...about being Called.
“For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 24:14
Okay, I’m gonna begin this post with a confession. I first heard these words that Jesus shared with his Disciples years ago, when I was just a kid. Many are called, but few are chosen. Wouldn’t you agree that it’s quite a powerful statement? I always envisioned a group of kids standing on a playground, each eagerly waiting to be selected by one of the two opposing captains to be on his team. (I was always one of the last to be chosen, because I had “two left feet” and the hand-eye coordination of a newborn infant!)
It gets better! Are you ready for this? Until I began reading the Bible a couple of years ago, I thought that “Many are called, but few are chosen.” was a call to arms for the United States Marine Corps! I can close my eyes and hear the voice in the background of the Marine television commercial matter-of-factly and boldly proclaiming, “The few. The proud. The Marines.” No, I’m not kidding. Actually, I didn’t really-absolutely-for sure-there’s not a doubt in my mind know that they were the words of Jesus until I looked it up on Bible Gateway this morning. (www.biblegateway.com is a great on-line reference resource for every version of the Bible.)
In this passage Jesus was explaining to his friends that heaven is available and attainable for everyone, but that entry into heaven is achieved only by those who are willing to lead a life that merits doing so.
What does it take to get into heaven? Good question, isn’t it? And I feel fairly certain that many of us think that we have the answer. It’s not, however, one that I want to attempt to answer today. Instead, I’d rather shift the focus of Jesus’ statement, from life eternal, to life here on earth, and how we choose to live it.
Many are called, but few choose to answer.
I believe that all of us have “callings” in life.
First of all, what exactly is a “calling”? Well, when used as a noun, Merriam-Webster defines a calling as:
1. a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence
2. the vocation or profession in which one customarily engages
I think that when most of us hear the term, our thoughts instinctively turn to those having a calling to ministry. Aside from the calling to ministry, when people speak of career “callings”, it’s safe to say that many of us have had callings to be physicians, or attorneys, or educators, or artists. I also believe that many of us fall into the trap of equating callings with “white collar” jobs such as those that I just listed. For some reason, we’d find it hard to believe that someone might have a calling to a “blue collar” job that involved manual labor, long hours, and that’s at the lower end of the pay scale.
Several years ago I knew a man named Mr. Anderson. I never knew his first name; he never said what it was, and I never asked. Mr. Anderson had worked for a local furniture company here in Birmingham for years, although I’m not really sure what he did for them, because by the time that I met him, he’d already retired (though he wasn’t that old).
Mr. Anderson wasn’t exactly a picture of health. He had a moderate case of scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and walked with a slight limp. Because of his infirmities my initial reaction to seeing him for the first time was pity. I’m almost ashamed to tell you that my pity for Mr. Anderson turned to envy the moment that I shook his hand and looked into his eyes.
You see, Mr. Anderson had found his calling in life, which was refinishing furniture. I’ve gotta tell you that the man loved what he did, and his passion was evident not only in the quality of his work, but in the way his eyes lit up when he saw an old piece of furniture that needed restoration. I believe that Mr. Anderson could see beyond that table, chair, or piece of bedroom furniture that had been painted or re-stained, and could envision what it was gonna look like when he stripped away the layers to reveal its natural beauty.
Once, when I was foolish enough to ask Mr. Anderson if there was anything else that he’d like to do in life, he looked right at me, and without missing a beat, simply replied, “Nope. It’s what I love to do. It’s all I want to do.”
Mr. Anderson had answered his calling. He answered the calling that was in his heart.
When it comes to God and His Kingdom, have you answered the calling that He has placed on your heart?
What’s that? You don’t think that God has called you to do anything? Think again.
Oh sure, God calls people to be Pastors, Priests, Evangelists, Missionaries, Nuns, etc. From what I’ve been able to gather, He doesn’t always place these callings on people’s hearts at the same age. One Pastor that I was speaking with got his calling at nineteen. Yet another was nine years old when God laid the call to ministry on his heart!
There’s a group of young adults that are enrolled in 24/7, a three year ministry program here at Church of The Highlands here in Birmingham. These young people, numbering just over thirty, set aside college plans and secular career ambitions to answer God’s call to ministry. I’m blown away every time I’m in their presence.
What about the rest of us? Do we get callings too?
I believe that we do. For those of you who are hesitant to associate callings with anything other than careers, I’ll refer to what I’m talking about as “stirrings of the heart.”
What are some examples of stirrings of the heart?
Before I offer you a few examples, I’ll go ahead and caution you that answering some stirrings of the heart will be uncomfortable, if not down-right hard for you to do. Why? Because some of them call for us to do things that are out of our comfort zones. You see, many of us are reluctant, if not flat-out unwilling, to do anything different that we don’t have to do.
Oh, there’s the “church things” that we hear so much about, like volunteering our time and talents to serve in various ways in our churches. And there’s volunteering in hospitals, or in community outreach centers in your city or town. These are all well and good, and if God has stirred your heart to get involved, I urge you to do so.
How about a stirring that’s more personal in nature? Like reaching out to console a friend who is hurting? Or offering to help a stranger in need? How about sharing what God has done in your life with someone who doesn’t know Him? Here’s a tough one, or at least it was for me: How about praying for someone, aloud and in their presence, because they’re hurting or simply in a bad place in life?
Here’s the thing…we don’t know what God has in store for us, or what He’s going to do for us, simply because we’ve answered a stirring that He’s put in our heart.
This passion that I have for God, and The Seed of Hope, and all that I feebly attempt to do in life for others, is the result of answering a call that God placed on my heart six or seven years ago. I met a young lady, the mother of two small children, who had recently gone through a bitter divorce. There was a stirring in my heart to offer words of hope and the promise of a better life with God in it to this young lady. I acted on that stirring; it was the first time that I had shared my faith with anyone.
As is turned out, this young lady went back to church, and more importantly, she turned back to God. Her life, and her outlook on life, improved dramatically. But I was the one that was truly blessed, because that “stirring” in my heart that I acted on radically changed my life.
Just do it.
If God has placed a stirring in your heart, please, please, please act on it. You have no way of knowing what He has in store for you if you do.
There is one thing that I know. If you will act on your stirring, the answer to the question “What does it take to get into heaven?” will become evident to you, and much easier to achieve.
Many are called, but few choose to answer.