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SUMMONED TO THE SUMMIT: TROUBLED CALLINGS


 

IMPORTANT CALENDAR CORRECTION!

Prayer Vigil

Due to some shifting schedule details, the 6:00 - 10:00 prayer vigil is moved to next week, Tuesday the 15th. More details will follow on Sunday, but tomorrow, August 8th, is our standard weekly prayer gathering at LWF, from 9:00 - 10:00

The Last Day & Other Such Tomorrows

 

LIVING WORDS:

“ The sweat of one’s brow is no longer a curse when one works for God; it proves a tonic to the system, and is actually blessing. No one can truly appreciate the charm of repose unless he has undergone severe exertion.”


—David Livingston

 

The girl sat across from my office desk, fumbling with her thoughts by fiddling with her mouth and eyeing the ceiling like a loose deerfly was about. She came to me (poor soul) as a sounding-board, trying to figure out God's Will for her life, and whether or not He wanted her to remain in college. Given her degree choice, I found it unlikely (and no, I'm not naming it now and I didn't say it then).


"What does Scripture tell you to do with your life?" I finally asked.


"That's what I'm trying to figure out. I don't know. I think I might have the Gift of Singleness," she returned. "Some of the people at my church think so."


Now, barring the fact that there is no 'gift of singleness' in the Bible (I refrained from mentioning that at the time), I settled for asking, "Okay. Do you want to be married?"


"Yes."


"Then you don't have a gift of singleness. What else?"


"I don't know if I'm called to a missions field or not."


"How will you know?"


"That's what I'm asking!"


"Okay. Well, are you achingly burdened to pray for and ministry to a specific place or people?"


"Not ... exactly. I heard a speaker last night as a campus ministry event. It was really good, and he got me thinking."


"Is God calling you? Or is the speaker?"


"Could it be the same thing?"


"If it is, would you be here asking me?"


"How should I know?"


"What charges are you walking away from if you do go on trips?"


"I'm sorry ... what?"

 

Aldous Huxley rather famously said in "Ends & Means" that his generation growing up shortly after the turn of the 20th Century was glad enough to adopt the belief that life itself is devoid of meaning and purpose, if for no other reason than that it offered them licence to whatever moral degeneracy came to mind or body or both ... likely both.


It should be noted that he was right in concluding that, if the universe is indeed without any meaning, there could exist no objective moral restraints on our behavior whatsoever.


He was wrong in his premise that it has neither meaning nor purpose.

But Christians sometimes fall into the reverse conundrum: rejecting revealed divine purpose in favor of a superseding self-imposed one, a Chosen-Path of Unspoken Prophecy, a Destiny of Apostolic Magnitude ('magnitude' to of course be defined by us), an Election to Magnanimous Merit, in order to operate under even further restraints. This is the common affliction of obsessing over one's much-ballyhooed 'Calling,' and it looks something like this:



Begin with a personal an adoption of a Road, a narrow one, in the name of our life. It is the "Path that God Wants for Me," and it is extremely narrow. Christians love narrow roads, right? Matthew 7 makes it clear that there is a narrow road, neverminding that particular road is one of Salvation through Faith by Grace in the name of Jesus Christ, but it leads to life everlasting! Why not have more? And if our life is a Road (narrow, don't forget the narrow!), so narrow that it has only room on its buckled asphalt for one job, one destined choice of spouse, one ministry work, one day at a time, one minute at a time.


Here's where things get messy. Straying off the Road, even for a moment—marrying the "wrong" spouse, picking the "wrong" job out of three available, volunteering in the "wrong" ministry out of twenty available, choosing the "wrong" school out of ... thousands—these things will slip at least a toe or three off the Road.


You know what happens then? God won't bless you, that's what! He won't give you the time of His grace or mercy until you realize He wanted you in the other job, and you should've felt about it harder! Now get every last atom of your footfalls back onto that narrow asphalt, young man, and don't do it again! You go take that Tyson Chicken job and abandon your stiff-necked choice of Starbucks immediately! More like Sodom-Bucks, anyway. Welcome back to Grace.


Is that what you want? What if you make the *gasp* wrong choice for God's Plan for Your Life? It's your job to puzzle-out precisely what left-or-right turn God wants for you today by weighing pros and cons, observing patterns of Bible references you've encountered at random through the course of the week, or (most importantly) using your emotional state in that exact moment of questioning as a compass needle, as it is written in II Divinations 3:22-42.


 

If you're still reading, you've obviously forgiven the cheek, or at least are stocking up more outrage to vent later, but before you do, turn with me for a second to the absurdity of how we so easily treat God's intent for His Creation. Only in the very late 20th Century did we begin to talk so vehemently about 'feeling' called, or having to 'figure out' what God wants from us, a product of excessive comfort in a 1st-World Nation rife with near-limitless options. Reading about the lives of Christian heroes like Adoniram Judson, David Livingston, or the Elliots, you will find a notable absence of 'puzzling out' their callings, or similar language. They knew them, as did the Apostles. They didn't feel called. They were called.


