The call of God is an awesome thing to consider especially in light of the journey I am currently on. It is the language we often here spoken within the Christian world. There are many different aspects to the call of God on the Christian: there is the original call to the sinner when God reaches down and, out of love and grace, calls us to be his children; then there is the Great Commission given to us by Christ to go out into the world and make disciples and there are many different sub-calls within those parameters. ‘Call’ is fundamental to who God is to us and how he relates to us.
I love the passage we looked at during the Spirituality Lecture on ‘The Calling of God’ (Mark 1:14-20) because it ties the Call of God into the Purpose of God from the beginning of Mark’s Gospel. We arrive straight into a scene: John the Baptist has just been arrested and Jesus has moved on to Galilee proclaiming the Kingdom of God and calling people to repentance. Jesus arrives announcing the primary call of God on the lives of people; to turn away from their sin and then move towards new life in him, new life which we see beginning as he walks along the shore of Galilee and calls his first disciples to follow him. Jesus calls his disciples to partake in the purpose of God, which is to call others into a relationship with Jesus. Jesus calls so that others can call. The passage often makes me wonder about that initial encounter because when you think about it, it seems rather unusual: A stranger walks into their normal lives one day and asks something of them, he interrupts what they are doing and asks them to follow him. There must have been something about Jesus, a presence, beauty or majesty that they were drawn to. It is an encounter that makes me think about the time I first felt the call of God in my life towards serving him and being consumed by the weight of it all, I do not mean a sense of fear or unworthiness but simply the truth that I was responding to the beauty of Christ. It’s a reality I think we can easily lose because as you move towards ordained ministry there is a lot you have to do, ‘hoops’ to jump through, I do not speak negatively of the process just the truth that sometimes in the ‘process’ we can lose sight of that initial wonder or that initial flame that was lit in our hearts when we first started out on the journey towards full-time ministry. We are called By God to serve Him and yet we respond to the call because of his beauty and what he has done for us.
What we are called from
If we are called, then we are being called from something. Even if a person does not respond to God’s call the truth is they will respond to the call of something – in responding to any call we are moving from one place to another. Calling is a biblical theme we see in Genesis where God calls Abram out into the unknown, in Exodus where a people are called by God from slavery to freedom, throughout the Old Testament where people are called back to the Promised Land from exile and it is a theme central also to New Testament Discourse. God is a God who calls, and we have the wonderful privilege of responding to it by living it. One of the thoughts that really hit me during this section was the contemplation that we are not just called once by God; we are called every day, every hour and every minute. Meaning, the call of God covers our every moment of existence and every decision, an overwhelming veracity but something we need to remember because it reminds us that even though God calls us and we respond, we have to keep acting – we have a choice and it must continuously reoccur. It is the reality of that ‘Internal Paradox’ that we are both wonderful and sinful.
The terrifying nature of the call of God is obvious that we see in the passage – the obvious truth we so often miss with scripture. That if we are called from something that means we leave something behind. We see it with the Disciples who leave different securities (their nets and families) and respond immediately to Jesus. It makes me think of the things I have had had to leave behind since responding to God; some which I have been happy to leave behind and other things that I still cling onto and try and find some identity. When I ask myself why I am still clinging there is one dominant thought, I have lost the beauty of the call and have been trying to find an identity, security and purpose in other things. I want to be a called person who at every moment seeks to give up sinful habits: self-pity, half-heartedness, relationship and negativity.
Understanding the Nature of Calling
What I love about the call of God is that it is a call that leads us to something greater. It is a call with a purpose that can never be matched and with help that can never be bettered. When Jesus calls us to something, it is in the process of the journey of moving along that call that Christ helps us and makes us more in his image. We are called by Christ to become more like Christ and we are helped by Christ during the process of the calling to fulfil that calling, it is an amazing thought and something I struggle to put into words, yet I find deep assurance in the confusion. We are called to follow Jesus the person and in that relationship and within that relationship we find the strength to be bold, to take risks and try to point people to Jesus.
The last thing we were called to reflect on was the reality of how calling happens: if we are truly called then there should be some life in that – as we live out that calling there should be some proof of it. Even more so if the call comes from God who gives life to all things. I am reminded of a phrase ‘God Stories’ when I think about how calling happens. God stories are simply a title given to the stories people tell about God and their encounters with him, the challenge from the Preacher who used the phrase was a simple challenge to people: ‘When was your last God Story?’ or when was the last time you encountered God and it is the same challenge we find when we consider how calling happens. If we are faithfully responding to the demand of God in our lives, then there should be transformation happening within us because calling happens through choices and making hard decisions and giving God his place even when it inconveniences our short-term so that in the long term we will become more in the image of Christ.
When I consider the call of God and what it means to be called by God I am blown away by the dual nature of it. It is both simple and vast: simple because we are called to be in a relationship with God and vast because of the depth of that relationship between God and humanity. I am moved because I know I need to do more, not to earn something from God or show him I am committed but because I am still not choosing God in every area of my life. There are areas that I am not responding to the call of God in my life because I don’t want to, I enjoy the sin that is present. Yet I take confidence because I know God is working in me through his Holy Spirit so that I can daily fulfil his call in my life and be like the Disciples on the shore of Galilee who left all they knew, not for something unknown, but something unknowingly better than they would ever have imagined. So, I want to get to the end of my life and look back and think I did all I could to live out that call; that I had left behind all that I was called from because God was so much more; that I had lived out that which I was called to live out. Most of all, I had developed into the man God had called me to be through living that call.