Introduction: One Soft Evening
One dark and quiet evening, many years gone by now, a young boy laid down to sleep at the end of a day of labors. As his mind began to drift toward that peaceful state that defines the threshold between waking and rest, the stillness of the air was gently interrupted.
Someone had called his name.
Although the darkness of his room prevented him from seeing who had called him, the young boy nevertheless answered to the call with a response of “Here I am.”
Receiving no answer, the boy left his room and walked to the room of his caretaker. The boy’s caretaker was an elderly man, well-known to the boy’s family. Walking up to his caretaker’s bed, the boy, perhaps in response to the puzzled look on his caretaker’s face, told his caretaker, “You called me. Here I am.”
The boy’s caretaker sleepily assured the boy that he did not call him and directed his young charge to return to bed. The boy obeyed his caretaker, yet it wasn’t long before the boy heard his voice being called a second time. Just as before, the boy assumed his caretaker was calling him, and thus promptly went to his caretaker’s room and woke him with a response of, “Here I am, for thou didst call me.”
For a second time, the caretaker lovingly, yet perhaps in a voice that showed a hint of exasperation at having his sleep interrupted again, assured the boy that “I called not, my son; lie down again.”
The boy did so, and quiet once more settled across the household. However, the voice called out to the boy yet a third time. Yet again, the boy left his bed and made his way through the dim hallways to his caretaker’s bedside and again announced to his sleeping caretaker that “Here I am, for thou didst call me.”
This time, however, the caretaker did not immediately send his young charge back to bed. Being a servant of God, the caretaker had the sudden realization that the boy was in fact being called, though not by himself. Perhaps a little awed at the realization, the caretaker looked at the boy and him to return to his room. He further told the boy that the voice would call him again, and when it did, the boy should deliver the response “Speak Lord; for thy servant heareth.”
Prepared with this new direction, the boy dutifully returned to his room and lay down again. Just as his caretaker had predicted, the voice did indeed call the boy again. This time, however, the boy promptly responded with the words that his caretaker had provided him with:
“Speak Lord; for thy servant heareth.”
Thus it was that, on a soft quiet night many centuries ago, the Lord finally began to speak to this small boy.
The High Calling
The account of Samuel answering God’s call in the middle of the night, as recorded in I Samuel chapter 3, is one of the most well-known events recorded in the Bible. Although the scriptural record is not clear on some of the details, most who have heard the story picture God calling Samuel with an audible voice, much like someone calling from the next room. Audible or not, young Samuel answered the first call, without knowing who had called him, and with no prior expectation or knowledge that such a calling could happen. He attributed the calling to his caretaker, and thus, although responding promptly to the calling, he sought the wrong source. After receiving advice from his wise and more experienced caretaker, Samuel was able to eventually respond “correctly” to the calling by recognizing the source to be from God. After this acknowledgement, God began to “speak” to Samuel.
The Bible is full of examples of individuals being called forth by God to service in His plan for mankind. The responses to this calling are as diverse as the natures of the callings and the services required of the called ones. During Jesus’s first advent, Jesus sought individuals who would be willing to follow him in service to God. Although Jesus himself sometimes did the physical calling, such as the calling of the Apostles in John chapter one, the scriptures are clear that it is God Himself who calls forth individuals to His service (John 6:44). When explaining the requirements for this service, Jesus was extremely clear in his response:
Matthew 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Matthew 16:25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
Some who heard Jesus’s words at the time were perhaps confused by the meaning of the words. Even today, some who have read or heard of his words today are confused by their full meaning, even if unknowingly confused. To fully understand Jesus’s meaning, consider another statement that Jesus made, this one in response to a question of what is the greatest commandment:
Mark 12:30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
Mark 12:31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
The concept of loving God with all one’s heart and mind and being was not a new concept to the Jewish people. This requirement dates back to Old Testament times, as recorded, for example, in Deuteronomy 6:5. However, Jesus was looking for individuals who sought to obey God’s laws and please Him not out of a sense of sterile obligation, but out of a true and heartfelt love for God and His ways, like himself. Jesus was a perfect example of one devoted every aspect of His life to God’s will. This devotion, or consecration to God was so ingrained in Jesus that those around him could not help but see the evidence of it.
