“Called by God”
By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell
Scripture Readings: Hebrews 5:1-5
Key verse: Hebrews 5:4
“And one does not presume to take this honor, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was.”
As a pastor’s wife, I meet other pastors and their spouses. And I’ve heard stories about how these pastors knew they were called by God to serve in ministry. Often these stories are shared at the installment of a new pastor or at an ordination ceremony.
I have heard my husband and other ministers say they felt the urging of the Holy Spirit and answered the question of the Old Testament scripture (Isaiah 6:8), “Who shall I send?” and their own responses were the same as the response in the scripture: “Here I am. Send me!” And at first glance, you might think they eagerly jumped to the chance, they chose to be ministers, they pursued it like you might say, “I love art, so I’m going to be an artist.” You might think they chose this profession because it was appealing enough to them, it seemed like a pleasant job—why not, if they didn’t like it, they could always do something else.
Well, in ministry, it’s not exactly like that. To a faithful individual pursuing ministry to become a pastor or priest, ministry is a “calling”—it’s not something you just decide. It’s something you have to do, because God has asked you to do it, because you have been actively pursued by God to this position, appointed by God. And accepting that appointment is an act of obedience.
Not all ministers who hear the voice of God calling them have ministry in mind as their first choice for a career. And sometimes their families aren’t so keen on the idea either. My husband resisted the call at first, thought he would pursue another helping profession, perhaps in a medical field. Being talented in writing, art, music, and drama, he considered a career in the arts which seemed a natural fit. But, he continued to feel an urging towards ministry.
Because Paul was a “P.K,” a “preacher’s kid,” some thought he should pursue ministry like his father, so the idea was there early on. When he started to consider ministry as a career, his parents were happy about his faith and his devotion to God, but cautioned him, advised him to be utterly sure, because they feared he would never achieve the success they had hoped for him, success meaning financial success and being able to support a family comfortably, to have enough joys and pleasures that money affords. Clearly, he didn’t do it for the money.
And when I decided to marry Paul, I seriously thought about what that would mean to be married to a minister, to be in the public spotlight at times, to be observed with moral scrutiny, to boldly state by my position that I follow the living God, to make that commitment public. Introverted and private, I wondered if being a pastor’s wife might take me out of my comfort zone. Marrying Paul would mean openly embracing a Christian lifestyle and having church members know me and about me in ways that might be uncomfortable, not feeling that my life would be entirely my own. I would regularly be involved in church activity, I would have to participate and not just be a member but an active supporter of the activities of the church. I asked myself if I was worthy, would I be able to be comfortable in my own skin—knowing that I am not perfect by any means, would I always feel I didn’t measure up?
But, somewhere in my own psyche was a call from God. My own name, Elizabeth, means “consecrated to God.” I felt the urgings of the Holy Spirit early on, especially as a teenager. I didn’t feel called to be a pastor or even a church leader in those days, but felt called by God to Christian faith. I had no idea and never even had considered entertaining the thought of being a pastor’s wife—didn’t come in contact with single ministers on any regular basis nor did I know of any in training when I was in college. But, it was not a surprise to my family when Paul came into my life that we were meant for each other.
So, when I made a commitment to marry, I made a commitment with Paul that Jesus Christ would be central to our lives. Jesus would be central to our marriage. We felt so strongly about that that engraved on the inside of our wedding bands are our initials with a Christian cross—not a plus sign, but a Christian cross. Now we would both answer the call, dedicating our lives to Christian ministry.
And so we are all called in our own way to be His disciples. We are all called by the urgings of the Holy Spirit. We are pursued to Christian faith and doing His will. It’s not something that we do in pursuit of Him, it’s what the Holy Spirit does in pursuit of us. But, we do have to accept it, we do have to receive the gift of His love. How wonderful that God wants to be in relationship with us and pursues us. We who accept His love are then called to encourage and minister to one another. We are all ministers. We are all called. We are the body of Christ.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, may we always remember that we are called to minister to one another in faith. May we all remember to make you the center of our lives, now and always. Amen.