Suggested Reading: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-18
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus—Philippians 3:14
Paul certainly had a way with words! What an eloquent way of saying “don’t get so caught up in the day-to-day or life on earth, that you lose sight or stop striving for the ultimate prize and highest call which is heavenward (eternal).
When we read the Old Testament, we see places where God called Israel to be his people. Two examples out of numerous times are recorded in Isaiah, chapters 5:12 and 48:12. And now God calls his people from many social backgrounds and ethnicities, into fellowship with Jesus Christ and into his kingdom. And he calls us just as he called Israel, by his grace.
Grace may be the tricky part for us because we don’t see grace exampled and extended nearly enough as we live out life on earth. In fact, the opposite of grace may be something we see practiced daily and increasingly. I am reminded of the number of stories and examples lately where the brutality of “Cancel Culture” is taking over like the species of plant Kudzu that creeps in and eventually chokes out all other plant life. It seems grace is being carefully measured out, practiced sparingly just in case it runs out. So, the Apostle Paul—even before the phrase “Cancel Culture” existed—warns about letting the world steal or cause us to forget the high call that has been placed over us, which is heavenward, upward, eternal.
God does not want us to miss the big picture, so from Genesis to Revelation he is reminding us of it. Just in case we become too distracted or fascinated with the lesser or secondary calls we embrace while on earth. He does not say the lesser or secondary calls need to be categorized as terrible, unimportant, or dismissed; just not become the dominate. Think of all the lesser or secondary calls that we need because they are not only important, but crucial to living out life on the earth; part of God’s great plans for us since before the beginning of time.
When the Israelites had been taken captive, even in their captivity God told them to live life. They were to embrace the lesser or secondary calls while they held onto the upward and higher call. They were to build houses, make homes, shape families, enjoy community, marry, have children, plant gardens, put money in college funds, train for fulfilling careers, read good books, go to church, spend time together, take vacations, encourage one another, help one another out, talk to people about their faith in God, point others to Christ… All the things that go into making life on earth satisfying and fulfilling.
During the Pandemic, one term used a lot, as local governments tried to balance opening things and being mindful of the virus was “We can walk and chew gum at the same time.” Well, this is what Paul is saying here. We can walk (live out this earthly life; live a full and satisfying life) and chew gum (keep our mind on the heavenly call, the upward and higher call: heaven) at the same time. The Christian who can manage to live this kind of life will be the best example and draw more souls to Jesus than will those who are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good!
When Paul visited the Christians in Thessalonica he was disturbed because he saw too much idleness; people doing absolutely nothing that was good or meaningful. And when he inquired why there was nothing productive going on, they told him it was because they were waiting for Christ to return. He had to let them know that is not what the Christian life is about at all! They could rest assured the same way Christ ascended he would return. They would not miss him! In the meantime they were to life out life and in a godly fashion, in the way they had learned from him and by his example.
With the upward call in mind we are to live out this life, do good, be productive, plant good things, leave behind great legacies of faith, care for one another, fulfill the plans and live the vision God had when he created the earth. As God’s elect and Christ’s redeemed, we are to show and inspire the unbeliever how life is lived correctly and courageously. The higher and upward call is ours by god’s design and Christ’s securing. He died that we may not only enter in heaven and have eternal life, but that we may have an abundant life now. Striving for the upward call need never diminish nor negate the life we are created and anointed to live right now. Let’s Pray,
Dear God, by your power and grace you have created us for life, not just heavenly and eternal life but today. Help us to keep the upward call that is ours through Christ Jesus, in front of us always and at the same time glorify you by living this life. Earthly life need not become our highest goal or good and neither should it be diminished or abhorred. But by your grace may we have the strength and keep our focus to press onward and upward. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen