The Rapidian

Ethics and Religion Talk: Is God Calling Out To You?

This week, I asked our panel to respond to an essay by the Rev. Sandra Nikkel, head pastor of Conklin Reformed Church entitled, “LISTEN! GOD IS CALLING!”

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at http://topics.mlive.com/tag/ethics-and-religion-talk/. More recent columns can be found on TheRapidian.org by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

God uses common vessels to deliver uncommon messages. In 1 Samuel chapter three, we read about a boy whom God called to deliver a very important message in his generation. Eli, the priest of the story, was not living according to his calling. He had neglected to discipline his children for the way they were living. Eli’s sons had blasphemed God and “he had failed to restrain them.” So, here is what God does. He calls Samuel as he’s getting ready to go to sleep, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel immediately ran to check what his mentor Eli wanted, but he found out it wasn’t Eli who was calling him. This happened three times until Eli realized that it was God who was calling the boy. So, he told him what to do; “Go and lie down and if he calls you, say: ‘Speak Lord for your servant is listening.’”

As I read this story, I thought of the importance of mentors and pastors to help us discern God’s voice and point us in the right direction. But the thing that stood out the most was the sentence: “In those days the word of the Lord was rare” (verse 1). For years I have prayed that The Word of the Lord would not be rare in our generation, in our churches, or in our lives. We can be surrounded by Bibles and have no appetite for the Word of God. We can hear great sermons every Sunday and still not believe that God can speak to us in a personal and direct way.

Living in the temple and being exposed to God’s Word does not amount to knowing God and hearing his voice. Samuel was living in the temple and heard the Word of God regularly, yet verse seven tells us that he did not yet know God nor had the Word of the Lord been revealed to him. However, when Samuel finally heard God’s call, he obeyed and he delivered a very difficult message to his own mentor.

Listen! God is calling! He wants to speak to you in a personal way. He wants to use His Word to reveal things to you that you do not yet know. God has important messages for this generation and he wants to use you to deliver them. The question is, will you say yes and say to God what Samuel said: Here am I; Speak for your servant is listening. God’s Word will not come back empty and He will bless your words in response to your obedience. “The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. (1 Samuel 3:19).

Father Kevin Niehoff, O.P., a Dominican priest who serves as Adjutant Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:

“By his or her creation in the image and likeness of God, all human beings are searching for meaning in life. Still, there is a part of being human that resists any type of call, including the call to follow God. A natural reaction to God’s call is to question, run, or even to fear.

“God is persistent but does not speak with a loud voice. This can be a problem in a world where there is so much noise, not only just from everyday living but also from the choice to be plugged into devices.

“Samuel is but one example in scripture of individuals who listened, believed, and acted on the Word of God. However, Samuel was confused at first and it took discernment for him to realize just who it was that was calling his name.

“Each person of faith can point to an individual who witnessed the presence of God through deeds and words. For some, that is an imam, minister, priest, rabbi, or other faith leader. For others it might be a family member. For me… ​it was my maternal grandmother and her faith and witness to God’s presence in the world that allowed me to recognize God’s voice and call.”

Chris Curia, local youth director and Master of Divinity candidate at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology, responds:

“I appreciate Rev. Nikkel's highlighting the importance of having mentors in our lives to anchor us in wisdom. For most of my adult life, I rarely sought out the counsel of others until hardships in my life taught me I could not do it alone. Now, I cannot speak to the importance of surrounding yourself with people who will deeply listen to you and guide you through your struggles and blind spots.

“I also appreciate how Rev. Nikkel points out that spiritual piety does not necessarily correlate to true knowledge of God. We need look no further than a person’s actions to assess whether they are truly in the the divine flow (James 2:17-18). Moreover, we need not become so fixated on the mechanics of spiritual practice that we lose sight of the Focus of our efforts.”

 

This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up in the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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