Step Towards Transformation
How does the Bible use the term “call” or “calling?”
The concept of a divine call has sometimes been misunderstood within the Christian community. The opportunity of understanding the call of God on a Christian’s life can at times be confused with personal dreams and ambitions. But, the purpose of a divine call or even a call to minister is not something we create, but something God places within us.
What Do Calls Look Like?
To answer a call is difficult if you don’t know what that call looks or sounds like.
Illustration: On February 22, 2001, a young woman named Leyla and her daughter, Erika, were visiting friends in Edmonton, Canada. Leyla was partying with a friend that night, while leaving a relative to babysit 13-month-old Erika. When Leyla returned home, the babysitter left through the back door — a door with a broken latch.
In the early hours of the morning, Erika walked out of the house through the door with the broken latch. She was wearing nothing more than her diaper — in February — in Canada. The temperature outside was about -11 degrees Fahrenheit.
Erika was found a short time after 3:00 AM by her mother, frozen and unbreathing in a snowbank about 25 feet from the house. She was immediately taken to a local children’s hospital. Upon arrival, she was considered to be clinically dead — she had no pulse for 2 hours and had a body temperature of 61 degrees. Compare this to the “normal” temperature of 98.6 degrees and you can begin to understand the incredible hypothermia she suffered.
Leyla, Erika’s mother, was detained by provincial police for five hours on suspicion of child neglect, and even though she was never formally charged, she became the subject of intense media scrutiny. She ended up moving away from Edmonton to avoid the media attention.
Erika didn’t understand what snow was really all about, or that it was dangerous. She didn’t really know why it was bad to wander around outside, at night, with no clothes on. She was only 13 months old — she was barely walking by herself! Nevertheless, she had to suffer the consequences.
The news is not all bad, though. Erika is better known in Canada as “Canada’s Miracle Child”. After being placed under a warming blanket in the hospital, Erika’s heart spontaneously started beating again. She was in the hospital for six weeks, during which time the doctors rushed to save her fingers, toes, feet, and hands from amputation due to frostbite. Thankfully, amputation turned out to be unnecessary — all she required was skin grafts and therapy due to a slight deformation of her left foot which requires her to wear special shoes.
Erika’s story is a great example of what can happen if someone is not prepared. Erika didn’t know enough about the cold to really understand how to react to it, and she paid the price. The same is true for all of us — if we don’t know enough about something, we won’t be able to react to it correctly.
If we don’t know what God’s call can look like in our life, we won’t be able to answer it properly. The problem, though, is that the call of God is different for every person! We’re not all called to the same purpose for God’s Kingdom. We are all called to different things by God Himself.
The Bible says this in Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
Called according to HIS purpose. If God calls a person to do something, is that bad? Can it be wrong? No! Of course not! How could it be?
The Bible says repeatedly that God is perfect and blameless. More than that, Jeremiah 1:5 says, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”
If a perfect God knows us before we were even born, wouldn’t it make sense that He would know what is best for us?
What if I told you that we’re all called to the ministry?
Every single one of us — every believer in this world is called to the ministry. Jesus Himself said this! Matthew 28:18-20, “Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Jesus didn’t say, “OK, some of you need to go do this, and the rest of you can rely on them to reach the world for you.” He said, “Therefore, go”. Check out verse 20: “Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you”. Jesus gave His disciples a command to go make disciples. He then told them to teach these disciples to obey all of His commands — including the one to go make new disciples!
So if everyone is called into the ministry, does this mean that everyone who is not a preacher, missionary, or evangelist is disobeying the call of God? No! Everyone is called to the ministry, yes; but that doesn’t mean that everyone is called to be a preacher.
Ministry is any activity in which a person can spread the Word of God. That’s it! Yes, preaching a sermon every week is a form of ministry — of course. But so is witnessing to the person in the market or office place!
WE ALL GET A PHYSICAL CALL AND A SPIRITUAL CALL.
YOUR PROFESSIONAL CALLING IS HOW YOU MAKE A LIVING.
My professional calling is to do sales and marketing. I feel it deep down in my innermost being — I was put on this earth to sell and present a product in a market. Each one of you have a professional call in your lives. You may not know what it is yet, and that’s OK. Your professional calling may not come until you’re older. The important thing, though, is to understand what that calling is and how to react to it.
