Theology Thursday: What Does It Mean To Be "Called"
Have you ever said or heard someone else say something like, "I really feel like GOD is calling me to do this" or "GOD called me into ministry" or "I am waiting to see if GOD is calling me to do that."
In a lot of ways, the idea of "Calling" in the Christian world seems to be quite confusing and oftentimes emotional. In the Bible, on the other hand, the idea of "Calling" seems a lot simpler and more straightforward. Not easier, by any means, but simpler. Let me explain.
The idea of calling in the Bible seems to be much more focused on GOD calling us to Him than Him calling us to a specific task. I'm not saying He never calls people to specific tasks like Noah's Ark, Jonah to Nineveh, and Jesus to the Cross, but I am saying GOD calls us to Him first, Every Single Time!
GOD's initial call to all of us is to follow Him, to pursue Him. Throughout the Bible, GOD calls His people into a relationship with Him, and it is when we miss this step that the confusion sets in. When we miss GOD calling us to be His son/daughter, how could we possibly hear any other thing He says?
Our relationship with Jesus is a calling to some very specific and very Biblical things. Things like faith, humility, love, evangelism, prayer, and a lot of other clear commands in Scripture. When we do not hear GOD calling us, maybe it is because we are not listening in the ways He tells us to listen...
The clear thing about GOD is that He is at work in the entire world. He loves people in Jacksonville as much as He loves people in Haiti. He is working as much and as regularly in Georgia as He is in Australia. GOD is at work in the world.
The bottom line is that our calling to GOD is never in a vacuum. We have a tendency to be as selfish in our calling as we are with anything else in the world. The phrase is always, "I was called to this" or "I 'feel' GOD calling me in this way" and we have a tendency to bury our head and move forward no matter what. I can easily convince myself that GOD is calling me to something.
A great example is what is happening in Haiti right now. There are still short-term missionary teams going down to Haiti. They are going into the airport as a big group of Americans where they are then picked up by drivers and other Haitians who take them to guest houses and ministry centers to do work for the week.
If you were to ask any of the team members why they are going, the answer would almost definitely involve the word "call" or "calling" somewhere. They felt called to spend the week in Haiti regardless of the danger it posed to them or their family.
What about the danger to the driver who had a bunch of Haitians see them picking up wealthy Americans? What about the owner of the guesthouse who had a bunch of people watching the number of missionaries that were staying at his house and now know that he is flush with cash?
What I am trying to say is that the idea of "calling" can be a dangerous one similar to the phrase "GOD told me to do ______" It can be a way for us to do something that we want to do under the guise of GOD's call.
- If we are trying to figure out a specific calling on our life from GOD without being in relationship with Him first, then we will fail.
- If we skip over the part where we follow the clear commands of Scripture, instead trying to figure out what our "calling" is, then our lives will be out of order.
- If we focus on our specific calling without realizing that our life is not lived in a vacuum, then not only will we miss GOD, but we will help/force others to do the same.
As the Dad of 3, 4, and 5 year old children and the husband to a wonderful wife, my calling should not be something that takes me away from my family for 10 months out of the year (military excluded of course). As the leader of a ministry in Haiti, my calling should not mean that I am asking teams of other people to come down to a place that I know is dangerous and where their presence will put Haitians in danger.
My job is to know Jesus and to be able to hear His voice. It is not my job to search for my "calling," it is my job to seek a relationship with Him. John 8:47 says, "He who belongs to GOD hears what GOD says, the reason that you do not hear is that you do not belong to GOD."
When I know and belong to Jesus, I will know His voice; when I know His voice, I will hear Him when He calls; if I hear Him when He calls, that is the definition of a "calling." It all starts with a relationship with Him, let's not skip that part!