God’s Call: Specific or General?

Several months ago, I made the statement that 2 Timothy was becoming one of my favorite books (click here for article). When I first admitted this, it was for a different reason than I anticipated. At the specific season of life and ministry that I was in, I needed to heed the latter truths Paul wrote to Timothy in chapter 4 regarding the battles he would face in ministry simply because I was facing some battles myself. But now things are a bit different. This time, the Lord directed me there for a sermon. I was asked to preach on a Sunday night and was contemplating something to do with a faithful legacy of spirituality because it was Mother’s Day evening when I was asked to preach.

So I attempted to speak on the text of 2 Timothy 1:3-7, in which Paul reminds Timothy of his faith that was first instilled in his grandmother and mother. My original thought was to somehow relate this pericope to Mother’s Day and show how our mothers are play a vital role in the faith formation of our children.

But that is not how the Lord led me while studying this text of Scripture. I was amazed at what the Lord showed me through this message preparation. It was something I’d never expected.

For the longest time, I’ve dealt with God’s call and how people interpret that call. I’ve never been one to believe that God specifically calls us to be doctors, lawyers, school teachers, etc. The only specific call I’ve truly believed in is the call to ministry. And I do not mean these statements in a hateful, arrogant tone. I do believe that God gifts certain people to do certain things, however, it doesn’t mean it is the only career path they can choose.

But let me pose another thought to you: there is a calling for every Christian that is simply given to those who serve Christ. This calling, in my opinion, is found in 2 Timothy 1.

“Therefore, I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.”

2 Timothy 1:6-7, CSB

Paul is writing this to a son in the ministry. This is a pastor writing to a younger pastor. This is a letter from the mentor to the disciple. So on the surface it may seem as if these principles we are about to cover are exclusively for ministry personnel, but it is not the case. What Paul is encouraging Timothy to have is boldness.

Dr. Stanley Outlaw writes,

“Timothy is in special need of boldness because the religion that came as a heritage from both Timothy’s and Paul’s ancestors is now rejected throughout the Roman Empire.”

How fitting is this statement to our current culture in which we live? This absolutely describes what we are going through in the 21st century, evangelical Church. There is an attitude of boldness that Paul is encouraging Timothy to take on because Paul knows there will soon come a time in which he is not present and he needs Timothy to be able to hold the responsibilities of this ministry. So Paul exhorts Timothy to “fan into flame (ESV)” or “rekindle (CSB)” the gift of God that is in him.

What is Paul conveying to Timothy here?

This is where it seems as if these verses would fit exclusively in the lives of ministers or leaders in the local church. But the points of exhortation can be taken by anyone who has been radically changed and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Paul is encouraging Timothy to be bold in his calling; to be bold for the Kingdom; to be bold for the sake of the gospel. The reality is that he needs no reminding of this. Timothy knows what is coming (Paul’s execution) and knows what he needs to do to continue this ministry. However, Paul thinks it necessary to remind Timothy to pay careful attention to these duties.

In fact, it might be a good idea for us to take note of something here. During times of difficulty, or times in which we are spiritually low, we tend to depend on our emotions to give us a picture of reality. While emotions do have a place in our mind and thoughts, they cannot always give us a correct interpretation of the situation in which we are in. So Paul is encouraging Timothy to base his reality on the faith and the calling that God has given him.

For ministers, this is a reminder that we must heed on a regular basis. There are many battles ministers face that others simply do not know. But for the Christian, it is just as imperative. We, as people of God, spiritually battle the evil one on a daily basis and it is crucial for us to remember Paul’s words in verse 6. Paul is encouraging Timothy to keep his gift burning.

Faith like fire.

Fire can almost be self-sufficient, as long as there is wood for it to burn. For Timothy, he needed to feed his calling into gospel ministry the spiritual wood so he could carry on the ministry that Paul would pass down to him not many days later than this letter was written. For Christians, we need to feed our own spiritual fires the wood of God’s word on a constant basis or our spiritual fire will burn out. Dr. Outlaw again comments,

“A fire will burn well of its own initiative if we will just supply the fuel. That is also true with the spiritual fire within each of us.”

And Paul concludes this section with the words of verse 7. Once again, this is a statement in which could be applied to all Christians, but Paul is meaning to apply this to Timothy and his current situation. Because Paul is going to die soon, Timothy must take over the reigns of Paul’s ministry and he needs to know that God has saved him to be bold for Christ, not cowardly.

Literally, the word for fear means timidity. Paul is conveying to Timothy that God has not called him to be timid. But through the Holy Spirit, God has given him a spirit of power (the ability to do the job), love (the attitude in which to do the job), and sound judgment (the discernment in which to make the ministry long-lasting).

For Christians, who are not ministers, it is no different. God has not created us to live within the four walls of this church. God has given us the tools to be a light in a dark world, salt in a flavorless culture, and a safe haven in a destructive society. There is no greater calling than to be called in service to our God!

Sure, there is a specific calling of God on some to become ministers of the Gospel. This is a sure, specific calling that God places on the hearts of some. However, there is a general calling of God for everyone who has trusted Christ’s sacrifice as a payment for their sins and that is the calling to be bold, not timid or cowardly. Feed your faith fire the spiritual kindling of the gospel so you will be bold for Jesus Christ.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.”