“For you see your calling, brethren…”
Don’t just read past it. You’ve seen this verse a thousand times—this time, read it again for the first time.
“For you see your calling.”
It doesn’t belong to anyone else. Not to the Church. Not to your peers. Not to those who came before you, and not to those who will come after.
Your calling belongs to you and you alone.
The implications are as unsettling as they are liberating. No one can take this from you. No one—not the Church, not your peers, not those above or below you. But it also means that it’s entirely on us. On our shoulders. No one else can ruin it for us, but they can’t make it work for us, either.
If you fail to enter the Kingdom, the fault is ultimately yours.
That’s what all this means. No one on earth, not even Satan himself, can prevent you from entering the Kingdom. God has given us—will continue to give us—everything we need to make that journey.
It all hinges on our choices.
No one can snatch us from our Father’s hand, it’s true—but no one is going to stop us from hopping out of it, either. If we’re holding fast what we have, no one can take our crown—but there’s nothing in place to prevent us from handing that crown over out of boredom or frustration.
When God stands before us and commands us to “choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19), there’s not a thing in the world that can stop us from saying no. The choice to turn our backs and walk away is always, always on the table.
This is our calling, after all.
The problem is, after accepting and truly understanding it, we only get to reject that calling once. Just once. “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6:4-6).
It’s not that we can’t repent. We can always repent, and God always stands ready to forgive and cleanse us (1 John 1:9). The terrifying implication of that passage is that we can come to a point where we’re no longer interested in repenting. Where we refuse to repent. And at that point…
At that point, “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:26-29).
Brethren, are we talking our calling personally?
Because we must. We absolutely must if we intend to enter the Kingdom of God. This is the most intensely personal thing you will ever do in your entire life—for although we’re instructed to “bear one another’s burdens” on our collective journey to the Kingdom, the truth is that “each one shall bear his own load” (Galatians 6:2, 5).
When the seventh trumpet sounds, you will either rise or you will not. There isn’t a thing anyone can do in that moment to help you or hurt you. This is your calling. Your decision. Your choice.
Here are three truths about that calling, along with three ways to start taking it personally:
1. This is a war, and you are a soldier
The Bible is filled with reminders that you and I are in the middle of the most important war ever fought. Paul told Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith” and “lay hold on eternal life” (1 Timothy 6:12), reminding him that “no one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:4).
He told the Romans to “cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12), reminding the Corinthians that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
THIS. IS. A. WAR.
God did not invite us on a leisurely, self-paced stroll to the Kingdom. He conscripted us as soldiers, equipped us with His own armor, and then sent us out to do battle “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Every day, we step out onto a battlefield to wage war against enemies more powerful than we can possibly imagine—enemies that, given the opportunity, would crush us without breaking a sweat.
But it’s so easy to forget all of that. Work, school, bills, daily responsibilities and obligations—this world is so perpetually in our faces that it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. It’s easy to forget that everything we can see is temporary and fleeting.
It’s easy to forget that a roaring lion is operating behind the scenes, just waiting to leap in and devour.
But he is. We know he is. To act like he isn’t would be reckless in the worst possible way—and yet how often is that exactly what we do? How often do we look out our windows and let the absence of physical warfare lull us into a false sense of security?
Satan is waiting for his chance to strike. Don’t give him any extra opportunities.
How to take it personally:
Satan’s hatred is aimed at you, child of God, and it’s you who needs to do something about it. Paul lays out the armor of God for us in Ephesians 6:14-18, but no one’s going to put it on for you. That’s your job. Every day. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the word of God, prayer—if we’re strolling onto the battlefield lacking any of those things, that’s on us. If we’re letting any part of our armor grow rusty or battered through abuse or neglect, the responsibility to repair it falls on us. We can’t afford to be sloppy or careless with a literal matter of life and death.
The invincible armor of God is your line of defense against an enemy that wants to rip you to shreds. Are you taking it personally?
2. Service is a mindset required for the Kingdom
A few months ago, I wrote a piece on how much we need your gift—and it’s true. The Church is in desperate need of the gift God has given you. In fact, that’s the reason you even have that gift in the first place. God gave us our gifts “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ … from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:12-13, 16).
That’s incredible, when you think about it. What you have was given to you by God for the express purpose of edifying your brethren.
What a responsibility. What an opportunity. What a chance to make a difference in the Body of Christ!
What a tremendous potential stumbling block.
There are few things more frustrating than being denied the opportunity to serve, especially in a capacity where we know we have something to bring to the table. But it happens. It happens for a lot of different reasons. Some of them are legitimate, some of them are not—but all of them can be frustrating.
After all, you were trying to serve. You were trying to give of yourself, and you were rejected—informed that you weren’t needed, thanks but no thanks.
You have, in these moments, a decision to make. You can take one of two things personally: the rejection or your calling.
If you go with the rejection, you lose. Taking that rejection personally means giving bitterness a chance to take root—and worse, it means opening the door to leave, to walk away from the most valuable thing in your life over a snub, real or perceived.
I don’t recommend that route. Consider this one instead:
How to take it personally:
If you can’t serve where you want, serve where you can.
Consider Paul’s reminder that “God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased” (1 Corinthians 12:18). Whatever the immediate reasons for the rejection, whether fair or unfair, God is the one ultimately calling the shots. God has placed you exactly where He wants you, and He has placed you there for a reason.
Again, it’s a choice. You can fume about what you’re not allowed to do or you can get busy doing what you are allowed to do. If the only thing you’re allowed to do is, say, make the coffee at services (and I have a hard time believing you’ve been barred from visiting shut-ins and the sick or performing acts of service for those in need, but hypothetically, let’s roll with this for a minute), then you make that pot of coffee.
