Fuller

Calling: You Have One!

May 5, 2021 • Third Third Journal

This devotion is taken from the small group and devotional guide, Calling in the Third Third of Life. To learn more about this guide or to purchase a PDF version, click here.

Scripture – Genesis 12:1-3

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Devotion

Growing up in a Christian church, I sometimes heard stories of calling that were rather like the story of Abram in Genesis 12. Inevitably these stories came from two types of people: pastors and missionaries. They often talked about being called by God to their particular line of work, what they would call their “ministry.” In many cases, their calling came in truly miraculous ways. Sometimes the pastors and missionaries even claimed to hear God’s call audibly, just like Abram did.

As a boy, I loved hearing these stories of calling because they inspired my faith as well as my admiration for some wonderful Christian servants. But I also absorbed a not-so-subtle implication from what I heard: God calls only certain kinds of people to certain kinds of work. He calls pastors and missionaries, maybe also doctors and youth workers. But God doesn’t call the rest of us: teachers and tellers, artists and architects, counselors and carpenters, strategists and salespeople, principals and parents.

The story of Abram could even be used to defend the view of calling I grew up with. After all, God called Abram in a special way to a special task. He didn’t call all the others in the story (except, as we learn later, Abram’s wife, Sarai). Calling seems like something unusual, something given only to a few.

This view of calling isn’t entirely wrong, of course. God does call certain people to certain tasks. But Scripture is quite clear that God does indeed call all of his people through a variety of modes to a variety of actions. To some, God calls with an audible voice. To some, God tells them to uproot their lives and move to a new location. But most of us won’t receive such dramatic, disruptive callings. Nevertheless, we should acknowledge the call of God upon our lives. We should pay attention to it and embrace it.

To put the matter simply: Every Christian has been called. To put it personally: You have been called. You have a calling (or, one might say, a set of callings). Consider, for example, the following passages of Scripture:

Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion . . . .”

Romans 1:6-7: “[You, Romans] are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints.”

Romans 8:28: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

1 Corinthians 1:9: “God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Ephesians 4:1: ‘I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”

Genesis 1:28 speaks not just to Adam and Eve, but all human beings. All of us have been called by God to be fruitful and multiply by virtue of our humanity. The other verses listed above address all Christians, not only those with special tasks within the church, folks like pastors and missionaries. All Christians are called: 1) to belong to Christ, 2) to be saints, 3) to God’s purpose, 4) into the fellowship of Christ, and 5) to a new way of living. Thus, calling is something that you and I have not only by virtue of our createdness but also because we are new creations in Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:17; Eph 2:10).

The fact that you have a calling doesn’t mean you need to drop everything and become a pastor or a missionary. Don’t start moving your family to Canaan, at least not yet. That could be what God intends for you in this season of your life. I know quite a few people who, when entering the third third of life, were able to retire from their primary occupation and give themselves fully to serving in explicitly Christian organizations. Some did this for compensation; others as volunteer work. It could be that you too will join the ranks of these people.

But it’s far more likely that you are going to hear, clarify, and live out your calling in the context of your “ordinary” life. I put “ordinary” in quotation marks because, once you take seriously the call of God in your life, it will become anything but ordinary. Plus, if you’re in or entering the third third of life, you may very well be experiencing considerable disruption. “Ordinary” feels like it has passed. Your “ordinary” life of work may be in transition, whether you are working into your 70s, retiring completely, cutting back your hours to part-time, or setting out on a new entrepreneurial adventure. The more you embrace the fact of your calling, the more you’ll be able to discover how God wants to bless you and bless others through you, just like God did with Abram and Sarai.

Reflect

Have you experienced Christians using the language of calling in a way similar to what I experienced growing up in church? What difference has this made in how you have lived your life?

How do you respond to the idea that you have a calling? Does this feel exciting? Does it seem like theological gobbledygook? Does it feel threatening?

If you believe you have a calling, how would you explain your calling?

To what extent is your calling relevant in your life today?

Act

My doctoral students at Fuller Seminary regularly respond to a question the seminary poses to all of its students: “At this point in your Christian journey, how do you envision your call to God’s mission in the world?” How would you answer this question? You may want to talk about this with your small group, spiritual director, or a trusted friend.

Pray

Gracious God, thank you for calling all human beings as partners in your work in this world. Thank you for calling those who follow Jesus into a life of kingdom service and meaning.

As I reflect on the story of Abram, I must confess that I feel a bit of envy. You were so clear when communicating with him! Sometimes I wish you were that clear with me. At least then I’d know that to which you are calling me. Nevertheless, I pray that you give me ears to hear you call and a heart ready to respond. Help me to walk worthy of the calling you have for me. Amen.


This devotion is taken from the small group and devotional guide, Calling in the Third Third of Life. To learn more about this guide or to purchase a PDF version, click here.

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