Calling is "Personal"
God's call is both corporate (general) and personal (specific). This is the point that Susan has been making in her recent comments. We hear much about the corporate aspect of calling from preachers on Sunday mornings, because after all they are preaching to a corporate body. The corporate or general call is to love and service, submitting all that one is, all that one has, for the sake of the lost.
But there is also a personal aspect to calling. There is a specific place for us in God's kingdom plan. A particular place. A place wherein our skills and passions will be put to the service of His Kingdom purposes. As stewards of the mysteries of God we must respect both the corporate and the personal aspects of our calling.
Os Guinness has much to say about this distinction, but I want to concentrate today on the personal aspect of calling. Guinness makes the point that the call of God is an act of creation. What he calls he calls into being. Our calling is a calling from God, and a gift of God. It is entirely "a God thing." Guinness writes: "Calling is not only a matter of being and doing what we are but also of becoming what we are not but are called by God to be."
Another way of understanding the personal-ness of calling is to remember that calling is a kind of naming. Guinness quotes George Macdonald at length on this theme, and so will I. In 1867 Macdonald preached a sermon on Revelation 2:17 -- "To him that overcometh, I will give a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it."
Now in this verse God is speaking of the consummation of His kingdom at the end of time, but there is, of course, an application to the here and now. Macdonald writes:
I say, in brief, the giving of the white stone with the new name is the communication of what God thinks about the man to the man. It is the divine judgment, the solemn holy doom of the righteous man, the "Come, thou blessed," spoken to the individual.Now, this name is personal, it is for you and you alone, for it will be the name that represents the essence of who you are in the Kingdom of God. It it, truly, you identity. Macdonald again:
The true name is one which expresses the character, the nature, the being, the meaning of the person who bears it. It is the man's own symbol,--his soul's picture, in a word,--the sign which belongs to him and to no one else. Who can give a man this, his own name? God alone. For no one but God sees what the man is, or even, seeing what he is, could express in a name-word the sum and harmony of what he sees. To whom is this name given? To him that overcometh. When is it given? When he has overcome. Does God then not know what a man is going to become? As surely as he sees the oak which he put there lying in the heart of the acorn. Why then does he wait till the man has become by overcoming ere he settles what his name shall be? He does not wait; he knows his name from the first. But as--although repentance comes because God pardons--yet the man becomes aware of the pardon only in the repentance; so it is only when the man has become his name that God gives him the stone with the name upon it, for then first can he understand what his name signifies. It is the blossom, the perfection, the completion, that determines the name; and God foresees that from the first, because he made it so; but the tree of the soul, before its blossom comes, cannot understand what blossom it is to bear, and could not know what the word meant, which, in representing its own unarrived completeness, named itself. Such a name cannot be given until the man is the name. ...
See, now, what a significance the symbolism of our text assumes. Each of us is a distinct flower or tree in the spiritual garden of God,--precious, each for his own sake, in the eyes of him who is even now making us,--each of us watered and shone upon and filled with life, for the sake of his flower, his completed being, which will blossom out of him at last to the glory and pleasure of the great gardener. For each has within him a secret of the Divinity; each is growing towards the revelation of that secret to himself, and so to the full reception, according to his measure, of the divine. Every moment that he is true to his true self, some new shine of the white stone breaks on his inward eye, some fresh channel is opened upward for the coming glory of the flower, the conscious offering of his whole being in beauty to the Maker.