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About this series
Answering the Call
How to Discover and Fulfill God's Purpose for Your Life
God created you to work. And He created your work to be more than just "what you do for a living," but a place to fulfill God's calling in your life. According to Scripture, work is the platform where you can experience joy, ministry, and personal fulfillment like never before. If you long to experience that kind of job satisfaction, this series will help you get there. Whether it's finding a new job, starting a new career, or just gaining a new perspective on your current employment, "Answering the Call" will encourage and inspire you to see work as a gift from God.More from this series
Calls are a very important part of our life, every day. And what we want to talk about is when God calls. When God calls, I want you to know, there’s Someone else on the other end of the line. When God calls you, He has a reason.
Question number one is, how many of you have ever considered going into full-time ministry? Maybe as a pastor, a teacher, a missionary, youth worker, music, para-church, Bible translation, maybe full-time ministry as a support ministry – a mechanic, computer operator, administrative skills.
The second question is, what motivated you to consider that? Why did you go through the process, at some point in time, and say to yourself, You know, I think maybe God – maybe, I don’t know – maybe God would want me in full-time ministry?
Was it deeper meaning? It was a call from God, fulfillment, serving others, maybe eternal reward, obedience to Christ, desire to make a real impact in your life – I don’t know. What was it?
The third question is, what hindered you from moving that direction?
Financially, there’s no way to pull it off. I’m unsure if this is really God’s will,” lack of confidence, “Boy, at this stage, am I going to go back and get theological training?”
Or maybe the one that I hear most often: “I’m not sure how to know to be sure. I’ve thought about it. I’m not sure, but I don’t know how you can be sure. So, until I’m sure, I think I’ll not be sure, and so I didn’t do it.” And if you can follow all that, you are really awake and doing well.
The fourth question is, do full-time Christian workers have a special place in God’s heart? Now, I know the surface question – you know, God loves everyone, so – but what do you really think about that? Don’t, maybe they get a little more grace, a little greater reward, maybe they have greater abilities?
The final question: Was God more pleased with Jesus at age twenty-eight, as a carpenter, or more pleased with Him as a preacher, at thirty-one? Why or why not?
At twenty-eight, He was a carpenter, doing manual labor. Was God more pleased then, or at thirty-one, when He was a preacher? What do you think? Why or why not?
Now, I’m asking those questions because I want us to think. I don’t want to just lay something out. I want to think through the issues, because God calls everyone, and He calls for a reason, and He knows your number, and He wants this call to impact your life, and those around you. But if we’re foggy on how He calls, or what a call is, we may stay too busy, or not even hear it.
With that, then, let me do some defining, because there are things that are related that might be helpful, important definitions. Because we’re talking about hearing God’s call for work – and some work at home; some work outside the home. Some are self-employed; some have different kinds of jobs. Some are building careers. So, let me just take a run at a few definitions so we don’t use these words in a sloppy way.
First, a job is what I do to earn a living, okay? A job is, I need money to pay the bills. It’s called a job. Alright? This is what I do. This is what I do, so that I have enough money to take care of – you just go through all the bills: the house, the food.
A career is what I build to create a life. Everyone’s had a, at some point in time – I had a job throwing papers. I’ve had a job painting houses. I’ve had a job cutting grass. I’ve had a job doing this. And then at certain points in your life, you felt, now, this is something you’re going to build, to build a life. This is what I want to do. Here’s where the opportunity is. This is how I can be successful.
And, finally, a vocation is what God calls me to do to fulfill His highest purposes in me, and through me, for His glory, and my joy. And by the way, we’ll look at that. The Latin word vocation is where we get our word calling. And we’ll learn some history that job, career, vocation – these things didn’t used to be all in separate categories.
There was a time when people thought through a different worldview, where your vocation, your calling from God, got translated into the career, and the job that you did, where you were living before the face of God, doing what He made you to do, in a way that it paid the bills, and built a career, and that your life, using your unique gifts and talents, was in the right, sweet spot of accomplishing what He put you on the earth to do.
And so, that’s why they called it your vocation. And now we use the word to mean your vocational opportunities, and your aptitude tests, and what kind of career, what kind of job.
So, I just want to get those definitions out of the way, and then ask, what is your calling? I mean, if I took my little pen out, and I said, “Okay –” Many are going to say, “God has not called me on the phone yet. Okay?
