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Description: What is my personal calling and purpose in life? There is dignity in my vocation. The specific free, unconditional gifts that I possess are irrevocable.
God’s Unconditional Gifts
Sermon Transcript by Reverend Ernest O’Neill
If you look at the great majority of our dear brothers and sisters in the world, I think you will
agree that most of us live here on earth as if the world just happened. It is not logical to think
that and the presence of that basic illogicality at the center of our lives is what causes many of
us such a sense of insecurity. But nevertheless, we live as if there was no one behind the universe
The Creator of the world watched for a while and then he picked out a certain group of men and women
to demonstrate to the rest of us what he himself was like and what life would be like if he were a
daily part of it. That group was called in the old days, the Hebrews. They were descendants of a man
called Abraham. Later on they were called Israelites after his grandson whose name was changed to
Our Creator did special things for this group of people. He led them miraculously through deserts,
provided unearthly bread for them to eat to sustain them, defended them from their enemies and
healed their sicknesses by miracles. But these people kept on treating him the way the rest of us
treat him. They kept on believing in him when it suited them, but when it didn’t pay them to believe
in him, they just forgot him. They served him when he gave them things and ignored him when they
In other words, they treated him as if he wasn’t there. They did their own thing repeatedly down
through the centuries. Yet our Creator kept on being faithful to them right down to this present
century. He kept on holding out his hands to them and continually treating them as the demonstration
model that he had in mind for the whole world, however much they rebuked and repelled him. Romans
10:21 expresses his attitude even today, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and
Why did he do it? Why has he continued to give this remarkable Jewish nation such a talent for
survival so that kings, kingdoms, realms and dynasties have come and gone and the Jewish nation
remains? Why has he continued to give this nation that has so often refused his grace and so often
rebelled against him this talent for survival? Why has he continued to give them as individuals
unbelievable talents; talents so that proportionately way beyond their number, they have made
contributions to the worlds of art and music, science and commerce that no other nation can equal?
Why does God keep giving these gifts to these people?
Loved ones, the answer is in the verse today and we believe it has great liberty for all of us.
Romans 11:29: “For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.” That is why.
Saul was the first king of Israel and he was just a bad king. He disobeyed God in regard to enemies
like the Amalekites„ he disobeyed God by trying to communicate with the dead through the witch at
Endor, yet he was king for life. God kept him king of Israel as long as he lived despite all his
jealousy of David and his attempts to kill David because he thought David was to be his successor.
God continued to preserve Saul from his enemies. There was one moment when David’s followers wanted
him to kill Saul when he found him asleep in a cave, because Saul had been trying to kill David. God
preserved Saul’s life because David said, “Touch not the Lord’s anointed. This man has been made
king by God and he is king as long as he lives.” In a sense, the call and the gifts of God are
irrevocable, whatever that person has done.
Rubenstein, the great pianist, is Abraham’s descendant. There is probably no other ninety year old
so full of life and so active. Probably no man has such outstanding fame from the earliest years of
his career as Rubenstein. Yet he admits in his own personal life history to a life of what we would
call gross immorality. But the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Rubenstein is a gift of
God to our world that God does not pull back however Rubenstein may treat his God or his own life.
So do you see that there are certain gifts and callings in the world that are irrevocable? That is,
they are unconditional. There are no conditions that need to be fulfilled to be able to retain the
Now it is plain that the greatest gift of all is conditional. The greatest gift of all is to be able
to live forever in the presence and company of our Creator. That gift is conditional as you find in
John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him
should not perish but have eternal life.” It looks like “whoever”–anybody who wishes–but it says,
“whoever believes in him,” so it is conditional upon believing in Jesus.
You can see that emphasized in John 3:36: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does
not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him.” So the gift of God’s own
heart, the gift of his friendship, the gift of his life, the gift of his Spirit, and therefore the
ability to live with him forever after this world is over, is conditional upon our faith in Jesus.
Our participation in Jesus is conditional upon our faith. To come into Jesus you have to have faith.
Actually to stay in Jesus you have to continue to exercise faith, which is belief and obedience.
John 15:6: “If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the
branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.”
