This question seems to have bounced around, particularly in Christian circles, since the 1980’s. I’ve heard it myself during coaching and mentoring people, seen it asked and discussed amongst others and witnessed the huge amounts of books written on the subject.
But I admit, as a student of the scriptures, I find it a bit baffling.
The subject is very self-focused. It’s about ‘my’ calling. And yet, when you read the bible cover to cover, follow the historical events, get to know God in how He is interacting with people and the nations, there is no hint that somehow there is a ‘my calling’.
And I’ll tell you why.
The eternal nature of this life that we are all part of is not about you. It’s ALL about God and His purpose.
Let’s look at Moses as an example. We could all focus our attention on Moses, the man. Or we could focus on God, who orchestrated historically for Moses to be in the right time and place, who hardened Pharaoh’s heart so He could reveal Himself as God far superior to anything of this earth, who had plans for His nation that would bring the Messiah to the earth. So, you tell me, where should our focus be? God or Moses?
This guy Moses that is born during a blood bath, brought up in an adoptive home by his undercover mother, develops a certain way of thinking and standing amongst the people where he lives and then, he becomes involved in the military (if you read Josephus account), marries a Priests daughter, has a really strange encounter with a talking fiery bush and then proceeds to go head-to-head with his countries ruler and adoptive family and of course, leads an ‘army’ into the desert to celebrate their God.
What shall we say about his ‘calling’? Do we analyse it and try to figure it out?
Or can we go by the scriptures?
“By faith Moses when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;…esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt:..By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible”
So that first show of faith was more about his parents than Moses himself. Then we see the man’s faith, who endured as one seeing him who was invisible. But then we see that his wife, Zipporah, also became part of this history because she saved Moses from being killed.
“And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him (Moses) and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son….” Exodus 5:24-26.
If she had not acted quickly, understanding the importance of obedience to the circumcision and the alignment of faith that God had laid out with Abram in Genesis 17, we would have had a completely different history.
“And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoke after” Hebrews 3:5
Moses served God as a servant. He did what he was told to do. He obeyed the next thing God said. He caught God’s vision that was being accomplished, he understood that by his obedience to what God was telling him, he would be part of making that vision take place.
God prepared him for the role he would play in the historical movement of God’s kingdom. Nothing in his life was wasted. Moses, with all his elements of a normal man, was used by God in the right time, the right place for the right purpose. It is really as complex and as simple as that.
Queen Esther did not go around saying ‘what is my calling’. In fact, at first, she didn’t even want to submit to what she was being asked to do. But we love to go around quoting the phrase ‘for such a time as this’, without understanding the historical environment, the predicament of God’s nation and the complexity of the trap that the devil had set. Her obedience as a servant meant she answered the call to do what she needed to do in that time and space.
Phebe served God by being a ‘succourer’ of many including Paul himself. A ‘succourer’ being a patroness, as an assistant. Patroness meaning ‘a woman who protects, supports or sponsors someone or something’. She made herself a participant in what God was doing in the city of Cenchrea. Priscilla and Aquila, named as helpers (co-laborer or coadjutor – companion in labour) in Christ Jesus, were named by Paul as ‘for my life laid down their own necks’. They obviously put their whole lives into serving the Gospel by helping Paul.
Somehow in the modern era we have made our life and relationship with God all about ‘me’. Our songs have become about ‘me’, the devotionals are about things that relate to me and my life, our prayers are about ‘me and what I need’, our lives and hearts are tied into the personal, everything we learn is tied back to how it helps you and your life.
We try to make deals with God for our favour. We want God working for ‘me’, helping ‘me’ in my business, my family, my life. But when He invites us to participate in his purpose, ‘Go into all the nations and preach the gospel’ we respond, ‘oh I don’t feel that calling, that’s for someone else’.
In truth, I’m not sure the modern Christian has learnt what it is to ‘die to oneself’ as we learn from Christ. Life is not rooted in the revealed thinking in scripture, in the revealed nature and purpose of God. Because even when we ask the question about ‘my calling’, we are asking about our value, our contribution and what we can add to God.
Can I add anything to God?
Christ is all in all. What can I add to him?
I add nothing. Except that I am now part of His family, no longer part of any other place of belonging, except His kingdom. My calling is that I have heard His voice calling me to Himself. I have responded with the ‘YES LORD’ to that demand that I serve Him and Him alone. I recognise that by His death I have been purchased, brought for a price, and come into this eternal life that is liberating and exciting.
He is the only one true God. What else is worth serving that even compares to Him?
The job I have? The business I run? My own personal goals and needs? My own family? My own life?
Let’s see what the bible has to say.
‘For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called’. 1 Corinthians 1:26
The word calling here ‘klesis’ means, in the Greek, an invitation.
Two other Greek words ‘kaleo’ and ‘kletos’ are also used for the similar English word (call, calling, called). ‘Kaleo’ which means ‘to call – aloud’, bid, call forth’.
Paul uses the word ‘called’(kletos) in Romans 1. He says he was ‘called’ to be an apostle, he says to the believers ‘you also the called of Jesus Christ’ and then addresses them ‘to all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints’!
‘Kletos’ or called means ‘invited that is appointed or (specifically) a saint’. And a saint is nothing more than a person that has decided to follow Christ and is known as one of His.
The bible answers all our questions. We need to learn to trust that it means exactly what it says. We do not need to use our human understanding to grasp what God means when he says I have called you! Stop trying to ‘figure things out’ and learn to ask the Holy Spirit for help to study and believe the word of God.
Here are some more scriptures using ‘kaleo’, or called, as examples:
‘I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel….’ Galatians 1:6.
‘But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace’. Galatians 1:15
‘For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh but by love serve one another’. Galatians 5:13
Can you see what the biblical ‘calling’ is?
It is an invitation, a bidding, to follow, obey, believe, put your whole life into God’s hands. It is not ‘You have a calling to business.’
Everything I am; all my gifts, talents, experiences, knowledge, connections, finances and thinking, is brought into subjection to God for the use He has of it.
The God that knows the hairs on my head, the God that sees the sparrow and blesses the seed on the ground to become a harvest. God, creator of heaven and earth, who knew me before I was born, from the foundations of the heavens and earth. That God is bidding me to be His. That is the calling. I make choices every day, in whatever I’m doing, to walk with Him by faith. I align myself with Him – that’s all the alignment I need. Everything else will fall into place.
‘…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God’ 1 Cor 10:31
‘And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him’ Colossians 3:17
‘Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ’ Colossians 3:23-24
So how do you know what aligns with your calling?
Get to know what God is accomplishing in His purpose in the earth and align with that. He has called us to be co-labourers with THAT! And what is it? The gospel, into all the world, until the end shall come (Matt 24).
And what does that look like?
Don’t go asking people. Read the scriptures. Study the book of Acts. Study how Paul brings out the historical objective of God and what place you and I have with that. Study how Jesus trains the disciples. Align yourself with that. Dare to believe that this historical God has not changed and He is YOUR God.
You have one life to live with no guarantee of tomorrow. Put yourself wholeheartedly into the hands of Jesus Christ and recognise he has already called you to follow him, and you have decided to do that. Now it’s up to you, day by day, to pay attention and commit to a lifelong of consistently saying ‘Yes Lord’.
‘I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded; and if anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you….
Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as you have us for an example. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often (he is talking about other Christians here not unbelievers), and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ; Who end is destruction, whose God is their belly and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things). For our conversation (citizenship) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ‘ Philippians 3:14-21