Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What is your calling?

Who among us hasn't struggled with this question? On the surface it might seem easy to answer: "Missions" or "the Great Commission" ... maybe a specific country or people group. Perhaps you're one of those blessed to be on the field working in a specific job and able to identify exactly what your "calling" looks like.

Or maybe not.

Maybe you're like so many who have been forced to come face to face with a dramatic shift in your "calling". You were "called" to a village, to a people group ... relationships were developing, you were learning the language and culture, life was great. You were thrilled to be a missionary. Then circumstances, or your mission agency, or politics, or God Himself intervened and you found yourself separated from the very thing you thought you were "called" to do. How do you respond now?

* Stubbornly press on with Plan A, insisting that every obstacle is of the devil and fighting with all your might to hold on to your "calling";

* Give up, pack your bags and come home;

* Serve reluctantly in a new area, lamenting constantly that if it weren't for ___________ God's work would be so much further along;

* Question your "calling";

* Wrestle through the struggle with God and reassess His plan

Is there another option? Is there a lesson that can be learned when the "calling" becomes so unclear?

I believe there is. I believe that the answer lies in understanding the nature of the "call".

Throughout the Gospel accounts of Jesus' call of The Twelve, the most consistent phrase He uses is, "Follow Me". "Follow Me." What does that mean? Surely it means more than "go do this work among this people group". Certainly it goes beyond "go to this job every day for 5 years, then go to this job for the next 3."

"Follow Me." Jesus' call to radical discipleship and service is, first and foremost, a call to follow Him. The shift in thinking is profound. If we are called to a specific task and don't see fruit, then our human nature calls our very identity and purpose into question. If our call is to a people or location and circumstances change we want to know whom to "blame". Sometimes missionaries even come home feeling like failures over events beyond their control.

But if our call is to follow Jesus, then the tasks He has us do, while important to the Kingdom, are secondary to our identity. If we are called to follow Him then our focus is on relationship and joining Him in His work. If that work shifts, we shift with Him. Whether we labor diligently at one task for decades or shift our focus a dozen times, our main purpose remains the same: to follow Jesus.

Doors close and open all the time. Paul experienced this when he desired to enter Asia, but God intended for him to go instead to Macedonia. Our fundamental understanding of what our call consists of will help tremendously at those times when God closes a door we are certain He called us to enter.

Follow Him today and every day.

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