The Paradox of God’s Calling

“God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called.” 

This is a popular saying among Christians that, like most popular sayings, is both true and not true. It’s true in the sense that God has a generous track record of calling unlikely, untrained individuals. Shepherds, prostitutes, and unlearned fishermen have all occupied significant roles in the story of God. 

However, God also has a track record of calling very equipped people. Moses was raised in a palace under the leadership influence of Pharaoh. The prophet Elisha was discipled by the great prophet Elijah. The apostle Paul was an expert in the Law, having studied and trained in it since childhood. And Bezalel, Oholiab, and the other builders of the tabernacle were “skilled,” possessing all the “wisdom and understanding to know how to do all the work” (Exodus 36:1).

These different stories capture the paradox of calling, which consists of two seemingly conflicting truths:

On the one hand, God always provides what we need for the task. Whether it’s talent, training, or a handful of loaves and fish, God’s provision is sufficient for His purposes. We can trust this to be true, and it should instill us with confidence and peace. 

On the other hand, we are not sufficient on our own. Moses was trained to be a leader, but he could not summon down plagues. Paul knew the Law, but he relied on the Holy Spirit to deliver understanding. And although the artisans possessed both the talent and the instructions to build the tabernacle, there was nevertheless a lot they didn’t know. They didn’t know what the cherubim should look like. They didn’t know the precise designs of the curtains. They were given a rough sketch, a partial vision, and then expected to construct the rest in faith.

That is the tension of calling. God provides us with more than enough (v.7), but not so much as to free us from dependence on Him. The secret to managing this tension is guarding the focus of our call, which is Christ alone. When we make our calling about us, we swing between insecurity and pride; between fears about our insufficiency, and a greedy clamoring for fame. But when we remember our calling is about Christ, both our inabilities and abilities are granted an appropriate amount of weight.

We see this balance in the building of the tabernacle: skilled workers, equipped with enough, relying on God for the rest of the vision, and doing it all for the glory of God. They had what they needed, but they never stopped needing God. Our own callings should look the same. We can step into God’s purpose, radiating confidence, while humbly pointing others to the source of it: our all-sufficient Savior.

Sharon Hodde Miller

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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