I came across this amusing story which as a nice application in the area of our calling in God.
The commanding officer was furious when nine GIs who had been out on passes failed to show up for morning roll call. Not until 7 p.m. did the first man straggle in. “I’m sorry, sir,” the soldier explained, “but I had a date and lost track of time, and I missed the bus back. Being determined to get in on time, I hired a cab. Halfway there, the cab broke down. I went to a farmhouse and persuaded the farmer to sell me a horse. I was riding to camp when the animal fell over dead. I walked the last ten miles, and just got here.” Though skeptical, the colonel let the young man off with a reprimand. However, after him, seven other stragglers in a row came in with the same story—had a date, missed the bus, hired a cab, bought a horse, etc. By the time the ninth man reported in, the colonel had grown weary of it. “Okay,” he growled, “now what happened to you?” “Sir, I had this date and missed the bus back, so I hired a cab .” “Wait!” the colonel screeched at him. “don’t tell me the cab broke down.” “No, sir,” replied the soldier. “The cab didn’t break down. It was just that there were so many dead horses in the road, we had trouble getting through.” 1
The point is that sometimes there are obstacles that you have to traverse, bumps in the road that you have to climb on and over in order to realize your calling from God. Overcoming these bumps take time and in God, you just have to learn to respect the process.
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Galatians 1:15–17 (ESV) — 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
- Paul continues his testimony to the Galatian believers.
- He uses the terms, ‘set me apart from birth’ and ‘called me by grace’ to describe his calling from God.
- The words to exclude ‘set me apart from birth’ is all one word in the Greek and it means to separate or isolate something and place in a group apart from others as for a purpose.
- Luke gives us the exact moment when this ‘grace calling’ became a reality in Paul’s life.
Luke’s Version of Paul’s Calling
Acts 13:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
- Verse one is important to understand the way the Spirit of God works in a believer’s life.
- Note what level of ministry Paul walks in BEFORE he begins to actually walk in his ‘grace calling’.
Paul’s Prominence As a Prophet and Teacher
- Paul is prominent among the prophets and teachers in Antioch BEFORE he realizes his calling.
- Do you see his heavy involvement in Spirit life BEFORE his calling?
- I’m capitalizing the word BEFORE for you intentionally for emphasis so that you understand that just because you have a ‘grace calling’ doesn’t mean you begin to walk in that calling when you first come to Jesus.
- If you continue reading the rest of Galatians chapter one, Paul gives you a timeline which leads to his Acts 13:2 separation unto his life’s work in God.
The Timeline for Paul’s Calling
Galatians 1:17–18 (ESV) — 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days.
- After Jesus revealed himself to Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9), Paul went to Arabia and then returned back to Damascus.
Acts 9:19–22 (ESV) — 19 … For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
Three Years Go By
- Three years after that, he goes to Jerusalem to meet Peter.
Galatians 1:18 (ESV) — 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days.
- Three years go by after the road to Damascus incident and Paul is still not walking in his calling.
Then Paul Goes to Syrian and Cilicia
Galatians 1:21–22 (ESV) — 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ.
- The church at Antioch mentioned in Acts 13:2 was in the region of Syria.
- It makes its appearance in the scriptural record in Acts eleven.
Then Paul Goes to Antioch
Acts 11:19–22 (ESV) — 19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
- Barnabas after traveling to Antioch, goes to Tarsus to look for Paul.
Acts 11:25–26 (ESV) — 25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
Another Year Goes By
- After Paul comes into the church at Antioch, they meet for a whole year teaching the Word of God to a lot of people.
- There goes another year.
- As you can see the years are going by.
- Paul is busy in ministry.
- He is busy serving.
- And, he is busy praying and teaching.
- He is busy building up the church.
- But, he still hasn’t got over into his calling.
- He eventually does but after many years.
Call to Action:
God will permit you to serve in many aspects BEFORE you get over into your life’s calling. So, don’t be in a rush. He surely isn’t. Respect the process and know that the gift’s and callings of God are without repentance. Just because it’s seemingly taking a long time to find your place doesn’t mean your calling is not real.
Question: How long did it take you before you got over into the first phase of your life’s calling? Please share your story in the comments section below.
- Source unknown, Contributed by John F. King, Galaxie Software, 10,000 Sermon Illustrations (Biblical Studies Press, 2002). ↩