“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:14)
I love that even Paul – who is a superstar achiever, all in for Christ, and living on mission – is still pressing on toward his calling.
And like Paul, we too have an upward call from God. Like Paul, we were created with purpose for purpose. Like Paul, we have unique skill sets, experiences, passions, and callings. Things the Creator set into motion as part of His Creation.
So, you might be thinking Paul is killing it, and you are still trying to figure it out, or just trying to stay afloat, or feeling like things are falling apart around you.
But Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Even Paul is still pressing on...dwelling not on triumphs or missteps that are behind, but straining toward what lies ahead. We can be effectively living in our calling and still have work to do. As long as we are still alive, we beg God for clarity around our calling, and then we press into it. I’ve been a bit obsessed lately about our callings, maybe because I’m feeling a bit restless or because I have an 11th grader who is beginning the college search process and faced with the early stages of setting out a career path. But mostly because I feel like when we are stepping into our calling, we are in sync with how we were created and we are in sync with our overarching mission of glorifying God in the best way we can. In our calling, we will find that contentment, peace, purpose, and joy our souls crave.
Michael Hyatt defines calling based on four characteristics: 1. It is EXTERNAL. It originates from outside us, beckoning us. As Christians, we believe it comes from God. 2. It is PERSONAL. It comes specifically to us and is something we were made to do that only we can do exactly the way we would do it based on our experiences, gifts, circumstances, abilities. Each of us is uniquely qualified for our calling. 3. It is APPEALING. It is something that profoundly resonates inside us; something in our heart of hearts we want to do, and there is fulfillment in doing it. 4. It is OPTIONAL. We have a choice to respond to our calling or not. Friends, let’s not opt out!
John Piper describes it as “holy ambition.” Paul had it, and Paul continued to press into it until the day he saw Jesus face to face. Our job is to also earnestly seek our holy ambition; our calling. Paul was converted in a remarkable way with instructions as to what his mission would be, but he immediately spent three years in the desert with Jesus. No doubt praying, revisiting the scriptures he loved with fresh eyes and revelation, gaining clarity around his mission. As we pray for revelation as well, we need to be diligent in the Word. It is God’s vehicle for revelation. Even Paul, who met Jesus on the road to persecuting Christians and received his assignment, quotes Isaiah when he tells of his calling in Romans. It was God’s Word that ultimately spoke to him. Piper says that God doesn’t lead us to ambitions that are pointless or cause regret. They are not of self-exaltation, though the temptation of pride and self-exaltation are always knocking at the door. Holy ambitions are always a form of love that meets people’s needs.
John Piper suggests a prayer to pray about our unique calling, and I’m fervently praying it today...for me, and for all who join me in reading it. “Lord, I will not let you go until you give me a holy ambition. Forbid that I would waste my life. Show me your glory. Show me your passion for your glory. Draw me into it, God. I don’t care about being famous; I want to be faithful. As small and insignificant as I feel, oh God, I want my life to count. My little way that no one else can do; MY holy ambition. Show me, grant me, oh God, a holy ambition.”
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