In choosing to obey God, Jesus devoted his entire life to fulfilling his part in God’s plan. He gave up any earthly ambitions in order to serve God as his only occupation. When considering Jesus’s life from this perspective, the meaning of his words in Matthew 16:24-25 becomes clearer. “Denying oneself,” as referred to in verse 24, describes the need and intensity to remain focused on God’s service, thus ignoring or “denying oneself” many of the pleasing pursuits enjoyed by others of mankind. “Losing one’s life,” then, refers to the setting aside of any earthly pursuits or dreams that are not in harmony with the central purpose of developing a heart and mind that is devoted to God. By doing so, Jesus’s words indicate that those who do so “shall find it”; meaning that truly living such a life will provide such blessed changes in one’s heart and mind that one will seem to have taken on a “new life,” Further, such will be eligible for the great reward that, through God’s grace, is promised to those who maintain their commitments.
Later in the scriptures, Paul refers to this “drawing forward” of individuals who will “deny themselves” in favor of molding their lives into something pleasing to God as a “high calling”:
Philippians 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
Philippians 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
In these words, Paul, like Jesus, emphasizes the need for urgency in the level of service by those who choose to respond to God’s calling. He stresses that responding to this calling is “the one thing he does.” The leaving of “things which are behind” – the abandoning of earthly goals and pursuits or “the losing of one’s life” – became the overriding goal of Paul’s life. At the same time, Paul also “reached forth to those things which are before” – the heartfelt, lifelong work of creating a character that seeks to place God first in one’s life. As this calling originates from God, as Jesus himself explained in John 4:23, and there can be no higher authority or caller than God Himself, this calling forth to God’s service can then be referred to as a “high calling,” as Paul refers to it in verse 14.
The “high calling,” then, refers to God’s calling forth of individuals to consecrated service to Him. Further, it requires a heartfelt recognition of that call on behalf of the called individual, a recognition of Jesus as one’s sole means to salvation, and a commitment to devote one’s life to pleasing God. Just as Samuel needed to recognize that it was God who was calling him before God answered, so, too, is recognizing and responding appropriately to God’s “high calling” necessary for individuals today. A reasonable concern, then, on the part of those who would seek to serve God, may be the ability to adequately recognize God’s calling for what it is.
Did God Call Me?
Throughout history, people have felt called to many pursuits, activities, and ideologies. One who feels a calling to a particular sport enters into a series of training plans that cover all activities in their lives, from training plans to dress to diet to sleep habits. One may feel a calling to a particular vocation. Some, for example, have expressed a calling to teaching, which is often answered at the expense of a more lucrative and less stressful occupation. Some may feel a calling to address wrongs they perceive in society or the world around them such as environmental issues, societal injustices, or protecting and advocating for God’s animal creation. In each case, such a “calling” often begins with an interest; a stirring moment that sparks a desire to find out more and proceed to a “next step.” Similarly, those who have been called forth by God can also reasonably expect to be attracted to the scriptures and to God’s word; not through any sense of obligation or fear or guilt, but from a perspective of genuine interest. This interest, if blessed by God, will result in not only a fundamental understanding of the scriptures, but, just like a starting in any calling, will drive one toward greater and further works. Further, it will result in a desire to understand more of God’s word and will.
