Monday, December 31, 2018

Anonymous Asks (20)

“Does God have a specific career or school for you to go to?”

I suspect the answer to this is “maybe”.

If that sounds a little fuzzy, it’s because life is like that. If God has a specific, personal will for you about things like which university you should attend or whether plumbing would be a better career choice than medicine, he has not revealed it in his word, the Bible, which is where you and I would normally look for guidance.

Further, the era in which we find ourselves has a notable shortage of legitimate prophets, and experience shows that people who talk a lot about “feeling led” to do this or that often end up making questionable decisions. I can understand if that leaves followers of Christ looking around for clear direction about what to do.

Paul tells the Christians in Rome that we discern the will of God by testing it, and testing is by definition a process of trial and error. By “error” I don’t mean sin or even major mistake, but rather the difference between something that works superbly well and something that works passably.

Something like the difference between “acceptable” and “perfect”.

The Call of God

Around a year and a half ago, I took a careful look at the subject of God’s “call” as described for us in the New Testament. If a God who loves us has preferences about the details of our lives, it follows logically that he intends to communicate them to us. We can expect to be led or “called”.

The apostles are consistent in how they talk about God’s “call” (in Greek, kaleō or klētos). They employ these words hundreds of times in their epistles.

Now, this part is important: their usage demonstrates that God’s call is general in nature. It applies to all believers. We may be called to some very specific things, but we are ALL called to exactly the same things. Nobody gets special treatment.

There is a single exception to note. Twice, Paul says he was “called to be an apostle.” (This would be “apostle” in the Capital A sense, not merely someone who is sent out.) But Paul’s calling was unique, miraculous and unrepeatable. It has more in common with the Old Testament calling of kings, priests and prophets than it has with New Testament calls to believers. In fact, we might argue Paul’s was the last major invitation to service under the old sort of calling.

New Testament “Calling”

So here’s what Christian “calling” looks like. Ready? Paul tells us believers are called to the following things:
Peter supplements Paul’s list by declaring we are called:
Finally, John announces that believers are called to:
Every single believer on the planet is called to each and every one of these things. I, for one, am immensely grateful. What a wonderful Savior and what a spectacular destiny!

Cries of Protest

And yet I can almost hear the cries of protest now: “What? That’s it? Really? Where’s my call to study at a particular university? Where’s my call to a specific career?

Exactly. You find these sorts of personal, specific “callings” in Christian bookstores. You find them in Christian conversations. You find them when we feel the need to justify our choices to ourselves or our fellow believers by invoking a mutually-respected authority. “God called,” we say. No further discussion is needed.

Really? Who says?

You find these sorts of personal, specific “callings” wherever superstitious believers gather (and we have lots of those around), and you definitely find them wherever Christians have insufficient confidence in the wisdom of their own decision-making to name their choices for what they are: personal, subjective preferences. You find them wherever Christians use the jargon they hear around them without questioning its origin or validity.

You do not find them in the New Testament, so far as I can see.

Explaining the “Maybe”

Which leads me back to my opening “maybe”. We cannot rule out the slim possibility that God is doing something unusual and/or epoch-defining with any given believer. He’s done it before: Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Samson, Samuel, David, Hosea, Ezekiel, the apostle Paul ... the list goes on. Perhaps you are one of these rare individuals. There are thousands of perfectly ordinary godly men and women in scripture for every one of these, but let’s not pretend the exceptional never happens when God is in the process of accomplishing his sovereign will: it certainly does.

The thing is, David did not go about preparing himself for shepherding Israel by asking his dad to send him out to work with sheep. Moses did not leap into a reed basket and hurl himself into the Nile on the assumption that charming his way into Pharaoh’s household would prepare him for instigating the Exodus, nor did he contrive to set up the killing that sent him running into the desert for forty years of training in the School of God. Joseph did not pick out Potiphar’s house or an Egyptian jail as the best possible places to prepare himself for governing Egypt. Samuel, unborn at the time, could not possibly have retroactively influenced his father to marry two women, one of whom would abuse and torment the other so comprehensively that Hannah would ultimately give her firstborn entirely to God as a lifetime offering of thanks. Nobody could plan that.

Daniel did not exile himself to Babylon or afflict Nebuchadnezzar with night visions that troubled him. Paul did not attend Stephen’s stoning and watch over a pile of murderers’ cloaks to better motivate himself for service to Christ down the road ...

Need I go on?

A Suggestion

My thought? Work on what you know God has called you to do: work on being conformed to the likeness of his Son. That is very much within your control.

The rest of it? I’d say don’t sweat it. You won’t need to find that sort of “will”.

It’ll find you.

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