The Call: Finding and Fulfilling God’s Purpose For Your Life by Os Guinness is the best book on calling for the Christian that I have read. The first time I read it was in Dr. Douglass’s wonderful “Spiritual and Ministry Formation” class at Covenant Seminary in 2013. In 2018, on the 20th anniversary of the book, Guinness published a revised and updated edition.
We’ll start by looking at a few quotes from the “Introduction” of the book:
- We’ll address two broad and crippling distortions from the start—the shrinking and the hollowing out of calling.
- To explore the truth of God’s call is to appreciate what is nothing less than God’s grand global project for the restoration and renewal of humanity and the earth—and our part in it.
- What follows in this book is a series of short reflections on the many-sided wonder of God’s call.
- I hope that what is here you will read slowly, always aware that you are in the presence of the One who calls us all, and always thinking things through in terms of your own life and your own calling in the world.
- Two words that have changed the world, the two words that are changing the world today, and the two words that can change each of us and our lives beyond our wildest dreams. Listen to the commanding invitation of Jesus that is both a call and a charge: “Follow me.”
Chapter 1: The Ultimate Why
- 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.
- 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 (as in the current talk of shifting “from success to significance”) will end in disappointment.
- Nothing short of God’s call can ground and fulfill the truest human desire for purpose.
- Calling is 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 and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.
- Answering the call is the way to find and fulfill the central purpose of your life—God’s purpose for your life.
Chapter 2: Seekers Sought
- We cannot find God without God. We cannot reach God without God. We cannot satisfy God without God—which is another way of saying that our seeking will always fall short unless God’s grace initiates the search and unless God’s call draws us to him and completes the search.
- What brings us home is not our discovery of the way home but the call of the Father who has been waiting there for us all along, whose presence there makes home home.
Chapter 3: Differences Make a Difference
- The differences are clear between the major answers to the search for purpose in life, and they lead in entirely different directions.
- The first is the Eastern answer, which includes Hinduism and Buddhism. If the final reality is an impersonal ground of being (the so-called “undifferentiated impersonal”), what is the purpose of life for each of us as individuals? The answer in brief is, “Forget it and forget yourself.”
- The second is the secularist answer, which includes atheists, most agnostics, naturalists in science, and a large number of humanists. If the final reality is chance and there is no God (or gods or the supernatural) to consider, then purpose is up to each of us to decide and achieve for ourselves by ourselves. We don’t discover it—we decide it.
- The third is the biblical answer, which is common to both Jews and Christians and is the main shaping force of the dynamic sense of purpose characteristic in Western civilizations. From this perspective, the final reality is neither chance nor an impersonal ground of being, but an infinite personal God who has created us in his image and calls us into relationship with himself. Our life-purpose therefore comes from two sources at once—who we are created to be and who we are called to be. Not only is the call of our Creator the source of the deepest self-discoveries and growth in life, it also gives our lives an inspiration and a dynamism that transforms them into an enterprise beyond any comparison.
- 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. Answering the call is the road to purpose and fulfillment in your life.
Chapter 4: Counterculture to the Core
- When Jesus calls us to follow him, all that contradicts his call, all that contradicts his Lordship over all our lives, has to go.
- We in the West are rarely a threat and hardly a challenge to our surrounding countries, and the major reason is that, for all our numbers, we are weak because we are worldly. At point after point after point, we have been almost assimilated to our surrounding cultures. We have therefore lost the distinctiveness that makes us the salt and light Jesus called us to be.
- It is time to make a break, not to retreat to any monastic option, but to break from the ways of the world in order to engage the world more faithfully and effectively.
- Christians have a duty to be different.
- The call to break is inherent in God’s call, and it provides a bracing challenge for all who take calling seriously.
Chapter 5: God’s Grand Global Project
- Abraham’s entire life was his response to the call of God, and as such, he is the prototype of God’s new humanity and God’s new way for humanity.
- Time after time, Abraham heard the call of God, and he responded, immediately, obediently, and unerringly.
- What marks him (Abraham) out as special, and lifts him above them all, was his faith—his quiet, unwavering trust in God, which led to his constant and immediate response to God’s call as the center and compass of his life.
- From Abraham on, the life of faith in answer to the call of God is a matter of being guided only by a Voice.
- Listening to God’s Word, rather than obeying visually triggered desires, lies at the heart of our faithfulness in following God’s call.
- All who follow the life of faith in answer to God’s call must prize and protect the primacy of words, all words, but God’s Word above all.
- Those who follow God’s call listen for his voice and to his voice.
- God is love, and because of who God is, the call of God is a call to love and to live a life of love.
Chapter 6: The Haunting Question
- There is no calling unless there is a Caller.
- The notion of calling, or vocation, is vital to each of us because it touches on the modern search for a basis for individual identity and an understanding of humanness itself.
- The Caller sees and addresses us as individuals—as unique, exceptional, precious, significant, and free to respond.
- God leads forward as we respond to his call. Following his call, we become what we are constituted to be by creation. We also become what we are not yet, and can only become by re-creation as called people.
- We may refuse the call and remain stunted—unresponsive and irresponsible. Or, we may respond to the call and rise to become the magnificent creatures only one Caller can call us to be.
- Only when we respond to Christ and follow his call do we become our real selves and come to have personalities of our own.