The (Late in Life) Calling of the Christian

As a latecomer to Christ, I find that my personal walk of faith has been hobbled somewhat by the sinking sensation that anyone might experience were they to inexplicably sleep in on the day of a critically-important business meeting. My faith often feels like a mad dash to the finish line; though I know that this is not the way that God would desire I live, it is nonetheless a persistent and pervasive snare.

We have all experienced the feeling of being horribly behind schedule, unable to shower, dress and/or otherwise prepare as we would like in order to make the very best presentation to an important client. Instead of spit-shine shoes and a sharply-pressed Brooks Brothers suit, we awaken to find our best clothes unclaimed at the dry cleaners, and the best we can manage prior to rushing out the front door is a rumpled sport coat and a tie with a rather-conspicuous egg stain on it. On the way to the potentially-life-changing business meeting, we happen to glance in the rearview mirror and discover to our horror that we have neglected to shave or comb our messy hair.

Such is the unspoken inner-heart life of the typical latecomer to Christ, and such is the nearly-constant temptation to effectively deny God’s sovereignty; even we “enthusiastic latecomers” must be silent, stepping back to “allow” Him to manage His choosing of workers for the fields in the way He sees best…even when He does so at odd and various times throughout the work day (Matthew 20:1-16).

Modern life assaults us with an infinite range of things we could do, we would love to do, or some people tell us we should do. But we are not God and we are neither infinite nor eternal. We are quite simply finite. We have only so many years, so much energy, so many gray cells, and so many bank notes in our wallets. “Life is too short to…” eventually shortens to “life is too short.”
Os Guinness, The Call  

“What of value can I possibly bring to the glorious work of God’s Kingdom?” “Look at the wreckage of my life…of what possible good can any of this be to Jesus?” These (and many other questions like them) are always near at hand in the life of a latecomer to the Kingdom. I am careful to label questions like these as “temptations” as I think it’s obvious that these are not the questions being asked by Jesus; almost certainly, these ideas come to mind straight from hell. And yet, the flaming darts continue to come over the wall (Ephesians 6:16) to dissuade, if possible, the newly-converted believer.

In addition to hanging on tightly to the truth that the Kingdom of God has been built upon the lives and actions of nothing other than sinners – apart from Christ Himself, of course – Guiness’ book has been very helpful in allowing me to pour fast-drying cement upon several timeless truths. The four that leap immediately to mind are:

God calls us to His service at the exact time and manner of His own good choosing. My finite brain is far too limited to understand how my getting drunk in a roadhouse outside Detroit in 1987 would come to be a blessing in the life of a man living in Columbia, Mo., in 2013. But who am I to talk back to God (Romans 9:14-26)? These sorts of doubts and misgivings are, I now see, precisely the place at which faith meets up with the revealed will of God in Scripture. In trusting God more fully, I can now surrender my past to His good and perfect will.

…calling provides the story line for our lives and thus a sense of continuity and coherence in the midst of a fragmented and confusing modern world.

No one is “well dressed” before Jesus apart from His grace; we are all unsuitable for His service. The demonic temptation to tarry a bit before we serve in the Kingdom of God is nothing more than sinful self-focus redirected away from drunkenness but nevertheless accepting a demonic “suggested steering” onto the road leading to Phariseeism and legalism. Through Guinness, I have come to understand that we are all, every last person, filthy and foul before the righteousness of God. Sins of the heart, unseen, are very often more offensive to God than sins of the flesh, which (bad as they are) are at least on display for all to see!

The Puritans lived as if they had swallowed gyroscopes; we modern Christians live as if we have swallowed Gallup polls.

Os Guiness

To live faithfully now, we must focus on what has been, is and always will be true. Ministry to the deeply afflicted nearly always involves a need to steer people away from the obvious, painful realities of the “here and now” and help them “lift up their eyes” to the truths that have always been in place and will never be shaken. While it’s perhaps not tactful to start right off with biblical truth in the face of all-too-real pain and suffering, I have found renewed clarity in realizing that the more we look to present circumstances – or even our own “performance” as faithful Christians! – we are bound to be disappointed…or become proud. The most poignant example I can offer is precisely that moment when, in AA meetings, someone will stand up and begin with, “My name is Bill, and I am an alcoholic.” While I do understand the need for sinners to always remember from whence they came, I have been emboldened to respond to this way of thinking with something more akin to, “My name is Warren, and I am a son of the living God who struggles with alcohol.” In my experience, the idea that we are “beloved sons” is a game-changer in terms of self-perception, if not the very engine of faith.

Calling reminds Christians ceaselessly that, far from having arrived, a Christian is someone who in this life is always on the road as “a follower of Christ” and a follower of “the Way.”

Living under an oppressive sense of “urgency” is to deny the eternal love that God has for us in His Son. I have often been tempted to try to do too much with too little, a way of living in direct opposition to God’s plan. Like most of us, I prefer to “lean on my own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5) and the results were predictable; stress, panic, sloppy work and (most significantly) a failure to rely solely on God to keep his promises not to bring me more than I can bear. In 2013 I was “blessed” with a physical breakdown in my health for (I now believe) the purpose of making me see that it matters less how I self-rationalize and is far more important for me to understand that God knows all of my faults, failures and hang-ups and yet has always loved me. More to the point, it is less critical that I understand everything being thrown my way and more faithful to trust that God knows all of my limitations and does not hang his love for me on the hook of my performance.

Those who are seen and sung by the Audience of One can afford to be careless about lesser audiences.

Calling is a “yes” to God that carries a “no” to the chaos of modern demands.

Philippians 1:6 ESV
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

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