Paul urged the Ephesians, which applies to Christians today, to live a life worthy of their calling (4:1). “Not so with you” (Mark 10:43) is a good reminder for us that our calling is to serve, not to be served. However, in another text, Jesus says that “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). How so?
Let’s look into the account of Gideon in the book of Judges chapter 7. Gideon was called to defeat the Midianites and he had thirty-two thousand men with him. God told Gideon that he had too many people! In the first round of elimination, Gideon asked those who were fearful to leave the camp. Twenty-two thousand men left and only ten thousand stayed. However, it was still too many people! In the second round, God asked Gideon to test his men through drinking water. Only three hundred men who lapped the water with their tongues like a dog were chosen for the battle. From 32,000 to 300 men, less than one percent of those who were called passed the tests and were chosen for the battle. It is a hard lesson that many are called but few are chosen.
If the first test is a test of courage, the second one would be a test of vigilance. When a dog drinks water, it does not bury its nose in the water. Instead, it stretches its tongue out and brings the water up to its mouth. Taking such a posture, a soldier can be alert of his surrounding and be ready for any sudden attack. We can find that in many biblical lessons, it is not the quantity but the quality that matters to God. (Additional Note: Have a look at the blog entry – Best Start to 2017 – for another example.) The synonyms of vigilance are careful observation, attentiveness, caution, and mindfulness. God desires us to develop the quality of courage and vigilance. Many are called but few are chosen because Gideon was able to accomplish the mission with 300 tested and disciplined men, not 32,000 mere followers!
There is a saying that God does not call the qualified, but qualifies the called. He uses various circumstances to test and train his people. In the parable of the sower, Jesus spoke about the seed that “fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants” (Matthew 13:5-7). These two conditions show that we can be tested with hardship or desire for comfort. “But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls aways. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful” (Matthew 13:21-22). God tests His people by allowing things to be tough as well as allowing things to go smooth. Many are called but few are chosen because only those who persevere through testing and training are ready for His mission.
“But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Matthew 13:23). Many are called but few are chosen because only those are productive bring results. My son’s favourite verse is that “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). This captures those who have the seed in good soil, they are joyful, prayerful, and thankful, at all times and in all circumstances.
The apostle Paul had joy even when he was in prison and encouraged the Philippians that “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (4:12-13). Many are called but few are chosen because only those, who undergo training; overcome testing; and live out His teaching, develop the character of courage and vigilance. The first few weeks of school opening have been challenging. The verse which I have lived by is “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). This piece of sharing is my learning to not only endure but embrace my opportunities to grow in the Lord.