by Norm Miller
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMNews)—In Truett-McConnell College’s first chapel sermon of the spring 2014 semester, President Emir Caner reminded students that chapel meetings are for the salvation of students who don’t know Christ, and for the subsequent purpose of helping Christian students discover “that which is vital to your life” – the calling of God.
That topic, Caner said “has been wrenching my heart … and that is how do you find God’s calling upon your life.”
Noting that God’s calling on his life is “a very personal subject for me,” Caner said he was “ripped from the dark world of Islam” into the Christian faith by a church that not only shared the gospel with him, but whose members and leaders “nurtured me, discipled me, cared for me, and they cared for my calling.”
Caner recalled sitting in church when “God knocked on my heart and said, ‘I want you to proclaim the unsearchable riches of my grace.’”
That calling he “scoffed at” for six months, Caner said, but finally surrendered his life in obedience to God.
Others scoff at God’s calling from a sense of inadequacy to serve God, Caner noted, because some people may have a sketchy history or bad grades, or may yield to some other perceived detriment. However, Caner assured the students that answering God’s call and serving him “is not based on your past, but is based on his presence. It’s not based on your power, but is based on his goodness.”
Some Christians settle for simply knowing Jesus as Savior, but knowing him as Lord brings an abundant life; and to have that, one must “surrender all that you have to him,” Caner said.
Caner then read his sermon text, Mark 10.35:
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to Him, “We are able.” So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized;but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Citing the Anabaptists as a group of believers who discovered and obeyed God’s calling, Caner also noted they were the founders of the modern missionary movement, not William Carey.
Desiring to mimic the missions model of the New Testament, about 60 Anabaptists gathered in Augsburg, Germany, in the fall of 1527. They held three subsequent meetings, wherein they divided Europe and assigned territories for evangelism because “their hearts broke for the lostness of their continent,” Caner said.
“This was not a meeting of ministers,” said Caner, noting the “rag-tag group” came from various vocations.
Within four days of the Anabaptists’ decision to evangelize Europe, edicts from local authorities demanded the evangelistic missionaries be captured, imprisoned and tortured, Caner related.
Within a few months, Protestants and Catholics alike hired 400 armed horsemen “to snuff out these people” by burning them at the stake, or by beheading or drowning, he added.
“Within 5 years, 95 percent of them are martyred,” Caner said.
Like those Anabaptists, whose vocations did not hinder their gospel witness, Truett-McConnell students – regardless of degree program and subsequent careers – “are all called to share the Lord Jesus Christ,” Caner said. “God calls you into all sorts of professions, but God also calls you to share his name.”
“What’s stopping you from finding his call?” asked Caner, who answered with a tripartite list. Noting verses 35–37 of the text, Caner said James and John made the most selfish statement: “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”
What hinders the discovery of God’s calling? “The barrier is selfishness,” Caner continued. “The answer is -- you must have selfless dreams.”
In addition to having selfless dreams, Caner said discovering God’s calling requires “a sacrificial journey. A Christianity that is comfortable is not Christianity at all.”
Christians are “not called to a comfort zone [but to] a costly ministry,” he said. “That’s why Jesus asked, ‘Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’”
Jesus was alluding to his coming crucifixion: “the cup of death and suffering. Are you ready for that cup?” is what Jesus was asking, Caner noted.
The two who asked the selfish favor of Christ formed the bookends of martyrdom and persecution, with James as the first disciple to be martyred, and John, who was persecuted in exile on Patmos – both, “sacrificial journeys.”
Caner challenged students pursuing a B.S.N. degree, saying they may dream of a well-paying job in a state-of-the-art hospital, alongside prestigious medical professionals. But God may “call you to a very poor county, to a very hurting world,” where people will die without God “unless you go.”
To students pursuing a degree in Education, and whose dream is to teach in a modern school in American suburbia, Caner said God might call them to a country closed to the gospel. “The salary will not be comparable, but the rewards will be immeasurable,” he said.
“It is a sacrificial journey that strips you of yourself and brings you to a place of joy that you could never fathom,” Caner said.
Quoting an Anabaptist martyr, Caner said, “Christians do not wish to suffer with Christ. They are only willing to say that he suffered for them.”
“Your calling will be sacrificial; it will not be comfortable,” he said. “But I promise you, the joy you receive will be far greater than anything you ever lose.”
Finishing the list of three requisites to finding God’s calling, Caner said it requires “surrendered desires,” as seen in verses 42-44, where greatness for God demands humble service among people.
“The issue is humility,” Caner said. “The higher God wants to build your building, the deeper he must dig your foundation.”
“To be very honest with you, I could never have fathomed being where I am today,” Caner said. “I don’t deserve it. I don’t feel qualified. And that’s exactly where the grace of God comes in.”
“The key to finding your calling is your posture. You’ve got to dream selfless dreams, live a sacrificial journey, and have surrendered desires,” Caner said.
“Do not assume that where you are talented you are called,” he added. “Assume that where God calls you he will also talent you…. He knows our frail humanity, and he secures us with his faith.”
Caner said some students came into chapel the same way James and John approached Jesus in the sermon text, wanting to dream their own dreams. But remarkably, by the end of their lives, James and John “were willing to drink the cup of suffering and death.”
In closing remarks, Caner asked students if they would be willing to do the same while fulfilling God’s calling upon their lives.