Yesterday I wrote about what it means to hear the voice of God and tried to navigate some of the subjectivity of how you know what God is calling you to do. Today I want to continue in that vein.
Many Christians firmly believe that they have received a God-giving calling or vocation. This may be to preaching, to politics, to art, to anything really. Sometimes the calling is based on a feeling they have received, sometimes it’s based on the counsel respected Christian leaders, sometimes it’s even based on more direct means of revelation.
We could argue the validity of these callings, but I don’t see the point. I have seen many Christians try to discourage other Christians from believing that God has called them to anything in particular. The concerned Christian tells the called Christian, “God didn’t call you to that because he doesn’t speak in that way” (or “he doesn’t call people to that vocation,” or “I don’t believe he called you specifically to that specifically”). Then the called Christian responds, “Well, all I know is that he called me to this, so I have to follow.” I don’t see much point in trying to tell someone that they didn’t experience what they are claiming to experience. How should I know what anyone else experienced?
I am more interested in how we respond to this calling. Let’s say God called you to be a teacher. What next? Well, I say you should pursue teaching. Prayerfully and humbly pursue God’s calling to the furthest extent of your understanding and to the best of your ability. Do your best to discern what God is really leading you to do, but as far as you understand his calling, go for it.
Too many Christians let a little bit of discouragement keep them from something that they were once convinced was God’s will for their lives. “God called me to be a teacher, but getting my appropriate credentials was really difficult, so he must not have been calling me to that.” Really? Since when has God’s will been about avoiding that which is difficult? I don’t buy it. If God is calling you to serve him in that way, it doesn’t matter how difficult it is. Take a cue from Jesus: sacrifice is important.
But here is where I need to insert a word of warning. Your understanding of God’s calling is not infallible. As I said yesterday, you could well have misunderstood what God was calling you to. Or perhaps he was calling you in this direction, and now that you are where you are he made be leading you in a slightly different direction.
So if God is calling you to preach, does that necessarily mean that you are predestined to be the next Francis Chan? Or might God’s calling mean that you spend your life powerfully preaching in the power of the Spirit to a congregation of 50 people? I submit that it may well mean that. God’s calling is not often about prestige or success as the world gauges it. Don’t forget that Jeremiah was in the center of God’s will and faithfully used the prophetic gifts that God gave him for the course of his life. Yet he never saw a revival. God’s calling doesn’t ensure numbers, “success,” or recognition. It may not even stay as specific as you’d like. Your job is to follow God’s calling and let him decide exactly where that calling will take you and how he will use it.
Too many Christians take a good calling of God and turn it into an idolatrous pursuit, where their goal becomes more important than God’s glory. Always hold God’s gifts and calling with an open hand, trusting that if he decides to pull away that goal, dream, or vocation, then he has a better reason than you could ever imagine. If your ultimate aim is to glorify God then you won’t care if God takes away what you thought he was calling you to. It’s for him and about him, not about your career.
So take God’s calling seriously, but hold your dreams with an open hand. If God has led you to pursue a certain vocation, pursue it with all your might. Do everything you can to be as God-honoring and effective in that vocation as you possibly can. But be okay with God determining the size of the crowd and the degree to which that vocation will be used by him.