High school and college students are constantly asked the question:“What are you going to do with your life?” If you are part of a Christian community then the question is asked a little differently: “What is God calling you to do?” I’ve increasingly come to believe that the question doesn’t go away no matter your age.
At the heart of the question in Christian circles is a nasty assumption. It often sounds like God has one thing that you are supposed to do. That calling is hidden deep in heaven and we have to somehow figure it out or miss God’s plan for our life.
Well hear the Good News of Jesus Christ! I can tell you right now what God is calling you to do. It is actually really straightforward. Every person in the world shares this one calling. There is no figuring it out. You just have to do it. You are called to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
I know what you are thinking. “Well I know that. But that doesn’t help me know what job I’m supposed to pursue.” Actually it does, but let me start a step before that. We need to have the fullest and most holistic understanding of what it means to be a disciple. It certainly doesn’t mean only weekly church attendance or occasional prayer.
I would suggest that lots of theological traditions have really holistic versions of discipleship if we dig around a little. My denomination, the Assemblies of God, names a four-fold mission: Worship, Evangelism, Faith Formation, and Compassion. I would encourage you to look up the mission statement or the baptismal vows from your own tradition. Pay particular attention to the ways that it calls you to be engaged with the world. Mine calls me to proclaim the Good News of Jesus and to live a ministry of compassion. Others may call disciples to resist evil or live in faithful community.
I want to suggest that every Christian’s particular calling is just a narrow aspect of this general calling of every Christian.
I understand my ministry as a teacher and theologian to be one aspect of my denomination’s mission to faith formation, or what we typically call “discipleship.” It’s easy to see how that is a narrower aspect of the big, broad mission of Christian life. What about the accountants of the world? What about the music teachers? How does God call someone to be a farmer? Is a calling to restaurant management really an aspect of Christian mission? I would suggest that all of these professions pertain to just one aspect of God’s overarching mission for every Christian.
Two examples can make my point: the accountant’s primary aims are efficiency and accountability. If the accountant does his or her job well, then they can prevent fraud and therefore contribute to what the United Methodist Church’s baptismal vows name as a call to “resist evil.” The music teacher has lots of opportunities to form faithful persons. But two are particularly important. First of all, all Christian faith is primarily learned by practice, just like music. So when the student learns to be disciplined in repetitive practice, they learn one of the central ways that they will also grow close to Jesus-constant attention to prayer, Scripture, worship, and so on. Music teachers also enable students to understand the importance of beauty and learn to “see” it. I would suggest that learning to see beauty is essential to learning to see the beauty of the Christian Gospel that is, on first glance, not immediately beautiful. (Long time Christians may miss this point, but I’m glad to remind you that our Good News starts with rebellion, generations of suffering and disobedience, and the killing of our God.)
We could work through many more examples, but my point should be clear. All callings to specific careers are simply a commitment to a specific aspect of the over-arching call upon every Christian. This does not resolve the difficult questions regarding how to discern one’s career calling.
But it does give us a path to discovering it. If you want to discover God’s specific call upon your life, you must be engaged with God’s mission for the world. Proclaim the Gospel. Resist evil. Show compassion to the sick and destitute. Set the captives free. In the midst of one of these callings that we all share is the specific calling that God has for you.
As I said above, this is really a necessary prelude to hearing God’s voice specifically for your life. But since it’s necessary, you don’t get to skip this step.
The questions that are asked of baptismal candidates are a good summary of what it means to respond faithfully to the call to Christian discipleship.
Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
Do you confess Jesus Christ as Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?
According to the grace given to you, will you remain a faithful member of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representative in the world?
Take a moment to write down the ways that you are living each of these commitments in your life right now. Then go through each question again and write down some practical things that you could do to live each of these commitments better.
This post is part of a 14 part series to help persons discern God’s call on their lives.
To see all the posts in the “What Am I Called to Do?” series
Next Post in This Series: What Am I Called to Do? (Part 2): God’s Will Is Not a Secret
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