But when you know what your professional calling is, how should you react? You react by guiding your life to make that calling a reality. If your calling requires a college degree, then you need to research colleges and start saving money for tuition. If your calling requires specialist schooling, like welding or law enforcement, then you need to research what the requirements are to apply to those schools and make sure you meet those requirements.
IF YOUR PROFESSIONAL CALLING IS HOW YOU MAKE A LIVING FOR YOURSELF, YOUR SPIRITUAL CALLING IS HOW YOU MAKE A LIFE FOR ANOTHER.
My spiritual calling is this, right here — teaching ministry. When one Pastor first came to me and asked me to teach in the church, I didn’t want to do it. But I prayed about it, and God told me, “I am calling you to do this.” And now, I love it, and wouldn’t have it any other way.
One Pastor friend of mine himself had something similar happen in his life. He started going to medical college to become a doctor. God called him to go into full-time ministry of healing , though, so he obeyed.
Only in those who are specifically called to go into full-time ministry will see their professional and spiritual calls match each other, however everyone’s calls work together.
But what happens if you’ve already missed your calling? What do you do if you’ve already received a professional or spiritual calling, but you’ve ignored it because you didn’t want to do it?
Well, think back to Erika, the little girl who went out into the snow. She had a miracle happen in her life, and she was literally brought back to life. The same is true for those who have ignored their calling — God is merciful, and will allow them to come back to their purpose. However, just like Erika has some minor damage in her body from her experience, those who come back to God’s purpose after running away may have some scars of their own.
When thinking about your calling, remember that God always gives two calls — a professional call and a spiritual call.
Your professional call is how you make a living, your spiritual call is how you make a life for another. In both, your callings are designed by God for you specifically, so you can best further His Kingdom here on Earth.
Types Of Spiritual Calls
Mark 1:16-20.. “And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. (17) Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (18) They immediately left their nets and followed Him. (19) When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. (20) And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him.”
We are tempted to think from Mark’s words that Jesus had only to speak and without a moment’s hesit-ation the four mesmerized fisherman fell into step and followed Jesus. But that is not the way it happened. This is not the first contact that Jesus has with these men, in fact the events told in John 1:35-43 occur between Mark 1:13 and Mark 1:14. At least two of the fisherman, Andrew and Simon Peter, had been followers of John the Baptist. And no doubt all of them had heard Jesus preach and teach and had talked about His message and His actions. They knew that John the Baptist had pointed Jesus out as the “lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Jesus on his part had noticed them and picked them out as men of potential. He had been calling them persistently and waiting patiently for some time – just as he does with us. Now he appears again and this is their official call to a life of continual discipleship.
I would like to ask and answer five questions concerning the call of Christ.
Notice that the Lord calls Ordinary people.
The men who Jesus called to be his disciples were just ordinary people. If we think about what these men will be called upon to do, it is astonishing that Jesus chose these men.
In fact God delights to use ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things.
Illustration: A converted Hindu gave the following address to a number of his fellow countrymen: “I am, by birth, of an insignificant and contemptible caste—so low, that if a Brahmin should chance to touch me, he must go and bathe in the Ganges for the purpose of purification; and yet God has been pleased to call me, not merely to the knowledge of the Gospel, but to the high office of teaching it to others. My friends, do you know the reason of God’s conduct? It is this—if God had selected one of you learned Brahmins, and made you the preacher, when you were successful in making converts, by-standers would have said, it was the amazing learning of the Brahmin and his great weight of character that were the cause; but now, when any one is converted by my instrumentality, no one thinks of ascribing any of the praise to me: and God, as is His due, has all the glory.”
Who Does God Call – He calls Ordinary people…
He not only called ordinary people, but He called busy people.
They were in the midst of living their lives, running their businesses. It is still true today, should something need done do not chose someone who is not doing anything, find someone who is very busy and ask them to help, because they are the people that get things done.
The Lord calls those who would follow Him in the middle of their daily routine. It is sometimes assumed that God only calls in the midst of something free time. But a examination of the people that God has called into the ministry will reveal that He has over and over called people to serve Him right in the middle of their daily routine.
When Does the Lord Call – he calls in the midst of their daily routine….
In closing I want you to see that Jesus promises to make us something we could never be without Him. Mark 1:17 says, “follow me …and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus literally declares, “I will make or I will cause you to become fishers of men.” In other words TO CHANGE THE WORLD.