And don’t do it begrudgingly. Anyone with a pulse can dump grounds into a filter and flip a switch. That’s easy. Your job is to do it in a way that says, “Hello! I made this for you because you are my family and I love you.” Your job, as Seth Godin would say, is to make the coffee in a way that is so uniquely yours that the people drinking it would miss it if you were gone.
I don’t honestly know what that looks like in terms of coffee. Maybe it means writing encouraging pick-me-ups on the cups. Maybe it means setting out coffee-themed decorations. Maybe it means bringing a special brand of coffee you want to share with your brethren.
The challenge isn’t figuring out how to use your gift in the arena you want to be in. The challenge is figuring out how to use it in the arena you’re needed in. This isn’t about how the service makes you feel or whether it’s the specific kind of service we prefer to be doing—this is about proving we can be faithful in much by first being faithful in little (Luke 16:10). This is about how profitable servants go above and beyond the call of duty (Luke 17:10). This is about how the son of God Himself left us an example when He got down on His knees and washed the feet of His brethren (John 13:5).
You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
Your willingness to serve where you can ultimately affects whether you have a place in the Kingdom of God. Are you taking it personally?
3. Your brethren need you—and you need them
Here’s a lie:
Your calling exists in a vacuum.
God only cares about your relationship with Him.
The truth is, every decision you make, whether good or bad, impacts the people around you. Depending on the choice, that impact might be a slow trickle, or it might be an explosion—but it will affect someone other than you, guaranteed. That means if you’re not taking your calling serious, you’re affecting more than just you. You’re affecting the brethren around you—those who see your poor example and who reap the seeds you sow.
It’s your calling, yes. And at the end of it all, what you did with it is your responsibility and yours alone. But that doesn’t mean you exist in a vacuum—and it certainly doesn’t mean God doesn’t care how you interact with your brothers and sisters. We’re part of a family, here—and although we all stand before the judgment seat alone, we are in this journey together. God called us from all walks of life, regardless of gender, age, or ethnicity, to come together and pursue the common goal of entering His Kingdom. When we convince ourselves that the only relationship that really matters is where we stand with God, we do ourselves and our brethren a disservice.
Or have we forgotten that the body is “joined and knit together by what every joint supplies” (Ephesians 4:16, emphasis added)? Have we forgotten that “the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you'” (1 Corinthians 12:21)?
We are in this together. Like all families, we’re going to annoy the daylights out of each other from time to time. We’re going to cause each other pain—sometimes unintentionally, and sometimes not. If we’re not taking our calling personally, we’re going to find a lot of reasons to walk away. We’re going to find a lot of excuses to leave and never look back.
I hope our crown is worth more to us than that. I hope we’re able to see that the people walking with us on this journey are every bit as flawed and damaged and in need of love and mercy as we are. Not one of us is without sin; not one of us is in a position to start casting stones out of spite and anger.
If the Body is joined and knit together, it stands to reason that someone has to be doing the joining and the knitting—and that someone can’t just be God. It has to be us, too.
How to take it personally:
Use the power of the tortoise.
When under enemy fire, Roman soldiers employed an ingenious tactic known as the testudo (or “tortoise”) formation. By standing in close quarters and making use of their large rectangular shields, the soldiers formed what amounted to a human tank. With shields forming a roof overhead and walls to the sides, a battalion of men could become nearly impervious to missile fire. The testudo formation was so powerful that men and even horses could safely walk across the shield-roof.
But testudo formations didn’t just happen by accident. There were prerequisites. First, the soldiers needed to be equipped and prepared for battle. They couldn’t be lounging on the battlefield without their armor and still expect to have something to contribute. Second, they had to be prepared to serve one another—it was, after all, the second row of soldiers whose shields became the roof for the first row, and the third row whose shields became the roof for the second, and so on. Third, they had to be willing to trust each other with their lives. The nature of the testudo formation meant that one false move exposed not only you, but many of your brothers-in-arms, to death.
Intimidating. Quite the responsibility. And yet, when the testudo was properly executed—when the soldiers joined shields and moved forward sharing the same purpose, the same goal, and the same sense of direction—they became just short of invincible. Together, they were able to accomplish what none of them could on their own.
I hope that sounds familiar. It should. It’s all connected. This is a war, and you need to be wearing your armor. Service is a requirement, and it’s all about doing what you can, where you can. You and your brethren need each other, and together you can withstand the worst the enemy sends your way.
Every bit of that hinges on you doing your part. Are you taking it personally?
For you see your calling
Let’s take this back to the beginning. We’ve waded through some heavy topics here, and they weren’t always comforting. They’re not meant to be. They’re gritty and they’re difficult and they’re meant to remind us that this is real, this is serious, this is our calling and we’re expected to do something with it. No excuses. No finger-pointing. God has set the standard, and we must meet it.
But He hasn’t left us without hope. Let’s finish reading the passage that started this whole thing:
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
(1 Corinthians 1:26-31)
Yes, there’s a lot that’s expected of you—but God didn’t choose you because you were qualified. He didn’t choose you because you were the missing puzzle piece He needed to make this whole thing work.
He chose you because you weren’t. He chose you because you’re the sort of person the world passes over without much notice. He chose you because He is going to show the world what He can do with someone who is, all things considered, not particularly impressive.
With you, He’s going to put to shame the very best the world has to offer—and that’s where we can find hope. This is less about us and more about the God who called us. Yes, the bar is high, but we have the backing of the One who set that bar in place. We can do this—not because of our own worthiness or inherent greatness, but because of God’s. That’s why we can come boldly before the throne of grace in time of need. That’s why we bow our knees before Him who is able to do exceedingly above all that we ask or think. That’s why we fight the good fight—because God Himself is in our corner, providing us with exactly what we need to claim victory at the end of this war.
Victory is possible. The bar is attainable—but only, only if we’re taking this calling personally.
Until next time,