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"Who Am I?" Bob Vibe, CLP

June 4, 2023 Speaker: Elder Bob Vibe

Passage: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31,


Who Am I?

June 4, 2023

Elder Bob Vibe

     It is a privilege to share from God’s Word a message that I believe will help each of us understand God’s call in our lives.  I would like to begin by examining God’s calling on His people, people like you and me. Then, I will share how God confirms that calling in our lives with assurances.  Finally, I will conclude by examining our response to God’s calling.  I will begin by referring to the Old Testament reading in Exodus, chapter 3 where Moses is called by God and his response to that call.  As was read earlier in the Old Testament reading, Moses first sees from a distance, then goes over to examine a strange bush that was burning by flames, but not consumed. 

     God calls Moses by name, then asks Moses to remove his sandals because the ground he is standing on is Holy.  God then tells Moses that God has seen the misery of His people in Egypt and is coming down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey.  Then, God tells Moses, “So now go.  I am sending YOU to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.  Moses responds by saying, “Who am I?”

     Let’s take a moment to examine the call of Moses or the assignment God was giving him.  The call of Moses was to bring a million or so people out of Egypt where they were slaves to the Egyptians.  For 400 years, the nation of Israel had been slaves in Egypt, and they had no representation in the government, no leadership, no weapons, and no hope of deliverance from their centuries of bondage.  This was not a call that anyone would believe was possible to accomplish in their own strength or power.  After all, Moses was just a man and God was asking him to do something that was beyond his understanding and ability.  Why would God call him to do something far beyond his skill level or training…Something that was impossible?  If you look at the pattern in Scripture, God rarely asks His servants to do something they can do on their own.

     When we look at the qualifications of Moses to see why God would call him to something so extraordinary, we know that he had lived in Egypt, but under the care of Pharaoh’s daughter for most of his life.  Therefore, he did not experience firsthand the oppression by the Egyptians but saw the agony of his people from a distance.  We also know that he felt compassion for his fellow Israelites because when one of them was being beaten by an Egyptian, Moses intervened and killed the Egyptian.  However, when confronted with this murder, Moses fled Egypt.  So, God probably didn’t choose Moses to deliver His people because Moses was brave or a seasoned warrior.  After committing murder, Moses fled to Midian where he married and became a shepherd over the flocks of his father-in-law Jethro.  The truth is that Moses was a man of little or no reputation: a fugitive, and an alien in the foreign land of Midian.  Even though Moses had met and talked to God, his response to God’s call in his life was, “Who am I?”

     God understood Moses’ lack of faith and disbelief, and reassured Moses in verse 12 by saying, “I will be with you.  And this will be a sign to you that it is I who has sent you:  When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”  The first sign of assurance that God gave Moses was that God would be with him.  Moses would not be alone in what God was calling him to do.  Moses still couldn’t be sure that God’s presence was enough, so Moses responded in verse 13 by saying, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, the God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God responded in verse 14 by saying, “I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “’I AM has sent me to you.’”

     God then gives Moses further instructions to go to the Elders of the people and tell them that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has appeared to you and sent you to bring them out of their misery into a land flowing with milk and honey.  God assures Moses that the Elders will listen to him and that he is to take the Elders to Pharaoh to ask for permission to take a 3-day journey so the nation of Israel can offer sacrifices to the Lord.  God also instructs Moses that Pharaoh will not allow them to go until he is compelled by a strong hand.  So, God will strike out his hand against the Egyptians with wonders and signs that God will perform among them.  After that, Pharaoh would let them go.  Not only would the Egyptians let them go, but God added that He would make them favorably disposed toward Israel to the point that “you will plunder the Egyptians.”

