by T. Austin-Sparks
The emphasis and note in my heart this morning, but I feel it to be a very important and vital one, has to do with this matter of being called according to purpose.
We have seen just a little, I think, in the earlier hours of this conference, that God was certainly moving according to purpose when He came and sovereignly called Gideon. And God is still moving according to purpose; no more in the days of Abraham, or Moses, or Gideon, or David, or Elijah, or any other, no more than the now. Until the purpose is reached and fully realised, God will still be moving according to purpose and will still be choosing according to purpose.
The purpose is comprehensive and quite clearly defined. Through one brief letter, the apostle Paul has given us comprehensively and definitely the purpose. We are not going to dwell upon the purpose this morning, but rather upon the calling according thereto. The purpose is the ultimate of all God's activities, the ultimate of the initial apprehending of lives and calling into fellowship with His Son in what we variously call "conversion" or "being saved", or "being born again". However we put it, it is the initial movement of God in bringing us into relationship with Himself in Jesus Christ, but the purpose is more than that. It is the ultimate of all the progressive preparation, training, and discipline of those who have been brought into that relationship with Himself. These are not things or ends in themselves. All this beginning and continuation of the Lord in line, is moving on according to purpose.
The great need, dear friends, where you and I and all the Lord's people are concerned, is to really become gripped and mastered by that fact. It is as though the Lord would come to us and say, "Now stand at My side and look on, look right on to the end, to the ultimate. Look with Me right over all time and all vicissitudes to the end and see with Me a universe, a people, with those who are just showing forth, manifesting forth My glory, My eternal glory." Called unto His eternal glory - that runs alongside "called according to purpose".
Called unto His Eternal Glory
Now the Lord says, "Do you see that? That is the ultimate, that is the purpose - the showing forth of My glory in a people."
He would perhaps say that, of course, there will be different degrees of glory: there will be one glory as of the sun, another glory as of the moon, another glory as of the stars. There will be differences in glory and of glory, those differences will depend entirely upon the people concerned. How much glory there will be in, and manifested through and by those people will depend entirely upon how much their hearts are set upon "My Glory" - how far their hearts are undivided hearts, pure hearts in this sense: that there is no alloy, no mixture, no two things which cannot be reconciled, that is purity of heart, and "Blessed are the pure in heart". He would say that. And then He would say to us, "You see, that's the end. You have got that vision? You see, the purpose? That you're called according to that purpose?"
Then He would say, "Now, for a moment look around, look around. Look upon the many who have not yet been brought into that initial relationship with the purpose and then look upon all those who are the Lord's, and what do you see? How much glory do you see? How much going on to glory?" Ah, how much that is very, very contrary to the glory of God. You see? "Now then," He would say, "although I have called you according to the ultimate purpose, I now call you to some situation which exists which is not in line with that ultimate purpose, in order that you may be used to bring it into line." That is purpose within the purpose.
"The God of Glory appeared unto our father Abraham, the God of Glory" - the initial step was to get a people; that step was taken with Abraham. But look at the seed of Abraham in Gideon's day: not at all in line with the great purpose revealed to and intended through Abraham. Look at this sad state, He called Abraham with the whole purpose in view, now He must call Gideon because of some "thing" that has interrupted the realisation of the full purpose, some "thing" that has arisen, some contingency, some digression, some declension on the part of the called. And so the Bible is just full of these, shall we call them "intermediate" callings, these "occasional" callings, these specific callings within "The Calling," this purpose which has become a necessity in the light of the whole final purpose. Do you see the position? I say the Bible is full of these particular callings. Moses is one, Joshua another, and so you go on with all these callings within the calling.
I think that we see the situation. Not one of you here this morning would say that the Lord's people as a whole are right in the main line and thoroughfare and direction and way of the eternal calling, of the glory. You would rather say, "Oh no, oh no, there is a very, very great deal that is not only short of the glory of God, but contrary to the glory of God." We were trying to stress that yesterday. When a people are, as the people were in Gideon's day, weak and defeated before their enemies, starved and poor, without food and wealth... when there is no cohesion and authority under which the people of God are moving like an army with banners, that is something contrary to and other than the purpose of God. And God's movement in sovereignty is to call, to deal with that. "Have not I sent thee? Thou shalt save Israel" - that's a specific calling made necessary because of a general declension. Well, I think probably you will agree to that, mostly, at any rate.
