Some Christians are called to specific tasks, but I’ve never received a “calling” from God, or a vision from Him concerning how I’m supposed to serve Him. In several places, the Bible mentions people who have special tasks:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11–12)
However this is a list of gifted people with titles and functions, not the same as a specific vision like “preach the gospel to the Inuit” or “teach children in your local church.”
Chambers assumes it is easier to serve God without a vision because you use common sense or human logic to guide whatever ministry to be involved in, giving more opportunity for personal leisure and prosperity. He says that having a commission from Jesus Christ is like a goad to keep you from working on any other basis than sacrificial service. His comments come from this verse . . .
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24)
Paul’s life was precious only on the basis of fulfilling his ministry. He refused to use his energy for anything else. This is my goal too, but is a “calling” necessary toward having that attitude? Echoing in my ear is the speaker at a writers’ conference who said: “We are called to love and obey God; today He might be asking you to write, tomorrow it might be something else.”
What if Paul, bent on building churches, was asked by God to stop and take care of a Samaritan in a ditch? Would he say no, this is not within his calling? Is it more difficult to have a vision and aim at only that, or more difficult to moment by moment listen to the voice of God and do whatever He asks for that moment?
While it didn’t happen to Paul, I can imagine those who have a vision or a calling being so focused on it that it becomes an idol, a “this is my work” thing. Chambers says “practical work” (aka ‘no vision’) is based on this argument—‘Remember how useful you are here,’ or—‘Think how much value you would be in that particular type of work.’ I don’t see why a person with a vision could not fall into the same trap.
He says those who are “not gripped by Jesus Christ” will “count service dear, time given to God dear, life dear” as if having a vision makes others immune to such temptations. I am not convinced. I’ve seen those with a vision who began to count their vision dear, their time given to God dear, their life dear, all because of their calling.
John Calvin suggests that the human heart is an idol-making factory. Being gripped by God is one thing, but our fight between the flesh and His Spirit is constant. Vision or not, that sinful nature can rear its ugly face and twist motivations from glorifying Christ to glorifying self. Paul admits that he fought it just as all of us do, and shares with his readers what God did to help him stay on course . . .
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:7–9)
The danger is not in the “practical work” which Chambers say can become competition “against abandonment to God.’ Instead, it seems that the greater danger is any kind of attitude that abandons Jesus Christ as my Guide and lures me into using my own judgment.
The point is not about a life-calling or even what I am doing in day-to-day obedience, but that I must forever remember that I am not my own but His.