Craig Groeschel - Reclaim Your Calling
I would love to invite you to stand at your local Life.Church location, if you're able to. And what I want to do is I want to talk to you with a little bit of a different tone today. I wanna have a little different vibe. This isn't pastor to church member, this is someone who's been called by God, to people who are called by God. And I want you to feel the weight of this message. As followers of Christ, you have been chosen by God, set apart, gifted, enabled, and empowered to fulfill a very unique calling. You are called by God.
Last week we built a foundation on what it means to be called, And we'd looked at the very powerful, very personal verse of the Apostle Paul writing from a Roman prison in 61 AD or so when he said in Ephesians four, he said, "Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling. for you have been called by God".
Let that create a moment, a holy pause, that God wants you to live a life worthy of His calling. You're set apart, you're chosen. Church isn't just someplace that we go, it's not an add-on to our lives, you are the church. The called out ones, to go into this world and to share the goodness and the grace and the love of Jesus Christ. You're called by God to do that. You're His church. But what I know about some of you right now, especially in this incredibly complicated and painful current cultural environment, some of you, you're just worn down, you're physically drained, emotionally depleted, spiritually exhausted or discouraged because I know that if the devil can't destroy you, he'll just try to discourage you. And that's where some of you are right now.
I had someone ask me, Craig, how do you overcome the discouragement? How do you stay above it? How do you not find yourself exhausted and battling with self-doubts and the spiritual opposition? How do you keep your passion month over month and year over year? And the only answer that I can give you, is that I'm called to this, I'm called to it. This is my calling. This is your calling. The title of today's message is "Reclaim Your Calling".
Father, I asked today by the power of Your Word and the presence of Your Spirit, that You would stir up Your church, God. Stir us up, God, with a spiritual passion to live a life worthy of the calling, for which You sent Your Son Jesus. Empower us, God, to live out that calling as Your church in this world. We pray in Jesus' name and everybody said, amen, amen.
Why don't you guys be seated where you are. Somebody say, I'm called. I'm called. Look at the person you're social distancing from and say, you're called. You're called. Now, look at the person who was your second choice and tell them you're called too. Well, what are you called to? If God has called you, what are you called to? A lot of people wanna be called like to a job or to a task or to something significant, and you might be called to a job or to a task or to something significant, but I want to show you three things that Scripture specifically tells you that you are called to. I learned these things back in cemetery, back in seminary years ago, they all happen to begin with the same letter, which there's bonus points in heaven when you have something that begins with the same letter.
What are you called to? You called to three things. Number one, God calls you to salvation. This is great news. Before God ever calls you to a job, before He ever calls you to a ministry, God calls you to Himself. This is great news. Jesus, when He came, he did not come to call the righteous, Scripture says, but He came to call the sinners. He didn't come for those who are healthy, He came to call the sick to come into a relationship with Him. It doesn't matter what you've done, it doesn't matter how dark your life feels, you are called to Jesus. Come to Him as you are, where you are. He calls you to salvation, to be transformed by the grace of Jesus. Don't ever let that become old news.
You are called by God to salvation. He also calls you, number two, He calls you to sanctification. This is a fancy term that essentially means to be set apart. It means to be different from this world. We read it that God has called you to a holy life. He calls you to Himself, He calls you to be set apart, He calls you to salvation, He calls you to sanctification and He calls every single one of you to service. He calls you to use the various unique gifts that He's given you, placed inside of you, the gifts and the talents in His church, as His church into this world, He calls you to service. He first calls you to Himself, then He calls you to be transformed, and then He calls you to engage, using what He's put inside of you to make a difference in this world. He calls you to Himself, to salvation, to sanctification, and to service. His calling for you, then, in service. It may be very specific, it may be very broad.
We looked last week at Colossians 3:17, and Paul said this. He said, "Whatever you do, whatever it is, whether it's in word or deed, you do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the God the through Him". Whatever you do, however you serve, wherever you are, you do it for Jesus. The question is, if you're called, some of you can say, am I ready? Do I know enough? Am I good enough? A lot of you, you might not even really believe that you're called. You might believe that you're called to salvation, that your sins have been forgiven, but you still can't really embrace that you're called to service, that you're called every day of your life to make a difference.
And the voices might tell you, but you're not ready, and you don't know enough about the Bible. And what if they ask you some kind of question? And then there's hole things like dinosaurs. And you know, what about keeping your salvation? And are we living in the end times? And you feel like I don't know enough and I'm not good enough. And I still lost my cool when somebody drove by me on the highway and cut me off. And, you know, depending on what side of the master, no mass thing you're on, you're about to lose your salvation on whichever side you are, you know? Am I good enough? Am I worthy? Am I ready?
