Christian Living

#STRask: October 3, 2016

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Published on 10/03/2016

In 4 min. or less, Greg answers a question about “calling”, how to be wise but not afraid, and why the OT sounds like a storybook.


  • What do you think of this comment—God has put a particular calling on our lives?
  • Christians are to be wise and prepare for the future but not live in fear. How do I know when I’ve crossed the line from wise wariness to fear?
  • Why does much of the Old Testament sound like a storybook? How are the authors able to quote the Old Testament Bible people word for word?


Melinda: Hello there. This is STRask, the short podcast. I’m Melinda The Enforcer with Greg Koukl. Why are you laughing?

Greg: Just feel good I guess.

Melinda: Okay, good. It is kind of a hilarious notion that Greg’s going to answer a question in 4 minutes or less, but it’s true. It’s not a laughing matter.

Greg: Let me sober up here, okay.

Melinda: Okay. Send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask, that’s how we find them, that’s the podcast. New episodes every Monday and Thursday, you can find them on our homepage in the podcast feed to the right hand side of the page. With regular podcasts every week on Tuesday 4:00 to 6:00 when you actually get to talk to Greg and you get the long answers on those, which has its own virtues, right?

Greg: Right.

Melinda: You prefer those, don’t you?

Greg: Some things can’t be satisfied or resolved in a 90 second sound bite.

Melinda: No, but I have 4 minutes.

Greg: I guess we do okay with some of these, but then there are other angles that sometimes it’s fun to...We actually go beyond our 4 minute limit sometimes and you kick in your 2 cents and we knock it around a little bit and there’s just more to it. It’s nice to be able to engage people. It’s nice to hear what they have to say back to me. If maybe I haven’t been clear on something they let me know, or they’ve got another angle. That interaction to me is valuable.

Melinda: Yeah absolutely. Yeah. I was laughing because I was thinking, “Yeah, I kick in my 2 cents and with your input we’ve got 3 cents.” No, it’s not true. Yours is fairly valuable.

Greg: I’m not laughing right now.

Melinda: You did, I saw you smile. Anyways, let’s just get going, all right? Ready to go?

Greg: Yes ma’am.

Melinda: First question comes from Twitter: @tvguru94. “From a pastor’s blog, ’I believe that God has put on each of our lives a particular calling.’ Do you agree? If so how do we find our calling?”

Greg: This is like a lot of things, it depends what you mean by that. My view is that calling...Let me back up and say what I don’t believe. I don’t believe God has set out this little blueprint that we have to discover in order to know what to do with our lives. I don’t think that he drops little hints like breadcrumbs from Hansel and Gretel so we follow these little hints that we cobble them all together and decipher the code of what God’s will is for our life. The Bible gives no indication that this is the way we’re supposed to do it, though a lot of people believe that and they talk about leadings and they talk about nudges and they talk about having a peace about it and having confirmation and the like.

Melinda: Some people, congregations, denominations, believe that to be pastor you have to have a particular calling and they’ll ask a pastor, “When did you receive your calling?”

Greg: Right. I actually did a study on kaleó. I looked at every single place where the Greek word kaleó, translated call, is used in the New Testament. There’s only I think 3 occasions, out of hundreds, where it’s ever used in that fashion. One was the calling of the disciples, Paul and Barnabas I think, to the first missionary journey. Another one was Paul was called as an apostle, and he was literally called, “Hey you, Paul.”

Melinda: That really was the calling.

Greg: “Why are you kicking against the goads?” But it turns out that it is not used in the way that we normally use it in discussion, “I feel called by God to get into this ministry.” The scripture doesn’t use it that way. Since it’s a Biblical word though and people use it that way, people are under the impression then that they are accomplishing a Biblical end by pursuing the call that they feel God has given them in the circumstances. I don’t agree with it if that’s what the pastor means.

If the pastor means that God has a purpose for each of our lives and if he’s calling it that, well that’s very general. That is probably referring more to God’s sovereign hand on our lives and we don’t have to fulfill God’s sovereign will. God is responsible for it, that’s why we call it God’s sovereign will. It’s His sovereign power that accomplishes it and nothing can get in the way. Sometimes the word calling is used in a very general sense and I think reformed people will use it this way.

Whatever it is the task that we put our hands to in our life, we are to treat it with a certain kind of nobility, a spiritual nobility. A shoemaker’s calling is to be a good shoemaker. It isn’t that God has thumped his heart and told him, “Go make shoes.” It’s just that this is the position in life that God has placed this person and he should use his energy as to fulfill that particular thing to the glory of God. It doesn’t mean he’s got to always be a shoemaker either. In that sense I think there is a calling. I suspect that the pastor probably meant calling in the first sense, that God has a plan for your life and it’s your job to figure out what that plan is. I don’t believe the scriptures teach quite that thing.

