There is great significance in the way Paul introduces himself at the start of 2 Timothy: “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.”
From the first letter he wrote to this his last, Paul knew this one thing: He was called by God. It was not man who called him, it was not the need that drove him, nor was it anything from or for himself. He is making this fact clear to Timothy, saying, “I want you to know that I have not been running this race for 30 years because I wanted to do it. I haven’t been doing it because Barnabas called me or because a church paid me. I am not in this because my parents said, ‘He will be a servant of God’ or because of some organization or Bible college. My ministry is by His will. I am doing this for one reason: God called me” (see Acts 13:1–2).
There is a distinct call into full-time ministry, and it is this call that both Paul and Timothy heard, along with many others who had gone before them. All throughout the Bible, we see those who were called by God for specific purposes. In Exodus 3–4:17, we see how Moses did not appoint himself to lead the children of Israel; the Lord called him.
The prophet Amos is another example. He was just a simple farmer, with no one in his family ever having served the Lord. When those God sent him to questioned what he was doing, he defended himself, saying, “I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel’” (Amos 7:14–15, NKJV). He knew God had called him for that ministry.
And, of course, Jesus called His disciples. In Mark 3:14 we are told that “He appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.”
On and on, from Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonah and Paul, we see how those in the ministry are those whom God has called.
However, in the kingdom of God today, there are many ministries and organizations with hundreds of staff members seeing that the work is done. But there is a definite difference between a profession and a call:
A job, a profession, is one you choose; a ministry is one Christ chooses for you.
A job depends on your abilities; a ministry depends on your availability to God.
In a job you expect to receive something—a salary; in a ministry you expect to give.
A job well done brings you self-esteem; a ministry well done brings honor to Jesus Christ.
In a job you give something to get something; in a ministry you return something that has already been given to you.
A job well done has a temporal reward; a ministry well done has eternal rewards.1
I want to ask you: Are you called? Have you heard the Lord Jesus call you, saying, “Come, follow Me, be with Me and I will send you out for ministry”? The person you become, the decisions you make, the manner in which you behave and your attitude toward the Lord’s work all depend on this deep conviction that you have been called by God.