In the Scriptures we see the word “calling” from time to time. There are different meanings for calling in the Scriptures. I want to focus on two of them.
The first calling I want to focus on is the call of every person, which is to repent, love God, know Him, make disciples, and just live out the Christian life as modeled and shown in scriptures. God calls each one of us to this. This is the primary of work of every Christian. To know and love God is the essence of our existence.
Another type of calling mentioned in the scriptures is more specific. God at times calls His people to specific tasks. God called Jeremiah to be a prophet. God called Moses to rescue the Israelites from the hand of Pharaoh. God called Joshua to lead the nation of Israel into the promised land. Outside of the scriptures we also have seen how God also calls people to certain tasks. William Wilberforce was called to help abolish slavery in England. God called Martin Luther King to address racial injustice in America. Hudson Taylor was called to minister in China.
This second type of call isn’t easy or glamorous. Do you remember the famous verse God tells Jeremiah “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” This same guy was later beaten and put in stocks, and at another point thrown into a well of mud while the city was about to go under siege. Elijah the miracle worker found himself being hunted by one of the most powerful women in the world. Joseph found himself forgotten, betrayed, and unjustly in prison for perhaps 13 years. Such calls most of us don’t need to worry about, we don’t have the character to be called to such tasks.
So what, gives us the idea that calling is so glamorous? There are at least a few reasons for this. One is that the hero narrative is deeply part of the human condition. This is why Israel asked God for a king, when they had judges. It is of no additional help for us that we have been fed thousands of clean cut hero narratives via movies and shows in our lifetime. Another really big part of the problem is that there are large tribes of popular Christian preachers who teach on this subject disproportionately, often incorrectly, and outside of the hierarchy of importance we see from the scriptures. Just as group think plagued the scientists at NASA, which led to the Challenger crash in the 80’s, there exists a whole subculture of group think among a large influential group of pastors in American Christianity.
A disproportionate hearing of such teaching on calling is bad in many ways. It leads to a pursuit of self actualization over a pursuit of Christ. It makes us view God as an enabler on our journey, not as a risen Christ who has called us to make disciples. This type of teaching also implicitly and often times explicitly gives us the idea that if you follow God, He will give you a career that fits like a glove, you will be in deep joy, and fulfilled because you are walking in the calling that He has for you. This is simply not true for many, and this leads to discontentment, and ultimately for some a stumbling block to the real Christ and the real gospel.
The answer to this issue is to find a church that preaches the gospel faithfully and consistently. Gospel centered preaching isn’t merely a reduction of going through the last week of Jesus life. Gospel centered preaching goes through the Bible book by book often, unwraps proper context, and relates it to the great narrative of the Bible, Jesus and redemption. Jesus told His disciples that the scriptures bear witness about Him. Paul never got tired of preaching the gospel, He writes in his letter to the Corinthian church “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Spiritual principles and vagueries are cheap imitation of the gospel, especially when Jesus name is sprinkled in, only the meat of the gospel will feed our souls and set us on fire for the Lord Jesus.
So, what should you do if you don’t feel a weight, inclination, or calling towards a more specific secondary call?
-Be faithful with what is in front of you. Ask, yourself and others what needs are around you? What does your local body of Christ need? Your local community?
-What are you doing with your time, treasure, and talents? In other words, are you being good with your time, money, and things you are good at? Or just wasting them?
-Whatever you do, do it unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23). What we do isn’t as important as how we do it. God could create an influencer out of a box of Raisinets. God doesn’t need cool preachers. He is looking to use humble, faithful servants.
-If you are looking for a vocation, be practical. Tim Keller breaks down three things to look for. Affinity, Ability, and opportunity. What do you like? What are you good at? What reasonable opportunities exist? For many these don’t always align, but it is wise to try to align these.
-Use wisdom. Take a personality test, and find out which jobs match your personality. We are not only spiritual beings, we are psychological beings. Talk to mentors that are smart. Get skills that matter. When I got out of college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and my degree was fairly general. I was considering seminary, but in the mean time I wanted to make some money and pay off debt. I live close to two of the biggest non-profits in the world and I thought I would love to work for one of these organizations and make a difference as well. I looked periodically on their website, and guess what? There were a lot of jobs but I wasn’t qualified for any of the jobs. If you want to change the world, get important skills, the world is changing. Be smart. If you have skills that are important you can more easily pivot to jobs you would be good at and will like. You give yourself leverage.
-Choice is hard for many. A look at history shows this tyranny of choice didn’t exist for most. In the past individuals simply worked the family business from one generation to the next in the same town. So, don’t fret too much if you don’t feel called to a specific task now, there is Christian liberty in this choice for many. Martin Luther once said “Love God, and do what you want.” This at its surface seems selfish, but at its core is theologically rich. If we love God truly, we will want the kind of things He wants.
-Lastly, and most importantly don’t forget your primary mission. Love God, make disciples.