Calling: The God Who Satisfies Our Souls

This is the fourth in a series on “calling.” This post tells why this subject. In the first three posts, we looked at our identity, the call as Christians to follow Jesus, and our purpose

The first few posts on the subject of calling have been designed to lay the groundwork of certain things we can know as we consider “calling” in our lives.

Today, I’m reflecting on the God who satisfies our souls. You may be familiar with this quote from Augustine:

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

In our broken world, part of the human condition is to look for things that satisfy us, that fill us. People look in all kinds of places for fulfillment and satisfaction: money, power, prestige, materialism, self, etc. And yet that void and emptiness can only be filled by God.

Blaise Pascal said:

“There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

In his book A Quest for More, Paul Tripp writes, “There is woven inside each of us a desire for something more – a craving to be part of something bigger, greater, and more profound than our relatively meaningless day-by-day existence.”

Tripp says that this desire is called “transcendence.” “This desire for transcendence is in all of us because God placed it there. He constructed us to live for more than ourselves. He designed us to want meaning, purpose, and consequence…. We were made for the one glory that is transcendent – the glory of God” (pages 14, 16-18).

If God alone can satisfy us, give us purpose and meaning, then He should be the desire of our hearts.

So consider the language of “calling” that you sometimes hear: “follow your dreams,” “find your true self,” “live your gifts and passions,” “journey toward meaning,” “become fully alive,” “go after the desires of your heart.”

Perhaps these distinctions are subtle, but I think they are important:

We want to desire God and seek Him who gives us the desires of our heart, not seek after the desires of our heart themselves.

We want to seek the Gift-giver, not the gifts He gives, though He of course can use those for His glory.

Our purpose and meaning are found in God, not something apart from Him that we elusively work to find.

We want lives centered around God and living for His glory, not lives centered around ourselves and our own glory and fulfillment.

God does give us dreams and desires, meaning and purpose, but it is all found in Him. When you want to know what you are made for, you are made for God. Yes, then for more, but in Him, and everything starts with Him.

In Psalm 27:4, the psalmist desires to be near to God and His presence:

“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” (NIV)

So seek the Lord and behold his beauty. Let everything else about our lives and calling flow from this: surrendering our lives to Him, then seeking Him in His Word and prayer. These are the means by which He gives direction and further calling to do His work in the world. 

John Piper says that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Have you found God to be your soul’s satisfaction?

Psalm 107:9 “For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.”

Calling: Finding Our Purpose in Christ

This post is the third in a series on “calling.” The first was on our identity in Christ, then the necessity of following Jesus, and today is considering the purpose of our lives. 

When my children were preschool age, our church (a non-denominational, gospel-centered, Bible-believing church) taught the first 15 or so questions of the shorter catechism for children. The first five questions were:

  1. Q: Who made you?  A: God
  2. Q: What else did God make?  A: God made all things.
  3. Q: Why did God make you and all things?  A: For His own glory.
  4. Q: How can you glorify God?  A: By loving Him and doing what He commands.
  5. Why should you glorify God?  A: Because He made me and takes care of me.

I love the simplicity of these true statements. God made us for His own glory. We glorify Him by loving Him and doing what He commands.  (1 John 5:3: “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” NIV)

These catechism questions seem to indicate a purpose for those who are in Christ: to glorify God, to love Him, to obey Him. Our Creator and Savior is worthy of giving our lives to Him. When we have faith in Him, when we really believe that He is, then we will want to obey what He says, and this shows our love for Him. There is great blessing in following Christ in this way, for His glory.

1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (ESV).

My Bible notes (the Nelson Study Bible, NKJV) say that glory is “derived from a Hebrew verb which is used to describe the weight of worthiness of something.” It says the word “glory” is usually “used to depict greatness and splendor.”

As I consider “calling,” I want to know my identity in Christ, my first call to follow Him, and my purpose to bring glory to His Name, to live in love and obedience to Him.

