January 31, 2016

Called by God to do what?

Paul might hold the world’s record for the longest sentences. He had much to say and wanted to pack as much truth into every line, every sentence. Here is one that is more than 135 words:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, to all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:1–7)

Chambers picks out one thought from these many words: the idea of being called by God. Before I read what he wrote, I want to record my own thoughts (and in shorter sentences than Paul used). The idea of having a calling once bothered me because I did not sense God calling me to anything in particular. My interests are vast. I could do many things and have tried many, but nothing seems to hold me for long. I wondered if I’d been left out in the “calling” department. Then at a writers’ conference, the main speaker set me free from this concern. She said, “We are not called to be writers. We are called to love and obey God. Today you might be writing; tomorrow He might ask you to do something else.”

Some might agree that a Christian calling is to do all that God says, but no person can fulfill that in one lifetime. A calling based on what He asks of me is more specific and suited to the gifts He has given me, the circumstances where He places me, and the opportunities that He lines up for me.

However, Chambers has a different take on calling. He says, “Our calling is not primarily to be holy men and women, but to be proclaimers of the Gospel of God.”

He bases this on the first part of that long sentence where Paul said that it was God who did the calling, setting him apart for the gospel. Paul’s focus was not on his own character or personal holiness or anything else that might make him more desirable in his own eyes. Chambers says Paul was unconscious of himself, separated by God for one purpose—to proclaim the Gospel of God.

I’ve thought about this all day. Yes, I agree that I’m to tell others about Jesus Christ, yet there are many ways to do this. Also, I have not been given Paul’s gifts, circumstances or opportunities. However, one thing keeps popping into my mind. As a new Christian, God impressed on me that He would use all things for good in my life, the good being that I would become like Jesus. He didn’t say that I would be like Paul, or like anyone else. Of course, being like Jesus is one lofty goal, an incredible ‘calling’ that only God can fulfill.

Then I began thinking about the obedience of Jesus. Sometimes He preached. Sometimes He taught His disciples, or He ate and drank with sinners, or He healed the sick, or cast out demons, or confronted false teachers and religious hypocrites. Aside from the final obedience of dying on the cross, it seems to me that His calling was varied and unfocused, not at all only one thing (like proclaiming the gospel), but a host of obedient actions.

Paul was called to be an apostle set apart for the gospel yet there are many ways to declare the good news of redemption. It could be orally, or in writing, or in silent acts of love. As Chambers says, redemption is at the root of it, not that I can do this great thing that God has done. Yet I can respond daily to the fact of my redemption by doing whatever He might be asking me to do. That seems more of a calling than trying to imitate Paul or anyone else.

Bob was out of his “cell” today when I got there after church. They were taking him for an x-ray. He had to wear a mask, but he was no longer shut in ‘solitary confinement’ and was very glad about that. I took some financial papers so we had a ‘project’ of balancing statements, which was better than looking at the clock. Then two couples showed up for a visit. We were blessed by their presence, conversation, and prayers. After that, our son brought a pizza for supper, another blessing with good conversation.

Bob’s test results are still not back, but his oxygen input is turned down to 1, and they are going for 0 in the morning. If he can breathe without it, they will keep him for a day or two to make sure, but this is a vast improvement. I am so thankful.

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