     You might think that these additional assurances from God would be enough for Moses.  God revealed himself to Moses, called him to deliver His people, and said that He would be with Moses, and perform mighty wonders among the Egyptians so that Pharaoh would let the people go.  But Moses was still not convinced, and he had his doubts.  Moses said in chapter 4, verse 1, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’”  It is obvious Moses is still suffering from the lack of confidence or faith he lacked when he first said to God, “Who Am I?”  At this point in verses 2-9, God gives Moses three miraculous signs to demonstrate that God was with him: The first sign was that his staff would turn into a snake.  The second sign was that when Moses put his hand inside his cloak, it would become leprous and turn white as snow; then, when he placed his hand back inside his cloak, his hand would be restored.  The third sign would be that water Moses took from the Nile would turn to blood when he poured it onto the ground.

     After this exchange with God, one might expect Moses to be a little more confident about the calling God had given him.  However, beginning in verse 10 he said to the Lord, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant.  I am slow of speech and tongue.”  In response to this, God reminds Moses that it is God who gave man his mouth and that God will help Moses to speak and will personally teach Moses what to say.  God is giving Moses His personal assurance that his lack of speaking ability will not be a problem because God will give Moses the ability to speak and the words to speak.  At this, Moses is in panic mode and says, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”  Even after God had given Moses many assurances of the call to deliver God’s people, Moses still believed that he was not able or worthy to fulfill that call. 

     Four thousand years later, our response to the call of God in our own lives hasn’t changed much.  I remember nearly 40 years ago when I was made more aware of God’s call to all believers to be actively engaged in ministry.  I had been a Christian since high school, gone to church, listened to sermons, but believed that the pastor or paid staff members were the ministers that God had chosen to minister to the needs of others.  Then, after being dissatisfied with living a carnal life, I began to seek God through prayer and reading the Bible to find out more about God and His plan for my life.  Reading His Word began to change me and build faith in my heart.  As revealed in Scripture, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.  The more I read, the more I sowed God’s Word into my heart.  What I reaped from this sowing was a harvest of fruit.  Soon, I began to share what I was learning with others, and then I began to pray for people with various needs and concerns.  I began to understand that the call for ministry was for all believers, as we are the Body of Christ on this earth, and God has chosen to use us as His vessels of grace.

     I thought to myself, “Who am I” that God would choose a simple grocer to be a minister to people in need and later train others to do the same.  I initially thought that being in ministry must mean that I have to go to seminary or Bible School, but God made it clear that I was to continue in my chosen vocation as a grocer while ministering to the needs of people that God brought to me.  The place where I was, the place where I spent my time, the place where I met so many people every day, was to be the place of ministry that God was calling me to.  Over the next several months, and then years, God confirmed the call of that ministry through the people he brought.

     That is the same pattern for ministry for most believers.  God brings us neighbors, co-workers, relatives, friends, associates, and even strangers that need a touch from God from the difficulties experienced in everyday life.  Some are non-believers, some are Christians.  There are needs that God wants to meet all around us, but we need eyes to see, and ears to hear what God is doing.  Over the years, I have learned to ask the Holy Spirit what He wants to accomplish when I am called on for ministry.

     Just as God did with Moses, God continued to give me assurances that He was with me and that He would enable me to do what He called me to do.  But just like Moses, I often felt inadequate for what He was asking me to do.  So many times, I simply said, “No, send someone else” just like Moses.  As those assurances grew and the fruit of what God was asking me to do grew, I became more confident to minister to the needs of others.  Part of that calling is sharing with Christians that we are all called to the ministry and to pray for one another.  That is the real purpose of my message today, to confirm the call of God on the lives of all believers and to share how that calling is played out in ordinary life.

     First, we have to understand from Scripture that God called us into relationship with Himself.  He initiated contact by sending His Son Jesus Christ, in the form of a man, to be our sacrifice for sin and to reveal the Father to us so that we might become children of God.  Ephesians 1:4-5 states, “For he chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will…”  Paul goes on to say in Chapter 2:19-20 that because of our relationship with Christ, “we are no long foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.”  Throughout Scripture, this same theme continues: that in Christ, we are Children of God and the Body of Christ in this world.

