Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:6-7 – NKJV)
There was a tent maker born in the ancient city of Tarsus about 2,000 years ago. This man had a profound impact on western thought and modern Christianity. You don’t recognize who I’m referencing from this description? I’m talking about none other than the Apostle Paul, writer of two-thirds of the New Testament, missionary and Apostle to the Gentiles.
Would Paul have made such an indelible mark on human history and Christendom if he had simply remained a tent maker? The answer of course is no. There was nothing inherently wrong with Paul making tents. Biblical figures engaged in numerous professions often in preparation for greater work. Before he became a king, David was a shepherd, musician and warrior. Peter left fishing for fish to become a fisher of men. Jesus it is believed served as a carpenter most of his adult life before serving as an itinerant preacher. Tent making helped Paul support himself during his missionary journeys. Tent making, however was the means to an end and not the end itself. Paul pursued his passion and calling to become the Apostle to the Gentiles.
Why don’t more Christians respond to the Master’s call? There are a variety of reasons. Certainly many struggle to discern the call. Sincere-minded Christians question why they were placed on this Earth which in part accounts for the run away success of Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life. Many churches offer classes to members on how to discover their spiritual gifts.
However I’m convinced there’s another group of believers who know their calling but are either not following it or are doing so half-heartedly. It is to this second group that I am specifically speaking. If you are not pursuing your calling you are simply existing and not living the abundant life that Jesus promised to each believer. Fear is a big reason that many fail to pursue their calling with enthusiasm. They fear that God will subject them to something they do want to do or fear that God will not protect them.
God’s calling does sometime lead us into places we’d rather not go or encounters we’d rather not have. Shortly after Paul’s conversion, Jesus revealed to Ananias in a vision that “I [the Lord] will show him [Paul] how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:16 – NIV). The Israelites initially missed out on entering the Promised Land because they feared God would not protect them. “The people refused to enter the pleasant land, for they wouldn’t believe his promise to care for them” (Psalm 106:24 – NLT). Where God leads us, He is already there and He already prepared the way. In order to courageously live out our calling we must own the Biblical truth, contained in Deuteronomy 31:1, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you” (NKJV).
True confession time. Through a series of missteps I came to the recent realization that I devoted more time and energy to making tents than to pursuing my calling. I had become quite adept at making tents and make what many would consider a comfortable living do so. I was being groomed to make even larger tents. But there was a change in leadership in the tent makers guild, “a pharaoh arose who knew not Joseph.” The leadership change coupled with my less than optimal handling of a complex tent making assignment, resulted in me being in a holding pattern on the current rung of the tent making ladder.
While initially disappointed and discouraged, I came see that like Paul when he describing his Roman imprisonment that, “what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance” (Philippians 1:19b – NIV). The tumblers of the lock finally clicked into place for me, and I have been given a much clearer vision of what God would have for me to do. While climbing the tent making ladder, my vision for climbing Jacob’s ladder became blurry. With my sight now restored, I am pursuing my calling with new found zeal. I am not delusional in thinking my calling will be easy, safe or without risk. Few if any callings are. Paul admonished his spiritual protégé, Timothy to “stir up the gift God which is in you” Paul gave this advice before the days of cuisinarts. Stirring required some effort! But, our effort is not unaided. We have the supernatural help of a God who, “has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”