Kermit Tyler's response to one telephone call changed the course of history.
A man operating a new technology called radar telephoned Tyler's workplace about a strange, massive blip on the screen. The switchboard operator told the caller that there was nothing he could do about it and that no one else was in the office on a Sunday morning. It was then, however, that the switchboard operator saw Lieutenant Tyler there, so he informed him about the radar blip.
Tyler knew there was a flight of planes due to arrive at a nearby airfield. He went to the telephone and told the radar operator, "Well, don't worry about it."
The date was Dec. 7, 1941, and the blip on the radar screen was the first wave of Japanese planes on their way to bomb the unsuspecting and unprepared U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, bringing America into World War II.
Has your answer to a call, or not answering a call, ever affected your life? Let's direct our attention to the most important call a person can receive.
The calling to become God's elect
Jesus Christ foretold a time of increasing troubles, with "wars and rumors of wars," "famines, pestilences and earthquakes" (Matthew 24:6-7). This, He said, would ultimately lead to devastation and suffering on a global scale: "For then there will be great tribulation, such as not has been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matthew 24:21).
He further announced, "And unless those days were shortened [cut short or stopped from running their course], no flesh would be saved [alive]; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened" (Matthew 24:22). Jesus isn't returning to destroy the earth, but to save it. He will save the world for the sake of the elect. Jesus proclaimed that He would "gather the elect from the four winds," meaning from all corners of the earth (Matthew 24:31).
Who are the elect? To be one of the elect simply means to be chosen by God. This choosing process begins for a person when he or she receives a "call" or "calling" from God.
And it's important to realize that we do not initiate this process—God does. We can't come to God the Father and Jesus Christ of ourselves. Jesus clearly said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (John 6:44; see also John 6:65). And this drawing is compelling.
We might imagine God's calling somewhat like a ringing telephone. Of course, God's calling typically works without any audible sounds. It's a ringing of something inside of your mind and conscience. At the core of your being you begin to understand a need for a relationship with your Creator and to follow what He says. You start gaining a sense of God's ways and His plan. And you begin to experience a desire to answer the call.
In Jesus' prophecy about the Great Tribulation, He said that at His return He would receive the elect from the four winds of the earth. In Revelation we find another prophecy about those who are gathered to Christ at His return. They are described as "called, chosen, and faithful" (Revelation 17:14).
These people will not only have answered the call, but will have maintained an understanding of the importance of the call.
God is calling people to become His children while living in a confusing world. When you recognize and answer God's call, you must surrender your life to Him for His purpose. When you are willing to give up your stubbornness, your selfishness, your need to control, your need to self-medicate, and allow God to run your life, only then will God choose you to be one of His elect.
Called, chosen, faithful—to be faithful involves producing the life-fruit of authentic Christianity. It involves remaining true to your calling as a disciple of Jesus Christ and producing fruit in your life consistent with being led by God's Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23; Romans 8:14).
Sowing seed, producing fruit, remaining faithful
There's an old fable about two city-born brothers who decided to take a trip to the countryside. They were shocked to find farmers throwing perfectly good wheat into empty, plowed fields. The brothers decided that farmers were wasteful, maybe even a little crazy.
One brother returned to the city while the second one stayed to explore the strange ways of country folk. That autumn the city brother received a letter. The brother who stayed in the country raved about how the individual seeds from the wheat sown in the spring produced endless fields of stalks with each stalk containing many kernels of wheat. The farmers, who had sown the seeds, then tended the fields and were now reaping the fruits of their labors.
What seemed like lunacy in the spring was producing something amazing in the autumn. This story contains an important spiritual lesson: God sows His seeds because He wants to produce spiritual fruit in your life. This fruit requires that you respond to God's calling and remain faithful to His calling.
To remain faithful to God you must believe in Him and in the Bible as His Word. This belief must grow into trust. This trust must lead to obedience to God and His commandments. Life-changing faith is more than simple belief in God's existence, though many think that's all we need.
Consider as parallel: Can you imagine an adulterous husband claiming that his wife should accept his sexual liaisons on the basis that his belief in her should be enough proof of his faithfulness? That's absurd! But isn't this how many people treat God? Acceptance of God's existence can't turn unfaithful actions into faithful ones.
Being faithful to God means trusting in His love, His goodness and His wisdom so much that you are willing to follow His instructions even when you don't understand or when obedience is uncomfortable. Faithfulness involves sacrifice and ongoing commitment in the face of fear, trials and opposition from others.
Again, we must all bear godly fruit. With that in mind, you should undertake a prayerful study of the teachings of Jesus Christ contained in the Gospels and then compare His teachings to the present fruits of your life! Ask God to open your mind to understand His calling.
As you begin to study the real teachings of Jesus Christ you will discover instructions that affect every aspect of your life. Authentic Christianity isn't a set of suggestions or nice sayings about indefinable feelings called love—but instructions from God explaining how love works. When you discover a command, then you need to immediately step out in obedience.
Jesus said, "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much" (Luke 16:10).
How many times have you made a resolution to start a diet, or pray more often, or study the Bible more, or be a better husband or wife? How many times have you put it off to "tomorrow" or "until I'm ready"?
