May 25, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – 1 Corinthians 1:1-2, 9
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours. . . .
God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Your calling tells you that you have a divine Caller. God has called you because of his grace (Galatians 1:6). God desires a relationship with you. God summons you to join his work in the world. The fact that you have a Caller means your life is one of response. As you hear God’s call, you respond, at first in faith, trusting God for salvation through Jesus Christ. Then, as you continue to pay attention to God’s call “into his own kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12), you will live your life worthy of the calling to which you have been called (Ephesians 4:1).
Today’s devotion is part of the series God’s Transformational Calling.
This is the last of thirty devotions on calling. Throughout this series, we have been inspired by the writings of the Apostle Paul, for whom calling was an essential theological doctrine. Yet, as we have seen, calling isn’t just something to be studied by theologians and other intellectually curious people. Rather, calling is a reality that defines, shapes, and transforms our lives. If we’re going to experience the fulness and richness of the Christian life, then we need both to understand the idea of calling and to live fully and richly as called people.
We finish this devotional series by looking once again at the passage with which we began. The opening verses of 1 Corinthians remind us of much we have learned throughout our devotional study of calling.
To begin, we learn that Paul is “called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (1 Corinthians 1:1). Like the Old Testament prophets before, Paul’s ministry isn’t something he dreamed up for himself. Rather, it is something to which God summoned him on the basis of God’s will. Calling assumes and reinforces the sovereign authority of God to govern our lives.
But calling is not something reserved only for people with special religious functions. In fact, 1 Corinthians 1:2 affirms that all Christians are “called to be saints,” that is, to be God’s special people. All Christians are set apart by God for relationship with God and for participation in God’s work in the world.
Notice the priority of relationship with God in the previous sentence. This is crucial. We miss so much if we think of calling primarily as a summons to action. Yes, to be sure, God calls us to do things and to avoid other things (Colossians 3:15; Galatians 5:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:7). But, most importantly, God calls us “into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9). This fellowship is mainly relationship with the triune God through Christ, though it is something we share with all other Christians. We are called to fellowship with Christ, through whom we experience fellowship with other believers.
Though Paul understands that he was called to be an apostle, he does not tend to use the language of calling as we do. He does not say, for example, that everybody has a calling to a particular line of work. Paul does affirm that we can live our calling to God in and through a variety of work situations (1 Corinthians 7:24), but he doesn’t associate calling with a particular career, as we would tend to do. Paul would not have said, for example, “My calling is to be a tentmaker” (which was his day job). Rather, in Paul’s view, our primary calling is to God and his work. This calling affects everything in life, including our daily work. It’s possible to think of our work as a calling, with a small ‘c,’ only if we see it as a place to live out our primary Calling, with a capital ‘C.’
One of the most important things we can say about the doctrine and experience of calling is that both of them highlight the importance of the Caller. Our calling isn’t something we make up. Our calling doesn’t emerge from our sense of purpose or even from our awareness of human need. Now, our calling might indeed give us a powerful purpose for living and it often awakens our awareness of human need. But our calling is really best understood as God’s calling in our lives. It is first and foremost God calling us into relationship with God and service to God through the gospel of Jesus Christ. This service will be lived out in a variety of ways, through our secondary “callings,” if you will.
Paul’s teaching on calling lets you know, in no uncertain terms, that you have a divine Caller. God has called you because of his grace (Galatians 1:6). God desires relationship with you. God summons you to join his work in the world. The fact that you have a Caller means your life is one of response. As you hear God’s call, you respond, at first in faith, trusting God for salvation through Jesus Christ. Then, as you continue to pay attention to God’s call “into his own kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12), you will live your life worthy of the calling to which you have been called (Ephesians 4:1). In the process, you will become more and more like God. Why? Because “the one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
As you think about what you have seen in this devotional study of calling, what stands out to you?
Are you more aware today of God’s calling in your life than you were a couple of months ago?
What helps you to hear the “voice” of your divine Caller?
Using a sticky note, your phone, or some other means, create some reminders for yourself with messages such as: “You have a Caller” and “You have a calling” and “Walk worthy of your calling.” Let these reminders help you to take to heart what you have learned about calling through this devotional series.
Gracious God, how we thank you, once again, for calling. Thank you for calling us into relationship with you through Christ. Thank you for calling us to join you in your work in the world. Thank you for your grace, which lies behind your calling. Thank you for pouring your grace into our lives, again and again.
O Lord, may we live as called people. May we experience in real-time the relationship we have with you because of your call. May we know you truly and intimately, growing in you each day.
May your calling also give us confidence, meaning, and purpose. May it guide our lives. May it transform the way we live at work, at home, when we’re with friends, when we’re out and about in our community. May your calling orient us as we face so much confusion in our world today. Help us, Lord, to continue to hear your voice as you call us into your own kingdom and glory.
All praise be to you, Gracious God, our 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 Theology of Work Project. An article on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Conclusions About Calling
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.