“So Amos answered Amaziah, ‘I was not a prophet or the son of a prophet; rather, I was a herdsman, and I took care of sycamore figs. But the Lord took me from following the flock and said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”‘” (CSB – Read the chapter)
When we imagine the prophets of the Old Testament, we often picture wild-looking, old men who spent all their time walking around and shouting about God’s judgment and impending doom. We imagine men like Jeremiah who evidently spent their entire lives doing God’s work. Yet while there certainly were some like Jeremiah or Isaiah or Ezekiel, not all of them were. We discover this about Amos in a tense conversation he had with a false prophet in Israel. Let’s talk about his response and what it just might have to do with us.
I know we looked at these same two verses yesterday, but I want to approach them from a slightly different angle this morning. This is the second time in Amos that we see a reference to his pre-prophet occupation. He was a shepherd. He also apparently tended a fig tree orchard. In other words, he had a job. He had a life. He may have had a family. He was doing his own thing, and was not burdened at all with the cares of the wider world. And then God called him to “go, prophesy to my people Israel.”
Being a pastor, doing ministry is my full-time gig. Every day my time is occupied by thinking about the church I lead and how I can make it more fully what God designed it to be. That comes through a whole variety of means. A little later this morning I am going to sit in on a Zoom meeting with a company that specializes in helping churches maximize the use of their facilities for ministry including building new facilities if necessary. Yesterday, much of my day was spent getting ready for our Wednesday night dinner. Around that, I spent a few hours working on a sermon and a Bible study outline. Writing like that occupies most of my week, honestly. I spend about an hour each day writing this blog. I’ll go visit people in their homes and occasionally the hospital. I make sure the PowerPoint slides and service order are ready to go for each Sunday morning. I do long-range vision thinking and sermon planning. I do a small amount of counseling, especially premarital counseling.
All of these are things that anyone else in the church could do. By being employed to focus my attention on them as a full-time career, though, I allow the other members of my church to give their fullest attention to their own families and careers. My role (and what all of those other things I just mentioned are ultimately about doing) is to equip them to be fully who God has designed them in Christ to be in the contexts where He has them planted and serving. This is what full-time pastors are all called to do and it’s a good thing.
But there’s a danger here. The danger is that because guys like me do this full-time, doing ministry in the church is something the rest of the members either don’t have to or even shouldn’t be doing. They can begin to doubt the significance of their contribution. They will start to believe the lie that their contribution to the kingdom of God isn’t as important as what a pastor does because, well, he’s the pastor. God has called him to serve in a more significant way than he has called them.
Friends, this simply isn’t true. And in Amos’s response to Amaziah here, we are given an important reminder of how God does call people to serve Him. When Amaziah confronted Amos and told him that he wasn’t welcome in Israel any longer and to go back to his home country to prophesy, Amos had a choice. He could have folded up and gone home. He had tried to do what God wanted him to do, but the people didn’t want to receive it. He could have defiantly refused. He did get a bit of a mic drop moment in what comes next as God gives him a pretty unnerving (for Amaziah anyway) prophecy about what the false prophet’s fate would be. But before that and instead of the rest, Amos simply responds from out of his call.
“I don’t have to be doing this,” he said. “I was doing something else. Doing this kind of prophetic work isn’t something I was born into. I’m not a ‘professional’ like you are. I’m here for one reason and one reason only: God called me to do this. When He calls me to do something else, I’ll go and do that. Until then, I’m going to keep doing what He has called me to do.”
In other words, Amos was just a regular guy doing regular things until God called him to do bigger things. This is how nearly all of the most significant kingdom-advancing work God has done over the centuries of human history has been accomplished. Yes, there have been men and women He called out to serve Him in a full-time capacity. But the vast majority of folks who have done great things for God were not so called. Instead, they were doing their thing in their way, but faithfully seeking God while they did it. And out of that faithful seeking, God call them to a season of special service.
What this means is that you are someone God might call to a season of special service like He did Amos. It doesn’t matter what your career happens to be or how little it has to do with the church. God doesn’t need pastors to do all His work. In fact, He does most of it without them. What He looks for are people willing to be faithful where they are. When these folks are willing to open themselves to His Spirit and the power that will flow through them by that, they – you – can accomplish truly incredible things. Many of the most powerful movements to advance God’s kingdom across human history have come because a few people were faithful to His call from out of whatever it was they were doing before He called them. And when the work was done, most of them went back to what they were doing before. They weren’t super-Christians; they were just faithful.
You can be faithful too. No matter what it is you are doing, if you are willing to be faithful, God will take your faithfulness and use it to do incredible things. Where has God called you from out of what you are already doing, and how can you be more faithful to that call to advance His kingdom? It may not seem very flashy or glamorous, but if it is what God has called you to do, it will be powerful. You are just the kind of person God can use. I hope you’ll let Him use you today.