I love what the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:26, he said, "Brothers and sisters, I want you to think of what you were when you were called". Some of you, you need to remember where you were when you were called to salvation. Think of what you were. Not many of you, this is so encouraging, were wise by human standards, not many were influential, and not many were of noble birth. This is encouraging because when you look at who God calls to salvation, to sanctification and to service, He calls those who are untrained, those who appear unqualified, those who look unprepared, He calls those that the would call spiritual nobodies to make a difference in this world.
I love the old saying that God doesn't call the prepared, God prepares the called. This should be good news for you, you don't have to have it all together. God, doesn't call you when you're perfect and when you know it all, He prepares you along the way because you're called to make a difference in this world. And this is very, very, very, very much my storing, and I want to share with you a little bit of the journey of my calling, and maybe it will help you discover your own journey of calling.
Whenever Jesus called me to salvation, I was an absolute, complete mess. How many of you can relate? How many of you can still relate? I'm still a mess, right? Exactly, I was far from God, my lifestyle didn't represent anything that would look like a pastor or a Christian. I was a business major in school. I was lost and I was hurting and I was broken. My fraternity got in a lot of trouble.
And so I decided to start a Bible study, both as a public relations move, and because I wanted to know if there is a God, I wanna know about Him. And I just started reading the Bible in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. I read all the way through to the book of Ephesians, and I read a verse in Ephesians chapter two. It says something I'd never seen before that you could be saved by grace and not by works. I didn't even really understand what grace was, but I liked the fact about not by works, because I couldn't, I just couldn't work myself up to be, be good enough. And I went out all alone, literally feeling called by God. It wasn't like I heard my name being called, but there was like, there was like a spiritual tug pulling me in the direction of heaven.
Some of you, this may be the very place you are right now. You can't explain it, there's no external reason why, but there's this spiritual drawing, this calling, this pulling, this taking you toward the things of God. And that's exactly what was happening to me. And I just knelt down in this little softball field, in the middle of my university and called out to God, "If You're there, just take my whole life. If You're real, I give it to You". And what I can tell you is when I melt down, I was one person, and when I stood up, I was someone different. God had called me to salvation. That was the easy part. Then there was sanctification. Dear Jesus help us all, okay.
I was like, I was so lost, and so I was like, this is a true story, I was a brand new Christian, I had a big brother in my fraternity who also unrelated became a Christian. So you know what we did, we went out to get drunk to celebrate. This, we did, true story and you're not like, you don't even know, should I laugh at that? Is that funny? I don't know. I don't know either, okay. That's just what we did, we didn't know any better. And then someone said, you probably shouldn't get drunk. Like, "Oh, okay". And so I started to try to figure out what are the Christian rules? And there were so many. It was pretty much like, whatever I did is like the opposite of that.
And so it was a sanctification period of where I was trying to learn like don't cuss and break your tennis racket when you lose a match. And then there was the whole dating thing because I had dated as a non-Christian and the rules are when you're non-Christian, there are no rules. And now I was a Christian, and so I asked this guy named Bron Brown, he's a basketball player. He's like the only strong Christian I really knew, I said, "What am I allowed to do? What are the rules"? And he essentially said, "Whatever you wanna do with a girl, you're not allowed to do that. That's the rule". As all of a sudden, I'm like in this, I'm in this whole new process of slowly being changed by Jesus. And I'd take a couple steps forward and then a couple steps back. And then three forward, then 20 back. And it was like this ongoing process of slowly letting God's Word, empowered by His Spirit to conform me to the image of Christ.
I was called to salvation, I was called to sanctification and I was called to service. And there was something about being transformed by Jesus, that service wasn't an option, it was a calling. It was, it was unstoppable. And that's the good news for you, when you truly recognize you've been called to salvation at the foot of the cross, and you're forgiven by the God of the universe, not by anything that gives you credit, but all by the grace of Jesus. And then you're slowly transformed. You're not like you were, you're becoming more like Jesus.
Serving's not an option, you're compelled to it, you're called to it. I never chose to be a pastor, the only way I can describe it is, undeniably, I was called to it, because it made no sense whatsoever. I just do, I'm a Christian now, I should probably go to church. And so I went to the closest church because that just made sense. And I didn't understand anything. Everything went over my head. All I knew is you had to stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down. It was like aerobics. We'd sing out of the hymnal book, first one, two and four. I don't know what's wrong with verse three, we always skipped verse three. I was bored, I didn't understand. I went to another church and it was crazy and rowdy and I liked it, but I didn't understand.
