CHRISTIAN NEWS MAGAZINE FOR KERALA MALAYALEE CHRISTIANS FROM INDIA AROUND THE WORLD
FEBRUARY 2009 DEVOTIONAL MESSAGE
VOL:08 ISSUE:02

CHALLENGES OF THE CALL OF GOD
By THOMAS MAR TIMOTHEOS EPISCOPA
[Diocesan Bishop of Kunnamkulam-Malabar Diocese, Marthoma Church]




RT. REV. THOMAS
MAR
TIMOTHEOS EPISCOPA

The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, "The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior." Then Gideon said to him, "O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ''Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?'' But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian." The Lord looked at him and said, "Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?" He said to Him, "O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father''s house." But the Lord said to him, "Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man." [Judges 6:12-16]

At a meeting of clergies in England an young priest stood up and earnestly pointed out that it was the duty of all Christian ministers to spread the Gospel throughout the world. He was rebuked by one of the senior priest who was the convener of the conference and is said to have retorted on the basis that God would save God's elect without human help: "Young man, sit down; You are an over enthusiast; when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid and mine." This reproof did not dither this young priest, who got stimulated by reading the exploratory efforts of Captain James Cook, from his decision to go out to India for the ministry of Lord. While he was attending another conference, a missionary had challenged that there is a Gold Mine in India as deep as the center of earth for Gospel work and called for, 'who will explore to venture it?' This young priest stood up and volunteered to go to India. This young priest was none other than the great friend of India, William Carey who was the co-founder of the famous Serampore University, to which today 20 Christian Theological Seminaries in India of various denominations are affiliated with.

William Carey was born in a poverty-stricken ordinary family in the Mid-England as the son of weavers. Though he had to suffer a lot in the childhood, he grew up in wisdom and grace of God. His father apprenticed him to the shoemaking trade in a nearby village. Carey bought a Greek dictionary, taught himself Greek and studied New Testament in Greek, with the help of an educated villager. As a child, he had innate inquisitiveness for natural sciences and was keenly interested particularly in Botany. He possessed a natural gift for learning languages. While he worked for a local shoemaker he taught himself, at the age of 14, Latin, Hebrew, Italian, Dutch, and French, often reading while working on his shoes.

In 1789, Carey was ordained as a priest in the Baptist Church. With his deep concern for propagating the Christian Gospel throughout the world and his passion for mission work in India, he formed a missionary society. In the meetings of the society he repeatedly used the epigram, which has become his most famous quotation: "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God." Carey and his family sailed from London by ship in April 1793 to Calcutta. For initial few years Carey family had to suffer a lot of hardship and oppression in Calcutta. They began to learn the Bengali and other Indian languages to communicate with the natives. He was inflicted with Malaria. His son, five years old Peter, died of dysentery. Because of the village prohibition there was hindrance for the funeral of Peter. Due to the mental strain caused by this, Carey's wife suffered a nervous breakdown from which she could not recover for many years. In spite of all these personal calamities, his ultimate aim was to explore the Gold mine in India. Though he walked through the valley of the shadow of death, he did fear no evil: for God was with him and His rod and staff they comforted him. Danish missionaries appointed him as teacher in a missionary school. He overcame every hindrance bravely.

Carey developed a deep respect for Indian languages and culture and he translated the Bible into Bengali, Sanskrit, Marathi, Punjabi, Hindi, Oriya, Assamese, Gujarati and many other languages and dialects. He also wrote grammars of Bengali and Sanskrit and published a dictionary of Bengali and English. Within six years, he completed the first revision of his Bengali New Testament. Among those who assisted in the task of Bible translation was Raja Ram Mohan Roy, who later founded the Hindu reformist movement, the Brahmo Samaj. Carey's relationship with Ram Mohan Roy impacted on Hindu reform in Bengal. Carey can be said to have influenced to put a stop to the practices of infanticide [infant sacrifice] and Sati [A funeral practice among some communities in which a recently-widowed woman would immolate herself on her husbandís funeral pyre]. In Carey's lifetime, his mission printed and distributed the Bible in whole or part in 44 languages and dialects.

In 1818, Carey joined with two other missionary friends, Marshman, and Ward, founded Serampore College to train indigenous ministers for the growing church and to provide education in the arts and sciences to anyone regardless of caste or country. He established more than 100 schools. The first school for girls was established by Carry. A News Paper by the name Darpan was published. The English News Paper 'The Statesman' was pioneered out of his interest and involvement. He published 132 books in different disciplines like Botany, Social Science etc.