One evidence that an individual is being called to God’s service, then, may be an insight into God’s word that is not shared by the general population of mankind. Jesus spoke of this type of understanding in those who were called forth to follow him. Among the first group of people that Jesus called forth were those who, during his first advent, became known as his disciples. His disciples noticed that many times, when Jesus spoke to the great crowds that came to hear him, he spoke using pictures, sometimes referred to as parables. Because of this, the gathered people did not always understand the full meanings of the messages that Jesus was imparting. Many times, this lack of understanding included the disciples as well. On many occasions, the disciples came to Jesus after the crowds had dispersed and asked him to explain the meaning of the parables to them. On one occasion, the disciples asked Jesus an even more pointed question:
Matthew 13:10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
Matthew 13:11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
Matthew 13:16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
Two meaningful evidences of being called forth by God can be seen in this exchange. First, consider the difference between the people in the crowds and the disciples. Especially considering the state of travel in Jesus’s day, all those who came to hear Jesus speak may have done so at some type of expense to themselves; loss of a day’s wages; the sacrifice of other pursuits; the uncertainty of a meal; the inconveniences or even dangers that came with travel. However, the majority of the crowds turned away after Jesus finished speaking and eventually returned home to their previous lives. Although their interest or even curiosity called them to hear Jesus, that calling was not strong enough for them to continue forward, and thus separated them from the people that Jesus came to consider his disciples. Second, only the disciples sought to understand the meaning of the parables and asked Jesus for explanations. Because of this, the disciples were the only ones to actually receive explanations of the parables from Jesus.
These two characteristics of God’s calling continue through the present day. Many people have heard God’s word, and know about Jesus. Many even gather together, on occasion, to hear God’s word, or hear the teachings of Jesus recited to them. In comparison, few allow what they hear to drive them to God’s service. Just as in Jesus’s day, the crowds often disperse and return to their lives. Those called by God desire to understand His word beyond the surface message. Just as the disciples questioned Jesus for the meaning of his parables, those called by God seek to understand Jesus’s teachings and, in turn, God’s will, and allow that will to change their lives in accordance to that will.
In an indirect, but meaningful way, Paul emphasizes these points in his writings:
II Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
II Timothy 3:17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
In verse 17, Paul refers to a “man of God” and further refers to such a one as seeking to be “perfect.” A “man of God,” by any definition, may be considered to be one who is pleasing to God; one who has been called forth by God and is seeking to fulfill their commitments of consecrated service to God. In these verses, Paul refers to the ability of the scriptures, inspired by God, to fulfill this purpose. Just as the disciples of Jesus’s time showed evidence of their calling in their genuine and sincere pursuit of understanding the words of their Master, and of the scriptures in general, so, too, will those who are called today see evidence of their calling by God in their same sincere desire and pursuit of the word of God in the scriptures. Further, just as the disciples were blessed with an increased understanding of Jesus’s teaching and God’s word above what the crowds received, an increased understanding, through God’s blessing and grace, is evidence of His callings of individuals even through to the present day.
This same concept is referred to in John chapter 6:
John 6:40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
Physically seeing Jesus is not possible for individuals today, as Jesus has ascended to a spiritual state of being (Acts 1:9-11). “Seeing” Jesus and “believing on him” thus refers to the development of an understanding of Jesus, God, and God’s plan for mankind as revealed in the scriptures. Further, “believing on him” implies something deeper than simple rote knowledge of the Bible or attendance in church. If one truly believes in something or someone, one identifies with the principles promoted by the something or someone. If one pursues a greater understanding of the scriptures and uses that understanding as a basis for their personal conduct and heart condition, this may be reasonably seen as “believing on Jesus,” and evidence of being called forth by God.
Is the Holy Spirit Still Working in Me Today?
The commitment to serve God is a lifetime commitment, and the work of responding to the High Calling is a transformative process. It requires discipline, work and effort. The development necessary to meet this commitment was referred to by Jesus as a “narrow way” (Matthew 7:14). The “narrow way” is called a “way” because it is not an instantaneous transformation, but a progression that requires a lifetime to undergo.
As the years of consecrated service begin to pass, some may begin to compare their lives with others; against those who have made similar consecrations as well as against those in the world who have not. Some may also look back on their consecrated lives and perhaps despair at a perceived minimal amount of progress. During such times of discouragement, one may ask, was my consecration truly accepted by God? Am I really still being called by God today? Have I failed in my vows over the years to the point that God has given up on me?
