Calling

By Curt Alan, Pastor of Missions, The Summit Church, Raleigh-Durham, NC and…
Hilary’s husband

Calling is one of those concepts that I think we’ve loaded so much junk on top of it begins to sound like an object rather than a holy command.

“I’m trying to find my calling.”

Really? Where did you last remember having it? Where have you been looking? How long has it been lost?

People talk in terms of “calling” as if it is like their car keys, a pair of glasses, or their mobile phone.

Before checking  the lost and found, 911, or Googling online tools to define your calling – you know, the ones on the internet right next to the spiritual gifts test (I sometimes wonder what the early church did without the web), turn directly to the source.

In Matthew 5 and again in Mark 1, we see Jesus “calling” his first disciples. You know the story…

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

Boom. Found it.

Think about it. A few verses later in Matthew 5, Jesus comes upon James and John and scripture just tells us that he “called them. Immediately, they left the boat and their father and followed him.” What did Jesus say to them, though? Well, given the same scenario just 2 verses earlier, I strongly suspect that the “call” was the same – follow me.

Twenty three times in the gospels, Jesus talks specifically of following him or directly calls someone to “follow him.” Twenty three times. That’s a lot. Pay attention!

But wait, is that really the call? Is that IT? Follow me?

You might be thinking — that doesn’t seem very specific. Where am I going? Can I have some more information? What should I pack?

That’s not the point. Doesn’t matter right now. Seriously.

Go back to Proverbs 3: 5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge him in all your ways and he will make your path straight.” Scripture doesn’t tell us where this is headed specifically for us. Jesus doesn’t give us any more specifics than what Jesus gave to Peter, Andrew, James, and John.

Calling begins with Christ’s call to trust and follow him and ends with our obedience to respond to him – daily, hourly…completely.

But how does that determine a direction, a job, and a specific action?

In Proverbs, we’re told to acknowledge him in all our ways and he will make our path straight. He doesn’t promise the “wheres” but he does clearly command the how. In all that we are – how we think, how we speak, how we orient our lives – we’re to acknowledge who the Lord is in our lives. In turn, he PROMISES to make our path straight.

Jesus himself gives us even more clarity in Luke 9: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” As you unpack this, you can’t help but notice that responding to this call will require complete submission to him as Lord, action, and daily diligence.

Every now and then, I have someone come to my office to tell me about the call that God has placed on their life.

“I just feel called to serve the XYZ people and carry the gospel to them.”

“I have such a burden for ABC country and feel called to bring Christ there.”

Or, even,

“I met this team of missionaries on a mission trip and I feel called to serve alongside them.”

To be honest, these people really worry me.

They are following a call to a people group, a place, a team of other believers – and following themselves as opposed to following Christ.

If their call is based in any of these things, I’ve seen firsthand how a “calling” can crumble under the weight of disappointment, sin, and failure.

When the people group they’ve been called to consistently reject the gospel, ignore them, or threaten them, when the huge differences of a foreign culture cause endless frustration, or when a team of believers lets them down, I start to hear things like “Don’t these people get that I’m trying to save their lives? Don’t they know what I gave up to be here? Doesn’t anyone get it?”

Ah…the root of this calling is exposed. It’s all about them.

Any call to follow, to serve, to go that isn’t rooted in following Christ first and foremost is doomed.

Christ alone is faithful. His promises are true and his power is ultimate and eternal. He alone is worthy. He alone is capable.

Acknowledge him in all your ways and he will make straight your path.

Follow him.

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