Finding Your Calling to Find Your Way
John Henry, who has been identifying and training emerging leaders for more than 25 years, writes in his book A Conversation on Calling:
Calling is no trivial pursuit. When we do not know our calling, it is like being asleep behind the wheel at night on a lonely highway. To wake up, we need to lift our head, open our eyes and ears, turn on our headlights, and pay attention to where we are going. We may not know where we are right away, but we can pay attention to the road signs and obey what we do know.
Like reading road signs, we can stop, turn around if we are heading the wrong direction, and follow God’s instructions to find out where we are and where we should be going. As God’s light shines on the road in front of us, we can begin to learn why God placed us on this road and we can fulfill our purpose. When enough people wake up and follow God’s road map, their calling begins to influence every area of life.
3 Progressive Callings
Every Christian has three progressive callings:
1. We are called to salvation. Salvation is the call to reconciliation. First, we are called to be reconciled to God. Then we are called to be ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18). Salvation is a call to know and love God in saving faith. It is a call to obedience to the Word of God generally, as well as those things that need immediate attention as we “walk worthy of our calling” (Eph. 4:1). The call to salvation goes out to all humankind, and some respond.
2. We are called to discipleship. Discipleship is the second call, extended to all who receive salvation. It is a call to be conformed to the likeness of Christ (Rom. 8:29). As the call to abide in Christ and to bear fruit (John 15), discipleship includes pruning. Discipleship is the call to offer one’s body, gifts, talents, and abilities as a living sacrifice, and the call to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:1–2). As disciples, we respond to immediate needs and learn through acts of service.
3. We are called to a vocation. Vocation is our unique call of purpose, the call to serve beyond our daily tasks. Vocation is more than discipleship. Vocation is deeper and wider than career. Vocation is our very personal response to the voice of God. Vocation is our lifework, our special gift of worship, which is the sum of all our gifts, talents, and abilities to serve God’s purpose in our generation (1 Cor. 3:13–15; 2 Tim. 2:5; 4:8).
Different, but the Same
Calling #3 is the one that so many of us have been daunted by. But peace is found in understanding what John helpfully points out: these are progressive callings on our lives. Get the first two right and it’s unlikely you’ll go wrong with the third.
Finding your calling, therefore, is perhaps more crucial than you ever thought. But Scripture shows us that it is also simpler and more straightforward than we may have feared.
We might state John’s summary above even more succinctly: our calling is to be disciples (#1) who make disciples (#2) wherever our passions take us (#3).
So, Christian: don’t fret. God’s calling for your life isn’t some mystery that He takes pleasure in hiding from you, as though you can only please the Lord if you jump through enough of just the right hoops in just the right ways. All Christians are called to the same thing: making disciples as we go in life (Mt. 28:18-20). Finding your calling with respect to your unique vocation is often a lot more like pursuing your passions than searching for the light switch in a dark room.
Later, John reminds his readers of the beautiful reality that finding our calling is not a burden, it’s freedom:
Calling is not about social or economic status. It is about trusting God and doing what pleases him. The biblical view of calling frees us to worship God through our life’s work. God placed Adam and Eve in the garden “to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15). Work is not something we do to keep up with the world’s expectations. Neither is a career something we seek to make our lives meaningful…Calling is about intimacy with God and it is about making his name known in all the earth.
John’s book is worth reading in full. It is available at the author’s website.