By Mark A. Taylor
Most Thursdays I attend, and usually lead, a men’s small-group Bible study.
These are good men, men committed to Christ, churchgoing men, and I couldn’t help thinking about them when I came across a newsletter from the Barna Group earlier this year.
According to Barna’s research, 75 percent of American adults say they are looking for ways to live a more meaningful life. But “only 40 percent of practicing Christians say they have a clear sense of God’s calling on their lives.”
I’m wondering how the guys in my group feel a sense of calling at their work.
This year our studies have been devoted to chapters in the popular through-the-Bible digest, The Story, published by Zondervan. Most weeks we focus on another Bible hero: Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Ruth, David. This is to be expected, because the Bible’s story is told through the lives of those who remarkably responded to his call.
But how does God’s call of these men and women relate to our own? God is not appearing to any of my group’s members in burning bushes; he hasn’t given any of us a walking stick to part the Ohio River. So how are we to know God is calling us to something significant in our own walk with him?
One answer is in the very fact that, in the whole Bible, only a few of God’s followers are famous. How many millions counted themselves in the family of God in all the centuries of this story? But if we scour the Scripture for specific names of individual standouts, we’ll find only a few dozen.
This seems to say that God’s calling on my life will likely not result in a cable news headline or a listing in Wikipedia. When I die, hopefully those who remain will say nice things about me, referring to a couple accomplishments or qualities. But only a few people will be there to hear, and even fewer will long remember the eulogies. There’s little chance that my finding and obeying God’s call will give me fame or status.
The men in my group read the Bible, pray daily, seek to apply Christian ethics to work decisions, and have tried to raise their children to love the Lord. Several have faced disease or death. They’re hard workers, and they’ve been successful as engineers or salesmen or managers. Do they view their lives as meaningful? Do they have a clear sense of God’s calling?
I hope so, because if we cannot sense his call in the daily decisions of our lives, we may have no sense of his call at all. And I’ve noticed something else about these Bible heroes. Everyday obedience prepared them to hear God’s call to once-in-a-lifetime challenges. For any of us, our greatest task for God may be yet to come.
As for me, maybe a couple years from retirement, I’m still figuring out how best to use my life for God. Perhaps one path to the answer is continuing Bible study, week in and week out, with men whose lives are an example of faithfulness.