But if I gave you this pen, and I said, “Okay, write down, in two sentences, ‘God has called me to ___. God wants me to do ___. God wants to do in me and through me ___.” If you were going to write it down, what would you write down? What do you think God has uniquely gifted you, and designed you, to do, to fulfill His highest purposes – and by the way, don’t miss the second half – and give you the greatest joy?
Remember the parable of the talents? We miss it sometimes, that parable where he – you know, it’s a stewardship, and he gives them each so much, according to their abilities. Do you remember how that ends, when he rewards them? “Come and enter the joy …” We’re going to talk about work, and our views of work, and calling, but I just want to get the category shaking around in the back of your mind. What is it God wants to do in your life, through your life – at your home, in your work? In fact, here’s the fundamental question: What did He make you to do?
And I would just suggest that sometimes God’s call is a single, Wow, I got it, and it comes young. And I’m Joseph, and here’s the dream, here’s the call, here’s what you do. Other times, the call comes in mid-life, when you’re in a completely other career, and you’re a Saul, going one direction, and you become a Paul, and things radically change.
Well, now we’re going to do a little research. What I want to talk about now is a biblical perspective of “calling.” And I’m going to, without apology, give you a little theology here, because when we talk about “calling,” and if you would just go through the Bible and say “calling,” and look at all what the Bible says about calling, you would start getting confused.
And so, what I did was, I did a lot of work, and I tried to then say to myself, Okay, how could I arrange this in a way where we could have some categories to look at calling? And the key, key verse I want you to think about is – imagine, if you will, with me, Ephesians is the book about how to live, the Church.
Chapters 1, 2, and 3 – this is who we are in Christ. Chapters 4, 5, and 6 – here’s the practice of how to live. Okay, this is what God has done. We have a new inheritance. We’re adopted. We’re transformed. We’re redeemed. We have a new place that we are in this thing called “the Church.”
Now, chapter 4 opens up: “Now, walk in a manner worthy of the calling by which you’ve been called.” That’s the key verse. “Walk in a manner worthy” and the word, we get our worthy – and the English word we get is axis.
And, basically, what He says is, all this truth of the first three chapters that I just gave you – this is what’s already true of you in Christ. Now, walk in a manner worthy. This is your belief. Here’s what’s true. I want your behavior to tell the same story as your beliefs.”
And, basically, it’s, “Bring up to level your behavior with your belief – what’s true of you, and how you actually act.” “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling by which you have been called.” And then, as you look at the rest of the second half of Ephesians, He will talk about what a worthy walk looks like, out of the call that you have.
God calls us, first, to a Person, to a Person. You’ll notice, in your notes, Ephesians 1:18: “That the eyes of your understanding, being enlightened, that you should know what is the hope of His calling, and what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”
And then, jot, if you would, 1 Corinthians 1:9: “To God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,” and then it talks about Him, and says that He “is faithful.”
First and foremost, the call that God has for you is to call you into a relationship with Him. Jesus said, “Come unto Me,” not, “Come to a cause,” not, “Come to work” – “Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”
The first call is to a “Who.” It’s about relationship. It’s about being loved. It’s about God saying, “I want to rescue you. I want to redeem you. I want to love you. I want a relationship with you. I want to be your Father. I understand.”
Early – what? – Ephesians 1, 2, and 3: “You were in the kingdom of darkness. I have called you, redeemed you, out of the kingdom of darkness, and placed you into the kingdom of light by what Christ has accomplished on your behalf. And you, by believing and trusting in what Jesus did, as your substitute, you have been transformed from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of light.”
You have been called into personal relationship with God the Father, through the work of the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. So, you’re called into personal relationship. That’s how the word is first used.
Second, God calls us to a purpose. Notice, in your notes, Ephesians 4:13. It says, “Until we come to the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect” – or, literally – “to a mature man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” He calls us to a purpose.
And then, notice, it makes it even more clear, in Romans 8:28 to 30. It says, “And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God” – then, notice this phrase – “to those who are called” – how? – “according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called. Whom He called, these He also justified, and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
God has called you to a purpose, and that purpose is to make you like His Son. The purpose is Christlikeness, conformed to the image of His Son. God’s number one agenda is not where you work, not what you do in the Church. God’s number one agenda is to call you, first to Himself, and second, to a purpose. And His purpose is to conform you to the image of His Son.
He wants you to think like Jesus. He wants you to drive your car the way Jesus would drive your car if He was in your body. He wants you to prioritize your time and treat other people the way Jesus would prioritize His time, and treat other people if He was living inside your body. The whole goal is that you literally, progressively, become more and more like the Son of God. You are called to that purpose.
