The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.
Jeremiah 1:1-2 (ESV)
Jeremiah begins with a description of who Jeremiah was. It states who his father was, where he came from, who the king was, and even what year Jeremiah began to receive messages from God.
Verses 1 and 2 tell us that the words in this book were given by God to a person during a specific time in history in a particular place. There is no generalization. God chose Jeremiah to receive these words.
Jeremiah was quite young, and he gave God two good reasons why he shouldn’t be a prophet. He said, “I’m not a good speaker and I’m too young.” (1:6)
But here’s the thing that removed all objections both from Jeremiah and for us: God’s word has come to you and God has called you!
The second verse of Jeremiah says that the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah. From what I’ve read, Jeremiah was about 20 years old at the time. He was not in the category of someone who God could use as a prophet. But, God called him and that was enough.
If you have made a decision to follow Jesus, you are a part of what God wants to do in this world. Every person who follows Jesus is also responsible for some part of the kingdom that he is establishing.
Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:1, “I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” And in verses 15-17, “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
If you have responded to the invitation from Jesus to follow him, you are a part of his body. Paul is saying that when each part of the body is working properly, we grow and are built up as a whole.
The typical next step, when asking the question of calling, is to take a spiritual gifts or personality test to determine how God has wired you. Maybe that’s helpful, but you do not need to take a test to know how God has wired you.
In fact, sometimes we need to forget about those things while we think about how God has called us. It is hard to shake this way of thinking, but we need to think less about our role in our society and more about our relationship and identity in Jesus.
Os Guinness in The Call , defines calling this way: “The truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction lived out as a response to His summons and service.” (p. 29)
He explains that there are two levels to being called by God. The first level is a general calling that is the same for all people. It is a calling by God, to fellowship with God and to live entirely for God. It is the call by Jesus to follow him and to follow in his ways. It is the call to learn the teachings of Jesus and to depend on the Spirit of Jesus as we journey through life.
God is asking all people to answer his call, to live a life of complete devotion to following Jesus, and to leave the outcomes to God. Oswald Chambers says it this way: “The one aim of the call of God is the satisfaction of God, not a call to do something for him.”
Our primary call is to be in fellowship with our Creator. But there is a second level of calling, which is more specific. The second level of calling is about what the first calling of God looks like on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis.
When we submit ourselves to the primary call to follow Jesus and be devoted to satisfaction in God, we will soon discover that the second level of calling moves forward in a way that is almost indiscernible at first, except by reflecting on the past.
Os Guinness explains that answering the call of God is “by its very nature a stepping forward to responsibility… We have heard the call, and we acknowledge and assume our responsibility. We are responsible to God, and our calling is where we exercise that responsibility.”
Jeremiah begins by saying that the word of God came to him. The Word of God has also come to us. Hebrews 1 says, “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son.”
In a sense, we are all in the position of Jeremiah. The word of God came to him, and he was called by God to be a prophet. The word of God has come to us, and we are called by God to proclaim the gospel.
When the word of God comes to us, we have a responsibility to respond. If you witness a crime, you have a responsibility to provide the police with a statement. We are witnesses to the greatest and most important truth ever proclaimed, and we have a responsibility to pass on that truth.
Each of us is called by God in a general sense to be devoted to following in the way of Jesus. But each one of us is also called in a very specific way. I can’t tell you what that looks like. You need to ask God to show you how he is calling you.
It is only in responding to God’s call will you experience complete satisfaction in your daily responsibilities and have real and lasting meaning in life.
In the first chapter of Eugene Peterson’s book on Jeremiah, called Run with the Horses , he wrote, “In Jeremiah it is clear that excellence comes from a life of faith, from being more interested in God than in self, and has almost nothing to do with comfort or esteem or achievement. Here is a person who lived life to the hilt, but there is not a hint of human pride or worldly success or personal achievement in the story.”
He goes on to say in the following pages that Jeremiah lived up to his name, his calling by God, his unique place in the plan God had for the Nation of Israel. He did not stay trapped in the idea of being young and unskilled. He responded to the call of God, and lived life to the fullest.
It’s not enough to just think about having a “calling in life,” as though the forces of the universe have tapped you on the shoulder. Those who pursue a calling in life without knowing the Caller is like, as C.S. Lewis pointed out, “The woman in the first war who said that if there were a bread shortage it would not bother her house because they always ate toast.” You can’t have toast without bread, and you can’t have a calling without a Caller. Work without a calling will not satisfy.
If Jeremiah proceeded to assume the office of prophet without the calling of God, he would not have lasted long. His enemies would have crushed him and he would have either been killed or he would have resigned.
You may be asking, “What is my calling?” If you are responding to God’s primary call to himself, all anxieties will be stilled. If you are seeking to be satisfied in God and in who he says you are as his child, you can go on with confidence taking care of the things you are currently responsible for, and will discover the specific ways in which he is calling you.