And so suddenly there was something in me thinking, "We need to do this church thing in a way that people understand. Where you take the Bible that changed my life and preach it in a way that doesn't just get in your head on Sunday, but takes over your life on a Monday and a Tuesday and a Wednesday". And here's what I want you to understand, I don't know how to put this into words, but back when I was in college, there wasn't a pastor that you looked up to, like there are some today, like social media, like that person's kind of cool. There weren't big churches. There was no reason why I wanted to live in, wear a robe to preach in and live in a parsonage. And yet, that was what I felt called and compelled to do because there's something in me that wants to take what's in the Bible to the church, to the world. It was unmistakable, it was a calling.
And what I hope you'll recognize in your own life is, you have that same version in some way. It starts with being called to salvation. You're drawn to the goodness and the grace of God. Then He starts to change you, and as He changes you, you're called to serve. And it doesn't mean you have to lead a church. You're called to serve wherever you are, whatever you do, you do it for the glory of Jesus Christ. It's not always easy. When I felt called to be a pastor, what I tell you is everybody laughed, like everybody laughed, like everybody said that's the dumbest thing. You'll never, never be that.
Listen, whenever you start to get close to your calling, you might find that people start criticizing. I found that sometimes the criticism from people confirms the calling from God. Whenever people around you don't really understand, that's often when you're getting out of what makes sense into the realm of faith. And to truly please God, you've got to sometimes get out of logic and get into a place where I'm just trusting Him. This doesn't make any sense, I can't fully explain it. I know you're all laughing, but your criticism might actually be confirming that God is actually calling me or I'm crazy. And it could be both, but nevertheless, I want to follow the voice of God.
Think of what you were when you were called. I was a mess, I was lost, I was broken. I'm still not there, but I'm so much different today. You're called by God. He's calling you to salvation. If you don't know Him, He wants to reveal Himself to you, He wants to show you His love. He's calling you to be different, to sanctification, and He's calling you, specifically, to serve Him. Lemme give you two qualities of calling, two qualities of calling. The first quality of calling is this, calling costs. It always costs. Whenever God called Saul in the Bible, if you don't know his story, Saul was the guy that hated Christians, persecuted Christians. His name was later changed to Paul, but whenever he had his encounter with God, he was blinded by this light. And God sent a messenger named Ananias to tell Saul something.
Let me tell you what the message was not. What Ananias didn't say was, "Saul, Saul, your eyes are gonna be healed. And after that, you're gonna have this crazy testimony. People are going to want you on their podcast and your YouTube following is going to blow up. And you're going to be like this massive influencer. And you have all these people wanna hear from you and you're going to get a book deal. And you're going to be a really big thing. It's gonna be amazing, it's your breakthrough". No, this is what God said to Ananias, "Go", speaking of Paul, "This man, Paul, Saul, is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and the people of Israel".
Now ready for this because you're called, Saul, "Here's what I wanna show you, I wanna show you how much he must suffer for my name". I'm gonna show him how much his calling is gonna cost him. The very first thing, Saul, you're called to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, to make a difference in this world, to serve. And I'm going to show you how much it's gonna cost you. Calling costs. Saul, you're my chosen instrument. Some of you, you're going to recognize, you are God's chosen instrument into a certain environment. You might be God's chosen instrument in your Mother's Day Out program. You might be God's chosen instrument in your crazy Neighborhood Watch Association.
Have you ever seen one that's not crazy? I haven't. I think demons assigned people, you're assigned to that neighborhood, you're assigned to this one. We got them all covered. You might be God's chosen instrument in your, the place that you work. You might be God's chosen instrument in your sorority. You might be God's chosen instrument at the nine o'clock hour at your gym, because you're the light that's sent into your gym at that time of the day. The moment you step into your calling, you have to step out of your comfort. It's going to cost you along the way.
When I met Amy, we felt called to pastor and I was honored to serve under a guy who became my hero, much like a spiritual father to me. Pastor Nick Harris, who was my pastor, and I will honor him for my entire life. He treated me like a son and helped raise me and gave me feedback, and he's always gonna be a hero to me. And then about five years in, after serving under him at First United Methodist Church, we felt called to start Life.Church. And suddenly I was conflicted to a place that's impossible to describe, because accepting that call came across like I was rejecting my pastor. And I was heartbroken by it because it was his dream that one day I would take that church, and that probably would have never happened in the Methodist Church system as such, but that was kind of his dream and I was called to something different. And to know that that would hurt someone that I loved and idolized and still do to this day, shook me to my core.