Illustration: Who among us could live without computers? It seems they’re everywhere – in our studies at home, on our desks at work, in the library, the bank and even the cafe. We get pleasure from them, we swear at them, we need them.
But it’s only a recent thing. Just 3 generations ago the Chairman of IBM declared there is a world market for only five computers. As recently as 1977 the President of Digital Equipment claimed there is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home!
The revolution was brought to us in large part by Steven Jobs, the founder of Apple Computers. Steve Jobs was just 21 when he and Steve Wozniak invented the Apple Computer. Until then computers were a monstrous mass of vacuum tubes which took whole rooms. Then the two Steve’s managed to take that mass of tubes and incorporate them inside a box small enough to sit on a desk.
Jobs and Wozniak offered their invention to Atari. They weren’t interested in big bucks – all they wanted was a salary and the opportunity to continue their work. Atari knocked them back. They offered it to Hewlett-Packard, but Hewlett Packard knocked them back. It seemed Jobs and Wozniak alone could see the possibilities. So Jobs sold his Volkswagon and Wozniak sold his calculator, and with the $1300 that gave them they formed Apple Computers. The company was named Apple in memory of a happy summer Jobs had spent working in an orchard.
The rest is history. By all accounts Steve Jobs is a visionary, and spurred on by that vision he built a successful computer company. But Jobs soon discovered that if his vision was to reach fruition they needed greater management expertise. So Jobs approached John Sculley, then President of PepsiCo. There was absolutely no reason why Sculley should leave a highly paid position in a world leading company to go work with a bunch of computer nerds in a fledgling industry. Not unsurprisingly he turned Jobs down. But Jobs wouldn’t take no for an answer. He approached Sculley again. Again Sculley turned him down. In a last ditch effort Jobs passionately presented his visionary ideas to Sculley and he asked Sculley a question that forced him to accept. The question was this: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”
“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” Indeed Jobs and Sculley did change the world.
Jesus comes to us with the same question: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” Most of us spend our lives making sugared water, going to work to accumulate more possessions and perhaps finding space for God and the world in our spare time. But Jesus had a vision to change the world. His was the vision of the kingdom of God and he calls us to place it at the center of our lives, to make it our reason for existence (Matthew 6.33).
It is a personal call, Jesus said “follow me” – they called By Christ and To Christ.
It is a call to allegiance to a person.
They had to do something to bring it about. Yes, Jesus calls but the responding is up to us, we make the decision.
The word “follow” – means “commit to me,” it literally means to follow as a disciple and implies personal devotion. It is a call that is to be accompanied with an understanding of its seriousness. To be a disciple, Jesus warned is not a step for the hesitant. Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62). Jesus knew that commitment is essential because those who are easily persuaded to follow, just as easily give up when the going gets rough.
Illustration: A good illustration of the kind of commitment that Christ demands can be found in history.In 1519, Cortez landed at Veracruz, Mexico with the intention of the conquest of Mexico. Do you know what the first thing that he did was?-he burned all eleven of his ships. He now had no way back, he was committed to the task before him.
The Lord Jesus Christ has called us to that kind of commitment or response.
Illustration: Striving To Please The Master:
A story is told of a famous violinist who was to perform at a concert hall of world renown. As he stood before the packed house that night and played his violin, he mesmerized the audience with his prowess and skill. As he lifted his bow off the string on his final note, the hall erupted with thunderous applause and he was given a standing ovation. He looked at the crowd for a moment and walked off the stage only to return to render an encore performance. To the amazement of the masses gathered there that night, his encore performance was even more beautiful and flawless than the first.
He looked to the audience and left the stage for the second time, but was beckoned back by the deafening roar of the multitudes that once again stood to their feet in adulation. He gave yet another encore number, leaving the audience fumbling for words that could describe what their eyes and ears just experienced. This sequence was repeated several more times until finally this virtuoso of virtuosos finished his piece, looked to the audience, nodded his head and simply walked off the stage while the ferocious cheers could still be heard long after he exited.
