(This article was also published at RELEVANT)
If you were a part of a church youth group as a teenager, you probably attended your fair share of youth conferences. At some point during the conference, usually in the final session, the speaker would give an inspirational message about God’s big plan for your life. “God has called you to greatness!”
While the speaker never explicitly came out and said it, you couldn’t help but think that what he meant was that our calling was to do what the he was doing: to be standing on that stage preaching to tens of thousands of people. It was exciting, it was mesmerizing, and for almost all of us, it wasn’t true.
I think we’ve set up some unnecessary hurdles and unrealistic expectations that keep us from gratefully embracing our calling. But understanding your calling isn’t as complicated as maybe you’ve been made to think it is. Here are 6 lies most of us believe about our calling.
Lie #1: Your calling is your career
When we think of calling, we usually think of our jobs. That’s why many of us have a difficult time finding meaning or significance in what we do. We assume it isn’t important if it isn’t ministry. But you don’t have to work for a church or a non-profit to live out your calling. God can use you to encourage and minister to your coworkers as a fork lift operator or an office manager just as easily, and often more effectively, than preaching to an auditorium full of teenagers.
And if you do feel called to teach, for example, that doesn’t mean you need to give up your career, go to Bible college and become a pastor. You can lead a small group at your church, or gather some dudes at Starbucks every Thursday morning and study the book of Daniel together. Your job is not the only way to fulfill your calling.
Lie #2: Your calling is a mystery
Many of us think we have to pray and fast for days or weeks until God speaks to us through a prophetic dream and reveals our calling. We think our calling is some sort of hidden mystery that we have to discover. But most of the time we don’t find our calling through a burning bush experience. We find it by learning about ourselves and what it is that we love to do.
One of my favorite quotes that encapsulates this is by Howard Thurman:
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Instead of growing frustrated waiting for God to write your calling on the wall, just pursue the things that you love to do. Be faithful in those things and God will give you opportunities to use them for His glory.
Lie #3: Your calling is final
Because we often think of our calling as something mysterious and sacred, (as if we were commissioned to find the Holy Grail), we often assume that our calling is final and can’t change. But that isn’t true.
Your calling might be different in different life seasons. You don’t need to feel bad about that. There may be a season when broken teenagers are heavy on your heart and you spend your energy trying to reach them. And then later you may have kids and feel called to focus on being a mom. Your calling will most likely change at least a couple of times throughout your life.
Lie #4: Your calling is inferior
It is easy to think that there is a sort of calling hierarchy, where people in ministry have a godlier calling than those of us who have normal jobs. But we all have a part to play. A preacher might be able to get the message of the gospel to the ears of more people than you can, but you are able to disciple and invest in your small sphere of influence in a more lasting way than any inspiring message ever could. Preaching can go wide, but relationships can go deep. Both are equally important.
Lie #5: Your calling is superior
On the other hand, many of us who are called to work for a church or do humanitarian work are tempted to believe the lie that our work is more important than that of others. But that mindset comes with a cost.
Often we will find ourselves devaluing friendships or neglecting our family because those things start to feel less important than our jobs. We begin to find our identity in what we do. But what if it all ends? What if something happens and you can no longer do what you love? Or what if you lose your family and friends at the expense of overvaluing your career? Let’s always remember that our first calling is to love God and love others.
Lie #6: Your calling is your value
God doesn’t need you, your special skills or your work ethic. You are not filling a major gap that God would be helpless to fill without you. God doesn’t need you. He wants you. He didn’t save us to be his servants, but his sons and daughters. Your calling is not the basis of his love for you, the cross is. So do not buy into the lie that you are more valuable because of what you do. You are valuable because of what he has done.
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