What Are The Hindrances To Divine Calling?
Are you a minister? would be one? Do you sense God talking to you? You feel you've been delayed? Knowing not what to do about a call of God on your life? The answer might just be below. This is a transcript of an interview with the Rev. P.C. Akubueze that centers on the hindrances and reasons for delays in responding to God's call upon men and women of our time. Reading it will bring clarity and help you out of some of the troubles that men and women of God have struggled with over the years.
ACP: We're glad to have you here with us, man of God. Thanks for coming.
P.C.Akubueze: It 's a great pleasure indeed, thanks for having me.
ACP Question No. 1: What first advice could you give anyone who wants to enter the Christian ministry?
P.C.Akubueze: What exactly did you mean when you said the "Christian ministry"? For all Christians, I believe, are ministers by virtue of having been saved by Christ. We're saved to serve. And there's nothing more than to aspire all to be saved. In that respect, I would want all to become Christian ministers.
ACP Question No. 2: That's true. I mean, rather, entering the five fold ministry as spoken of in Ephesians 4v11.
P.C.Akubueze: Oh! that should be for one to have a divine calling and the awareness of one's calling. I know I gave you two answers at the same time, but I think both go together. The call of God upon one's life and for that person to know that there is a call upon his life. Both are two different issues that could be understood in quite a rift of time and would never make any meaning to life if not understood together.
A good example here would be the prophet named Samuel. When he was called, he heard a voice of God. God was actually calling. He had the call of God. But he did not know that he had a call of God for he mistook it for the voice of Eli. Although God was talking to Samuel, and although Samuel was hearing a voice, it didn't make any sense and profit his life and ministry until he knew that the voice was of God quite distinct from the voice of Eli (I Samuel Chapter 3).
Unlike any other service on the face of the earth. The Lord's service starts with the Lord's calling. The Bible rightly says that it is He who gave some to be apostles, to be prophets, to be evangelist, pastors and teachers... (Ephesians 4v11). The calling must come from God, it starts with God, and the would be servant must be sure that the calling of God is upon his/her life. We should be able to say "I KNOW SO" and not " I THINK SO" or " MAYBE SO".
ACP Question No. 3: Can there be a distance between when one is called and when one yields to that calling?
P.C.Akubueze: Of course, yes! Great distance even! And like I said in the beginning, one can have a call of God upon his life but could take quite a rift of time for him to be aware that it's the call of God. This is not usually the case but it's true with some of us. Samuel again sets a good picture here. In two occasions he said yes to the right voice but to the wrong person. Did he hear a voice? Yes. But the voice wasn't that of Eli. It was that of God. So you see the difference in gap which in our day could be anything from one day to a lifetime. Some people answer the call of God upon their lives after several years, having been aware that God was calling them. I pray that men and women be very sensitive to His voice and say yes to that voice immediately.
ACP Question No. 4: What can you say are some reasons that some people answer the call of God upon their lives at different times rather than when God is actually calling?
P.C.Akubueze: Honestly, I might never know all the "whys". But studies from history of God's people, coupled with my personal experiences, can help reveal to us some of the reasons of this time-variations in answering God's call upon people's lives. I may want to start by numbering them in this order which is not the order of occurrence anyway. Some of the Reasons known to me are (i) Ignorance (ii) Misunderstanding (iii) Fear (iv) Doubts (v) Unwillingness to obey the calling (vi) Discouragements (vii) Lack of finance (iix) Disobedience-Sin (ix) Guilt of past life (x) lack of the leap of faith to discover (xi) Willingly, Ignorantly misguided. These, I think are quite important to keep in mind.
ACP Question No. 5: Can you talk about them detailly for our readers to grasp the points you mentioned above?
P.C.Akubueze: With all pleasure.
ACP Question No.6 We shall start first of all with that of Ignorance. How can ignorance retard one from hearing God's calling upon his/her life?
P.C.Akubueze: Yeah, with Ignorance, it's that simple. Some people don't answer the call of God upon their lives because they simply don't know about it, and might not have, kind of Eli, to help them out. This can go on for a long time, of course.
ACP Question No.7: What about the second point, that of Misunderstanding?
P.C.Akubueze: When I said Misunderstanding, I mean that some people don't fully understand what that call feels like, sounds like or looks like. And Hey! let me contradict myself here, you see, the call of God is not about feelings nor about sounds nor looks. I just used these word pictures to pass out the idea that the recipient of divine calling will in some way know that this is something divine, something more than just the ordinary and that might capture the imaginations or feelings or conscience or thoughts etc. But it does not rob us from our five senses. Only God knows us best and He knows how to bring us to that place of awareness. The "where" we can know better what He is trying to say to us. However, some of us don't fully understand at some moments what the call is and this is an area where the delays to respond come in. Remember Samuel misunderstood at one point in time, he mistook God's voice for Eli's.
ACP Question No. 8: Pastor, can one overcome this problem of misunderstanding God's call or could it just lead one astray?
P.C.Akubueze: Assuredly yes. One can overcome it. Like I have just mentioned above, Samuel misunderstood at one point in time, he mistook God's voice for Eli's. But somebody helped him out. He retraced his steps and got it right and moved on with God. So whenever we feel we are not in the right direction with God, all we need is a redirection and carry on with God. On the other hand, it could lead one astray for where there's no vision, the people perish ( Proverbs 29v18), for lack of guidance a nation falls (Proverbs 11v14) and plans fail as well for lack of insights (Proverbs 15v22).
ACP Question No. 9: What about the Fear factor, how can that delay us ?
P.C.Akubueze: Fear is yet another factor that stops people if not retards them concerning the Lord's calling. There's the fear of criticism, what others might say about their calling. There's the fear of limitations and weaknesses when people evaluate themselves from the world's point of view which has nothing to do with divine calling. There's the fear of persecution when in the ministry and certainly all these don't help one to yield to what one believes is the call of God upon his/her life.
To this I would say most men that God ever used in the Bible had an issue to be critical of, to be afraid of and an issue that externally did not qualify them into the service or so. In the world's view of things, most of them were failures. Who would have thought of Moses, a murderer (Exodus 2v12), to be used by God ? Who would have thought of Jacob to be used by God? One who was a liar and who had a dirty family background of liars reaching mother, wife, and children (Genesis Ch 27, Genesis 31v34-35; Ch 37 ); with issues of incest (Genesis Ch 38), of rape (Genesis 34v1-2 ) to name but a few. Who would have thought of Gideon to be used by God? One whose family was the weakest in the clan and who, in particular, was the smallest in the family (Judges 6v15-16)? Who would have thought of Jephthah who was a son of a prostitute to be used by God (Judges 11v1-2 ) ? Who would have thought of Samson who was a real mess to be used by God ( Judges Ch 13-16)? What of David? Peter? Even apostle Paul?
All of these men had issues but God didn't look upon their issues and He doesn't look upon the strengths or weaknesses of men before using them. For it's not by human might nor power but by the Spirit of the living God ( Zechariah 4:6). People should not be afraid of what others might say about their weaknesses, limitations etc. Rather, they should be occupied on the mightiness of God and focus on the strength that God can provide.
ACP Question No. 10: Well said. What of the Doubt factor, how can it stop someone from yielding to God?
P.C.Akubueze: With doubt as a hindrance factor, it causes people not to answer the call of God upon their lives. And sometimes, it's hard to deal with because it's so subjective, personal and on the mind rather than on the physical. Sure there will always be doubts when we look on the external factors to qualify us to the spiritual things of God. And in some cases, it seems inevitable that people doubt God as they look to their personal limitations in respect to divine tasks given them. Because there would always be what externally conflicts what God is calling you into. God never counts or relies on human qualities while calling you, beloved.
Moses at first was doubting his abilities to do that which God called him. He questioned his low self esteem to go stand before Pharaoh (Exodus 3v11). He doubted if the people would even believe him ( Exodus4v1). He complained of his lack of eloquence ( Exodus 4v10) then finally rejecting the calling (Exodus 4v13) asking God to send someone else. But God helped him through and out of it. It's okay to doubt one's abilities but it's never okay to doubts God's. I would doubt my doubts than doubt His might.
ACP Question No. 11. And what of the next point you mentioned, the unwillingness to obey the calling?
P.C.Akubueze: Yeah, the unwillingness to obey the calling is a form of disobedience. This is so simple and true that some people are never into the calling of God because they are not willing to obey the calling. Period. They know it but don't want it. I don't know why, but I heard somebody say to God "NO" knowing something about what God intended to do in his life. He did not want it. I would like to add to that what the word says: it says many are the plans of a man's heart but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19v21). I don't mean that God forces His will upon anyone, for He doesn't. Rather I want to say that beside the prevailing will of God, the man has his own plans, many even. But it says again that there's a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death (Proverbs 14v12). What a deception? Why disobey if a man's life is not his own? Why disobey if it is not for a man to direct his step (Jeremiah 10v23). Why not be willing to follow?
ACP Question No. 12. There's a point you mentioned about discouragement, tell us about that?
P.C.Akubueze: Ha ha ha! Discouragement is one reason for refusal to accept divine calling. And a lot of things could be behind this factor. Some might like the call but are discouraged because of their age. They see themselves as being too young to serve. A good example is Jeremiah the prophet. You remember he complained of being too young for the calling of God upon his life (1v6).
But others too may see themselves as being too old to serve God. Look at Abraham, what did he say to God? He laughingly asked God "will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at ninety years old?" and pleaded with God for Ishmael (Genesis 17vs17-18). You can see clearly that age factor was a hindrance to Abraham, despite his divine revelations. Let me continue!
Some may be discouraged because of their past disappointments they have been through in life and would want to avoid similar stuffs. Some might be because the dream or vision in particular is too old, that means it's been a long time the Lord spoke to them. Some might be because of their physical, social responsibilities.
Let me make some further comments on these respectively by deducing some points about discouragement from Moses' life and his flight to Midian (Exodus 2v11-25).
First, Past disappointments could discourage someone. Moses literally tried it out but it failed with painful consequences. Moses was discouraged when he was met by God because of his past failures to help the people he thought he was sent to help. He killed the Egyptian to help his fellow Hebrew but it resulted in his seeking refuge out of his dream land. But when God later came several years after to pursue the same goal that Moses failed to do, he probably had a sense of discouragement owing to the way he behaved and dragged on with God.
The phrase that "I did that before but it didn't work for me" was still on his mind. This is very disturbing when we know what we did was from the heart, done with full confidence and sincerity, but it failed us and we had to pay a high cost for it. For any wise man, avoiding similar experience would be a best option. But when we are for God and with God, there's nothing to be discouraged about even if we have failed before, God is able to make things anew again. He is a God of new beginnings. The God of second chances.
Second, old dreams could discourage someone. To Moses, go saving the Hebrews was an old dream, a deja vu. He tried it few decades earlier with good intensions. It wasn't still inspiring to him. There was not again the desire nor enthusiasm for that pursuit. The same happens today when God speaks to our lives and for a long time nothing practically happens, we become discouraged, not believing in it any more and without any desire or joy to keep pursuing the same dream we've known and have loved before.
It's also worth knowing that the call of God is without repentance (Romans 11v 29). Please, I don't wanna scare anyone here. For this verse has many implications. But basically, it implies that when God speaks to you, time does not devalue the importance of His word to you. He wouldn't and cannot, because of time factor, revoke what He has spoken. His gifts and calling are irrevocable. And, I think, that's one reason which makes Him God. You can say faithful too. He is faithful to His word.
Third, old age could discourage someone not to accept the call of God. Moses was advanced in age, that alone could discourage him, to follow the dream for the young or the dream of his youth. It is true that desire changes with age. We may see ourselves not wanting to do something we did a decade ago. That's part of human nature as strength and desires may not remain the same for all ages. However, time begins and ends with God. But God has no beginning nor ending. Time is immaterial with the things of God. A day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day to God (2 Peter 3v8). His vision doesn't change over time. His dreams for you are forever eternal, from generation to generation (Psalm 33v11). He is a God who never changes (Malachi 3v6) He's always the same (Hebrews 13v8) and He does not lie but speaks and fulfils it (Numbers 23v19-21). So when He gives you a dream, it could always come to pass irrespective of time factor.
Fourth, physical and social responsibilities could discourage someone. Moses had become a man with many responsibilities which could have discouraged him to obey God. He wasn't any more a bachelor but a married man with children. The demand for more resources for the family's needs, survival and future were infront of him. Surely, it wasn't a time for risk taking, you see. The same is true for us today, A family man would want to care for the family first, thinking of how to meet their daily needs etc. A family man thinks about the family before taking risk since any mistake could affect all in the family. This alone could limit some people from giving God the yes they could have given when alone with less responsibilities.
To this I would add that when God calls someone, He has a bigger picture of that person other than just the immediate family. Yes, God needs the unborn babies to come to know him. God has all the would be family members in mind before giving one a calling. To Abraham, God said He longed for Abraham to raise up godly children in his household to keep the ways of God in order that the promises to Abraham might come to pass. In other words, God was communicating to him about the future with the children all on His mind (Genesis 18v19). There wasn't any need for him to refuse God's promises because he wanted to care for the family. With the vision of God in focus, we can be good fathers and husbands and relatives. Let that not discourage you.
ACP Question No. 13. That's inspiring to hear. Now, how can the lack of finance help retard someone responding to a divine calling? Does that mean a fall in church offerings?
P.C.Akubueze: No no, not at all. If you talk about offerings at church the person might have already been in ministry, or heard from God. That's not the case. The Lack of finance simply means that some people refuse to go further because they don't have the financial support or resource to set out in to the ministry. They don't have the money to start what they believe is of God in their lives. To this, I would say that wherever and whenever God gives a vision, He makes provisions for it. I don't think that God ever thinks of our bank account before He gives us an assignment to do. But He always provides the means to meet the needs for those He had called into the ministry.
ACP Question No. 14. What about disobedience, how's that related to delays in responding to divine calling?
P.C.Akubueze: Em... may I call this sin! All sin is disobedience. But some people know God is calling them but there are still living in their former sinful ways and sin could never allow you to move forward, talkless of yielding to God. Of course, God calls people from sinful backgrounds but it's to leave it behind and follow Him, not to stay within and grow with it. No, it's a come out process that one must do to follow divine calling. Abraham was called to leave his father's house and culture. That's a change of mindset and ways of doing things to something new which only God would show him. And until he did, there weren't any revelations and promises of God unto him (Genesis 12v1-4). Thank God he did, an example to emulate.
ACP Question No. 15. I see you talk of the Guilt of past life, tell us about that too?
P.C.Akubueze: You see, some people are not into the ministry yet but have a call of God upon their lives because of the guilts of their past sinful lives. Something they did horrible kind of still hunts them even with the hand of God upon them. I must say this is satanic. This is one way that Satan keeps one bound, minister or not. When we carry our guilt daily having confessed it and are forgiven, it is no more of God as sin is of God. When we confess, the word says that God forgives. And what God forgives He puts behind Him (I John 1v9). The bible calls us new creature (2 Corinthians 5v17), that all things are made new and the old things are passed away, which includes the guilts and whatever is of the past. Then if the word says it's passed away, whatever brings it into my mind now is not of God. It should come from the enemy, don't you see that? People that have these guilts in them can never answer yes to God with hearts falsely condemning them.
ACP Question No. 16. There is what you called the lack of leap of faith to discover. What did you mean by "the leap of faith to discover"? And how can that retards divine calling?
P.C.Akubueze: The lack of leap of faith to discover basically means that there is no step taken by the recipient of divine calling to discover what he doesn't understand. Sometimes, in wanting to know more of God, we have to discover it by the steps of faith we take. And remember that faith is believing what is known yet unseen. If we believed we have a call of God, we can take certain steps to know more about that calling. Philippians says of Paul as pressing on toward that goal which Christ took hold of him (3v12). He was pressing on to know more about the call of God upon his life. When Elisha was called, he had to leave behind his former job to follow Elijah in order to discover more about the will of God upon his life (I Kings 19v21). Abraham had to take the step of faith as he left his father's land for that promised by God (Genesis 12v4). The apostles left their former ways of life to follow Jesus and they followed Him to discover more about the Lord's will about their lives. Their step of faith was inevitable if they were to fulfil their callings. We need to let go of our past and things that hold us behind and press on to discover what that call of God is all about. You need to take a leap of faith.
ACP: Question No. 17. Pastor, Can you elaborate upon the last point you mentioned "willingly ignorantly misguided. Is that it?
P.C. Akubueze: Yes, exactly so And that's doing the wrong thing for God with a willing heart but an ignorant mind. Again, lets' take Samuel as an example. Did Samuel hear a voice? Yes he did. Was the voice that of God? Yes it was. Was he willing to follow that voice? Yes, he was. Did he actually set out for that voice? Of course, he actually dislocated himself believing he was headed for a right destination. But what happened later? He ended up in the wrong destination--Eli. We see that he was willingly, but ignorantly being misguided.
This happens in ministry today. One can have a call and is willing to follow the call, even sets out to fulfilling the call but ends up in the wrong destination. Correct departure but wrong destination.
Some people start off in the ministry with God but end up out of God's will and plans for them. Some start with God but missed the mark along the way. Some believe that God is saying something to them but what they actually do is of human will not God's at all even if that involves services in ministry. It's not a surprise to hear that one lived out his life serving but never got into what God had for him in the first place. Isn't that sad?
ACP: Question No. 18. Shouldn't we call that disobedience?
P.C. Akubueze: No, that could be over-stated. I don't call that disobedience because they are willing. Yes the willingness is there but they are also ignorant of the purpose and plans of God. And are also ignorant of the fact that they are misguided. In other words, thay are sincerely ignorant and ignorant of the fact that they are ignorant. In any such case, the word says a people perish for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4v6). That to me is being misguided rather than disobedience.
ACP: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. We do appreciate your love and concern for Christian ministers to succeed in their callings as they hear the call of God on their lives and yield to that voice without let or hindrance. Man of God, we would be looking forward to hearing you again. Thanks.
P.C.Akubueze: Thank you too, It's been a pleasure talking to you all.
For more on Divine calling, see vol. 2
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