     Second, we have to understand that our calling is not based our any qualifications that we might have in this life, but by God’s grace.  Ephesians 2:8-9 states, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Like Moses, Christians are ordinary people that God has called into relationship, to reveal His glory to people in need.  Like Moses, most of us have doubts as to why God has called us.  You have probably said the same words of Moses, “Who am I” that God would call me to minister to His people?  God seldom calls the superstars of the world to fulfill his purposes.  Instead, he uses ordinary people like Peter, John, James, and the other disciples and they were able to change the world. 

     Hear the words of the Apostle Paul as he speaks directly to us concerning our calling by God in I Corinthians 1:26-31: “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called.  Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are so that no one may boast before Him.”

     Do some of you feel that you lack wisdom by human standards?  Do some of you believe that you are not influential or born of noble families, or families with money?  Do some of you believe you may be even a little foolish?  I am sure that some of you feel that you are weak, or lowly, and even despised.  The truth is, “All we like sheep have gone astray.”  We are all in need of a shepherd and savior to save us from our sins.  Yet, when God reached out and saved us, he placed his Spirit in us and called us to share with others what God has done for us.  The Apostle Peter stated clearly what we are to do as chosen people of God in I Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

     A third thing we need to understand is to what God is calling us.  As revealed by Peter, part of our calling is to declare to people our testimony of how God saved us, how he delivered us from death into life, from darkness into light.  Even if we know very little about the Scriptures, and what it reveals about Jesus Christ, we all have a testimony or story of how God saved us and how he is working in our lives, making us more like Him.

     Another aspect of our calling is revealed by Jesus who talked about our calling in John, chapter 15.  In verses 16-17 he said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.  Then, the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  This is my commandment:  Love each other.”  Part of God’s calling in our lives is to bear fruit, not just any fruit, but fruit that will last.  Many of us spend a lot of time and energy doing things that we believe are fruitful.  One of the problems that I have faced as I became a Commissioned Lay Pastor is the time I spend producing lasting fruit as opposed to fruit making a living or doing something else.  Over the years, I have become more fruitful when I allow God to use me to do the things He is asking me to do.  As a result, God makes time for me to do the other important things as well.

     Next, we need to understand how God enables us to fulfill His calling in our lives to produce lasting fruit.  A key to producing the right kind of fruit is revealed by Jesus in John, chapter 16, verses 4-8.  He said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you.  This is to my Father’s glory, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” 

     The key to bearing lasting fruit is to be in Jesus, abiding in Him and His Word.  Many of us as individuals, and even churches, try to bear fruit on our own.  We see a need or do something on our own initiative, and we wonder why it doesn’t bear any fruit.  To bear fruit, we do not ask God to join us in what we are doing.  Instead, we must join the Father in what He is doing.  Then, our lives will produce fruit that will last, and we will be fulfilling our calling. 

     Let me give you a practical example.  For the first few years of praying for the sick, I would go and pray for anyone who was sick because Jesus told His disciples to pray for the sick.  On one occasion, Kaye and I were asked by our church to visit and pray for a woman who was dying from cancer.  When we got to the hospital, we introduced ourselves and said we were there to pray for her.  She thanked us, and I was ready to pray!  I was in the process of asking God to join me in what I thought He wanted to do, when He spoke to Kaye.  She told me to wait, while she continued to dialogue with this young woman.  As she dialogued it was revealed that this woman had been abandoned by her husband for another woman who had been a friend of both.  As a result of this, there had been a separation and divorce . This woman became bitter and was unable to forgive her husband or this woman for hurting her in this way.  Further questioning revealed that the cancer in her body started shortly after the divorce.  God was now revealing what He wanted us to do: To pray for her to forgive her husband and this woman so she could be set free from the bondage of unforgiveness which is like a cancer in our bodies.  After sharing Scriptures with her, she was able to forgive them both.  She was now at peace.   God healed her of a broken heart!  As we continued to pray, we asked God to heal her body as well, but we never knew the outcome of those prayers.

     I do know that once we allowed the Holy Spirit to reveal what God wanted us to do, and how we could join Him in the process, the result was fruitful.  Once I began learning to follow the Holy Spirit during prayer, fruit became  more plentiful.

