Listen to the commentary
What is a “calling?” Ask that of “the Google” – the modern-day soup-to-nuts source of information – and, in less than a second, you’ll receive over 3 billion offers of insight. With that kind of instant and plentiful reaction, we should all be living lives of confidence and calling… right? Not so much…
A year before Google hit the internet, The Master’s Program launched to help leaders find their calling. In a country full of churches (more prolific in number than Starbucks), clarity about calling should be guaranteed. Asking Merriam-Webster (the trusted source before Google) the same question: Calling: a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence. The dictionary assumes God’s involvement in the search.
Building on that assumption, the Bible unravels the issue by disclosing four distinct calls issued by God to His creation. What are they?
First, the Call to Conversion: “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, to those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ,” (Jude 1:1). The starting point in this epic discovery presumes saving faith as foundational. No Jesus; no calling.
Next, there is a Call to Transformation: “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life,” (1 Thessalonians 4:7). New life in faith is simply a starting point; the assignment for every follower of Jesus is to “live a holy life.” The metamorphosis from life-ala-culture to life-ala-Christ is a calling for every Christian to hear and to heed. Discipleship is tough work; it’s a calling.
Then, there’s a Call to Faithfulness: “Each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him,” (1 Corinthians 7:17). Every follower of Jesus has a life full of roles: spouse, parent, employee or employer, citizen; Scriptures contain explicit instructions that articulate God’s expectations for His children to fulfill His best intentions in each of those positions. To be called carries obligation: faithfulness anticipates hearing, understanding and obeying the marching orders that accompany the titles that position us in society.
Ultimately, there is a Call to Fruitfulness: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them,’” (Acts 13:2). “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle,” (Romans 1:1). Paul is an exemplar of this principle: though self-financed and self-employed as a tentmaker – a role that consumed the lion’s share of his time – Paul is most remembered for his 1st Century role as an apostle for Jesus’ kingdom, called to take the Gospel to the non-Jewish Gentile world. “Fruitfulness” is not up for redefinition: it means achieving results in this life that will be measured and rewarded in the next.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer – the Christian leader who stood strong against Hitler, and was hanged for his unrelenting commitment to the Gospel and truth – said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
People don’t die for their box in a business organizational chart; they won’t give themselves as martyrs for a lie. Throwing oneself indiscriminately on the altar of a cultural movement may happen in the heat of a moment, but the decision won’t be ratified by rational evaluation after the frenzy passes. Only a divine calling – the Call to Fruitfulness – has the eternal appeal to rise above self-interest and become one’s ultimate purpose for life and beyond.
That certainty is clear, even to people without a compelling conversion story: “If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?” (Stephen King, dubbed “the King of Horror,” with no declaration of personal faith). The man with no divine answers asks a wise and provocative question: what would you say, in response?