William Carey did missionary work in India for 41 years. Though only around 700 people were turned to Christian faith, Carey has been acknowledged as father of modern missions. When he died at the age of 73, among Bengali speakers, Carey is remembered for the contribution he made to what is referred to as the Bengali renaissance by his influence in Indian culture, literatures, language and society. It is recorded that Carey told on his death bed to one of his missionary friend, "When I was alive, you all have been speaking about Dr. Carry, when I leave from this world, do not talk anything about Dr. Carry but speak only about Dr. Carry's God."

This is the story of William Carey taught by our history which proclaims the message of an active, serious and positive response to the call of a divine intervention. There is a social measure for every call and intervention of God. When we look through the Bible, we see a long line of many people who responded positively to the divine intervention of God with creative mind and configured their life for the goodness of society and mankind.

The above cited scripture portion is in the background of the deliverance of the Israelites out of Egypt. When they entered to the promised land of Canaan, God sworn to their fathers that He will never break His covenant with them and for them they shall not make any communion with the native inhabitants of the land and they should tear down their altars. But the people of Israel disobeyed God and turned away from God after forty years of peace. A new generation emerged out who knew neither Lord nor all the great works of God that He did for their fathers and Joshua. The sons of Israel did evil in the sight of Lord and commenced to serve the native deities and mingled with them in their idolatries. Thus they provoked the Lord to anger. God delivered the estranged Israelites to the hands of plunderers who plundered them and sold them into the hands of their enemies around. They could not any longer stand before their enemies. They were given to Midianites and Amalekites for seven years.

Is it not a reality that the contemporary society is a synoptic one of the generations who do not realize or remember the God of their fathers, who served God with tears amidst their hardship, poverty, financial straits and inconveniences of their time? Though ours is a generation blessed by the reverence of our fathers to the God, we are emerging to utter dissatisfaction out of the influence of the affluence. The very same influence turns this generation away from God. While the religiosity grows on one side, the essence of Godly love is fading away on the other side. The modern age consider the religion as ornamental and a status symbol. Honoring the creation than the creator and adorning the given things than the giver are synonymous to idol worshipping. During the process of endeavoring and putting great effort to safeguard the religion, the leaders and believers are ignoring the real substance of the religion. No religion can prosper with their materialistic assets discarding its religious commitment to the pursuit of reality of Godly love and service to the society. Is not the current state of affairs of Churches, a curse of our contemporary society and religion? The journey of any generation in the name of religion dispensing with Christian and human relations will cause devastative future effects and call for the wrath.

With the call of God, we should cut down the self made and unholy idols in our life. Worshipping itself is now turned out as an idol. Superficial, appealing, alluring and charming worship practice became a trademark of contemporary society. Idolized worship is a threat of the spiritual matrix of today. Wealth, beauty, health, position, fame and many other blessings can turn out, knowingly or unknowingly, as ungodly idols of our life. All these idols are being made for our safety and security. But God commands us to demolish all ungodly idols and to build the godly altars in that place. To fulfill the commission of God it needs a reconstruction.

We may notice many self styled leaders and many self declared visions around us. These are exploitation in the name of God and it makes a deformed vision and philosophy. Gideon was called for a hard and adventurous mission. Call of God is not for our self safety and security. It is for the deliverance of the society and hence the call has a social measure. Peter used to do the fishing for his own welfare and as a livelihood. But when he took up the call of Jesus he lost security of his life. Eventually he had to sacrifice his own life. What it means to catch the people? It is the job of gathering the people who are being lost.

The children of Israel cried to the God and God heard their prayers. This is the background that God chose Gideon, a young man from an otherwise unremarkable clan from the tribe of Manasseh, for the deliverance of Israel. Gideon was born in an ordinary farmer family. He was threshing his wheat, not in the public threshing-floor, but by the wine-press of his father Joash, under the oak tree, in obscurity, in order to hide himself for fear of the Midianites. Silence and solitude befriend our communion with God. Gideon had a vision and a divine intervention there in an unexpected occasion. Positive response of Gideon to this divine call caused for an effectual calling to make him the judge of Israel for their deliverance.

In the history of Bible we can see many divine interventions at different occasions to different people. When Moses was pasturing the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, in the wilderness near Mount Horeb, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush and called him in an unexpected period of his life. On the way to Damascus, breathing out threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord with solid backing of High Priests, Saul heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? The positive response of Saul had transfigured him as the Apostle for gentiles. At the Sea of Tiberius, there was divine human intervention with Peter and he was transfigured as catcher of men.