Some of you, you're gonna come across a place like this in your life, and God will often use our deepest pain to launch our greatest calling. It's gonna cost you something. You're gonna be misunderstood. You're gonna be falsely criticized. You're gonna be laughed at. You're gonna face all sorts of spiritual attacks. I've discovered that private pain is often a big part of a public calling. You're just gonna hurt in ways where you never have the ability to explain. It's gonna cost, it's gonna cost. You need to hear that, you're called and it comes with a cost. There's a blessing, and there's a cost.
I feel like Garth Brooks, if you've seen the, you haven't seen it. If you see it, you're gonna go, "That's what he was talking about". No, one's seen it. Serving Jesus is both a gift and it's a grind. Living your calling is simultaneously a thrill and is always a burden. Ministry is exhilarating, and it's exhausting. If following Jesus, isn't both your greatest gift and your greatest burden, you probably aren't doing it right. Calling always costs. It's not gonna be easy. God never, ever promised it would be easy. In fact, I've often believed that the biggest enemy of calling is comfort. Never sacrifice your calling on the altar of comfort. If God calls you, it's gonna take faith. Calling costs.
The second thing is, and it's much more fun, is that calling sustains, calling sustains. It carries you, it keeps you going. Whenever I look at the Apostle Paul, who we talked about, how did he endure what all he endured? How did he remain faithful and not grow discouraged? When you think about it, he was beaten again and again. He was left for dead, he was shipwrecked, he was snake bitten. You bite me by a snake, I'm out, okay? I mean, he was wrongly imprisoned. How did he remain faithful when his friends abandoned him? How did he stay true to Jesus when he was falsely accused and wrongly imprisoned? How did he persevere when so many other people fell away? The answer is this, Paul didn't finish the race because he was competent, Paul finished because he was called, it was calling.
I love what Philippians three says, 12, 13, and 14, the Apostle Paul, he says this, and sometimes you have to do this. Sometimes you just have to kind of forget what is behind, forget what it is. He says, "Straining toward what is ahead". Paul said, "I press on, I keep going. You can't stop me, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. I kept the faith, I finished the race because I'm called to it". Somebody here, you need to reclaim your calling. What are you call to? You're called to salvation. The greatest gift in the world, something that you can't earn, something you never ever deserve. The forgiveness of sins from Jesus Christ. You're called to be set apart, sanctified. It's about more about the who than the do, you're becoming like Jesus. And you are called to service, to ministry, to make a difference in this world.
How many of you would say this has probably been the toughest year of your life? Most people probably would. This has been unquestionably the most difficult year of ministry, of 25 years of leading Life.Church. And I don't even have to go into the reasons, I think they're pretty obvious. COVID, you know, shut down the world. And the church that I love and spent 25 years building, is different today. We have the very real racial challenges that are at the front of our minds, and rightly so, to try to do what's right for hurting people all over the world. We have the political tensions that just are in the middle of every conversation, it seems like, especially if you're crazy enough to comment online somewhere. How do I keep going and show back up?
I'll be honest, there are times when I look around go, "It'd be easier to do full time real estate. It'd be easier just to teach leadership. It'd be so much easier to do something else". But God's calling is never easy and He's always faithful. How come I don't give up, walk away? It's because I'm called to it. Somebody needs to reclaim your calling. You're called, you're a light, you're an ambassador. You offer hope in a world of darkness. You shine into it. When someone's hurting, you have the answer. When someone's far from God, you can help connect them. When there's a need, you have access to the very heart of God. And you go boldly before His throne of grace and ask Him for help in a time of need.
You have the ministry of reconciliation, helping broken people find their way back to the grace of God, and healing with each other. Don't let what you see around you take you away from what you're called to do. Don't let the discouraging voices talk you out of what you've been uniquely created by God to accomplish. You're called to salvation, saved by grace. You're called to sanctification, to live a life worthy of your calling. And you're created by God, uniquely equipped with gifts that He gave you, passions He buried in your heart, to serve Him in a way that only you can do. Will it be difficult? Paul said it this way, he said, "I'm hard pressed on every side, but I'm not crushed. I'm perplexed, but I'm not in despair. I'm persecuted, but not abandoned. I'm struck down, but not destroyed. I've been called by God".