Faithfulness isn't something you begin tomorrow. It would be like saying, "I'll be faithless towards God today, but when I get up in the morning then I'll decide to be an authentic Christian."
If God says to stop dishonest business practices, don't excuse yourself with the bogus argument that "business is business." Step out in faith right now and start obeying. If God says to stop having sex out of marriage, don't excuse yourself with "but my boyfriend might leave me." Step out in faith right now and start obeying. If you realize that God wants you to stop misusing His name in profanity, don't wait to change. Step out in faith right now and start obeying!
Real Christianity is the process of being called and chosen and remaining faithful.
The parable of the sower
Returning to the imagery of farmers sowing seeds in the countryside, we learn about how God's calling works from Jesus' parable of the sower. Jesus told the story of a farmer who was sowing grain. In first-century Judea, farmers would walk through a prepared field throwing wheat onto the soil so that it would be absorbed, germinate and grow into stalks.
Jesus described how some seeds fell by the wayside and birds ate them. Some seeds fell on stony ground and sprouted, but couldn't mature because there was no depth to the roots. Other seeds took root, but thorns grew up and the wheat died. Still others fell on good soil and grew into healthy stalks.
The seed in this parable represents the Word of God, and the spreading of the seed portrays His calling. The four different types of soil represent four different ways people respond to God's calling.
How does this 2,000-year-old parable apply directly to your relationship with God? To answer that question you need to ask yourself, "Which of these four responses is the way I have been responding to God?"
In this parable Jesus taught that not everyone who hears the Word of God will be a true follower of that Word. Shockingly, this parable also teaches that not everyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus will be one of the elect who are called, chosen and faithful!
When you are confronted by the parable of the sower, Christ requires that you examine the authenticity of your Christianity. How is the seed of God's Word growing, or not growing, in your life?
Seed by the wayside
Let's look at the first response mentioned by Jesus: "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside" (Matthew 13:19).
Is Jesus describing you? Is your response to God's call, "I know God exists, and one of these days I'll get my life straightened out, but I'm just so busy"? Or: "Jesus loves me so He really doesn't care about my lifestyle. All I have to do is believe."
Notice it is the "evil one," or Satan, who convinces people to reject God's calling by taking it lightly. Authentic Christianity is more than a hollow profession without a corresponding change in lifestyle. Otherwise, you turn the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, into a cheap pass that somehow allows you to continue following Satan as the god of this world while receiving salvation from the true God.
Think about how farcical that is. What you are really saying is, "As long as I believe in God and accept Jesus, I can live as Satan wants me to live, and God say it's okay."
In Christ's parable we find that this kind of cheap grace is not okay with God. God's calling requires you to respond. He is calling you to abandon the empty pursuit of immediate gratification for a better life as one of His elect.
How many excuses do you give to keep the seed of God from growing in your life?
Seed on stony ground
Continuing in Jesus' parable of the sower, He said: "But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles" (Matthew 13:20-21).
Some people are initially very happy to learn about God's truth and to feel closer to God through starting to follow Him. But when remaining committed to God's call becomes difficult, when it means striving to overcome deeply entrenched sin, when it means being out of step with family or friends, they give up.
What about you? Do you dabble in the Bible, but your actions and attitudes reflect little of what the Bible teaches? When you have to actually live your faith, instead of just professing it, do you crumble like a house of cards?
I understand that these are hard words. In the parable of the sower Jesus taught that it is God who plants the seed, but it is the type of soil that allows the seed to germinate and grow. What kind of soil are you?
What is so important to you that it's worth a half-hearted, uninspired, uncommitted, unfruitful response to a call from the Almighty Creator God?
Seed choked by thorns
The third kind of response in the parable is symbolized by seeds choked by thorns. Jesus taught, "Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful" (Matthew 13:22).
There are people who answer God's calling only to become sidetracked with money, status or the old adage that he who wins is he who has the most stuff in the end. Are you one of those people who play church and pretend to be true followers of Jesus but whose daily priorities reflect nothing more than a concern for personal needs and wants instead of outgoing concern for others?
At this point I hope you're beginning to feel a bit uncomfortable. A real encounter with the Word of the Almighty God is supposed to make us uncomfortable. If you want to be an authentic Christian, one of God's elect, then you need to examine your Christian concepts and practices. Do they stand up to the teachings of Jesus Christ? Do they stand up to the parable of the sower?
Jesus taught that many will respond to His Word but that the Word won't grow in their minds, hearts and lifestyles. If you want your life to be more than bad soil where the seed of God's Word is wasted, then you need to do some serious examination of your assumptions about Christianity and how those ideas stack up against the teachings of the Founder of Christianity.
Seed on good ground
Finally, it is the fourth type of response that Jesus commends in the parable: "But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty" (Matthew 13:23).
These types of people respond to their calling, are chosen by God, and step out in faith. They do something about it. Their calling is more than just feelings and a religious experience. It's a transformation of mind and heart, motivations and actions.
If you are beginning to understand the truths of God and feel that you are being drawn to follow what you are learning, then God is likely calling you to salvation at this time. Will you answer the call, be chosen and remain faithful? Will you surrender to God and allow Him to produce thirty-, sixty- and a hundredfold in your life? You can be assured that there is no issue more pressing in your life than this!