“Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.”
Ephesians 4:1 NLT
What is our calling? We look at someone who is doing a job we feel ill-equipped for, or undesirous of, and say that that job must be a “calling”. For example, being a foreign missionary could be a “calling” because, from a worldly perspective, it’s not a job that would be considered as a step on a money-earning career. In my community there is an ICU nurse. She is a very caring person but admitted to me once that what she does is not glamorous or particularly financially rewarding – she considers her job to be a “calling”.
But our Christian calling is clear, and is in response to our wonderful Saviour, Jesus Christ. We have to consider what we have been called from, and what we have been called to. Though we may immediately associate “calling” with a job or act of service to God, there’s something else that comes first. In 1 Peter 2:9 we read, “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” We are called out of the darkness of sin and worldliness into the wonderful light of God’s presence. It is at Calvary that we make this transition, responding to God’s invitation to accept His Son as our Lord and Saviour. And once we start living in the “light”, in God’s kingdom, another calling emerges. In John 8:12, we read, “Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” Quite simply, we are called to follow Jesus, a personal “calling”, essential for the Christian pilgrim’s spiritual life and well being. Once saved through God’s love and grace we have only one overriding “calling” in life and that is to follow Him, walking in His light. So that is a major part of Paul’s appeal to his friends in Ephesus – in effect he was saying, don’t bottle it, don’t hide it, but live your lives the Jesus way.
But what is the relevance of Paul once again mentioning his status as “a prisoner for serving the Lord”? I think he was saying two things. Firstly, he was pointing out that, by being in jail for his faith, he was making a very visible statement of his commitment to God. He was publicly saying that he was leading “a life worthy of [his] calling”. Secondly, he may have been giving a gentle hint to his friends, that they also, in living “a life worthy of [their] calling” might end up in a similar persecuted condition.
There is another meaning to the word “calling”. That is to do with how we spend our time, either in our employment or in our leisure time. And that boils down to our gifting and interests. For example, if I have an accounting qualification and faint at the sight of blood, then probably a “calling” to be a brain surgeon might not be quite right. Similarly, if I have a hobby that involves crafting knitwear, then wanting to spend my leisure time in collecting stamps might not be too rewarding. Personally, I don’t believe God will want us to do things or be people, that He hasn’t created us to be. But all our giftings are complementary, building the church of Jesus Christ into a composite, functioning entity.
So we are a chosen and called people, a grateful people saved through grace, ever willing to listen to His voice, hearing His call, as He leads us in our lives, day by day. Yes, it will involve being counter-cultural, but there is a day coming when we will hear those words, “Well done …”