In his letter to the church at Philippi, the apostle Paul alluded to the divine destiny that summoned him onward and upward. Utilising the imagery of an athlete competing in the Olympic Games, he said
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).
Paul described this sense of destiny as a ‘call from heaven’ – an echo from eternity, a pull from the future. Paul even went to the extreme of calling himself ‘a prisoner of Jesus Christ’ – one who had been bought at a price, whose life was no longer his own to command (Eph. 3:1; 1 Cor. 6:19-20).
Paul also spoke of being ‘called’ according to God’s purpose (Rom. 8:28), of being ‘set apart’ or ‘marked off by bounds’ even before his birth (Gal. 1:15), of being ‘apprehended and appropriated’ by Christ (Phil. 3:12), and of being ‘appointed’ a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher (2 Tim. 1:11).
This experience however, was not unique to Paul; the believers in Philippi, Ephesus and elsewhere were also called, set apart, apprehended, and appointed, for he declared,
We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).
That’s remarkable, isn’t it? Before time began, before the very foundation of the world, God prepared good works that we should perform during our lifespan on earth. And not just general good works, but time-sensitive tasks, case-specific responsibilities. In the words of Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; and I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5).
The magnet of destiny
As Paul discovered, the purpose of God acts as a magnet – a ‘call’ that continues to summon us upward and onward. Or, in the words of Isaiah, a gentle but persistent reminder like a bedside alarm that will not keep silent and will give us no rest until the purpose of God is fulfilled (Isa. 62:6-7). And inevitably, the ‘call from eternity’ resonates with the innate desires of our heart – those deep and undying longings that serve as harbingers of a certain destiny.
Picture, if you will, a climbing rope spanning the sheer face of a treacherous cliff. Standing at the top and securing the rope is an experienced mountain climber. Halfway down the cliff and hanging on to the other end of the rope for dear life are you and I. The end of the rope anchored securely at the top of the cliff represents divine destiny – God’s will and purpose – our heavenly calling. The end of the rope to which you and I are precariously attached represents our dreams, visions, and desires – the things that connect us to God’s ultimate intention.
And so the ‘pull’ begins – onward and upward, inch by inch, little by little, to infinity and beyond! God’s purpose speaking to our potential... God’s will activating our desire. However, there is a predictable pattern in the pursuit of God’s purpose. We see it in the life of Moses; we see it in the life of Joseph; we see it in the lives of the disciples; and if you look in the mirror you’ll see it in your own life!
As Moses observed the oppression of the children of Israel in Egypt, a desire stirred in his heart to set them free. However, his first attempt at emancipation failed miserably and he spent the next 40 years languishing in exile. But the desire did not die. It burned like an eternal flame in the deepest recesses of his heart. And sure enough, the call of God came to him again at an opportune time. As the saying goes, “When the student is ready the teacher appears”. And now that his ego was out of the way, he was free to approach the task in the strength and wisdom of the living God!
After the disciples had fished all night and caught nothing - after they had exhausted the resources of their own knowledge and ability - Jesus instructed them to launch out into the deep and let down their nets for a catch. Think about it: when they were at their lowest ebb of disappointment and discouragement, the call came a second time – their desire was awakened and their dream was revived. However, this time Jesus was in the boat – they were being impelled by his power and directed by his wisdom. And not surprisingly, the results were dramatically different!
Indeed, the call of God is irrevocable – it is not affected by the passage of time or past failures – it comes again and again and again. And like a seed planted in the soil, it eventually comes to life and bears fruit.
But it’s important to understand that the route to resurrection is via the cross and the grave. Failure at some level always precedes success. Weeping endures for a night before joy comes in the morning. The barrenness of winter precipitates the new life of spring.
Why? Because it’s during these times of testing that we ‘die’, so to speak, in order that the new man may rise up that God has called to fulfil His high and holy purpose. The Psalmist put it this way: “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:5-6).
Be encouraged! If you are experiencing tears of sorrow and anguish of heart, the word of the Lord says you will doubtless come again into times of joy and prosperity! God is calling you onward and upward. Above all, he is faithful and he will do it!