But I want to follow that with this: that Divine presence and Divine support and Divine resources are always bound up with Divine callings. If you are not in the specific thing that God wants done at any given time, you cannot count upon God's support. You cannot just generalise about this thing, generalise about it and just heap it all together as "this work of God", without discrimination. At different times, in different realms, God has to act specifically and distinctively so that within the all of the compass of His inclusive purpose, there are essential purposes because of situations which have arisen. And He calls in relation to those specific purposes, which are the present time purposes of God. And God supports, sponsors, commits Himself to that.
Dear friends, let's be very, very honest about this thing. There is a great deal of activity which is ostensibly for the Lord which does not have the Lord's support. And the result is that anything and everything has to be done to get support for that which is called "the work of God," and that compasses the whole range of what is called "organised Christianity". It's one great system of launching schemes and enterprises and doing everything that art and wit and cunning can do to get support for it. If God wants a thing done, and has sovereignly decided that thing, that thing shall be done according to purpose, and He can get hold of a people and bring that people right into line with that thing, then God will commit Himself to it and support it, and lift the onus of resource from the people and take it on His own shoulders. Yes, the presence of God, the support of God, the resources of God go with His calling.
He never - it is an old, old saying, He never sends us a warfarin' at our own charges. He never gives us a commission and then leaves us to find what is required for its carrying out. He stands in to all the liabilities. If these resources are withheld, something is wrong. The motive may not be wrong, the intention may not be wrong, the sincerity may be not lacking, but let it be understood that motive and idea and enthusiasm have never, never been substitutes for Divine purpose, specific purpose. David found that out, did he not, over the bringing of the ark on the Philistine cart. He made a very, very serious discovery by a very tragic happening. He found that the responsibility rested upon him, for what happened. No, the purpose of God must govern.
The Whole Purpose
The ultimate must always be in view and everything must be brought into line with that. It just must be brought into line with that. Everything has got to be considered and contemplated from the standpoint of how is that going to reach God's end in the manifestation of His glory? And then, what would God do now, or what is God wanting to do now? What is God doing now in relation to that? What is the present movement or what are the present movements of God to which God has committed Himself?
Don't you agree with me, dear friends, when I say that the deepest cry in our hearts is this: "Oh Lord, oh Lord, bring me into the thing that You are doing. Save me from the things that I am doing for You and want to do for You and that I think You want done. Bring me not into things that are kind of, a kind of abstract vision, but into what You are doing, what You are doing. That with which You are occupied now." That's the deepest cry of our heart and that's a cry which enters into His heart, that we should be found not doing a lot of Christian work or hunting round for a job in the work of God, oh, pathetic situation, and yet there are a lot doing that, a lot doing that: trying to find a job, a place, in the work of God. Going around all the time, trying, trying to just, to be taken on in the work of God. Isn't that terrible? Dear friends, I cannot tell you how badly I feel about that. My understanding with the Lord is this: "Lord, Lord, if You haven't got a positive and definite place for me in something that you are doing, I am going to give it all up, I am going out." It's a very utter thing, this. No one ought to be looking for a job in the realm of God's purpose. No, not at all.
Well now, there is a tremendous strength as well as a tremendous value in the consciousness of being bound up with a specific calling of God in relation to the full and ultimate calling. I say there's a tremendous value bound up with that. It's a perfectly wonderful thing to know, to realise that you are not just called to be a Christian in order to be saved from sin and its consequences now and hereafter and to get to heaven and all that sort of thing, but there is a great, definite, positive purpose in your being saved. And that purpose relates to now, in this life, that this life is to be characterised by something quite precise and quite definite in the ultimate purpose of God. There's a tremendous strength in that and a tremendous value in that.
But there's this extra factor, that while that is true, and must be, (perhaps I had better stop here for a moment or put in a parenthesis: let no one think that this implies that they are individual Gideons or Elijahs or any other of this company of the chosen. We are not going to label ourselves Gideons and this and that and something else. You see, you must realise that God's whole purpose embraces the Church. It is a Church purpose, it is not just individuals.) And in line with that full thought of God concerning the Church as the called, as the called, you and I are parts of a whole, parts of a whole: parts of something comprehensive and inclusive. We are not just individuals. And what I want to impress upon you and I want you to see is this: that it may be that you are called to be a part of an instrument which is collective and corporate which God is seeking to have for Himself to meet a need and that your definiteness of calling is a related one. It's not just an individual and separate one.