To begin an examination of these questions, it may help to set realistic expectations on what evidences God provides that He has accepted one’s consecration. Comparing one’s own experience against another’s can, at times, be confusing, if not disheartening. Just as each individual called by God is different, so, too, are each of the experiences during one’s consecrated life different, including the evidences of one’s acceptance. Unlike many of the outward visualizations of the bestowing of the Holy Spirit during an act of consecration shown in the scriptures of the New Testament, one may expect something quite different, but equally as wonderful.
In the sixth volume of “Studies in the Scriptures,” Charles Russell comments on this topic, and offers some very meaningful advice to those who may be confused, or even disheartened, at a perceived lack of outward signs that one’s consecration has been accepted:
“There is much confusion of thought amongst Christian people respecting the evidences or proofs of the Lord's acceptance granted to the faithful sacrificers of this age. Some mistakenly expect an outward manifestation, such as was granted to the Church at the beginning in the Pentecostal blessing.* Others expect some inward, joyous sensations, which expectation, if not realized, causes disappointment and lifelong doubt respecting their acceptance with the Lord. Their expectations are built largely upon the testimonies of brethren who have experienced such exuberance. It is important, therefore, that all should learn that the Scriptures nowhere warrant us in such expectations: that we "are all called in the one hope of our calling," and that the same promises of forgiveness of past sins, of the smile of the Father's countenance, of his favor assisting us to run and to attain the prize he offers us--grace sufficient for every time of need--belong alike to all coming under the conditions of the call.” - Studies in the Scriptures volume VI “The New Creation” p. 140
This, though, may pose a new question; or at least a new version of the same question. If one cannot, or should not, expect to always feel an instantaneous and marked change in one’s thoughts or one’s character, and thus not have this definitive life-changing feeling to look back on and compare against, then how does one know that the Holy Spirit is still working in one’s life? How does one know if one’s consecration is still looked on as accepted and with favor? Although, like Brother Russell advises, the scriptures do not promise an outward physical sign of such acceptance, the scriptures are clear in their answer to these questions, and, with reflection, will provide the evidence and reassurance one seeks.
Evidence #1: A Progressive Increase in Seeking God
In Matthew chapters 5 through 7, Jesus delivers a long and wonderful set of instructions to his disciples. These words are meant for those who, like Jesus himself, have consecrated their lives to God, just as Jesus’s disciples did. In this set of instructions, Jesus delivers a well-known specific command:
Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Seeking the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness means more than a casual interest in the scriptures, or in God or Jesus. It means more than being a “good church goer” on Sundays. It means more than attempting to live a good life, especially as a means of gaining worldly respect or recognition, or even gain. Think back to the life you had before you made your consecration to God. Reflect on the time in between that moment and the present time. During that time, have you noticed a progressively growing disinterest in the things that once interested you? When you reflect on your life since your moment of consecration, do you remember thinking how there was not enough time to do all the things you wanted to do, and because of that, noticed that certain pursuits, although perhaps pleasurable or benign, have dwindled or even fallen away in favor of scriptural study, pursuit of God’s word, work in God’s service or fellowship with one’s fellow consecrated?
Looking back at who one was prior to consecration and comparing that state to what one’s life is today and where one spends one’s time, can be keen evidence of the degree that the Holy Spirit is still working in one’s life. Jesus was clear that we, as consecrated disciples, are to seek God first. If we do so whole heartedly, then everything we need to complete our consecration will be granted to us. If one continues to have a progressively increased interest in seeking and doing God’s will, not out of a sense of obligation, but of joy and enthusiasm and love (although there may be times when obligation plays a part in keeping one’s commitments as well), and if one sees this seeking and doing God’s will has overshadowed and eclipsed previous pleasurable and worldly pursuits, then this is a potential sign that the Holy Spirit is still working in one’s life.
Evidence #2: Seeing Connections in the Tapestry of the Scriptures
There is a saying that “the Bible is like an old fiddle upon which any tune may be played.” Certainly over the centuries, mankind has sought to place their own interpretations on the messages in the Bible. Many have sought to interweave other human philosophies into interpretations of the Bible, causing the true beauty and power of the scriptures to be obscured to many. However, to those who have been blessed with the Holy Spirit, and through God’s grace and a devoted heart, the core truths of the Bible are both straightforward and breathtaking.
