I recently came across a resource made available by the librarians at Southwestern Seminary’s Roberts Library. They have been diligently working to make digital archives of letters, lecture notes, articles, pictures and sermons of past presidents of Southwestern available online. The scanned digital version of a typewritten note by L.R. Scarborough, the second president of Southwestern, served as an encouragement to me the day I came across it, and I have since had the opportunity to share it with a number of friends. Simply titled “Our Answer to God’s Call,” this chapter or possible lecture delivered by Dr. Scarborough seeks to encourage men to answer God’s call and responds to common objections to a call to ministry.
In the introduction, Scarborough states, “This word is meant as a heart message to those struggling against the Holy Spirit in a call to preach or go across the seas in mission work. Read it in a prayerful spirit of submissive obedience.”
Paramount to Dr. Scarborough’s ministry was the task of “calling out the called” in churches across Texas and the United States. He felt a deep compulsion from the Lord that this should be a part of every pastor’s responsibility in the local church. The text below is not a complete transcription of the entire document, but rather some of the highlights. (If you would like to view the entire PDF, click here.)
The Necessity of a Divine Call
“A divine call is a SPIRITUAL NECESSITY to a Gospel ministry. He who goes out without God’s call has no promise of God’s power. The task is too great for us unless our hearts are assured that God has sent us.”
The Evidences of a Divine Call: How One May Know
On this point, Dr. Scarborough acknowledges that one cannot be dogmatic on the evidences of a call on one’s life, but he does note some common evidences of God’s call:
- A strong desire for usefulness in Gospel service.
- A gift in public speech in religious meetings, or an aptness to teach the Word of God.
- Tact in leading young people in the work of the churches.
- Impressions on the part of godly associates that one is called to preach. God usually impresses someone else to “call out the called.”
- The providences of God in directing one’s life, in shutting other doors and opening doors of usefulness in Christ’s service.
- An inner heart longing to win men to Christ, backed and inspired by a SPIRITUAL COMPULSION, a soul conviction that God is dealing with your life, urging you to preach or follow Christ across the seas in mission work. (Dr. Scarborough notes that all of the other evidences could be absent, but this final point MUST be present if one is truly called by God to serve in ministry.)
Excuses Must Not Outweigh God’s Will
“If God is calling you and you are refusing, your time is spent in excuse making. You are taking counsel with your fears, pleading your weakness, seeking every possible compromise and dodge with God. Don’t fight longer. Don’t run further, if you are sure He calls you. Jonah sailed a rough sea in making for Tarshish. So will you. God has whales yet for rebellious Jonahs. You may not do God’s will, but be assured that you can not have your own will.”
- “I am unworthy.” You are right about that. None of us are worthy. But God’s will is shut up to using sinful but saved men in this Gospel proclamation.
- “I am ignorant and too poor, or old, or have too many obligations to get an education.” In 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, Paul has a word for you: “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; … And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”
- “I cannot speak in public.” So said Moses, but God said, “I will be with thy mouth.”
- “The work is too hard, too exacting.” The work of the ministry is difficult, it is exacting and taxing on every energy of the strongest and best, and its financial rewards are small. If you are looking for an easy task, you are in the wrong world to find it.
- “There is too little pay.” Yes, the pay in money will be small. The brethren will see to that. God’s will done in one’s life in the saving of men and bringing in Christ’s glory is worth many mines of diamonds. The earthly and eternal compensations in his service far outweigh the losses in surrendering to it.
Your Plain Duty: Know His Will, Surrender To It, Prepare To Do It
- Speedily find out God’s will. He can and will assure your heart of His will.
- When you find His will, if it is for you to enter His special service, then surrender to it at once. Burn all the bridges that lead back. Cut all the lines that bind you to the shores of selfishness and self-will.
- Your next duty after surrender is to GET READY, prepare to preach or be a missionary. A call to preach is a call to preach the best you can, and that means preparation to preach.
God’s Loving Appeal
- By an inner, loving, spiritual compulsion He would draw your life into His service.
- By the peace He gives obedient wills, the joys He offers in soul-winning and soul-building, the star-like crown He holds out to your faithful obedience to His will, He bids you follow Him in world-winning.
- He appeals to you by the unvoiced cry of dying men, whose salvation depends on the Gospel put in reach. The homeland millions and foreign lost utter their cry of soul-need at the door of your heart.
- The unfilled pulpits of thousands of churches, the unoccupied mission stations, the opening frontiers of many lands, make voice for God’s call for more and better equipped men and women.
- The constraint of Christ’s Calvary love, His for you and yours for Him, should cause your will to yield to his.
“From the mighty Cross, its cost, its love, its meaning, its message, its blessings to your heart and to other hearts, he calls for the God-called to surrender, the surrendered to prepare, the prepared to be filled with a holy passion for the lost and the holy power to win men to Jesus. Do it for Christ’s sake.”
It’s my prayer that these words written by Dr. Scarborough more than 60 years ago would lead more God-called men and women to surrender to ministry. If you are in the place he calls “soul-conflict,” struggling with a response to a call from the Lord on your life, I hope you found some encouragement here and heed his words: “To say NO to God imperils every joy of the future.”