I know how that appeals to our romantic hearts. I know how, when a young man, I read about D. L. Moody and read those so well-known words about D.L. Moody and he said that he'd heard someone say that if God could get hold of a man, He would show what He would do with and through a man whose heart was wholly toward Himself. And D. L. Moody said, "I said, I'm going to be that man! I'm going to be that man." Well, that was all right for Moody and I suppose it's all true, but you know, there is an appeal of that to this man. "I'm, I'm going to be..." what? A D. L. Moody or something like that? "I'm going to be..." rather, the emphasis is upon the first three words, isn't it? "I'm going to be," or the first four words: "I'm going to be." See? That's the appeal.
No, no, the discipline of all that may come along the line of our having to be a part of something that God is doing, just a part! Just a part, but a part. And it is in that whole, in that whole, in a related way, that I have to have just as great a sense, listen: just as great a sense of being called as I would have if I were singled out as an individual. Have you got that? It's a tremendously important thought. You would have a tremendous sense of vocation if the angel of the Lord came to you as he came to Gideon and singled you out and mentioned you by name and said great things to you personally. You would say, "That is a calling indeed! I am called according to purpose." But we have got to have that in a related and corporate way, dear friends, just as strongly and really. God has made me a member of the Body which is the vessel of His eternal purpose. And as a member, not as the whole body, and not as separate from the rest, but as a member, my eternal vocation is found. It has got to be very real, very real. The ends of God may be reached through companies, through groups, just as much as through individuals. Well, having got that, let us go on.
We must be very careful that we bring every thing, every part, every aspect of the Lord's movement toward His ultimate full purpose, into line with the great end. The point of that, the importance of that, is this: that God has again and again raised up instruments, individual and collective, in relation to His ultimate purpose and by them done something in their day which was quite definite and distinctive and positive. But the thing has become bound up with them and they have become the beginning and the end of it. And when they have gone, well, there has been a carrying on of the work that they started, but that distinctive and specific thing has not gone on, it's something now that's being carried on; carried on. And the responsibility is lying upon men to carry it on. And then there is a reverting again to this other way of getting support to carry on this thing. Now my point is this: all succession, all continuation, has got to be as definitely by Divine call as initiation. Therefore succession is not official, it is by anointing, it's by anointing.
You see, the Church does not belong to any one time, any one age; it is an eternal thing. It is the eternally elect vessel of the full purpose of God, but the Church is the anointed vessel. You cannot carry on the Church with an organisation! You cannot carry on the Church by any human means at all! The Church is instituted at the beginning by the anointing and it's got to go on right to the end by the anointing, so that this continuation of Divine purpose requires fresh, and ever fresh, anointings where specific vessels and instrumentalities are concerned. You cannot get a conception of the Divine purpose and then say, now we'll have a committee and we'll have a board, and we'll have an organisation and we'll have this and that in order to do this thing that God wants done. You just can't do it. You can have them if you like, but you'll find that you have got to take responsibility for them, for everything. You see, every vessel has got to be God-chosen and God-anointed in relation to something that is eternal and not of time at all and not of this earth. And in our place, in our relationship to what God may be doing at any given time in our own time, we have got to come really under the anointing of the Holy Spirit for that, just as much as those who went before who were the chosen instruments of God to bring that instrumentality into being, just as much as they were anointed in their calling, we have got to be anointed, if that thing is to go on. Heaven has got to come in and carry it to the next stage. We cannot.
Nothing, dear friends, is an end in itself. Everything is related to the so-much-more of God's intention, God's purpose. Your salvation is no end in itself. Any dealings of God with you are not just, just for the time, they are not an end. Anything that God has raised up and brought into being must not become an end in itself, a crystallized, rounded-off piece of work with a hedge round it, and that's something inclusive and exclusive. Oh, everything has got to be in line with and open to the ultimate fullness of God's purpose; therefore, therefore we must be open to the Lord for something more and something fresh all the time. That went so far, but God intended more.