Melinda: Now, I think you say in the Decision Making and the Will of God material that God distributes ministry in the church and perhaps even roles in life, not according to calling but according to gifting.

Greg: Correct, yeah. I’m glad you brought that up.

Melinda: That’s what I'm here for.

Greg: When you look in the scriptures you don’t find this calling motif for distributing ministry. Rather you find large sections of scripture, I’m thinking First Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4 has a section, and First Peter also has a section where it talks about gifting and using our gifting. Peter sums it up actually, he says, “Since we all have a gift,” he says, “let’s use it to God’s glory by the power that God gives us, but use it.” The emphasis there is on taking whatever capability God has given us. I don’t think those lists in Corinthians and Romans are necessarily exhaustive. Using it for the strengthening and the building of the body of Christ. That’s the question we should be asking ourselves, not the question of calling.

Melinda: Next question comes from KPMac3. “Christians are to be wise and prepared against the future and not to live in fear. How do I know when I’ve crossed the line from wise wariness into fear?” This is something I’ve thought more about recently because as the culture has been growing more hostile, and sometimes incidents occur that take me by surprise and it reveals the amount of hostility there is out there. It’s showing how quickly it’s changing. I have felt afraid, not like my personal well-being or anything but afraid for the hostility and the aggressiveness towards Christians.

One of the times recently was after the shooting in the night club in Orlando. No matter what was true about the murderer and about the circumstances, it was an excuse to blame Christians. You can easily see this kind of thing being done more and more as time goes on. It’s frightening. Part of our vision is, courage for every situation. It’s like we have to build up our courage sometimes too. How do you know when you’re being wary, wise as a serpent, as opposed to being fearful and worrying too much?

Greg: I think that, yeah, fear the way it’s being used here is a subjective element, it’s an emotion, it’s an apprehension, an angst, a foreboding about what’s to come. I think each individual has to assess that themselves. When you are feeling what I just described, an angst, a foreboding, an anxiety about what’s coming, probably you’re not looking at the circumstances with a trusting perspective. I don’t say this condescendingly because I experienced the same thing that you did, not with that particular event but with what’s going on around us.

Think for a moment, we’re just about 15th anniversary in a couple of day of 9/11. It was really amazing that within a very short time, less than a year, even though that attack that took 2977 lives in American soil, was perpetrated by Muslims, in a very short time Islam had achieved most favored religious status in this country and Christians were the ones who were dangerous. This is a very real thing. I think the only way to deal with it is to take stock of one’s own emotional reaction.

I remember there had been times when elections did not go the way I wanted them and I was really bummed. Then I had to say, “Wait a minute, what was I trusting in? Was I trusting in a new administration that would bring the kind of thing that I’d like to see, or was I trusting in God’s providence?” Sometimes it is our own feelings that give us the indication of whether we’re looking at this properly or not. I think there’s a difference between wariness and fear. I think we know that. When the bottom seems to fall out for us because something is happening and we start feeling fearful, then maybe that’s a trigger that we’re not looking at it the way God wants us to look at it.

Not too long ago we had a caller that talk about Matthew 6: 33, “Seek first his kingdom, and all these things will be added unto you.” I think it’s a hard passage for a number of reasons, but yes there are Christians who are unemployed. I think the point there is that regardless of what circumstances are going on we have to acknowledge that God loves us and cares for and we’re more important than the sparrow or the lilies in the field. Each day has enough concerns of its own, let’s worry about the concerns of today and let God worry about tomorrow. I think that’s good advice.

Melinda: One of the indications I know when I’ve crossed from wariness into fear is when...Excuse me. Here at work, at Stand to Reason, if I’m reluctant to feature an article or have you make a comment, when it’s something that we should comment on. I’m realizing I’m afraid of what the reaction might be.

Greg: Push back.

Melinda: Right, and then I realize I just have to take a deep breath and do what’s right. It helps me a lot to reflect on the Psalms and God being my rock and my shelter.

Greg: “Whom shall I fear?”

Melinda: Whatever, is it Psalm 3 or 4, “He’s my shield.” The picture there I heard in a sermon is the shield, it covers your whole body.

Greg: Body size, right.

Melinda: I huddle behind that, and you’re safe as long as you’re moving forward toward the enemy. If you turn around and run now your back’s exposed. That’s a picture that helps me to stay huddled behind my shield, my God, and just keep advancing and do what’s necessary.

Greg: Good. That’s good Melinda.