One of the wonderful blessings that God has granted to His human creation is the ability to see connections and draw conclusions. We see these abilities in every scientific pursuit, and the ability to draw connections is one of the characteristics that often denote one of advanced understanding in one’s field. The study of the scriptures and the understanding of God’s word is no different. Paul refers to this concept as the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, revealing the “deep things of God” to those blessed with it:
I Corinthians 2:10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
Reflect, for a few moments, on your life before your consecration and who you are now. When you study the scriptures or engage in study with others, do you find yourself making links between one portion of the scriptures and another? Do you find yourself, at times, connecting one series of events with another? Have you found, over the years, that you, at times, almost naturally begin to be able to place scriptures into their “proper place” in God’s plan for mankind? When you run across a scripture that does not seem to fit into your understanding of God’s plan, or one that doesn’t seem to connect with other scriptures, what is your reaction? Does the seeming disharmony between that scripture and your concept of God’s plan cause you to stress or doubt your faith, or does it drive you to further study; to discuss that scripture with others who share your consecration, especially with your elders in the faith? Does your faith rely totally on the teachings of others, or have you found an increased ability to lay out all your beliefs according to the scriptures themselves?
Not all consecrated called ones are blessed with a photographic ability to recall scriptures at will. However, if one has noted an increased ability to see God’s word in the scriptures themselves; if one has noticed, over the years, an increased ability to draw connections across the scriptures and see the wonderful harmony of God’s plan expressed in them; these may be further evidences that the Holy Spirit is continuing to work in one’s life.
Evidence #3 Faith: Rock or Sand
Matthew 7:24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
People put their trust in many things, and in some respects, although they may have evolved into different forms over the centuries, many of these things are fundamentally the same today as they have been throughout history. In one form or another, political systems have traditionally been trusted by societies to provide leadership and ensure security. Even leaders or systems that have been less than benign often promise some kind of benefit, regardless of how thin the claim may be. Financial systems have also been looked on as a source of security. To this end, many have devoted their lives to the accumulation and maintenance of wealth. Social organizations and related activities are another foundation upon which people have centered their lives over the years. Many social organizations have, or do, even promote causes to make the world a better place for people and other aspects of God’s creation. Lastly, religious systems, both Christian and non-Christian, have been another foundation upon which people have centered their lives.
In the cited parable, Jesus refers to a wise man who built his house upon a rock. In so doing, the man’s house proved to have a solid foundation that was able to whether strong storms. Through this parable, Jesus teaches the lesson that those who truly follow his example and his teachings, and spend their lives in search of understanding God’s word and more so, apply that understanding such that their minds and characters are transformed into something more pleasing to God, will develop a strong faith. That faith will be able to allow one to look to God during times of trial as well as in times of peace and prosperity for guidance.
As you look back at your life since consecration, do you see a decrease in your reliance on political systems, social organizations, financial institutions and strategies and even organized religious systems as a means for strength? When you compare your thought processes now as compared to when you first consecrated your life to God, do you see that your increase in study and fellowship with other consecrated individuals as having had a cumulative effect on your decision making and your thoughts and actions? Do you discern a decrease in your willingness to out-rightly believe what political, social and even religious leaders may tell you without firstly squaring declarations from such sources with the scriptures themselves? Just as the wise man slowly but surely built a house on the firm foundation of rock, so, too, does the Holy Spirit allow a truly consecrated one to build a strong faith in God. The evidence of a progression of faith that relies on God, and on His scriptures, as the one compass in one’s life, is evidence that the Holy Spirit is working in the consecrated heart.