So there are certain callings and vocations that are the irrevocable, unconditional expressions of
God’s magnanimous love to us human beings, and then there is the gift of living forever with him
that is conditional upon our faith and our readiness to submit to his will. Loved ones, God is so
good. He does not force us into his family. He has put us in this garden of the universe and he does
everything possible to insure that we will exercise our free wills to choose to live with him or
choose to live without him.
It is that attitude of his that causes many of us to question verses in Job and Ecclesiastes. Maybe
you would look at Ecclesiastes 7:15, as it concerns this old question of suffering that so many of
us see as an obstacle to belief in God, when really it should be the very opposite. It should be an
encouragement to see how fair the Father is to all people. “In my vain life I have seen everything;
there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs
his life in his evil-doing.”
Many of us say, “Why is it that good people often suffer, in this world and bad people often
prosper?” Because our Father is a fair God. He rains his rain on the good people and on the bad
people; he shines his sun on the good people and on the bad people. God has certain gifts that are
irrevocable. God has placed us all in this garden of the universe so that we will have a chance to
meet him and get to know him. He will not bribe us into his family by giving certain gifts to
encourage those who are turning to him and taking away certain gifts from those who are turning away
from him. He gives the same gifts to all.
The gifts and the calling of God in that sense are irrevocable. It is true, loved ones, that the
promise God made after the rainbow in the covenant with Noah, that as long as the earth remains,
seedtime and harvest will not fail, that promise is made to Rubenstein, to Hitler, to Stalin, to
every murderer that has ever lived on the earth. It was made to all of us. God has certain gifts
that are irrevocable. He does not draw back no matter how we behave.
Of course, that brings us to ourselves, because the garden of this universe is like any created
thing–it requires maintenance. There is not one of us that has not come from God’s own hand into
our mother’s womb without a certain calling and certain gifts that are fitted for the maintenance of
this universe. There is not one of us here, whether we love God or hate God, whether we believe in
him or deny him, that does not come from God’s own hand to our mother’s womb with a certain vocation
connected with the maintenance of this created world and with a certain gift to be able to fulfill
All of us are in some way the expression of God’s preserving grace; He is committed to preserving
the arena of his universe as a place where we can get to know him. In order to preserve it he uses
you and me, bad and good, godly and ungodly, satanic and Christ-like people.
So, many of us are here to look after the crops. Some of us are here to control the animals and the
birds and the fish. Some of us are here to keep order among the nations and some of us are here to
keep order in the explosion of knowledge by computers. Others of us are here to take care of the
commerce of the world. Some of us are here to take care of the chaos that would otherwise grow in
our society if we were not part of the law enforcement process. Some of us are here to keep rooms
clean. Some of us are here to carry away garbage and keep dirt away. But all of us come from God’s
hand with a calling and a gift that is irrevocable.
Now you may think it is bad or good. I think it is good. It’s his own grace that every one of us
experiences that. There is nobody here that can say “I do not have a vocation. I have been sent here
with no purpose,” or “I do not have the gifts that are needed.” No! God’s Word says plainly that
there are calls from God and there are gifts that are irrevocable, whether you turn from God for the
rest of your life or not.
That is why a swearing drill press operator can still have great pride in the skill and the dignity
of his job. It’s not just because he is satanic and proud. God has given him a calling and a
vocation that has therefore a dignity about it, not because of the drill press or what he does, but
because his Creator has made him and given him gifts to do that job.
And even though he can’t sense it and hates God, still he senses, “There is a dignity in my calling.
I do have a vocation. I do have gifts that somehow have come to me.” He can use them in all kinds of
ways, but they have come to him from God. That’s why a Churchill occurs at the right time, whether
he believes in God or not. God gives to this world whatever men and women are needed to maintain its
fabric until his work of redemption is completed. That’s why an Einstein is given to the world. You
know the contribution that he made to the universe. It is no wonder that he said that all ideas come
from God. He sensed that the things that he had had come to him from beyond. God does give ordinary
secular vocations to all of us that are connected to the expression of his preserving grace towards
the world. That’s why all of us have a dignity in our labor, whatever it is.
If you say, “Doesn’t it all change when you believe in Jesus?” No. What does change is that you
please God’s heart with your love and attitude. The authentic part of being a child of God is not
that you give out tracts or become a preacher or that you go to church, The only authentic things,
the only “sine qua non” [the only thing without which you cannot do] is that you are pleasing God’s
heart; but our vocations are something that God has given to all of us, good and bad alike.
Now would you come with me a little further? Because there is even a greater freedom. We tend to
say, “Well, that is secular vocation. That is everything to do with the preservation of the fabric
of this created universe. What about the whole task of calling people into God’s friendship? What
about preachers and teachers who are responsible for bringing the news of this friendship with God
to others and for leading others into the very heart of God’s being? Surely their gifts are
revocable.” Well, think about it. Countless are the instances where the gift of prophecy has been
exercised very efficiently. Prophecy is the sense of speaking forth God’s Word, where the gifts of
prophecy have been exercised through Balaam’s ass, through men whose lives have not always been
Christ-like. At first it caused me to wonder, and then I began to see what the Father has done. He
has lifted us out of the “fiddler on the roof” kind of shakiness about whether this is the right man
to listen to or that is the right man to listen to. God says, “You hear God’s Word because of the
gift of prophecy I exercise through some man or woman or book, sometimes good and sometimes bad, but
it is my gift of prophecy that you hear.” Those gifts and that calling are irrevocable. Loved ones,
that is true.
I remember being in Mexico maybe twelve years ago. We were putting a roof on a little church way up
in the mountains near to Monterrey, and this farmer was feeding us during the week we were there. We
went in one night and he had a record on of a crusade. I didn’t even recognize the name of the
person who held the crusade, but this man was God to this Mexican farmer. Because this preacher had
been used to convert all of his family. I thought, “This man must be a great and godly man to have
been used by God in this way.” We came back after a month in Mexico and the papers were full of this
evangelist, who had been a practicing alcoholic for fifteen years. This was the man who had been
used by God to convert this family. The fact is, whether we like it or not, that the calling and the
gifts of God are irrevocable.
In a way, this is good, because you know the way we Protestants deal with any of God’s Word that we
don’t like too much? We denigrate the character of the preacher. If you can’t get rid of the Word,
if the idiot won’t stop, at least you’ll make him invalid by cutting his feet from under him and
talking about him.
Do you see, loved ones, God lifts us out of that? God lifts us into a dignified position. He says,
“You have not heard a mere man speak this morning. You have not heard a man whose life you are
utterly dependent on for your faith. No! You have heard a gift of prophecy that is irrevocable that
I give because I’ve called this man to do this. His own relationship with me is his own affair. You
can’t decide how good his relationship is by how well he exercises the gift of prophecy. He may
exercise it beautifully and his life may be a mess. So do not judge the gift of prophecy by the
Christ—like or unchrist—like character of the person. That is up to him and his soul’s salvation.”
The gift of prophecy is God’s.
It is in a way a great liberty, and of course it puts our feet on very solid ground. We are not
involved here in something a bunch of young people or some young Irish guy has started. We are
involved in something God himself is doing among us. I’d repeat Luther’s words that it is not some
country preacher that you hear or some ordinary pastor, it is the Word of God that speaks to all of
us Sunday by Sunday.
Now do you see the great freedom? Your secular vocation is not dependent on your boss or your
colleagues. Your secular vocation, your secular calling, is given by God; it is irrevocable. You
have certain gifts that God has given you that are irrevocable. What a stability that brings to your
life. You have those gifts for life and you have a calling that God is giving you for life. But then
your sacred life is not dependent on man either. It isn’t dependent on the preachers that you meet
or the books that you read, because it itself is dependent on the gift of God’s prophecy which is
given irrevocably. Do you see what a freedom we have?
Do you see what a dignity you have? What you do Monday through Friday is not your choice. It is a
calling from your Maker that he has given to you and it is irrevocable. Whatever you do, whether you
do it badly or not, and the gifts that he has given you for that, are real gifts and they too are
irrevocable. So good is our God to us and such a firm stability does he give us. Our faith and our
relationship and your response to him is not dependent on this preacher or that preacher. It is
dependent on the gift of prophecy which he gives without repentance, irrevocably and
unconditionally. Though that may have some fearful things for us, yet it has more encouragement than
anything else because what you hear Sunday by Sunday is God, usually despite man rather than through
man. It is God himself that is speaking to us. Thank God that the call and the gifts of God are