Melinda: Thank you. Next question. I don’t know why you sound so surprised. Another example I was thinking of while I was reading the Book of Esther recently, and Esther’s uncle basically says to her, of course such a time as this, but basically it seems to me he’s kind of chastising her and said, “If God’s put you here for a purpose and you don’t take advantage of it, you’re going to be in big trouble.”

Greg: She says, “If I perish I perish.”

Melinda: Exactly, “I’m going to go in to the king and if I perish I perish, fine. I’ll do what’s right, consequence is up to God.”

Greg: That’s 3, I mean that’s 2, do you want to try for a hat trick now? You’ve got any other insights?

Melinda: I have many, but this is a short podcast.

Greg: Don’t want to stretch your luck.

Melinda: “Why does much of the Old Testament and the Gospels read like a storybook? How are the authors able to quote Old Testament Bible characters word for word?”

Greg: There are a couple possible ways of understanding this. One of them, I don’t think this is cheating but the Bible is inspired by the spirit of God. It certainly is possible that the spirit who knows everything can work through the concursive operation of the Holy Spirit working with the writer to write down everything the way it happened. In the case of the New Testament it’s more likely though that these things that took place were things that were so profound in the life of Jesus and the teaching of Jesus that they stuck with the disciples, at least in substance.

The writers of the Gospels are not intending necessarily to give a word for word characterization of what happened, it’s not Memorex. Our doctrine of inspiration is that the words-

Melinda: Do people still know what Memorex -

Greg: That’s right, that dates me. Memorex, it was a product.

Melinda: It was a cassette ta- It was, yeah, a tape.

Greg: Cassette tape that the advertising campaign was that it perfectly reproduces the sound of your voice so that’s why they call it Memorex.

Melinda: Like Ella Fitzgerald singing.

Greg: Yeah.

Melinda: We’re old.

Greg: They’re saying, “Who’s Ella Fitzgerald?” You didn’t catch that one.

Melinda: Remember the Polaroid camera commercials with Rockford Files and...Never mind.

Greg: No. I don’t remem...

Melinda: Never heard of Polaroid cameras? Go ahead.

Greg: Yeah. I remember Polaroids, all the different varieties of them. The point is that the genre of writing that the Gospels are are meant to be a general record, not necessarily writing down exactly what was said. Our doctrine is not that they were able to write down the exact words of Jesus and that makes it inspired, but rather that the writers themselves were inspired in what they wrote down. Their summaries were still God’s word. When they were writing about Jesus and what he said, and different times there are little different renderings of it. It might be because Jesus probably, like a lot of preachers, gave the same talk more than once.

Remember Jesus’ traveling around, preaching the kingdom, so he’s teaching like the sermon on the mountain, some of those things probably under different circumstances and different situations. Now there’s only one upper room discourse because that’s right there, what he said while on his last night with his disciples. That’s another way of explaining it, that Jesus described these things numbers of times. It could be the disciples memorized what Jesus said, this was a common motif in those times as well. It seems odd to us because we don’t memorize that many things so we’re amazed that other people might memorize large passages of scripture, but this was part of the motif then. It could also be that they took notes, they wrote things down. It’s certainly a possibility. They didn’t have the availability of paper the same that we do now. Matthew was a tax gatherer, he had to keep records. That would be another possibility.

Melinda: A good source for more information on this is Michael Kruger, a seminary professor. We’ve had him on the show a few times. His website is He writes about some of these specific issues and why these wouldn’t have been problems.

Greg: Particularly related to the New Testament.

Melinda: To the New Testament, right.

Greg: The Old Testament is another thing.

Melinda: But let’s get back to the first part of the question, why does much of the Old Testament and the Gospels read like a storybook?

Greg: It’s because it’s a narrative of things that actually took place, it is a story in that sense. The Old Testament is a record of the history of a people who God interacted with. God came down in a certain sense, qualified sense, and interacted with these people and made a difference in their history. That’s a record of that.

Melinda: I remember once, I think it was when I took first class with you at Hope Chapel many eons ago, Bible Fast Forward. I remember you making a point, you said not to talk about Bible stories about Bible records, the accounts. Maybe we get in the habit of it in Sunday school because we like to tell these things as stories. Like you said stories can be true, you can tell stories about true things, but you begin to think of them as mere stories, but they’re actually accounts of what occurred.

Greg: Things that really took place.

Melinda: All right, that’s it for this episode folks. You can send us your question on Twitter. Use #STRask. We have 2 new episodes every week, Mondays and Thursdays. I’m Melinda The Enforcer with Greg Koukl for Stand to Reason.