The Call: Finding and Fulfilling God’s Purpose For Your Life by Os Guinness. Thomas Nelson. 384 pages. 2018 (expanded and revised 20th anniversary edition)
Originally published in 1997, I first read this book in a class at Covenant Seminary. This new expanded and revised 20th anniversary edition includes a “Study Guide” that is helpful for either personal or group use. The book is a series of short reflections on the many-sided wonder of God’s call. The thirty chapters are not academic or theoretical. Instead, they have been hammered out on the anvil of the author’s own experience.
Guinness encourages us to read the book slowly, always aware that we are in the presence of the One who calls us all, and always thinking things through in terms of our own life and our own calling in the world. He tells us that at some point every one of us confronts the question: How do I find and fulfill the central purpose of my life? Our passion is to know that we are fulfilling the purpose for which we are here on earth. Deep in our hearts, we all want to find and fulfill a purpose bigger than ourselves. Guinness tells us that the book is for all who long to find and fulfill the purpose of their lives. He argues that this purpose can be found only when we discover the specific purpose for which we were created and to which we are called. He tells us that answering the call of our Creator is “the ultimate why” for living, the highest source of purpose in human existence. Apart from such a calling, all hope of discovering purpose will end in disappointment, and that nothing short of God’s call can ground and fulfill the truest human desire for purpose.
Guinness tells us that there is no calling unless there is a Caller. He writes of both primary and secondary callings. Our primary calling as followers of Christ is by him, to him, and for him. Our secondary calling, considering who God is as sovereign, is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live, and act entirely for him. He writes that as a matter of secondary calling, we may be called to homemaking or to the practice of law or to art history. But these and other things are always the secondary, never the primary calling. They are “callings” rather than the “calling.” He tells us that if we understand calling, we must make sure that first things remain first and the primary calling always comes before the secondary calling. But we must also make sure that the primary calling leads without fail to the secondary calling.
This is the best book on the topic of calling for the Christian that I have read, and I highly recommend it.
Here are 15 of my favorite quotes from the book:
- Count the cost, consider the risks, and set out each day on a venture to multiply your gifts and opportunities, bring glory to God, and add value to our world.
- When Jesus calls us to follow him, all that contradicts his call, all that contradicts his Lordship over all our lives, has to go.
- Calling means that everyone, everywhere, and in everything fulfills his or her (secondary) callings in response to God’s (primary) calling.
- Neither work nor career can be fully satisfying without a deeper sense of calling—but “calling” itself is empty and indistinguishable from work unless there is Someone who calls.
- If there is no Caller, there are no callings—only work.
- A sense of calling should precede a choice of job and career, and the main way to discover calling is along the line of what we are each created and gifted to be. Instead of, “You are what you do,” calling says: “Do what you are.”
- To find work that perfectly fits our callings is not a right, but a blessing.
- To follow the call of God is therefore to live before the heart of God. It is to live life coram deo (before the heart of God) and thus to shift our awareness of audiences to the point where only the last and highest—God—counts.
- For those who live life as a journey and see faith as a journey, calling has an obvious implication. It reminds us that we are all at different stages on the way and none of us alive has yet arrived.
- Having heard God’s call and responded, our task is to seek to listen to God’s call, to follow God’s call and way of life, and to act on behalf of God’s great purposes of justice and freedom in righting the wrongs of the world.
- Careers that express calling are as fulfilling as careers that contradict calling are frustrating.
- There is no sacred vs. secular, higher vs. lower, perfect vs. permitted, contemplation vs. action where calling is concerned. Calling equalizes even the distinctions between clergy and laypeople. It is a matter of “everyone, everywhere, and in everything” living life in response to God’s summons.
- Calling is central to the challenge and privilege of finishing well in life.
- We may retire from our jobs, but there is no retiring from our individual callings.
- We must be sure that our sense of calling is deeper, wider, higher, and longer than the best and highest of the tasks we undertake.