I want to speak directly to someone who's been away from God right now, maybe you've been distant, maybe you've neglected God, maybe kind of COVID took you off your rhythms, maybe you've been into something that you shouldn't be into, I want you to hear God's Word, Romans 11:29, for God's gift and his call can never be withdrawn. What you're doing or where you're been, it does not take away God's call from your life. Another version says it's irrevocable, God's call on your life is irrevocable. It cannot be revoked, it cannot be recalled, it cannot be repealed, it cannot be annulled, it cannot be withheld, it cannot be withdrawn. You are called, you're called to salvation. You're called to sanctification and, listen church, come on, you're called to serve.
Don't let the world talk to you out of your calling. We are the church of Jesus Christ, and we're called to shine the light bright into this world. If you wouldn't mind standing where you are today, I wanna just read God's Word over you. I want you to feel the power, I want it to internalize in your soul and stir you to live a life. Paul said, "We constantly pray for you that our God may make you worthy". It's not based on your own effort, it's all based on the power of God. "That our God may make you worthy". Of what? Of His calling. You've been chosen, you've been called to salvation, to sanctification, to service. "That our God may make you worthy of His calling, and that by His power, He may bring to fruition every desire for His goodness and that your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified".
May our God make you worthy of His calling by His power, that every godly desire He put in your heart, would come to fruition for the glory and the name of Jesus Christ. God, help us to live a life worthy of Your calling.
As you're praying and reflecting today, at all of our different churches, those of you who would say yes, I am a Christian, I have been, I've been saved, I'm being sanctified. I may not be there yet, but I am being sanctified. And I truly want to reclaim my calling. I wanna sense, every day when I wake up, I wake up for a purpose that serves and glorifies heaven. God, help me reclaim my calling. If that's you, would to just lift up your hand right now, just in a moment of faith, all of our churches, you can type in the chat I'm reclaiming my calling. God, helped me reclaim my calling.
Father, I pray that daily when we wake up and we face so much spiritual headwind, so much resistance, so much darkness that you would stir up the calling that does not go away in our hearts. God, I pray that as for us, as for this part of Your body, that we would be stirred to live a life worthy of the calling upon us. One that we didn't earn, one that we didn't deserve, one given to us freely by the One who saves us. God, help us reclaim our calling. Renew, renew, God, restore to us the joy of our salvation, that we can please You in the way we live by faith. Help us reclaim our calling, God.
As you keep praying today, without looking around, there's some of you that you would recognize, you haven't even responded to the first call yet. Maybe at different points in your life, you felt drawn to God and maybe you got distracted, or maybe you had questions or maybe you didn't feel ready, but there's some of you right now, you recognize you have a very real spiritual need. Let's just call it what it is. You've tried about everything you can try, and you're still empty. You've looked for meaning in maybe money or things or people or sex or drugs or possessions or whatever it is, and it hasn't met the need. Why? Because what you're trying to do, is you're trying to fill a spiritual void with something that is not spiritual.
What you have is a spiritual need. You need a relationship, you need forgiveness. It was on that little softball field years ago that I recognized scripture says that you're saved not by spiritual works, but by grace. What is grace? It's the goodness of God. That God loves you so much that He sent His Son Jesus, His sinless Son, who was perfect in every way. Jesus never sinned, and He loved you so much that He went to the cross as an innocent sacrifice to pay the price for your sins and for mine. He shed His innocent blood and God raised Him from the dead, so that anybody, and this includes you, where you are, if you're watching online, anywhere in the world, anyone who calls on that name, there's something about that name, the name that is above every name, the name of Jesus.
When you cry out to Him, God hears your prayer and He forgives your sins. He makes you brand new. Listen, there's someone here, you're being drawn to Him. He's calling you. Respond to His call and just say, yes. Not by your works, not by your religious efforts because of His love and by His grace, I give my life to Him. That's you today. All of our churches, you're watching online. You say, I need His grace, I wanna know him. I'm turning from my sins, I give my life to Jesus. That's your prayer.
Lift your hands now, all over the place, lift them and say yes, Jesus, I give my life to You. Those of you online, you can just type that in the chat. I give my life to Jesus. And as we have people in our churches, people online, surrendering to faith in Jesus, would you pray with those around you? Just pray:
Heavenly Father, take all of my life, forgive all of my sins. Save me, change me, make me new. I say yes to Your call to salvation, I say yes to be changed, to be sanctified. I say yes to serve You and whatever I do, I wanna do it for You. Thank You for new life, I give You all of mine, Every bit, every moment, I belong to You. In Jesus' name I pray.