Before transferring a caller to her boss, a secretary will often say, “May I ask, who’s calling?” The importance of a message is often determined not only by the content of the message, but the communicator of that message. In Acts chapter nine and verse four, Saul, the persecutor of Christians, hears a voice as he travels to Damascus. The message was clear: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” Saul is pretty sure he knows this voice, but he asks anyway: “Who art thou, Lord?” “And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”
Saul had seen God work in too many lives to turn a deaf ear to this voice! This was God Himself calling, and Saul knew it was time to respond. I wonder if we understand that when we hear the Word of God preached, and we sense the Spirit of God tugging at our heart, that God is calling. We sometimes dismiss God’s message to us as perhaps a good sermon or interesting experience, but do not ponder the seriousness of listening to the voice of Almighty God!
In 1960, a young and relatively unknown coach by the name of Vince Lombardi had led the Green Bay Packers to victory after victory in a phenomenal turn-around season that thrust them all the way to the championship game in Philadelphia. With just over a minute left on the clock, Bart Starr led the Packers on a game ending drive toward the end-zone. The famous “Packer Sweep” was working to perfection as Jim Taylor and Paul Hourning alternated carrying the ball. That drive, however, fell a few yards short as time expired and the Packers lost. It was two weeks later when Lombardi could muster the strength to address the team. He was so proud of them, and in a letter told each player that because of their will to win and the devastating experience of that game, they would never lose another championship game.
The next season (1961) got off to a promising start, and it seemed a sure thing that the coach’s prediction would come true. An event, however, on the other side of the world would have a say in their future. The Russians were busily constructing the Berlin Wall, and President John F. Kennedy, fearing a crisis on the horizon, called on our military reserves to report for duty.
Three very important members of the Green Bay Packers were given orders to report for duty: Boyd Dowler, a six-foot, six-inch wide receiver, the fierce middle linebacker Ray Nitsche, and the “Golden Boy” Paul Hourning. Hourning was sent to Fort Riley, Kansas, and Lombardi knew the team was in big trouble without him. As a half-back and kicker, he had scored 176 points the previous year and was on pace to have an even better year.
To the delight of Coach Lombardi and Packer fans everywhere, Hourning was able to use his weekend passes to return to Green Bay on Sundays and play. A Notre Dame alumnus and Packer fan flew Hourning each week beginning November 14, in his own private jet to the games. While the “Golden Boy” didn’t perform as well as previously, he did help the team to their second straight championship game. It was scheduled to be played on New Year’s Eve in Green Bay against the powerful New York Giants. Hourning called his coach, however, with the bad news. Letters “A-L” were scheduled to get the week before Christmas off, while “M-Z” would have the week between Christmas and New Year’s. “Coach, I can’t play—there’s nothing I can do about it.” Lombardi, however, never winced. He told Hourning to pack his stuff and be ready to go—he had an idea!
President John F. Kennedy was an admirer of Lombardi, and the two men had met on two previous occasions the year before. At a Hall of Fame dinner the President had given the coach a card with the number to his private phone and said, “If you ever need anything, give me a call.” Guess who Lombardi called that day? A few minutes later, John F. Kennedy placed a call to Fort Riley and asked to speak to the camp commander. When told he was not available, he was transferred to the company commander. He said, “Hello, this is President John F. Kennedy, and I’m calling on behalf of Paul Hourning.” The stunned company commander, thinking it was a joke, said, “Yeah, and I’m Donald Duck!” (By the way, Paul Hourning did play in that championship game, and the Packers demolished the Giants leading 37–0 at halftime).
Has God been speaking to you lately? It’s not a joke! The God of this universe loves you and has a message for you. It may sound incredible and unrealistic, but it’s true! “To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart” (Psalms 95:7b-8a). What a sad day it will be when people realize that God called, but they refused to listen. “Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded… then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me” (Proverbs 1:24, 28). Don’t miss God’s message—it could change your life!