From worship on January 25:
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!"
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will send you out to fish for people." At once they left their nets and followed him.
When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
This passage is a very obvious example from the Bible of God calling people. Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James and John to follow him. For many of us today, to follow Jesus often means to make some lifestyle changes, to adopt a new mindset or new beliefs, to begin some new practices; but not necessarily a radical change in life.
For these men, it was just that. They left their careers, families, life as they new it--for something new—for someone new. For them it was about more than belief or faith—it was about action; about how to live life.
Throughout the Bible, God called people, beginning in Genesis with Abram and ending in Revelation with John of Patmos. God called men: Moses, Samuel, Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Peter, and Saul.
God called women: Sarai, Miriam, Deborah, Ruth, Elizabeth, Mary, and Lydia.
Calling people was one of the most frequent things God did throughout the Bible. It happened repeatedly.
Often that call had something to do with doing something specific for God, and helping others see or hear or obey God.
We have translated that into our church culture as a call to something religious. For example, we talk about being called into ministry, and we treat that calling as if it were more important than other callings. That gives the impression that God only calls a few people; and the rest of us are on our own. But that doesn’t line up with the character of God in the Bible.
God works in and through anyone and everyone, in a variety of jobs and situations and relationships. Each of us is called—to a relationship with God, to general ways of living life, also to some specific actions. It’s different for each of us, yet each calling is important from God’s perspective.
Our call is not just valuable or holy when it’s in a religious context, any call is valuable and holy, when we simply answer and follow.
God is working in and through all people in diverse and countless contexts. When we are faithful to being who God created us to be and doing what he wants us to do, we are partnering with God to achieve his purposes—love people, draw them to him, establish God’s kingdom in relationships and communities here on earth.
A common question is how did and does God call? In the Bible, God often called through visions, through a burning bush, through a voice calling in the night, through the words of other people, through a brilliantly flashing light.
How does God call now? It's a question we could spend hours on, but I'll throw out a few ideas, just to get us thinking, and encourage you to keep thinking on this, especially when we take some time to reflect and respond in a bit.
God sometimes calls us through a voice in our heads—thoughts, desires, interests, curiosities, ideas, hunches, questions...
Through words spoken to us by another person, often someone different, outside our context—a stranger, a traveler, even someone with whom we disagree.
Through a book, a sermon, a song, a story, a poem...Through the Bible...Through a need that we become aware of...Through a gift or talent we possess...Through an event in daily life that speaks in some strong or unexpected way.
Calling is often thought of as sudden; but it often isn’t. God is working behind the scenes, in our lives, preparing us for things to which he calls us.
Peter and James "immediately" answered their calling. But I imagine that God had prepared them for that moment when Jesus would appear, that the rest of their lives up to meeting Jesus was a part of their being called.
Jesus' personal calling to them is merely the last step in the being called, and one that they can follow immediately without contradiction with the rest of their life. Even their father has been prepared -- they don't have to leave him alone, there are already others there to help him with the work.
From Ginny Ward Holderness and Forrest Palmer:
"All of life is to be lived in response to God’s call. Our work and life, our careers and lifestyle, all our activities and relationships are directly connected to the abundant love and creative work of our generous God. There is no separation between faith and work or between faith and lifestyle.”
Our real call is to be faithful with God in whatever we do.