April 6, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – 1 Corinthians 1:1 (NRSV)
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes.
Paul, in his letter to the Corinthian church, explains that he “called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” His calling was not something he invented or chose for himself. Rather, Paul’s calling was something he received from God. Biblically speaking, to have a calling is to have a Caller. When we accept our calling, we acknowledge the gracious sovereignty of God over our lives.
Today’s devotion is part of the series God’s Transformational Calling.
Today is the second installment in our devotional series on calling in the letters of Paul. As I explained yesterday, before we continue our slow walk through the Gospel of Luke, I want to spend some time reflecting with you on the idea of calling and its implications for our lives.
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is a fine place to start. The second word of this letter, both in Greek and in English, is “called” (klētos in Greek; 1:1). That word will appear two more times in the opening verses of the letter. From the outset, Paul wants the Corinthians to understand what it means to be called.
Paul begins by focusing on his distinctive and particular calling “to be an apostle of Christ Jesus” (1:1). Though there are many nuances of this calling, basically an apostle was one who was sent (apostolos in Greek is derived from the verb apostellō, which means “to send, dispatch”) to preach the gospel and plant churches. Paul understood his apostolic responsibility to include ongoing care for the churches he had planted and nurtured, which is why he wrote letters to the Corinthian church and several others as well.
Paul understood his calling as similar to that of the Old Testament prophets. To the Galatians he explains, “God . . . had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace” (Galatians 1:15). This echoes the call of Jeremiah, to whom the Lord said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). Like Jeremiah, Paul did not seek to become God’s special envoy. It happened because of God’s initiative. Paul is “called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (1 Corinthians 1:1), not by the will of Paul, the early church, or any other human organization.
Thus, if we’re going to make sense of the biblical notion of calling, we must begin with a foundational truth. If you have a calling, then you have a caller. A calling isn’t something that exists by itself. It isn’t the same as an inner sense of purpose or meaning, though it can be closely related to both of these. Calling isn’t something you invent. Rather, calling comes from the caller, or perhaps we might say, the Caller.
If you see your life in terms of calling, then you are acknowledging the existence and authority of the One who calls. You’re agreeing that you are not the ultimate captain of your existence. Since God is the one who calls, your calling is a response to God’s gracious initiative. Biblically speaking, if you accept the fact that you have a calling, then you are choosing to live under the sovereignty of the Caller.
You can see what a difference this can make in how you think about and experience life. If God has called you, then your life isn’t random and meaningless. If God has called you, then you aren’t the king of your own realm. If God has called you, then God’s will for your life is all important. If God has called you, then you are part of God’s grand plan for creation. If God has called you, then the Sovereign of the universe is guiding your life and seeking relationship with you. If God has called you, this makes all the difference in the world.
Do you think about your life as a response to God’s calling?
Have you ever felt that God was calling you to something specific, to a particular role or responsibility?
As you go through an average day, to what extent do you experience life as being under the gracious sovereignty of God?
Set aside a few minutes in the morning to think about the day ahead. Consider what difference God’s calling might make in how you think, feel, and act.
Gracious God, thank you for calling Paul to be an apostle. In so many ways, we are the beneficiaries of this calling. We wouldn’t have Paul’s letters if you hadn’t called him. So, thank you!
As I think about my calling, Lord, help always to keep in mind that I have a Caller. Help me not to claim my calling as if it’s something I own and control. Rather, may I respond to your call upon my life with obedience and gratitude.
Help me to live this day, gracious God, as a called person, as someone guided by my Caller. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Best of Daily Reflections: If You Have a Calling, Then You Have a Caller
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.