In fact, it said here, in Romans 8, “He works all things together.” The “coincidences”, the tragedies, the stock market, the pain, the job situation, the children, the singleness, the cancer, the unknown. He is working.
God, this day, at this moment, in your life and mine, is orchestrating every circumstance, every relationship, and every event, to fulfill the calling of His purpose to make you, and to make me, more and more like Jesus. It’s like Michelangelo chipping away, right? On that big piece of marble to make a masterpiece. And God is infusing us with grace, even using the worst and most difficult things that come our way, to fulfill that purpose.
Jesus said, “Be ye perfect,” in Matthew 5:48, “even as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” The word perfect, there, you might write, it’s the word teleos. It’s exactly the same word, up in Ephesians 4:13, where it says that we’re to be a perfect man to the measure of the stature. Teleos – you can kind of hear it: telescope.
But what it’s about, it’s the argument of design. Teleos means “fulfilling, and becoming, according to the exact design of the One who designed it.” God’s purpose, His design, is that I would become perfect, mature, like Jesus.
So, God calls us, first, to a Person, second, to a purpose. Third, God calls us to – and if you’ll add the little word, it’s not just to “people.” God calls us to “a people.”
Ephesians 4:1 to 16. As you stare at these sixteen verses, notice we get the first verse: “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk in a manner worthy of your calling.”
Okay, now, what I want to get in your mind – don’t get so much in all the facts – the goal is, He’s going to call us, first, to Himself. Then, He’s going to call us to this purpose of becoming like Christ. And, now, He calls us to a people. He wants to transform you. You’re going to be called to walk in a manner worthy.
Now, look at verses 2 and 3. What’s the very first thing he talks about? Isn’t it, with all gentleness, forbearance, bearing with one another? There are four different words there that are about relationships, right? And they’re all about getting along with other people: with all humility, with all gentleness, making every effort, making every effort – what? – to maintain the unity of the body and the bond of peace, not to create it.
You were placed, out of this kingdom of darkness, into the kingdom of light, into the supernatural community of the body of Christ, and He says, “Now, what I want you to do is, I want you – you’re a part of the puzzle, but you’re a different part. I want you all to fit together in relational unity, in such a way that preserves this reflection of who I am.” And then, you get these staccato – one faith, one Lord, one baptism, one calling in your – in the first six verses what He’s saying is, “I’ve called you to be a people in unity that reflect who I am.”
And then, look at verses 7 through 10. And He talks, then, about how He gives grace gifts to people.
And basically, it’s a passage that talks about the victory of Christ, and the proof of the victory of Christ over Satan, and death, and sin, is He gives spiritual gifts to men. And so, when He’s talking about calling us to a people, He’s saying that this people is going to be a relational reality. Then, He’s going to say the basis of our relationships is the work of Christ.
Now, look at verse 11, and he talks about what the gifts are, in this supernatural community we call “the Church”: “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers” – why? – “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” – how? – “until we all attain” – what? – “to the unity of the faith of the measure of the fullness.”
We’re perfect. We’re to be like Christ. So, He says, “I call you to be a people.” Peter says “a holy nation,” “a royal priesthood.” They’re all synonyms for the body of Christ, the Church.
You are called to a Person – Jesus. You are called to a purpose – to become like Him. And you are called to a people, called the “Church.”
The phone rings, and God says, “I didn’t just save you for a purpose, and you float out there somewhere. I want you connected to a local body of people, because I’ve deposited gifts in you, and I have purpose for you, and you fitting with who you are, and who they are, come together to demonstrate My glory to the world.”
And in the one, you come, right? “Come unto Me.” In the other, it’s “be” – “be perfect.” And then, what did Jesus say? “Follow Me. Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
He wants you to be a part of other people becoming like Christ. You are called to that.
California, you get into lots of conversations, like, “You know, I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian,” to which I say, “You’re right.” “I don’t have to go to church. All they do is talk, and I don’t think it’s that important to be a member of a local church.” God does.
Now, you can describe membership, and some people, “I’m a member,” and they haven’t been in three years, so I don’t think that’s a good one. And some churches don’t take formal membership.
I’m not talking about that. What I’m talking about is a participating, involved, active, engaged member, where you know your gifts, you’re serving, you’re being loved, and you’re loving other people, and life, community is happening on the basis of the work of Christ. And people’s lives are changing because they’re rubbing up against the Christ in you, and your gifts, and you’re rubbing up against the Christ in them. You are called to a people.