God's Calling
John Telgren

If God's calling orders my life, then everything else becomes secondary. I think Paul is a good example of a man who made the move from driven to called. When he reflects on his life before he came to Christ, he gives an impressive list of accomplishments and things to be proud of (Phil 3:4-6). Paul was a Pharisee of Pharisees and stood above the rest in his zeal for Judaism's ancestral traditions (Gal 1:14). Saul, as he was called then, was sharp. His accomplishment outshined everyone else. Paul's resume gave him pride and confidence.

It is interesting to note that Paul calls this having confidence "according to the flesh." He now considered those shining accomplishments as loss (Phil 3:7). In other words, he has put them away. They no longer define him. He threw them out as trash for the sake of knowing Christ, the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of His suffering, and being conformed to his death (Phil 3:10). The call of God through Christ changed Paul from the inside out. Paul considers himself to be "least of the Apostles" and "not fit to be called at Apostle" (1 Cor 15:9). Paul made it clear that his motivation was not to be a man-pleaser, because if that were his motivation, he would not be a slave of Christ (Gal 1:10). After all, Christians were on the margins of society, they were ridiculed, hated, and persecuted. Having rank or status was no longer something important to Paul (Gal 2:6). Paul had his share of critics who denounced him for his simple way of ministry (2 Cor 10:10). But this was not a threat to his identity. All that mattered to him was doing God's will (Gal 2:20), which he could do regardless of the critics. So when Paul was thrown in prison, he was not distressed (Phil 1:12-14). He found that he could live out God's calling no matter where he was. Even when some ambitious rivals preached the Gospel, trying to "one up" Paul, who was in prison and probably an embarrassment, it did not cause Paul to feel threatened or competitive (Phil 1:15-18). His sense of identity was wrapped up in Christ, not in his accomplishments, which were really not his anyway. He recognized that he could do nothing without God being at work in him to will and to work for Him (Phil 2:13).

What a change we see in Paul before and after! The major difference appears to be Paul's motivation. As a Jew, Paul seemed to be motivated by his desire for personal achievements and success. After being called, his motivation underwent a radical change. Paul's sense of identity and purpose was wrapped up in the person of Christ, not in his job, role, abilities, or anything else. He could comfortably be with people in weakness and fear and much trembling (1 Cor 2:1-4), because it was not about Paul, but about God in him. He recognized that the power of God works through his weaknesses (2 Cor 12:7-10). He comfortably realized he was nothing, and the God whom he had dedicated himself to was everything. In this, he found peace and joy.