In this exclusive extract from his new book Here I Am, Andy Hawthorne unpacks how we can wake up to God’s call on our lives
‘In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple’ Isaiah 6:1
We don’t know if this was a dream Isaiah had while lying in bed or a vision that came to him as he stood in the temple. But either way, I have to imagine that it came as a shock to Isaiah. There he was, having pleasant dreams or a nice day praying in the temple, and boom, God is there, throne and all, with a robe like a billowing cloud filling more and more of the space.
So it is with us. Before we came to Christ, we probably operated more or less blissfully with almost no communication with – or even awareness of – God. We went our separate ways. But then we became aware of him somehow, and this eventually led to us believing in our hearts and confessing with our mouths that he is Lord (Romans 10:9). First, we were unaware of his proximity to us, and then we became very aware of it, as happened with Isaiah.
But this is also the sequence when we, as Christians already, begin to sense that God might be calling us to something else, to some higher or deeper work, in his service. We’d been going along happily, doing what we do, even serving the Lord to the best of our ability. And then something enters our thoughts or our awareness, and we start to see him filling the temple again and coming near in a special way for a special reason.
the problem isn’t that he’s not calling but that we’re not yet following
It often occurs to us as a feeling of growing discontent. Not that we’re tiring of walking on the narrow way. It’s not greed or unhappiness but a sort of holy discontentment. The sense that God is up to something and it might possibly involve us, but when, oh when, will he reveal it to us? It’s a feeling you can’t shake that tells you something is wrong with the world that someone should do something about, and that maybe that someone should be you. You sense (or hope) that God has some new work that is yours to do, but you can’t quite reach it yet. God is really calling you. There is a deeper work he’s beckoning you into.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the problem isn’t that he’s not calling but that we’re not yet following.
Getting our ears checked
I’m confident that God is calling you to a deeper work. I’m also certain that there’s a part of you that wants to do whatever he asks and whatever must be done to hear his call.
The Lord, throne and all, is filling the temple of your heart. You’ve had your awakening and you’ve sensed that God has come near. Here are some ideas for making sure you can see and hear him fully.
What has God called you to do? God invests every one of his children into his work
First, deal with any known sin in your life. Sin will keep us separated from the voice of God and will cause our ‘sacrifices’ to become meaningless while it stands between ourselves and the Lord. Sin causes us to be cut off from the power of the vine. So ask his forgiveness! Why wait?
He is always pleased to give it to all who ask. Then we will see his robe filling the temple like a cloud.
Second, stay alert. The people of God should, as John Stott once said, have one eye on the Word and one eye on the world. We should come to the morning news headlines saying, ‘Lord, help me understand what’s going on from your perspective.’ If we do this, maybe God will build a greater expectancy in our hearts.
many people long for a larger work that only God’s enabling will allow them to do
What a good thing it would be for the people of God if we thought, ‘Wow, Jesus may just return very soon.’ I think it would change everything. It would affect the fact that we play games with sin. It would affect the way we spend our money. Maybe it would even affect our evangelism – if we thought that we’d soon be with Jesus for all eternity and we had a part to play in getting other people there. It’s a bit of a wake-up call for us, isn’t it? So as you listen for the voice of God, do so with an eye on Christ’s second coming, which – you never know – might happen a lot sooner than some people think (1 Thessalonians 5:2).
Third, identify what it is that made you start suspecting that God might be calling you to a new work or a new level of partnership with him. Isaiah was going along fine as a preacher before he had this encounter with God. His first inkling that God was about to change his direction was the vision and his sudden awareness that God was coming near.
What was your awakening to this change? Was it, indeed, a holy discontent with your current situation? Was it a trauma or crisis in your life or in the life of someone you love? Was it a setback or disappointment that showed you that your expectations were not in line with reality? Was it a word from God himself? Identify this, because it will become part of your story when you tell people what caused you to make the big change I suspect you could be about to make.
Fourth, take inventory of how the Lord has made and gifted you. There is a chance God might call you into an area in which you have virtually no natural or spiritual ability, if only to cause you to rely exclusively upon his enabling. But it’s perhaps more likely that he will call you into work that makes use of your spiritual gifts, your personal passions, and your training and skills. He made you on purpose, after all. So make some lists.
It’s not our job to winnow out the good works God has prepared beforehand for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). That’s God’s department. But it doesn’t hurt to turn your mind to these characteristics of your life, because God often calls us to do further work in areas where he’s already had us honing our skills. Maybe, with your eyes scanning about in this way, you’ll more rapidly detect the manner in which he may be calling you.
What has God called you to do? God invites every one of his children into his work. Did you know that? You don’t have to be a seminary-trained Bible scholar to be the very hands of Jesus on this earth.
How rarely do most of us enter into such a posture of willingness to be sent wherever to do whatever
There are many ways to answer the question of what God has called you to do. You can say that he’s called you to love and serve him, and that’s absolutely true. You can say that he’s called you to use your spiritual gifts in the local church, and that’s true. You can say you must bloom where you’re planted and shine your light wherever you are, which is surely so. You can say you must simply look around yourself and see what needs doing, or what Jesus would do, or where God is already working, and then do what your conscience compels you to do, and that would be brilliant.
But many people long for a larger work, a calling that will demand everything of them and be much, much too big for them, that only God’s enabling will allow them to do. Is that you? Do you long to hear God saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ Are you electrified by the very prospect of volunteering – sight unseen – for whatever God might call you to do?
How rarely do most of us enter into such a posture of willingness to be sent wherever to do whatever! And when we are in that posture, how we yearn for God to instantly hand over to us our orders, our itinerary, and our plane tickets.
Isaiah had a dramatic awakening to the nearness of God. It’s as if the veil grew thin and God’s form could be seen pressing against it and his voice could be heard. It was a moment when the holiest of holies in the temple suddenly enveloped Isaiah, and he was in God’s own fiery presence.
What is your level of awareness of God’s nearness right now? Do you sense his closeness more than usual? Less than usual? About the same? Stop your activity, stop your thoughts, and dwell before the Lord. Ask him to come near. Ask for eyes to see and ears to hear and a heart wide open to his will. Plead for your own awakening.
And just wait. Simply dwell in that stillness. Discipline your thoughts to be silent. Ignore the distractions. Sit. Wait. Abide.
Taken from Here I Am by Andy Hawthorne, published by David C Cook. All Rights Reserved.
ISBN 9780830776535. RRP: £9.99.