‘Calling’ is a term we hear often in the church. Many pastors and missionaries use the term when sharing how God led them to do their religious work. But what if you’re not doing religious work? Can you still be called?
All work matters to God, and all work can be a calling. Our specific wiring and the specific opportunities and skill sets afforded to us matter. But we must make sure that we are properly oriented in Jesus so that when we choose work it is in response to him.
A calling must be in response to one who calls. Tim Keller says it like this:
“A job is a vocation (calling) only if someone else calls you to do it for them rather than for yourself. And so our work can be a calling only if it is reimagined as a mission of service to something beyond merely our own interests.”
So the question becomes, whose call is our work in response to? Our parents? Cultural expectations? Our own? God? This question is crucial to understanding our work as a calling.
We tend to be our own functional callers. Maybe our primary motivation is a certain lifestyle, public prestige or to change the world. Outwardly we might be doing great things – even explicitly kingdom-oriented things – but if our primary motivation for our work is pursuit of our own interests then we are not working out of a calling from God.
Here are some ways to determine if your work is being functionally lived out as a calling.
- Get to know the Caller. Calling flows from right relationship with God through Jesus, and that relationship is a living, active, dynamic one. God is incomprehensibly powerful and sovereign over all things, but He is also personal, intimate and is speaking to us. We must make the cultivation of our relationship with God a priority.
- Trust that the Caller knows what he is doing. Even if we are actively pursuing relationship with God we still have to watch our inclination to condition his call. We wonder if what we are doing is “big enough.” We wonder if we’ll make enough money. We wonder if it really matters in God’s bigger redemptive plan. We start comparing ourselves to others who have more or who have (apparently) done more. Fundamentally, this is a trust issue. We have to trust that God knows what he is doing when he puts us in our various vocations.
- Step fully into your calling. Even if we are making our relationship with God a priority, and even if we trust that where he currently has us is where he currently wants us, we still have to exercise the daily faithfulness to do our work well. We have to recognize the temptation and danger of the “what’s next” mindset and work now out of gratitude that God has enlisted us in his great mission and with the excellence that being a part of that mission deserves.
Calling is a difficult subject. Finding work that fits is hard to do. But if we remember that our calling to work follows our call to Christ, then we can find ourselves more available to work that best fits us and we can ultimately be more content and useful in our work.