A newly-ordained pastor, in the first days of his first call, was attempting to console the widow of a man who had just died. Standing before the open casket, the nervous young pastor said, “I realize this must be a very hard blow for you, Mrs. Johnson. Just try to remember that what we see before us is only the husk, the shell of your dear husband—the nut has gone to heaven.”
That’s one way to put it.
Sometimes we love something but we’re not that good at it. Growing up, you might see a neighbor boy spend hours and hours shooting baskets at his driveway hoop, working on a lay-up, and playing with other kids. If you know the game, then you can see that he or she may love basketball but will never be very good at it. Obviously, of course, it can still bring him joy.
On the other hand, someone else can be good or even great at something but have no passion about it. They don’t want to put the work into their talent or skill, and so no matter how much they “should” keep at it, they’re not interested. They let it slide by.
There are few things more inspiring than someone pursuing an activity she loves and is good at. But if we must pick between something we love and something we’re good at, it’s better to do something we’re good at. The Lord gets more from us this way. We can rise higher. We will ultimately be happier. And, the truth is, we can make a hobby or an avocation out of something we love.
Don’t waste talent. We want to follow what is most natural for us to do and to excel at. If it flows through you easily then follow it fully. We’re fulfilled by what we can build and be best at, not by what merely pleases us. We have gifts. We’re supposed to accept them and use them.
The Lord wants life to bless us. God doesn’t want us to swim against the stream of who we are and the gifts we have. Things can go much harder when we aren’t following what we do best or what is best for us.
Some people make one wrong choice and can’t seem to get their footing back afterward. Someone should have been a PE teacher but instead wanted to be a stock broker, and things don’t turn out well. Someone thinks they should stick with the guy who has more money or someone else falls for a better-looking person rather than the nicer one. Both miss the opportunity for real love.
Lives can veer off a blessed path when we don’t hear what God is telling us. Sometimes there are bumpers that will bring us back quickly; other times, it’s a long way down. We need to listen to the Lord. We ought to ask God what’s best for us and stick to it with faith.
The first three chapters of the book of Ephesians are devoted to doctrine and the laying out of great truths of what God has done in Jesus Christ. Those chapters teach what is true before the final three chapters teach us what to do.
In chapter four, with the word “therefore” Paul transitions us from the theology of the Christian faith to the practicalities of the Christian life. How the Christian faith is to be lived out through our speech, ethics, marriages and parenting. If the first three chapters of Ephesians focuses on God’s sovereignty, you might say, the last three chapters focus on Christian responsibility.
When our scripture says, “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,” the assumption is you’ve already been called. The question facing us is whether we’re answering it fully. What isn’t at issue is whether you have received a calling. That’s a given.
We don’t hear that we should wait and pray to receive a calling. No, this is telling us that we already have a godly calling. We’ve already been exposed to it. God isn’t lacking regarding it. We’re in jeopardy of not fulfilling it.
Now I can imagine at least one or two people are sitting here thinking to themselves, “Well, that’s not fair. Honest to Pete, I’m not sure what my calling is.”
There’s a difference between not knowing what our calling is and no longer believing or accepting what our calling is. At the bare minimum, all of us experience and share one general calling as Christians.
Ephesians 4:2-3 fills this in immediately. After we’re begged to live a life worthy of God’s call, we hear we’re to live it “with all humility, gentleness, and patience so that we can bear with each other in love.” Every Christian’s calling is to make “every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” This goes for us toward one another in church, and toward others outside the church.
Callings aren’t always easy. They’re supposed to be challenging. Most people want to get their own individual, specialized calling so perhaps they
can leave this general, one-size fits all version behind. But this first one isn’t merely a first one because we don’t grow out of it when we become older or see ourselves as more important. Being humble and patient is a forever calling from the Lord. Maintaining unity and bonds of peace is never out of fashion with God. It could take a lifetime trying to fulfill these two verses alone.
Don’t leave behind the fundamentals of your faith. If the Lord wants us to start with humility and gentleness, it doesn’t mean because then we can “graduate” from them and take on arrogance and callousness. God’s nature doesn’t change.
There was a pastor in late 1800’s named Dr. Newman Hall who wrote a book entitled Come to Jesus. Another man in town wrote an article ridiculing Dr. Hall and though at first Hall was going to ignore it, the article began to gain a lot of attention and became the talk of town. So, Dr. Hall sat down and wrote a letter in response and he fired back with insults that were aimed at cutting him down.
His plan was to have the letter published, but before he mailed it, he took it to his friend the great preacher Charles Spurgeon to get his opinion. Spurgeon read it carefully, handed it back and agreed that it was an excellent letter and that the writer of the article deserved every word. “But,” he added, “it just lacks one thing…underneath your signature you ought to write the words, Author of Come to Jesus.
Dr. Hall stood there in silence for a few moments, and then tore his letter to shreds.
Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, and worthy of the one who called you, Christ Jesus. Keep humility as your guide. Be full of gentleness so you can be full of God’s strength. Let your patience show through.
The Bible is brimming with call stories. God called Noah to build an ark. God called Abraham and Sarah when they were old to leave their home and go on a journey to begin a nation. God called the boy Samuel out of a deep sleep and his response was, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” God called Esther, telling her she was made “for a moment like this.”
God called Jonah, who turned out to be a reluctant prophet even after spending a few days in the belly of a fish. God called Mary, a teenage girl, to give birth to the Savior. God called Peter to be a rock upon which a church
could be built. God called Paul on the road to Damascus and set him on a path that would transform the world.
A call is unique for every person, but each shares certain characteristics. A call is always personal and tailored to fit a person’s soul. It builds on one’s spiritual gifts; it usually feels urgent and persistent. It’s a kind of surrendering and a challenge and a joy. Author C. S. Lewis wrote, “To follow the vocation does not mean happiness, but once it has been heard, there is no happiness for those who do not follow.”
When someone speaks about God’s call, he or she frequently means a lofty, divine encounter that leads a person to enter a life of service in the church, often as an ordained pastor. But in a deeper exploration, through a variety of biblical stories and in passages like Ephesians 4, it be fully alive, grow in faith, serve the church, and transform the world.
We’ve received spiritual gifts to equip the church to do ministry. God has gifted us to make the world and the church better. We’re to be a part of the body of Christ and enrich it with our presence and enlarge it with our effort. But we need to be willing to move forward in our lives.
The Lord is like a proud mom or dad whose arms are open to their just starting to walk toddling toddler. “One more step. Come on, you can do it.” There’s more to be and something important still to do.
Of course, what’s important is often in the eye of the beholder. You may be able to learn by watching someone else, but your calling isn’t her calling. Don’t get caught in the comparison trap like the apostle Peter. In John 21, right after Jesus says three times to Peter, “Take care of my sheep,” Peter looks at John the disciple and says to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” It’s as if he’s saying, “Yeah, I heard what your calling for me is, but before I decide, I’d like to hear about John, compare the callings, and then decide.” Jesus replies to Peter in words that are pretty direct, “What is that to you? You must follow me.”
Believe in yourself. Make yourself available. Don’t let your gifts and goodness go to waste.
Follow God’s tugs. Take that next step. What we’re missing in our life shows up when we step up. We’re not going to get approval for everything that’s on our mind or in our heart to accomplish. We have to be willing to follow the Lord and make our life match God’s will.
Answer the Lord’s call. Say yes. Fulfill your life. Give joy to your heart. Follow the Lord in service to the church and the kingdom. When we do this, we know the peace and joy God seeks to bless us with.
Can the church say Amen?