God gives us all a commission to act very unexpectedly and at strange situations. When we return an obedient answer to them the divine calls become effectual and God can make us effectively instrumental for Him. Suddenly and strangely a blessed change comes to us for a new configuration of our life with a touch of social measure. God gave Gideon a gracious call, to which he returned a ready answer. He expressed his reverence, and his readiness to obey. Christís manifestations of Himself to our soul are many times sudden and very surprising as that in case of His manifestation of the divine presence to Saul on his way to Damascus. The calls of God demands to sacrifice our life in order to give abundant life for others. Till yesterday our life was ours, we lived for ourselves and it was for our livelihood. But once we are called our life cease to be ours and it is committed for God and others. If anybody says that his life is not for others his call is not a divine call. The ultimate aim of the divine call should be for the goodness of others.

Another important quality we should bear at the call of God is our humility. Gideon made a very modest objection against his commission. Gideon told the messenger that "O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father's house." Though God calls Gideon a mighty man of valour, in his reply Gideon regards not the praise of his own valour and he confess that he is utterly unfit for the service, and unworthy of the honour. God often chooses to do great things by those that are little, especially who are so in their own eyes. God delights to advance the humble. Modest beginnings are very good presages. Moses, a poor despicable shepherd, when he was called, his response was that he is unworthy for the call as he was with tough tongue. Though God had predestinated Jeremiah from his mother's womb, he modestly declined this honourable employment saying; 'O Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.' Godís grace and covenant-love should increase our humble reverence of Him.

God sees the quality of a man inwardly when He calls us. It is not as per the worldview. As per world view Gideon was a coward as he tried to hide himself behind the Oak tree. But in the eyes of God he was a valiant. Gideon astonished with this type of an addressing. When we say 'Yes' to God, he converts our weakness as strength, dirt as beauty and fear as brevity. A distinguished guest visited a paper factory. The administrators of the factory took him around and appraised the quality of the paper they are manufacturing. It was of supreme export quality and followed a precise manufacturing process. However as the guest was very inquisitive, he wanted to see the source of the row material. The host was little reluctant to show the source. On insistence they took him to the backyard. To his surprise they showed him a heap of dirty worn out wood and debris. When this heap of dirt went though a reconfiguring process in the factory it became a super quality sunlight white paper. This process is synonymous to the call of God. God makes excellence out of dirt. As a gesture the factory gifted the guest a packet of paper and it was written over the packet, 'Dirty racks transformed!í When we humble ourselves to the call of God, he transforms us. When Saul was transformed his name came as architect and maker of the Church.

God do not want man's strength to lead us to victory. Our unworthiness will be the God's strength. God confided Gideon that he will succeed as a single man. As a fulfillment of the delegation, upon God's instruction, Gideon destroyed the town's altar to the foreign god Baal and cut down the idols built by his father Joash. The difficulties of the task were indeed very great, enough to startle the courage and stagger the strength of Gideon himself. As Gideon feared his father's household, and the men of the city, he could not do it by day, that he did it by night. Gideon built instead an altar to living God and dedicated it by an offering of a bullock. Gideon responded well and obeyed the divine command.

Eventually all the Midianites and the Amalekites were gathered together against Israelites. Gideon gathered 32000 people to fight against them. God instructed Gideon that the men he had gathered were too many. With so many men, there would be reason for the Israelites to claim the victory as their own, instead of realizing God had saved them. He instructed Gideon to send home those men who were afraid. 22,000 men returned home and 10,000 remained. Then the Lord said to Gideon, "You still have too many men. I will screen them to choose." He brought them to a river and told them to drink water to test them. 300 people lapped the water with their tongue as a dog laps and Gideon selected them, while others kneeled to drink water. God gave him victory over the Midianites with the three hundred men who lapped the water with their tongues.

Now it is the time to search in life to find the idols in our life. We should not be afraid of anything. The one who calls us is mighty, faithful, true and trustworthy. The might of God is not expressed in human might. As Joash, father of Gideon pleaded, God is the one to judge and no man can put us for trial. We need to find the self-made and ungodly idols in our life and it should be torn down. This destruction is the first step for the construction of the altar of God. There is no accommodation for a compromising mentality in commission of God. There is a great challenge in the call of God. It is the process to denounce our life and dedicate it for the benevolence of others. The strength of Church is not in its real estate, establishments, buildings, man-power or any type of worldly material. The strength of the Church is in accomplishment of Godís call in individual life. A detached attitude is a sign of deadly state. But the divine intervention calls for a positive and active response. If God is with us we do need neither 32000 nor 22000. We need only few to win the world.

[Extract from Message delivered at Maramon Convention 2008
Original in Malayalam : Translated for LOL by Editor Dr. Rajan Mathew Philadelphia, USA]


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