My husband and I spent last weekend visiting our daughter in Pasadena, where she is pursuing a MA in Theology at Fuller. Aside from being hot (although not as hot as when we visited her in Budapest two years ago), it was a great visit. The rooms at the guest house have copies of Mark Labberton’s recent book Called alongside other books. I picked up this book (relatively short and easy reading) and read through it while traveling. Here I will highlight a few points from the final chapter – points where I think he really hits the nail on the head.
We are all called to live as followers of Jesus – and this calling should shape our lives. The book is a good reminder. As Christians we have been known to worry about discerning God’s will for our lives. Who to marry, what to study, which job to take, where to live. It sometimes seems like life is a puzzle to be solved.
Life becomes a puzzle, and the Holy Spirit is the puzzle master who provides the clues and then the answers to all of them. In this approach our vocation is to pursue God’s direction on a step-by-step basis through special revelation. (p. 138)
While God does occasionally provide direction in direct special revelation to his people, this is not the only or even the normal form of call.
[A] call in the most profound and pervasive sense doesn’t require special illumination by the Holy Spirit. The primary call on our lives is to follow Jesus in all we do – this isn’t a secret God hides and has to be coaxed into divulging. (p. 138)
Fruit of the Spirit. Labberton provides a few suggestions for discerning call (community is important). Because our call is to be followers of Jesus, the fruit of the Spirit provide an important signpost.
The evidence that we’re hearing and living the call of God is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). These fruit are the outgrowth of seeking and living God’s call. They are the tangible evidence of God’s presence that produces in and through us qualities that point to the source of our life, the gracious activity and mercy of God toward us. (p 139)
If a choice is not consistent with the fruit of the Spirit, it is unlikely to be a true call of God.
Scripture is central.
As we mature in the faith, the Bible is a very important element in our growing knowledge of God and God’s purposes in the world. Scripture unlocks God’s hopes for us and for our call. The Bible – as we read the whole in light of the parts and the parts in light of the whole – needs to form us and our theological and spiritual imaginations. Nothing else is as critical as this. We need to learn to read Scripture well, with careful thought and reflection – not using it as a spiritual version of a Ouija board, Rorschach test or dart board but as a profound narrative and guide to form and inform our faith and call. (p. 142)