I have been reading Edmund Clowney’s book Called to the Ministry for several weeks now. Though it is a small book, I have had little time to dive into it. As I have slowly worked through it, I have found numerous little gems. Anyone who knows me has endured several discussions on the topic of calling. I believe this word and concept has been stretched significantly. Some people use “calling” and “the will of God” interchangeably. I find this synonomous usage to be problematic on several levels. What does “calling” refer to? How broadly should it be applied?
Clowney takes the first half of the book to establish the Christian’s primary calling to God. A person cannot consider calling on any level prior to or outside of the preeminent calling to God himself. God calls people to faith in Him through repentance and belief in Jesus Christ first and foremost. Clowney establishes this point quite well.
In particular, I found the following passage to be both sobering and convicting. Speaking of our calling to service, Clowney says:
What opportunities do you perceive? The first doors are in the room where you are. The has given you a certain set of present circumstances. Paul refers to this as a man’s “calling” (I Cor. 7:17). Like the heritage of an Israelite in the land, it is the “lot” or “portion” that the Lord gives you today. Here you must begin; indeed, here you must be willing to remain until other doors of opportunity are perceived and opened. The surest way to miss future opportunities is to ignore present ones. Perhaps this lesson is hardest to learn for those who are preparing for future service. Since education has gained such importance in our culture, young people often spend years being educated before any purpose in their education becomes apparent.
Meaningless course-taking becomes a way of life, more real than the vaguely conceived future, but yet not life in earnest. To conclude that the major decisions affecting the course of life must be made under such circumstances can be depressing indeed. It is heartening to remember the promises of God’s faithfulness, but action is needed, too. In the student’s calling, there are today’s opportunities which God sets before us to prepare us for those of tomorrow. In the lonely student you befriend, the confused roommate you encourage, the article for the college paper that you write, or the Sunday School class you teach may lie the key to your future. It is in the service that you render whether in the classroom orout of it that your gifts are proved and manifested.
But you must seize the opportunity in the soberness of wisdom and the zeal of love.
Though Clowney uses students as an example, I believe these words apply to many of us. Too often we can be caught looking past our present circumstances by putting our hope and worth in future “realities.” We can treat everything leading up to that point as a stepping stone, a means to an end. However, let us always consider how we might serve God in the present. Let us not look past the opportunities and needs of the many people who cross our paths on a daily basis.