Have you not seen how many a thing started by God, definitely under His anointing, many an instrumentality serving Him, just wonderful, has just gone so far and stopped, and stopped and from that time it has gone no further, it's come under arrest and it belongs, really belongs, to the past although it's being kept going; it is living on a tradition, it is living on a past, it is living upon a name and a reputation of the last generation or generations ago. There is nothing right up to date in fullness. Why? Because it was not realised that that was only in line with something more, it was never intended to be something by itself. The ultimate full purpose encompassed that and swallowed it up. It was related. Now some of you will perhaps see the point of this more than others, but it is tremendously important that we recognise that any vision that we have must not stop short with the thing that we are in, it must not stop short with the present aspect of things. Any God-given vision which is for a specific time is only related to the ultimate and must give place to the ultimate, and the fuller must come in and swallow it up.
Oh, let us ask the Lord to save us from settling down into something less than He intends. There must always be with us this sense, this deep-down consciousness that we are called according to purpose not yet fully realised. There's a wonderful future with which we are related and this is not the end of everything. We must have that sense. Have you got it? Have you got what we have here before called this "sense of Divine destiny", this something, calling you on, pulling you on, not allowing you to accept anything less than all God means? That is vision in reality. Or does your vision just reside within the narrow limits of a piece of work that you are doing for God or trying to do for God? Is that your vision? It's not adequate, it's not adequate. No, "called according to purpose."
Now I must close, but I have read in conjunction with these chapters about Gideon, the later chapters of the prophecies of Zechariah. Of course you wonder how they can be brought together, but they are part and counterpart. Those later chapters of the prophecies of Jeremiah still have in view God's full purpose and its realisation where Israel was concerned. Oh, read them, you're amazed, you are almost bewildered with what is said there of God's purpose yet concerning the land and the people. Why, here in these prophecies you have the uttermost things said, that all, all from all over the world shall come and bow and worship at Jerusalem and if anyone will not come and worship the Lord at Jerusalem, there will be a curse upon him and upon his cattle and upon all that he has; a terrible curse. And it's described, described in language that we today can understand better than Zechariah could understand it when he penned it, "Their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets." We understand that, don't we? "Their tongues shall wither in their mouths." The atomic age, there it is.
Now, all who will not come to worship the Lord at Jerusalem are going to be involved in that. That's tremendous, isn't it? A Divine purpose. But here I look at the book of Judges and I say, "My word, my word, something has got to happen to get Jerusalem into that position, to get Israel into that state, where all will come and worship the Lord at Jerusalem, from every nation." Something's got to happen. Yes, but Gideon (this is the point) Gideon was apprehended in relation to that ultimate. So far as God was concerned the full vision was still in view when He took hold of Gideon. And it's like that, we may have conditions such as those in the days of Gideon, but the Lord has still got His full purpose in view and He'll lay hold and say, "Have not I sent thee? Go, and thou shalt save Israel - from this, unto that."
Oh, that there might fall upon us, dear friends, this new sense of Divine calling and apprehending in relation to His full purpose, though meantime it may be connected with something that is out of line and out of accord with that purpose. And the purpose, where we are concerned within the whole purpose is this, it may be evangelism, it may be to bring in those who are called unto His eternal glory, it may be any aspect of ministry, but it must be in full view of the end, it must be a related thing. It must be under the anointing and not just some piece of work that we have taken up and are trying to do for God, but this sense of tremendous calling, tremendous vocation, tremendous apprehending, "This is the thing to which God has called me. This, this!"
So many there are who are wandering about and missing the way, and are in a state of ineffectiveness because they are in the wrong position. They are trying to do something that God never called them to do. They have seen Christian work is such and such and so they have taken it up and they are trying to do it, but no, there's no sense of God laid hold of them for that - just trying to do it. I wonder if you have grasped the emphasis this morning, "Called according to purpose," ultimately in its fullness, at present in some way necessary unto the ultimate. Whether, whatever it is, it's got to be that you and I know that our lives are apprehended lives. Until we get there and have that consciousness, there will be weakness, there will be loss, there will be confusion; we have got out of the purpose. The Lord draw us by a mighty new sense into the thing that He is Himself concerned with at this present time.