2 Peter 1.3-4
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”
Calling in the bible is a central and dynamic theme. To be a disciple of Jesus is to be a “called one.” In these devotionals, I have repeatedly emphasized that Jesus first calls us to himself, and then he calls us back into the world so that we might live and work to fulfill his purposes.
That is why I named this devotional “A Call to Excellence.” As the 1 Peter passage above says, the Lord calls us to “his own glory and excellence.” We see the same truth proclaimed in Ephesians: The Lord calls us to live and work in a way that is worthy (axios) of his call on our life.
Os Guinness has written extensively about calling … see his book The Call. Guinness says that in responding to God’s call on our life, it is important to make a distinction between primary calling and secondary calling. The primary calling is to him and for him. It is Jesus’ summons to repent of sin, believe, and follow him in every aspect of our lives.
Guinness writes: “First and foremost we are called to Someone (God), not to something (such as motherhood, politics, or teaching) or to somewhere (such as the inner city or Outer Mongolia).”
The secondary calling is the activity that we choose to focus on in the world, the job that we choose and the daily work that we do. “We can therefore properly say as a matter of secondary calling that we are called to homemaking or to the practice of law or to art history,” Guinness writes. “But these and other things are always the secondary, never the primary calling. They are our personal answer to God’s address, our response to God’s summons. Secondary callings matter, but only because the primary calling matters most.”
This is why scripture admonishes us to have a strong work ethic in whatever we do. The way we work—and why we work—should reflect the reality of Jesus in our life.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3.23-24)
The vital distinction between primary and secondary calling carries with it two challenges: First, to hold the two together and, second, to ensure that they are kept in the right order. In other words, if we understand calling, we must make sure that first things remain first and the primary calling always comes before the secondary calling. But we must also make sure that the primary calling leads without fail to the secondary calling.
Put simply, first we must respond to the call to trust in Jesus and walk in obedience to him. This is the primary calling. Second, we must choose a job and then do our work in a way that is excellent and reflects the love and lordship of Jesus in our life. This is the secondary calling.
Trust God and do the work.
More tomorrow …