     Just as there is fruit and victory in joining God in what He is doing, there is remorse and defeat when we answer God as Moses did, “Lord, please send someone else”, or simply “No.”  Most of the time, when we say “no” to God’s call or prompting to do something we don’t want to do, we don’t know the consequences of our negative response.  Another time, God did show me the consequences of disobedience in an example I will share with you now.  Several years ago, a church within our denomination asked a ministry team to come for a 3-day weekend of training.  The assistant pastor and I were able to go.  The church was beautiful and housed 300 or so in their congregation.  Next to the church, a parsonage was built for the pastor, his wife, and their two young children.  During our brief time driving from the airport to the church, it was apparent that this pastor was at the church on every occasion.  He even boasted that he personally opened and closed the doors every Sunday and during most church events.  This did not seem out of the ordinary then, but God revealed that information for a purpose later.

     Well into our training time, the two of us took a lunch break and were sitting in the living room of the parsonage getting a breather and I began to look at the pictures on the wall.  All of a sudden, tears began to stream down my face as I looked at a picture of the wife and children.  I was asked, “What was the matter” and I responded that God gave me a glimpse of the woman’s heart and that she felt lonely and isolated.  I also suggested that we should share with the couple what I was sensing, but I was asked to wait until he received confirmation. 

     On the outside, the family seemed to be happy with their church, their home, and their family, so the impression I was getting from the Holy Spirit seemed out of sync with what we saw.  That Sunday, during the early part of the service, I once again felt the Holy Spirit nudging me to address the loneliness issue with the pastor and his wife at the conclusion of our visit.  Once again, I was asked not to share my concern.  Finally, on the airplane trip back to California, I felt God prompting me one last time to send a letter to this young pastor and his wife what I believed God was sharing with me.  This time, I was asked to let the matter go.

     I should interject at this point that it is wisdom to share with the person you are ministering with what you believe God is doing and speaking while you are ministering.  Confirmation and agreement are important principles in ministry.  The two of us had shared with one another what we believed God was doing many times resulting in agreement!  This was the first instance in nearly 5 years of ministering together that I was asked to release what I believed God was asking me to do.

     Several months later, our assistant pastor, who was my companion on that trip, came to me and told me that he had just received word from the denomination that this young pastor’s wife had taken the children and left him, filed for divorce, and was not open to reconciliation.  Because of her actions, he resigned from the ministry and the church was seeking a new pastor.  Both of us received this news with great regret.  If we had been obedient to the Holy Spirit to join Him in what He wanted to do for this young pastor and his wife that weekend, the breakup of the family and resignation from the ministry may never have taken place.  For me, the lesson was to always be obedient to what I believe God is asking me to do, especially when He brings the assurance of that message a number of times.

     We shouldn’t let anyone, not even other Christians, try to talk us out of God’s calling, or the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish that calling.  For me, God made it very clear that any time anyone expressed a need in my presence - that was His invitation to bring Him into the conversation and for me to pray for that person right then.  Christians should be looking for opportunities to share our faith and to pray for people.  The needs and opportunities are all around.  Allow the Holy Spirit to show you the needs God is asking you to join Him in meeting.  The results will be fruit - lots of lasting fruit!

     As a result of this message, I hope that God has clarified to you something about His calling in the life of all believers.  Yes, if you are a believer, and part of the family of God, we are all chosen and called by God to testify what God is doing in our lives, and to minister to the needs of others.  Our mission field is where we live and where we spend our time.  In addition, just like with Moses, God has given you assurances of that calling, and signs of that calling through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  For those of us who have said “no” to opportunities of ministry as I have, God will forgive you, and continually bring new opportunities for ministry, for the need and harvest is great, and the laborers are few.  It is time to say “yes,” so that God can accomplish His purposes through us, His Body on this earth.  The stakes are high as you can see from my examples.  Let us all receive God’s call in our lives for in Romans 11:29, it states, “God’s gifts and His call is irrevocable.”  Amen!