Zacchaeus is one of the few people in history that had no trouble hearing, discerning, or affirming the call of Christ in his life. Jesus used an audible voice, spoke directly to Zacchaeus, calling him by name, and did the whole thing in front of a small crowd (so everyone would be able to affirm the calling, even though many of them grumbled about it). The next part is up to Zacchaeus. He did not have to answer the call. He could have stayed up in his tree and just pretended not to hear. He could have denied whose voice it was. Or he could have sought additional opinions from those who did not support the call. Instead, he answered the call, quickly, happily, and obediently. In this regard, Zacchaeus is a perfect example for how we are each supposed to answer the call.
Having gone through the process of gaining awareness of your calling does not suffice, if you do not choose to answer. What does answering look like?
First, you should respond to the calling quickly. Jesus tells those who want to follow Him that they should do it immediately, rather than returning to say goodbye to family or attend a funeral. When you hear the call, you should not delay. From personal experience, I can say that, just because you may avoid answering the call, that does not mean that God will stop calling. What I did not realize is that my response to my calling would have been for my benefit. It would have put me more squarely in the will of God. When Jesus says He MUST stay at Zacchaeus’ house, the must is not for Jesus’ sake. He does not need the relationship with Zacchaeus. It is for Zacchaeus’ own good. Do not stay up in the tree and tell Jesus to “wait a sec.”
Answering the call should also be a happy thing. I am not saying that you have to be happy about whatever God is calling you to do. I would not have been happy to walk my son up a mountain as a sacrifice, like Abraham. But when you are doing God’s will, His joy will be present in your life. You will face hardships and people will try to stir up doubt within you, questioning your actions. So many people stand in the way of a person trying to do God’s will that it is difficult to accept His calling joyfully sometimes. That is what we are asked to do. And why would we not be joyful? Service to the Lord is the best possible way for us to spend our energy. It will lift you up, even if the people and situation around you are trying to tear you down.
Zacchaeus also demonstrated obedience to Jesus in answering his call. Whether or not he was present for Jesus’ other teachings, Zacchaeus at least understands some of the basics of following Christ. It requires sacrifice. The sacrifice of obedience may be different for each of us. Sometimes, the sacrifice is financial, like in the case of the rich, young ruler. Other times, like in Zacchaeus’ case, it requires a change in lifestyle. He has to stop defrauding others and give back what he has taken. For you, obedience could mean moving to another place, stepping out of your comfort zone, or getting trained in some new skill. The key is that you have to move in faith. You have to respond when Jesus calls you down out of your tree.
Understanding and answering the call that God has placed on your life does not guarantee a happy ending, unfortunately, even though you will have the joy of the Lord while you are doing His work. There will be attacks on you and your obedience when you are responding to God’s call, and that is what we will discuss next week.
May God guide you down out of the tree,
Pastor Byron Denman