And he said, ‘Who art Thou, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus Whom thou persaecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.’ And he trembling and astonished said, ‘Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?'” (Acts 9:5, 6).
I came home from work one Saturday evening. It was the first of July. Just after supper a long distance phone call came for me. That very seldom happened so I was surprised when the voice on the other end of the line was Mr. Herb Harris calling across four and a half time zones. I thought he really wanted my father, although all of our family knew Mr. Harris quite well.
“No, it’s you I want to talk to. I have a problem and I think you can help me out.”
Now this was a first for me to be talking to a preacher on the phone. I later learned it was one of the overseers of my home assembly who had mentioned me to Mr. Harris for some reason and thought if I was with him for awhile it would do me some good.
Respectfully I answered him, “If I can help you in some way Mr. Harris, I certainly will.” “Oh, you can. I just want to know if you will.”
“Please tell me what I can do to help you in some way, sir.”
“I want you to come to Newfoundland as quickly as you can. The Gospel boat is going in the water next week and I am having trouble with one of the diesel engines. I know you have done a course in diesel and I want you to come and fix it. Mr. Joyce is in Wichita, Kansas getting a new airplane. Mr. Campbell is in Toronto getting his float rating on a plane, and I am alone here trying to get this boat going so we can get into some new places with the gospel.”
“When can I let you know? What is the number there so I can get in touch with you? How long do I have to give you an answer?”
He replied very plainly, “We’ve been on the phone for two minutes. You’ve got one more minute to decide.”
I left for Newfoundland the next day. That was 53 years ago. Hopefully I am as available now as I was then. What does availability really mean? Is it trying to decide between two or more alternatives? Does it mean that I choose to do the things I am more skilled at than others? Am I more or less self-limited by the educational direction and training I chose to take? Do my advanced college or university degrees help me or hinder me from being available to God to do His will and serve Him?
Availability is really a condition of the soul and spirit. It is the preference to know God’s will and the willingness to do it no matter what it may cost. It is the result of the surrender of one’s whole person to God.
Matthew (Levi) did not have to wait a long time to make the decision to leave his job and follow Christ. He had a position that perhaps did, or would have made him wealthy, but the call of the Lord superseded all other considerations. It wasn’t unusual for Bartimaeus to throw away his garment and come to Christ for healing. It would have been more expected for him to follow Christ, but whatever the case a person is in, be the choice very difficult or easy, to follow the Lord is a matter of availability. The mindset of both of those men when they met the Lord was, “He is my Lord. He is my Master. What He says I will do.” This is availability.
It is possible for us to limit our usefulness for God by thinking, “I am well-trained in biochemistry (or some other subject), and it would be a shame for me to waste all this training for a lifework or a profession to go into the unknown path of service for God all day every day. I will do what I can as long as I can in this field of endeavor and then when I am finished this work, I will be able to spend more time helping out in God’s things.”
The educational process is good when it teaches us how to think more reasonably and it promotes our common sense. It is certainly helpful to be able to search out hidden things that may not be just on the surface of our understanding. It enables us to consider other points of view and come to right conclusions when we compare opinions of others with the Scriptures of truth. It may even help us in conflict resolutions. But in the life of the people of God, availability to respond to the call and will of God is of primary importance.
Saul of Tarsus was obviously a man of great intellect and enormous drive. When confronted with the Lord Jesus Christ his surrender was genuine. There was nothing halfhearted about his dealings with God. His first response to God’s salvation was to declare his availability. “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” To try to negotiate in any way with God is not only futile, but is insulting to the One Who has the supreme authority of the universe. To wait to serve God in the gospel until you can’t do anything else, is a far cry from, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” To wait to respond to the call to “Go serve today in My vineyard,” until you have enough finances to cover all contingencies that might arise, is not living by faith and is not availability. To need to be sure you have a large enough profit margin or portfolio, and to have good retirement benefits in place, has no example in Scripture or in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
Paul’s experience at the start of his new life in Christ never left him. His surrender to the Lord was real, genuine, and lasting. He resolved to obey the Lord and remained available to Him throughout his whole life. The relationship he had with the Lord Jesus Christ led him to people and places he could not have planned for without being available to God at all times. The Lord Jesus Christ was always available for any and every task the Father sent Him to do – at any time.