Questions to explore:
- What is the definition of calling?
- What are biblical characteristics of “finding” one’s calling?
- Who comes to mind as examples of biblical characters who “found” their calling?
- What are sins that undermine our calling and we should be prepared to address?
Definitions of Calling
[T]he truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service — Os Guinness. The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life Nelson. 1998, 4.
The Christian’s calling is to a life oriented to, sustained by, and expressive of Jesus Christ, the risen and exalted Son of God, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. — T. M. Moore. Dynamic of Spiritual Life (2). The Colson Center for Christian Worldview. 1/25/2011.
As I prepared to teach, I realized the only worldview I was leaving out of my classes was the Christian worldview. I said that if anything in Christianity was true, I was withholding it from my graduate students. I felt like a liar.” — An “anti-definition” from Mary Poplin‘s Finding Calcutta: What Mother Teresa Taught Me About Meaningful Work and Service (InterVarsity Press. 2008, 149).
Biblical Characteristics of Calling
The point of calling in this life goes beyond this life. The eternal is where God has called us and we are headed.
Our calling’s claim on us exists without our acknowledgment. Each of us is responsible – capable of responding – to God.
- Our ability to respond to God, or not, is the essence of our humanity.
- Jesus’ use of the phrase, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
- Our response/responsibility to God is what underpins moral responsibility in society. Without it, morality loses its compass.
This response to God is on two levels:
- Primary: Accepting God’s call, our salvation through the Lord Jesus.
- Secondary: Subjecting all of who we are and what we do to Him.
Our response is individual, and with others, i.e., the Church. Who comes to mind as examples of biblical characters who “found” their calling?
Sins That Hinder Calling – Especially for “Those Who Know They Are Called”
Christian ministry or full-time service considered a “more worthy calling,” even the only “true calling.”
Satisfaction and fulfillment found “in the work” (or another occupation of our time).
- The Protestant work ethic compels many to take this approach because work is viewed as service directly to God. So our doing work with all effort, through all hours of the day and night, to our own and our families’ personal cost, is viewed as an act of Christian obedience.
- Calling is multidimensional because we are – God’s call has its claim on every part of who we are.
God calls us to follow Him exclusively – sometimes our faith takes us in a direction of inflating the importance of others and other things and diminishing God. How do you react to this quote from an Os Guinness interview?
Today, so much of modern society is so other-directed, so audience-driven, and so seeker-sensitive, that much leadership is actually codependent on follower-ship, which gives rise to leaders who are really panderers, not leaders (Rediscovering “Calling” Will Revitalize Church and Society. Acton Institute’s Religion & Liberty. Volume 8, Number 4).
Those who are aware of their calling are susceptible to those who have “more,” e.g., the story of Salieri and Mozart, as captured in the play which became the movie tt0086879/”>Amadeus:
Antonio Salieri believes that Mozart’s music is divine. He wishes he was himself as good a musician as Mozart so that he can praise the Lord through composing. But he can’t understand why God favored Mozart, such a vulgar creature, to be his instrument. Salieri’s envy has made him an enemy of God whose greatness was evident in Mozart. He is set to take revenge. — Amadeus. “Storyline.” tt0086879/”>http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086879/. Accessed 11/2/2011 9:15 AM.
Inconsistency is a challenge for those who have been chosen to be in the world but not of the world. Holding on to the world around us is a sin; letting go is our challenge. Poplin comments
As I began to seek to understand Biblical Christianity, I began to realize that the more completely one live it, the more distanced one felt from the culture (150).
Have you wrestled with your “call awareness” and/or the Caller? If so, what questions do you have? If you’ve wrestled and taken next steps, what enabled you to do such? Do you have contemporary role models/mentors, someone from your field (or a closely related area)?
A text for your prayerful consideration: Colossians 3:1-17.
Next week: Finding Calcutta: I’m not Called to be Mother Teresa.
Note: Genesis of the series: You’ll notice the influence of Head, Heart & Hands, Os Guiness’ “The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life,” and “Why Christian Apologetics?”* As with the Head, Heart & Hands series, the material is drawn from an adult elective at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (EBIC) facilitated by Kevin Milligan in coordination with the author speaking for our Christian Scholar Series (an EBIC-ESN partnership). In Spring 2011, Mary Poplin spoke in Pittsburgh, South Central PA, and Baltimore as part of an ESN partnership with Undergraduate Ministry and Graduate & Faculty Ministry. To God be the glory!
*To skim or not to skim: A ‘case’ study of “Christian Apologetics” and Why Christian Apologetics – Hell on Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for the Biblical Faith (IVP. 2011). More posts on topic coming.
About the author:
Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the Northeast Regional Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). For a number of years, the Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine was the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!