Reporters pressed outside the violinist’s dressing room, waiting to catch a word from the man who had just given the performance of a lifetime. As he emerged from the small room, one reporter asked the question, “Sir, why did you give so many encore performances? You could have stopped after the first and everyone would have been amazed.” The violinist stopped and replied, “For the very first time in my career, my master, the one who taught me to play the violin, was in the audience. When I finished my performance, everyone stood except for one person. I played again, and everyone stood to applaud except for him. I continued to play. On the conclusion of the last encore I looked into the seats and I noticed that everyone, including my master, was standing and applauding. It was only then that I was satisfied that I had done a good job.”
Christian, who are you living to please? Is your life focused on receiving the praises of men or are you striving to please your Master, Jesus Christ? Let us keep our focus on Jesus Christ that we may be satisfied that we did a good job when we hear His words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…”[Matthew 25:23]
GOD EQUIPS EACH OF US WITH UNIQUE SPIRITUAL GIFTS TO HELP US IN OUR CALLING.
Romans 11:29 says, “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”
“Without repentance” means that God won’t change His mind about what He has called you to do.
Lets Note A Few Things
Illustration: A young missionary, Herbert Jackson, was given a car to help him in his work. The car was a major asset, but it had one difficulty—it would not start without a push or a jump-start. Jackson devised a system to cope with the car’s inability to start. When he was ready to leave his home, he went to a nearby school and asked permission to bring some of the children out of class to help him push-start his car.
Throughout the day, he was careful to always park on a hill or to leave his engine running when he stopped for short visits. For two years the young missionary used what he believed was an ingenious method to enable him to use the car.
When poor health forced the Jackson family to leave the field, a new missionary arrived to lead the mission. When Jackson explained to the new missionary his methods for starting the car, the young man opened the hood and began inspecting. “Why, Dr. Jackson,” he interrupted, “I believe the only trouble is the loose cable.” He gave the cable a twist, pushed the switch, and the engine roared to life.
For two years, Dr. Jackson had used his own devices and endured needless trouble. The power to start the car was there all the time—it only needed to be connected.
In the Same way, our gifts need to be connected with our calling.
DON’T BE COMPETITIVE:
Illustration: Clovis Chappell, a minister from a century back, used to tell the story of two steamboats. They left Memphis about the same time, traveling down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. As they traveled side by side, sailors from one vessel made a few remarks about the snail’s pace of the other. Challenges were made and the race began.
Competition became vicious as the two boats roared through the deep South. One boat began falling behind because it did not have enough fuel. There had been plenty of coal for the trip, but not enough for a race. As the boat dropped behind, an enterprising young sailor took some of the ship’s cargo and tossed it into the ovens. When the sailors saw that the supplies burned as well as the coal, they fueled their boat with the material they had been assigned to transport. They ended up winning the race, but burned their cargo.
God has entrusted cargo to us, too. Our job is to do our part in seeing that this cargo reaches its destination. Yet when the program takes priority over people, people often suffer. How much cargo do we sacrifice in order to achieve the number one slot? How many people never reach the destination because of the aggressiveness of a competitive captain?
ITS ALL ABOUT SERVING THE LORD
Illustration: One night a cobbler dreamed that the next day Jesus was coming to visit him. The dream seemed so real that he got up very early the next morning and hurried to the woods, where he gathered green boughs to decorate his shop for the arrival of so great a Guest. He waited all morning, but, to his disappointment, his shop remained quiet, except for an old man who limped up to the door asking to come in for a few minutes of warmth. While the man was resting, the cobbler noticed that the old fellow’s shoes were worn through. Touched, the cobbler took a new pair from his shelves and saw to it that the stranger was wearing them as he went on his way. Throughout the afternoon the cobbler waited, but his only visitor was an elderly woman. He had seen her struggling under a heavy load of firewood, and he invited her, too, into his shop to eat; he saw to it that she had a nourishing meal before she went on her way. As night began to fall, the cobbler heard a child crying outside his door. The child was lost and afraid. The cobbler went out, soothed the youngster’s tears and, with the little hand in his, took the child home. When he returned, the cobbler was sad. He was convinced that while he had been away he had missed the visit of his Lord.
In his anguish, the cobbler cried out, “Why is it, Lord, that Your feet delay? Have you forgotten that this was the day?” Then, soft in the silence a voice he heard: “Lift up your heart for I kept my word. Three times I came to your friendly door; three times my shadow was on your floor. I was the man with the bruised feet; I was the woman you gave food to; I was the child on the street.”
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.—Matthew 25:40