What is the Call of God?
Gray Poehnell

What is the call of God? What is the call of God on my life? These questions are especially important in today’s world. We live in a world that is changing. The rapid changes in the political world, the economic world, the social world, and the work world call for changes in our own personal lives. These changes have resulted in an increasing interest in matters of faith and spirituality. An understanding of God and His calling will provide us with a balance of stability and flexibility that will enable us to move ahead with grace and confidence.

I meet people in many different contexts both within the church and without. As they talk to me about life issues and career issues, I consistently hear 2 questions in one form or another:

  • Who am I?
  • What should I do with my life?

People are looking for a sense of identity and purpose that will give them a sense of wholeness to all of their life. They are looking for some process that will help them not only to discover this but also to walk in a manner that is consistent with who they are.

I believe that these two questions have one answer, the same answer. This answer is found in the calling of God. Life is intended to be a personal relationship, an ongoing personal interaction between God, who calls me to be with Him, and me, who must respond to His call. This is the essence of God’s calling and indeed of true life itself; and, when embraced, life transforming.

“calling is the truth that God call us to himself so decisively
that everything we are,
everything we do,
and everything we have
is invested with a special devotion and dynamism
lived out as a response to his summons and service”
Os Guinness, The Call, 4

The call of God has two aspects both of which are indispensably intertwined. You can’t have one without the other.

  1. God calls me to be with Him. (Primary Call)
  2. God calls me to walk with Him as He fulfills His plans and purposes in this world. (Secondary Call)

Jesus’s calling of his early disciples reflect this two-fold call , their essential order, and the appropriate response:

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee,
he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew.
TThey were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said,
“and I will make you fishers of men.”
At once they left their nets and followed him.
Matt. 4:18-20)

1. God calls us to be with Him (Primary Call)

As noted above, the essence of true life is to be in proper relationship with God. In the Bible the vast majority of references to calling refer to God’s calling us to Himself, ultimately through the work of His Son Jesus Christ. This call is to a life in fellowship with him, a life that reflects his life and his purposes. For example:

God, who has called you into fellowship
with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
1 Cor. 1:9

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people belonging to God,
that you may declare the praises of him
who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
1 Pet. 2:9

He called you to this through our gospel,
that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To life with God, to a life with certain qualities,
To freedom, to a holy life
2 Th. 2:14

who has saved us and called us to a holy life
— not because of anything we have done
but because of his own purpose and grace.
This grace was given us in Christ Jesus
before the beginning of time,
2 Tim. 1:9

But just as he who called you is holy,
so be holy in all you do
1 Pet. 1:15

2. God calls me to walk with Him as He fulfills His plans and purposes in this world. (Secondary Call)

This secondary call flows naturally from the first. God is a God who is active in his world fulfilling his plans and purposes. If we are with him - indeed if he dwells in us through his Spirit and seeks to live his life through us - then it is only logical that to be with him naturally involves walking with him and working with him as He fulfills His plans and purposes in this world.

You, my brothers, were called to be free.
But do not use your freedom
to indulge the sinful nature;
rather, serve one another in love.
God calls us to walk and work with Him
Gal. 5:13

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting,
the Holy Spirit said,
“Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul
for the work to which I have called them.”
Acts 13:2

The calling of God, then, answers these two fundamental questions:

1. Who am I?

I am a Christian; I am called by God.

I will spend my life discovering and embracing this relationship, my new identity.

2. What should I do with my life?

I will walk with God as He fulfills His plans and purposes in this world.

I will spend my life discovering and embracing God’s will for my life.

In the light of these two aspects to God’s calling, it is important to remind ourselves at this point, that career is not the call but only part of the call. The call of God embraces all of life.

God calls me to life, to his life. I must respond in faith, love, and hope to such a gracious call. One of the purposes of Vocation-all is to help others discover and follow God's calling. You may wish to check out some of the resouces this site has provided to assist you in this task.

Copyright © 2002, Gray Poehnell
All rights reserved

Last modified 3/20/03