Call to Duty
“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Acts 9:14,15
An old hymn carried the words, “Am I a soldier of the Cross, a follower of the Lamb, And shall I fear to own his cause or blush to speak his name? Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease, While others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas?”
The Bible often speaks of battle. The warfare it refers to is not against flesh and blood, but sometimes it does lead to the loss of blood and the end of earthly life. The long list of martyrs stands as a witness to that. But more is at stake than physical life and more can be lost than some years on earth.
Eternity hangs in the balance. Life eternal is the prize. Those who serve the King of kings are called to face unseen enemies lurking in deadly shadows. They live with danger. The thought should never leave them. But fear dare never deter them. They have received the Call to Duty.
Pro Deo et Patria is the motto of the U.S. Army Chaplains Corps. Translated, those words are For God and Country. Our nation has long recognized that a person can be called to duty to serve God as well as called to serve the nation.
When I accepted the call to serve as a pastor, my country granted me an exemption from being drafted into the military—which might have taken me to Vietnam. America was telling me, “By rendering special service to God you are rendering special service to the nation.”
Both are a call to duty. However, as in the motto, For God and Country, God must always come first.
When we look at the life of the famous Apostle Paul, it might seem he was drafted into God’s service rather than volunteering for duty. The Lord told Ananias “This man is my chosen instrument.” We would say he was selected for special missions. History shows this was a good choice. He founded many Christian congregations. A long list of people came to faith through his ministry. He became as well-known as Simon Peter.
This surprised everyone, including himself. He seemed a most unlikely candidate for this special calling.
He was no follower of Jesus—until Jesus appeared to him in a blinding light and asked, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” When he asked, “Who are you?” He was told, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:5,6). He was sent to the house of someone called Ananias.
Ananias might have panicked when the Lord told him Saul of Tarsus was coming to him. He knew this was the man who hunted down Christians to arrest them. In fact, this was why he was headed to Damascus, where Ananias lived.
Now, it was Ananias who was called to duty. Fear and doubt were to be set aside. He was to bring the good news of salvation to this dangerous man. The Holy Spirit would enter Saul’s heart through those words. This enemy of Christ became a willing servant of Christ. He would become a missionary. Instead of Saul, he would become Paul—a defender of the Faith.
Paul’s call to duty meant hardship and sacrifice. “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” the Lord said. Suffer, he did. But faithfully, he served. He was willing to die to carry out that duty. And die, he did.
Jesus once said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
It makes one ask, “Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood? Is this vile world a friend to grace to help me on to God? Sure I must fight if I would reign; increase my courage, Lord! I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, supported by thy Word.”
The call to duty to serve one’s country is a call to service and sacrifice. American troops understand that to a degree that many civilians cannot.
The call to duty to serve the Lord God is a greater call. It, too, requires faithful service and sacrifice. It involves battles against superhuman forces. It includes the sacrifice of one’s own wishes in order to serve a divine will. The attitude of “I did it my way!” is replaced with “Thy will be done.”
The pursuit of power and glory for oneself is called off. Gladly and willingly the Christian will say to his heavenly Father, “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory.”
We sing, “Where duty calls or danger be never wanting there.” (Christian Worship 474:3)
Because it is our Lord who is calling us to duty, wherever he calls us to be is where we want to be.
We continue the hymn: “Thy saints in all this glorious war shall conquer though they die; They see the triumph from afar with faith’s discerning eye. When that illustrious Day shall rise and all Thine armies shine In robes of victory through the skies, the glory shall be Thine.” Amen.
Points to Ponder
- Saul had been a Pharisee. How might this have been used to bring him to faith?
- The Lord caused Saul to be blind when he came to Ananias. Why do you think he did this?
- Did Saul’s reputation for being an enemy of Christians help or hurt his missionary work?