I ended my last post saying, “Do we see our purpose and calling in His Word? It is there.” So how do we find it? I love spending time in the mountains and woods and have many times been far from anywhere. In the forest it is easy to walk in roundabout ways and think you are covering a great distance, which you may be, and yet not really go very far because you are not taking a direct route. It is the nature of hills, valleys and trees. Something that can help is a compass, yet I have rarely used one, what I look for is a reference point I can line up or connect with.
So, what is our reference point to identify our calling in the scriptures? How do we know we are responding to His call on our lives? One reference point is understanding the inextricable link between gifts and calling.
29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Rom. 11:29 (NKJV)
While this verse is about the calling of Yahweh on the nation of Israel, the broader principle is that gifts and callings go together. The Holy Spirit releases gifts in our lives that support our calling. If we look at our natural bent and inclinations we can better identify our calling. If I use my own life as an example, I struggle not to teach but don’t at times because much of it can be unwanted advice, or be rooted in judgment, the dangerous potential downside of a teaching gift. At the same time I constantly see opportunities to help or do things in different ways. I also have a seeming built in desire to help and encourage others, often through prayer ministry. Gifts that operates in my life to support that calling are words of knowledge and words of wisdom (1 Cor. 12:8). In this case I prayed for the release of these gifts, and still do, because I wanted to help others.
If we want to understand our calling we need to only look at where our hearts are drawn. At the same time we will also go through challenges, struggles and failures in the process. That is pretty much guaranteed. There is an old adage in football, ‘keep falling forward.’ The idea is that every time you are tackled and brought to the ground if you fall forward, over the course of the game it can make the difference between winning and losing.
So did Peter, Andrew, James and John know what they were getting into when Jesus asked them to follow Him and become fishers of men? Did they fall forward? Peter is famous for his failures and we can perhaps learn as much or more from his failures as from his successes.
Did Peter fully understand his calling? The plain answer is no, just as many of us struggle to understand our callings. One thing that causes much unnecessary soul searching is the sermons on how the early disciples just dropped everything and followed Jesus as soon as He called them. These messages are generally based on Matthew 4:17-22 or Mark. 1:14-20 and sometimes the parallel passage in Luke 5:1-11. Now some of Jesus followers did immediately drop everything and follow Him as soon as He called, I am not negating that, what I am challenging is the message that this was the norm. I have heard a few of these sermons and while they are well intentioned they all demonstrate a lack of scriptural knowledge or understanding. Why do I say that?
For one thing, a number of Jesus early followers had already been followers of John the Baptist, they were ripe and ready for Jesus, John had been preparing them (Jn. 1:35-50) and they already knew one another. The events in the first chapter of John happened near Bethabara (Jn. 1:28) not far from Jerusalem and very near to where the Jordan River empties into the Dead Sea. The events in John 1 took place before Jesus called Andrew, Peter, James and John away from their fishing in the Matthew, Mark and Luke passages. This calling took place in northern Israel on the Sea of Galilee, which is where Peter, James, John, Andrew and Phillip were from. Peter, Andrew and Phillip, and likely James and John, were from Bethsaida on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee (Jn. 1:44).
So we don’t need to lose heart if we don’t fully respond to Jesus the first time in everything. We also don’t need to lost heart if we don’t fully understand our calling. Our primary calling is to follow Him. None of these men knew they were going to be the apostles of the early church. They knew they needed to follow the calling of their hearts to follow Jesus. When we do that the other parts emerge over time if we keep falling forward. Only Jesus ever fully fulfilled His calling. Peter failed many times, Paul had to publicly rebuke him (Gal. 2:11-21). Paul missed it and said Satan hindered him (1 Thess.2:18). He also spent time trying to go places the Holy Spirit didn’t want he and his team to go (Acts 16:6-10).
My point, we can discern our general purpose and calling by following where He is leading our hearts. We know He has called all of us to share the gospel and disciple others (Matt. 28:18-20). We will do this to varying degrees but we all have it as part of our calling. Some will pair this calling with a teaching gift, some with an evangelistic gift, some with a gift of helps or others. The Great Commission isn’t for all of us to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors or teachers. It is a call to be faithful with what He has given us.
Finally, part of a prayer document I developed over the years includes this regular prayer of mine, “Father, I ask for continual growth in openness and sensitivity to the realm of Your Spirit and an awareness of my place, purpose and destiny in You (Eph. 1:17-23, 1 Jn. 2:20, 27).”
I encourage you to join me in this prayer and to pursue walking with Him each day.