I was a 4th-year seminary student. I was about to graduate, be ordained, and receive my first Call into ministry. I had spent four years of college and four years of seminary in preparation to serve as a pastor in the church. I had studied the Bible, church doctrine, and church history. I had done fieldwork and completed a one-year internship, working in a church. I considered myself mature and knowledgable. I was confident in my education and learning. I was ready to take on the world. I believed I had everything I needed.
I was so confident in myself that I had signed up for a doctoral-level class on the Gospel of Mark. I knew this class would be a challenge, but I was brimming with confidence.
The class began, and we were going through the Greek text verse-by-verse. We read Mark 1:14-15:
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14–15, ESV)
These verses describe the beginning of Jesus preaching and teaching ministry. These are the first things he says before anything else. He says to repent and believe in the gospel.
Dr. Voelz, our instructor, then he asked the question, “what is our first calling?”
As one who prided himself on having the right answer, my mind began to process the many different things that God has called us to as believers. I am missionally-minded, so the Great Commission to “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19-20) came to mind. That is the foundational verse for so many church mission statements. I was confident that it had to be the answer.
But I was wrong and humbled. In so many ways, I was putting the cart before the horse. We are indeed called to make disciples, but before we get there, there is a more foundational calling on our lives. It is a calling to faith!
Before Jesus preached anything else, he preached repentance and faith. As we progress through the gospels, Jesus keeps coming back to the topic of faith. Jesus chastises the disciples for their lack of faith (see Mark 4:40) while commending others for having faith (see Mark 5:34, 10:52). Without faith, all our learning and working and doing for God is in vain. If we miss the calling to faith, we will be ineffective in all our other callings.
I was eager to do much for God. But before I moved on to all that I wanted to do for him, I was reminded of all that he wanted to do in me. If I missed out on my first calling to faith, I would never succeed in anything else God would call me to do. At that moment, I realized I had falsely placed confidence in my ability ahead of faith in God. I was led to repentance, and to have my faith be renewed in him.
Thoughts for Reflection
- Where have you placed confidence in your ability ahead of your faith in God?
- Pray and ask God for forgiveness. Then ask him to increase your faith in him!
Lord, you have called me to believe in you. But I put so many other things before that first calling. Too often, I put more confidence in my abilities. Lord, I believe, but help me in my unbelief (Mark 9:24). Forgive my lack of faith. Increase my trust. Correct me where I have misplaced my hope. In Jesus’ name, Amen.