Evidence #4: Fellowship
In any pursuit, those who share common ambitions often find fellowship and support among those who share similar goals. Sporting teams and groups, reading circles and book clubs, gardening clubs, organizations of certain professions, and political organizations are all examples of groups of people banding together over commons interests and agendas. The consecration of one’s life to God requires a commitment of one’s time, talents and ambitions. It is only natural to expect that those with such an agenda would find themselves seeking out others who have also felt the calling to set God’s work as the first priority of their hearts and their lives.
The scriptures make a very plain and strong statement on how important the role of maintaining a relationship with those who have also consecrated their lives to God:
I John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
Two key concepts are brought forward in this scripture. First, the scripture uses the word “brethren” is used; twice if the singular form of “brethren,” namely, “brother” is counted. For those who consider Jesus to be their Master, his teachings play a definitive role in their decision making. Consider, then, in his own words, who Jesus considered to be his “brother”:
Matthew 12:50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
Those who are seeking to do the will of Jesus’s Father, God, are those who have made a commitment to place Him first in their lives. It is not up to the individual, then, to decide who is his “brother”, but up to God. Thus, a consecrated heart should find themselves considering other consecrated ones as their “brother”.
The second key concept of the scripture from I John is that a love for one’s fellow “brethren” is more than just a command. Such a love is also a test, or a gauge, on the health of one’s spiritual progress or calling. Those who have consecrated their lives to God have accepted that fulfilling their vows is, through God’s grace, the only path to salvation from disobedience and death. In a very real sense, this can be thought of as “passing from” death to life. The scripture calls attention to the attitude of heart that those who are responding to God’s calling will have towards others who are likewise responding.
God clearly does not call all individuals from one specific personality type. Different people share different personalities. Some are more outgoing and unrestrained with their feelings and demonstrations of emotions, while others may be more reserved and even shy. However, all who have the Holy Spirit working in their lives should expect to see an increased reliance upon one’s brethren over the course of their consecrated progression. Think back to your life prior to consecration. Can you track an increased desire to attend meetings, conventions, online studies and other gatherings where you know that other consecrated hearts will be gathered? When you consider the circle of people you consider close to you, do you see an increased percentage of that number being those who seek to serve God as you have committed yourself to doing? Do you see an increased desire to attend testimony meetings, to share in both the positive and negative experiences of your brethren? Do you genuinely feel heartsick at hearing of the trying experiences your brethren are enduring, to the point of reaching out to help? Looking back since the time of your consecration, do you see an increase in the number of times you may find yourself earnestly praying for your beloved brethren, at times, even more than for your own self? If, upon reflection, you see evidences of an increased (and still increasing) love for your brethren, then, according to the scriptures, this is evidence that the Holy Spirit it still working in your heart and life.
Evidence #5: Reliance on God
Although there are without doubt many more wonderful evidences in one’s life to indicate that God is still calling one forward in His service, the last evidence to be considered here is perhaps one of the most deeply personal evidences that the Holy Spirit is continuing to work in one’s life.
To initiate reflection on this last evidence, consider an encounter between Jesus and his followers, as recorded in John chapter 6. Verses 22 through 71 relay an encounter between Jesus, his disciples, and a great crowd. Although the scriptures do not cite specific numbers, they do specify that many in the crowd were Jews; some of which, perhaps, were even members of the Jewish religious leadership of the time. For generations, the Jewish people were singularly God’s chosen people. As such, they had the opportunity for a special relationship with God, and were given prophecies intended to recognize the promised Messiah. At the time of Jesus’s first advent, many questioned whether Jesus was this Messiah. Some recognized Jesus as such, and left their homes and lives to follow him, becoming his disciples.
John chapter 6 recounts how, even after performing several physical miracles in the preceding days, Jesus was questioned on what evidences he could provide to prove that he was the son of God and the promised Messiah. Jesus responded with an answer that was somewhat unexpected by those who were questioning him. His answer may be straightforward to us today, who understand that many times, Jesus spoke in pictures rather than in literal statements. This understanding, however, was not yet given to the majority of the people at the time. As such, verse 66 records that not just a few, but many of his disciples “left and followed him no more.” Note the significance of this verse, in that the verse declares that many of his disciples left him. These were among those who had, until that point, recognized Jesus as the promised Messiah, and sacrificed much in order to follow him. These who left did not understand the words that Jesus had said. Through their actions, the tenuous nature of their faith was revealed. Instead of trusting in their Master, they instead walked away from him.
