Prominent English social critic and author Os Guinness preached at Pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback church in California on Sunday, explaining to the congregation the real meaning of the word "calling" and how it applies in the life of each Christian.
Meaning, purpose and identity are things that everybody needs and yet there is a great deal of confusion about what they mean, said Guinness, author of the Global Charter of Conscience, launched at the European Parliament in Brussels in June 2012.
There is confusion also in the United States, he suggested, calling it a "cut-flower civilization." Our ideas were rooted in the Scriptures, Jewish and Christian ideals, he said. "But in the last generation, they've cut them. So the flower still looks beautiful, but in many parts of the country, they are dying."
There are three major families of faith, he said. The eastern, which includes Hinduism, Buddhism and the New Age Movement; the secularist, which includes atheists, agnostics, materialists and naturalists; and the biblical, which comprises primarily Judaism and the Christian faith.
Eastern philosophies, which are based on their view of impersonal gods, say only two words about purpose, Guinness explained. And that is, "Forget it."
Secularists answer the question of purpose in three words, he added. "Do it yourself." You cannot discover the purpose and meaning of life in secularism; you have to find it yourself, Guinness explained. Everything in their philosophy comes from the concept of chance.
Biblical worldview, on the other hand, says you can discover purpose through creation and calling, he told the congregation.
Creation means we are created in the image of God, we are all created uniquely and we should be who we are. And calling takes us even further, encouraging us to become who we could become.
It is "the deepest sense of purpose the world has ever seen," Guinness added.
At the time of the Reformation, a parable of Jesus was rediscovered, which had a great cultural impact, he said, referring to the parable of the talents or minas, which is found in Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:12-27.
The parable carries four features of calling that every follower of Jesus needs to understand and apply, Guinness said.
One, calling means service. In the parable, the master calls the lowest of the low and gives them absolute ownership but they were supposed to serve him, he explained. We have amazing and unique gifts, but we must remember that we are servants, he told the congregation.
Even worship is service, he added. We do not worship God to have some experience; it's not about us. We serve God through worship. It's about Him.
Two, calling is stewardship, Guinness said. The West has a culture of giving, which came in part from the biblical worldview of stewardship, he said. It's based on the concept that everything belongs to the Lord, just as Paul asked Corinthians, "What do you have that you didn't receive?"
The parable says the master "entrusted" his property and possessions to them, Guinness pointed out.
Three, calling means entrepreneurism, he said. The master asked them to trade on these until he returned, and gave them no clear instruction on how to multiply what he gave, he pointed out. No micromanagement. We need to multiply what we have been given for God's glory and for our neighbors' needs, he said.
No one can say, "God didn't call me," Guinness explained. We aren't Christians if God hasn't called us. God has called all, he said. We are all called to everything we do, be it teaching in a school or doing a business or being a full-time Christian minister, he explained.
Four, calling means accountability, Guinness said. God will ask us one day what we have done with what He gave us, he explained.
There's a primary call, he told the congregation, explaining that it's a call by the Lord, to the Lord and for the Lord. Every Christians shares that primary call, "Follow Me." We are all called to know and trust and love Him. Then, we are called to live His way, that is to forgive others, to love our enemies, and so on. We are also called to introduce others to Jesus, he added.
A secondary call has to do with the gifts we were born with, or what we are good at — not skills that we acquire later in life, he said. For example, some people are hospitable, some are born leaders, some are good managers, and so on.
It also includes the strengths and qualities that your family, school and nation have given you, Guinness added. Then, each individual has a circle of influence.
They are all "talents" in your hands, and you need to maximize them, multiply them, to God's glory, he said.
Guinness concluded the message with a definition of calling. "When God calls us in Jesus, 'Follow Me,' everything we are — that's our very being — everything we do, that's all our actions, and everything we have, our possessions, are now given a direction and a dynamic because they are all done as unto Him. That's how we should be thinking of our lives."