The other day as I was walking down the driveway perusing the contents I had just retrieved from my mailbox, one item in particular drew my attention.
When I got a glimpse of the return address, I thought I knew what it was. Then as my eyes went further down the notice I saw the statement in red letters confirming my suspicions — “Important: Jury Summons Enclosed.”
I immediately realized this was not a letter I could simply toss in the trash or add to the stack of neglected mail on the kitchen table. As I opened it up, it contained the declaration: “Your attendance is required by law.” It also warned, “Failure to respond will result in further court action.” That last cautionary note was also emphasized by being printed in the color red.
I don’t think those words carry the same weight as Jesus’ words printed in red in the Bible, but they certainly shouldn’t be ignored.
I will make sure I respond to this summons to jury duty. I do plan to be present to serve in that capacity on the designated day. I’ll do so not only because of the forewarned consequences if I don’t, but also because of the privilege of carrying out my responsibilities as a citizen.
Do we pay such attention to God when He speaks to us? When we receive a summons from Him — a command to do something or a call to service — do we try to ignore it, toss it aside to be dealt with at some indefinite time in the future, make excuses for not fulfilling it, or even rebelliously refuse to respond and run away from it?
A summons from the Lord should not be taken lightly.
Jonah, along with many others of us since his time, found out there are consequences to ignoring God’s call. Although he tried to run the other way, he couldn’t outrun God. It took a divinely sent storm and a big fish to get Jonah to the place of submitting to God’s will for him.
Many years ago, when I received a very clear calling from God to preach, I tried to get away from it. As much as I attempted to ignore it, God kept bringing it up over and over. It seemed that every Bible verse I read or every sermon I heard would remind me of that summons I was neglecting to answer.
I believe God allowed a few storms in my life to try to redirect my course. Thankfully I didn’t end up in the belly of a fish before I finally said “yes” to God’s will for me.
But answering God’s call is more than just fulfilling our duty or trying to avoid the negative consequences of our failure to act. We should also come to realize what a privilege it is for us to serve the Lord in whatever way He is directing us.
We should also remember that it will be the best path in life that we could take. Receiving and responding to God’s summons will bring us a sense of fulfillment and joy that nothing else could supply. God is wanting not only to fulfill His plan, but also to do what’s good for us.
What summons are you hearing from God? Is it the call to come to Him for salvation? Or maybe it’s a call to go and serve Him in some way.
Whatever it is, take it seriously. It is an important notice. Failure to respond will have its consequences, including the fact that you’ll be missing out on a great blessing.
The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.