If one desires to understand the will and the word of God, and if one’s heart condition truly lends itself to a fully consecrated service that has been accepted by God, one may expect to be so dependent upon the scriptures and upon Jesus, and in turn, the Heavenly Father, that the desire to understand God’s will and word will be consuming. This desire may require time and experience to develop before it is in full bloom, but the beginnings of that need will always be present. The events recorded in John chapter 6 happened some time before Jesus’s apostles received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts chapter 2), but Peter’s poignant response to Jesus in John 6:68 speaks to the same attitude of heart shared by all, down through the centuries, who have fully consecrated their lives to God. When Jesus asks his apostles if they intend to leave him too, Peter responds with an air of almost helpless dependence on his Master, and on God, when he responds:
John 6:68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
This total dependence on God is a mark of not only consecration, but of a consecration accepted by God. Compare your life as it was prior to consecration and where it is today. If your ability to work in God’s service were taken away, what would be left of your life? If you could suddenly no longer study the scriptures, or if you were unable to even pray for your brethren, what would the condition of your heart be? When an event happens in your life that seems at odds with your understanding of God’s will, what is your reaction? If an act of service is met with a perceived unfavorable result, how do you respond now as compared to the beginning of your consecration? Do you find yourself becoming discouraged, to the point of considering abandoning your commitments to God, or do you find yourself leaning more on the scriptures and on the support of your brethren? Do you find that, over your consecrated time, you have seen an increased emptiness in the pursuits of the world, such that if your ability to follow Jesus were somehow in question, you would find yourself responding as Peter did with “What can I do? Serving God is my all.” If after an act of consecration, one begins to feel an increased desire to study the scriptures, to discuss them with others, to better cultivate one’s understanding of the scriptures, and allow the teaching of the scriptures and the commands of Jesus to begin to legitimately change one’s character, mind and heart, then these are evidences that the Holy Spirit is working within a consecrated one.
Conclusion: Trust in the Lord, With All Your Heart
The Supreme Architect of all of time and all of space; the One who once described Himself simply and profoundly as “I Am”; He who set forth the rules that keeps all things obeying His will, from the vast expanse of the universe itself executing to His exact time table to the unfathomably smallest and equally mysterious quantum particles; this is He who also looked on your life, looked down into the depths of your very innermost thoughts and heart and saw something there that He determined as needed for His grand creation. This is He who saw something within you that He determined, in His infinite, unerring wisdom, that He could develop to the point of offering the ultimate of all His gifts – the very divine and spiritual essence of His very self; the opportunity to be fellow members with His own precious Son, not just for a day, or for a season, but for the unimaginable and glorious and irrevocable stretch of eternity.
We are all weak. We all will fail on occasion, and while still in this life, continue to fail. We may look around and compare ourselves to others and feel, what do I have to give compared to others? When the thoughts and feelings that accompany our weaknesses begin to plague the mind to such an intensity as to block out the promises that we have been given, remember that the Narrow Way is a way and not a magical snap-of-the-fingers transformation. It is a walk, and a walk implies a progression. A progression requires work. Continue to question your progress along that way. Continue to examine what you do and how you think and where your time is going. But use those examinations as a driver to renew your resolve to remain faithful to the vows of consecrated service that you made.
Let us greet each and every remaining consecrated day of our lives hearing His call to leave our sleep and recognize He who called. Take time to reflect on the person you were prior to consecration, and consider the scriptures that indicate that the Holy Spirit has been, and is continuing, to work in your life. Answer His call, each and every day, not with doubt that we hear the voice; not with uncertainty that the call is for us; not with a lack of comprehension over whose voice we hear; but instead with a simple and prompt answer that echoes the trusting response of a small boy on a quiet night, many years ago: “Speak Lord, For your servant heareth you.”
Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;