, guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge. Some people have wondered from the faith by following such foolishness.” (1st Timothy 6:20-21) So much is at stake. So much is riding on the younger generation to keep the faith and not become distracted.
We learn from Timothy’s life that we are to develop the gifts God has given us and refuse to become distracted.
THE SIXTH STEP to having courage to follow your calling is this: YOU MUST GIVE GOD YOUR VERY BEST. Give God your very best. If you want to fulfill the purpose that God has given you, if you want to follow your calling, you must believe you should and can even when you are afraid. You must refuse to listen to negative advice. You must believe it’s never too late. You must develop your gifts and talents. You must refuse to be distracted. And you must give God your very best. Paul writes to Timothy, “Run your best in the race of faith, and win eternal life for yourself; for it was to this life that God called you…” (1st Timothy 6:12) You are called by God to run a unique race in life. No one else can run your race for you. You are to run to win, not to just get a participation certificate. It’s not enough just to make it to the finish line. You’ve got to do it the best you can. Anything less than your best does not honor God. And your best is between you and God. Only God truly knows a person’s heart and whether they gave their whole heart to fulfilling their unique calling.
Timothy and Caleb were two very different people from two very different places in God’s redemptive work in the world. and yet the impact of their lives was huge. Timothy was young and Caleb was old, and yet they both had the courage to following their unique calling. They both gave their very best. Paul writes, “I have no one else like Timothy….” (Philippians 2:20) That’s the kind of thing we should all want people to say about us because we give our very best as we strive to fulfill our calling.
Or how about this: God said, “Because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and he follows me wholeheartedly, I will give him the land he went to, and his generations following will inherit it.” (Numbers 14:24)
WHAT WILL BE YOUR IMPACT? In the brief time you have on earth, what will be your impact on future generations? None of us knows the answer to that question. But if we learn from Caleb and Timothy, God will be able to say to us as he did to King David, “David served God’s purpose in his generation, then he died.” (Acts 13:36)
Pray that God will not allow you to die until you fulfill your unique calling.
“Faithful is he who calls you, and he also will bring it to pass!” (1st Thessalonians 5:24)