Tuesday, 01 April 2014 00:00

Generals in the kingdom (1)

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Overview

 “God’s call does not come by any stereotyped method,” wrote J. Oswald Sanders. “It will vary with the individual.” With that in mind, consider the following sampling of how God called certain ones to Ministry: Ambrose (c. A. D. 340-397) was born in Gaul, where his father was governor.

His family shortly moved to Rome where Ambrose was raised to be a skilled poet, orator, and lawyer. After practicing law in the Roman courts for a time, he was named governor of an Italian province and headquartered in Milan. A crisis arose there when Bishop Auxentius died in A.D. 374. The city was divided over who should replace him, and tensions were high. Ambrose assembled the people and used his oratorical powers to appeal for unity. But while he was speaking, a child cried out: “Let Ambrose be bishop!” The crowd took up the chant, and the thirty –five -year –old governor, to his dismay, was elected the city’s pastor. He set himself to study theology, soon becoming a great preacher and a deft defender of orthodox doctrine. He combated paganism and heresy with diligence, maintained the independence of the church against civil powers, and championed morality. He confronted political leaders, even emperors, when necessary. He wrote books and treatises, sermons, hymns, and letters.

He tended Milan like a shepherd. Perhaps none of that was more important than his influence on a hot-blooded infidel who slipped into town one Sunday to hear him preach. The skeptical Augustine found himself deeply impressed by the power of Ambrose’s sermons, and he sought personal counseling from the bishop. But Ambrose was too busy. Visitors were allowed into his room, but he paid scant attention to them. He just went ahead reading. Several times Augustine sat watching him, but Ambrose remained unaware of it. His preaching, however, reached the prodigal, and shortly afterward Augustine was converted. Ambrose continued preaching until he fell sick in A.D. 397. When distressed friends prayed for his healing, he said, “I have so lived among you that I cannot be ashamed to live longer, but neither do I fear to die; for we have a good Lord.” On Good Friday, April 3, Ambrose lay with his hands extended in the form of the cross, moving his lip in prayer. His friends huddled in sadness and watched.  Sometime past midnight, their beloved bishop passed to his good Lord.

Charles Fuller (A.D. 1887-1968) pioneered Christian radio work, preaching for nearly thirty years each week to twenty million people on the “old Fashioned Revival hour,” broadcast live from Long Beach Auditorium in California. In 1919, Fuller was working in the orange groves of Southern California as manager of a fruit packing house. For some time, he had been restless, increasingly convinced that God wanted him to resign and go to the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (Biola) to train for ministry. He began to view his work in the packing house as “just a continuous whirligig and year- round race… and when it was all said and done, not much was accomplished for eternity. It was just a matter of getting the best prices.” One morning in April as Charles Fuller sat in His office in the packing house, the conviction that he should go into full-time service became so powerful that he had to leave his desk and find some place where he could be alone to pray. He went down stairs, through the packing house where men and women were working, and back to a storage room where the makings of orange boxes were stored. He knelt behind a stack of these.

He struggled with the fear that he didn’t have the fluency and speaking ability needed for preaching, and he worried about the financial ramifications of leaving his  job, especially as he had recently made down payment on a twenty-acre orange grove of his own. At first these obstacles seemed too great, and he rose to go back to his desk, but God’s hand was so heavy upon Him that he sank to his knees again and said, “Oh, Lord, I will walk in your path. I will even try to preach. I will resign my position and trust you to supply our needs as I prepare for ministry.” Peace came upon his soul, and he soon notified the board members of the packing house that by the fall of that year he would be resigning so he could study at Biola. They took the news sadly, one even going so far as to say, “Charlie, you’re too good a man for the ministry. You should stay here. Why, a minister only has to work one day a week-Sunday when he preaches. Furthermore, I don’t think you are qualified for the ministry. You might well starve.” But for Charles Fuller there was no turning back. From that day on he felt like Paul who said, “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel.”

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