The concept of calling is a grand notion that doesn’t have to remain a vague concept. God desires for us to know about and embrace his gracious calling (Ephesians 4:4-5). There is absolutely mystery surrounding God’s calling, but there are many things we can search out and discover about it in God’s Word. When God called Abram (later “Abraham”) to leave everything familiar, in order to attain a new land and establish a new nation, there were a great many details God didn’t mention. Yet God’s calling was clear enough for Abram to leave his homeland and set out on the incredible journey of his life as recorded in Genesis 11:27-25:11.
I believe that God has a special journey mapped out for us as well—a journey that helps fulfill his purposes for his kingdom and for our lives. Like Abraham we must continually trust God with our next steps, sometimes without knowing what is around the next corner. Here are some things the Bible clearly reveals about calling:
1. In order for there to be a calling, there must be a caller. Our culture encourages us to “Manifest your destiny!” but calling is more than speaking out your personal dreams or vision. Paul wrote the Ephesians, “I pray the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know the hope of his calling.” (1:18) God is the Caller, not us or the universe. God established His plans before the foundation of the earth (1 Peter 1: 20-21; Ephesians 1:3-10), and our days before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). God created us with gifts and talents and personalities and temperaments and has arranged our circumstances and experiences within the story of His glory. We can certainly choose our own career path, but God is the source of our life’s calling.
2. There is a difference between God’s universal calling and our individual calling. Every believer has been called into fellowship with God’s Son (1 Corinthians 1:9). Every believer is called to obey Christ, as his fully devoted disciple (1 Peter 1:13-16). Every believer is called to move outward and make disciples (Matthew 28:19,20). Every believer is called to press on toward our heavenly future (Philippians 3: 10-14) If that wasn’t enough, within God’s collective calling, he also summons individuals to a variety of distinct opportunities and challenges. A person’s individual calling is the unique way they carry out their universal calling.
3. Your calling is “work-specific.” I like the way the New English Translation words Ephesians 2:8-10: “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” God has “good things” for us to accomplish at work, at home, in our churches, communities and the world. Jesus said, “My food is to the will of Him who sent me to accomplish His work.” (John 4:34) Fulfilling the divine assignment he willingly accepted was Jesus’ fuel and food! Have you asked God to show you what you were re-created to accomplish in this season?
4. Your calling is more than your career. Your career is one part of your calling, but God’s calling for you is beyond the work that you do. Consider the apostle Paul, who worked as both a tentmaker and a church planter. Making tents played a strategic role in his specific calling to make Jesus known to non-Jewish people. Tentmaking gave Paul mobility, flexibility and a means to make money as he traveled and established new churches.
Some people may use the word vocation, from the Latin word vocare meaning “to call.” If your vocation, over the arc of your lifetime, is to glorify God, you won’t be as likely to compartmentalize your life into “sacred” or “secular.” As you set out today, look up and thank God that he has indeed called you. That’s worth everything, my friend!
Serving Him with you in the marketplace,
Lord, I confess that there have been many times when I have felt lost and without purpose, even in a business and career I love. Now I know that this is because You have created me for far more–to serve Your purposes in everything I do, including my work. Even though I won’t always be aware of my contribution, I can take the next step, trusting that You will accomplish Your will for me and through me. May that be my fuel today.
“He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.” Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians