‘I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received’ – Ephesians 4:1
What does it mean to have a call? If we roll that question over in our mind; perhaps there’s more to it than what we see. Perhaps you think of a call as a quest to which a person dedicates his life people like Mother Teresa. Maybe “call” brings to mind your pastor or a missionary your church supports, who often speak of feeling called. For some, a person’s call is just another way to talk about their work; “calling” means my job or career.
Call is not a trivial word. At the very least, it implies a caller. As Sinclair Ferguson, a Scottish theologian, has noted, “called” is one of the New Testament’s most frequent one-word descriptions of the Christian. When God repeats himself, we should listen up.
It might surprise you, but in Scripture the idea of a call is not initially a career path we pick, a cause we choose, or a code we use for unlocking God’s will. A Biblical call is, first of all, something done for us. It is God’s summons to the Saviour, and to his service. ‘But now, this is what the Lord says – He who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’ (Isaiah 43:1)
Right from the beginning of our life, God has been calling us. The term call implies a caller. God makes the call. It also suggests a receiver, the person who hears the call and answers. As soon as we answer His call we encounter a God who wants to relate to us personally. This is why we talk about our call.
In a manner immensely profound and infinitely splendid, God’s effectual call to salvation says far more about Him than it does about the ones he has called. More magnificent than any human invention, His call is not a device but a message – the glorious gospel of a suffering and risen Saviour. This means the first call is the most important call. And it isn’t about what we do or where we go, but about whom we follow.
In the life of Jesus His first call to the disciples began with “follow me.” Following Jesus means we come to Him and learn who we are: sons and daughters of the king of the universe. But Jesus never stands still for long, and so our coming to him always results in our following him.
Before Jesus calls us to do, he first calls us to be. From that place of intimacy, where we are loved, accepted and forgiven, we can learn to hear the voice of God calling to us. This requires listening and making decisions. But the relationship between God and ourselves make discernment not only possible but a desirable part of our growth in faith. God’s call gives life meaning and purpose. An important part of my daily life is listening to God.
By the time I was old enough to hear the faint whispers of the divine Caller, a crowd of other voices had come alongside and told me what I was good at and where I needed to go. Amid all the noise, I found myself going to God wanting nothing but quick, cheap answers: where I should go? What I should do next?
This began my quest to understand the distinction between the call from God and all the other noises that surrounded me. I asked people about their calling. Here’s the thing: I believe God calls people to be. Through the Holy Spirit power within we are able to care, to love, to sacrifice, to listen and to follow. Furthermore, I sense a calling is always to people, specific individuals who we can see and touch and converse with — not to positions of power or influence but created equal I the eyes of God.
My discovery pointed out the obvious – but completely overlooked – fact that a calling, before it does anything else, implies a caller.
I leave you with this consideration: When it comes to your call, start where you are. From there work backward to see where you’ve come from. That may give insight into where you’re going. You will soon discover it is a call to intimacy with God. God’s relationship with you is what matters.
For the most part, I’ve stopped trying to construct my own call. Instead, I spend most of my time listening, more accurately, trying to listen. Not for the voice that dictates a solid five-year plan (although that’s not unwelcome), but for the voice that simply says “You are loved. You are worth more than you know.”