Isaiah 26:8 “Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. (NIV)

Psalm 115:1 “Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.”

Calling: Following Jesus

This post is the second entry on the subject of “calling.”  Yesterday, the first in the series was on “Knowing Our Identity in Christ.” 

The first thing Jesus told his disciples when he “called” them was “follow Me” (Matthew 4:18-22).

He also said this to many people throughout the New Testament, such as in Mark 8:34-35:

“When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.'” (NKJV)

Following Jesus seems to be a primary calling that He gives us as Christians. What does it mean to follow Jesus?

Looking at the verses above, and if we were to continue to read and study further, we would see that following Jesus, being His disciple (a word given to the original twelve followers, but now used for any follower of Jesus), is a call that costs something, that involves sacrifice, but that rewards greatly.

Following Jesus involves denying myself, taking up my cross, and losing my life for His sake and the gospel’s. Many places in the Bible add to our understanding of this, and other passages also describe the rewards for following Jesus. These rewards include not walking in darkness, but having the Light of life (John 8:12), being honored by the Father (John 12:26), and having our lives ultimately saved (Mark 8:35).

John 8:12: “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.’”

John 12:26: “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”

Though God may give us many “callings” in our lives, as Christians, we are all given this foremost call to follow Him. As we follow Jesus, we can trust that He will lead us into the other callings he may have for us.

This may go against other advice we hear in our culture such as “follow your heart’s desires” or “follow your passions” or “follow your dreams,” all of which sound potentially self-fulfilling, yet seem so abstract and elusive. Even in Christian circles sometimes, these messages can exist, a version of “you can be anything your heart desires” or “be all you can be” with Jesus on the side, endorsing our dreams.

As Christians, we should follow Jesus, not our passions, desires, or dreams, and He will develop in us godly passions after His heart that become our desires that He alone can fulfill. This is a Christ-centered call, not one focused on me.

There is much greater joy in following Jesus than what anyone or anything else can offer. And this is a straightforward, concrete call that we don’t want to miss or confuse with any other message being given.

Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (ESV)

Calling: Knowing Our Identity in Christ

I’m starting a series on “calling,” and today is the first post. 

Isaiah 43:1b, 7 (NKJV):

“I have called you by your name; You are Mine….

Everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him.”

The first thought that comes to mind when I think of “calling” is “identity.” I like the verses above from Isaiah 43 where the LORD tells Israel that He called them by their name, and they are His. In the passage, we see that He created them, redeemed them, and formed them for His glory. He called them by His name, and they are His. This is their identity.

Ephesians 1 tells us that God does the same thing for us who are in Christ. In Christ, He has blessed us (v.3), chosen us (v.4), predestined us (v.5, v.11), adopted us (v.5), accepted us (v.6), redeemed us (v.7), forgiven us (v.7), made the riches of His grace abound toward us (v.8, 2:7), given us an inheritance (v.11), sealed us with the Holy Spirit (v.13), called us (v.18), loved us (2:4), created us for good works (2:10), and brought us near by the blood of Christ (2:13). And this is not even the full list!

The calling that God has for me and all those in Him will stem from our identity in Christ – the One who made us, saved us, and has given us life; we are His.

We must know our identity before we know our calling.

psalm 100 3

“Calling”

Have you noticed lately all the articles online, conferences, and books being published on the subject of “calling” for women?

I ran across an article on my Facebook news feed a month or so ago about this subject of calling. One click leads to another, and I then found the conference where this talk had originally been delivered.

Before I knew it, I was reading all sorts of blogs and online discussions, seeing other conferences taking shape around similar topics, and I found myself wanting to engage with these ideas to better understand what was being said. Over the Christmas break, I read several books, including a couple of memoirs, and I am now reading a Bible study on purpose and calling.

I suppose in my small corner of the internet, I want to add my own reflections to this conversation as I digest much of this material in what seems be a movement among Christian women. Over the next several days, I’ll be posting on this subject of “calling.”