But those and other cases also imply a startling thought: what about all the other Christians in their day? Was it only the great Missionaries who bothered or succeeded to secret-out the elusive will of the Almighty for their lives? Do we take example from 'lesser' believers, as well? Or do we fall under the likewise contemporary mentality that we are better Christians for going a literal mile farther, a lash more, a dollar less, or a minute more of prayer than our neighbor?


After all, God couldn't possibly be satisfied with me if I live a life of quiet conviction, am fruitful and multiply, tend the home and land and children and labors and things He has given me, share the Gospel with those who don't know Him, master a workmanship for His glory (one could even say doing whatever my hand findeth to do with my might), and die with an inheritance of Faith for my great-grandchildren to inherit. No. No, He wants me to do something great for the Kingdom, not the things Scripture says to do. And if I guess wrong at any fork, I'm likely to stumble of the Road of His will!


 

Back to the girl.


She looked dumbfounded. "What do you mean, 'walking away from'?"


"Well ... does God contradict Himself?"


"Of course not!"


"Okay. So what does He have to say about stewarding things you've been given charge over?"


"Like the whole 'talents' parable?" she asked.


"Sure! Great example. What has He given you charge over?"


"I don't know. I guess ... I have someone in my family I take care of. A lot. Maybe that?"


"Okay, so if you think you're being called somewhere, does that calling come at the expense of something He's already given you? At least something important? If so, one of those things can't be right, or God would be pulling you in two directions."


"Well ... I don't know."


"If God Himself were calling your somewhere, would you need me to help you figure it out? He's certainly calling. The question you have to lay onto Scripture is: somewhere new, or somewhere present? And are you doing either for His glory?"


 

God certainly, always and now, calls us to foreign fields. But only in recent decades has restlessness or indecisiveness become evidence for callings. We are all called. Paul begins his letter to Corinth by stating that he is 'called' to be an Apostle (often argued as the 'last' Apostle), and 'called' to be a Saint. We also know Paul was called to many specific places, but there was no ambiguity about it. And sometimes (here's the scary part), our feelings lie. Towards the end of his life, Paul was also called to Rome in Acts 19, and though we would like to read this account as definitive work of the Spirit, the text says otherwise. Jesus told Paul that he would stand before kings, but it was not necessarily the case that he had to appear before said kings in chains. Fellow believers in Tyre begged Paul not to continue to Jerusalem and then to Rome, something they claimed was told them by the Spirit (Acts 21:1-6), and this was not the only time he was warned away by the Brethren.


Was Paul in rebellion? Christians have grappled with this for centuries, but a lesson for us herein is that desire can masquerade as calling, as can emotion. God does not call his children out of His established order, but within it.


He did not tell Abram to go into Canaan and leave Sarai behind. He did not tell Eli that his Levitical standing should be at the expense of raising the sons He also gave him (actually he killed him for it). He did not tell Philip the Evangelist to leave Caesarea and abandon his daughters.


All this is to say that, when it comes to testing the burdens of our souls against the Scripture, the Lord never calls us to fields that betray the ones He already gave us. He also calls each of us, but it is He who decides the wall we are assigned to defend, what is great, and what is small. All things done for His glory, in praise and thanksgiving, glorify Him. Certainly a call of distance ought not to be ignored, and seeking advice from other believers is prudent and wise, but uncertainty can also be an inward restless of our own, for want of what we see as 'higher' ends.


But the best part of all this is: even if we do take an imagined 'wrong' turn of choices, God does not dispose of our labor, so long as it is done for Him.


It is our heart He wants, even more than our feet.


 

RECOMMENDED READING

(other than your Bible, obviously)

God's Smuggler

by

Brother Andrew


This month's book is a thrilling and engaging read, the true story of Brother Andrew's experience during the Cold War of smuggling Bibles behind the Iron Curtain, risking life and limb for the churches that needed the Word of God. The book covers his testimony of salvation, and his lifelong career in this most unusual mission field. The book is a challenge to put down. If you love immersive storytelling, true histories, biographies, heroes of the faith, or history of any kind, you will love this book.

 

“It was Sunday morning. I woke very early to a bright and cheery day, anxious to join my fellow Christians in this lovely garden of a land. The clerk in the hotel eyed me a little dubiously when I asked for a church. 'We don't have many of those, you know,' he said. 'Besides, you couldn't understand the language.'


'Didn't you know?' I said, 'Christians speak a kind of universal language.'


'Oh. What's that?'


'It's called "agape".'


'Agape? I never heard of it.'


'Too bad. It's the most beautiful language in the world.”


― Brother Andrew: God's Smuggler

 

ON THE HORIZON AT LWF:

Fall Youth Studies

It'll soon (seriously ... soon) be time to once again kick off our fall Sunday School and Inheritors studies on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. Stay tuned to Living Words for more updates!


Until next time! God go with you, brothers and sisters in Christ.


~Daniel





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