Modern Christians are incredibly concerned about finding their calling. There are countless books, sermon series, and even videos aimed at helping believers discern God’s purpose for their life. Odds are you’ve probably taken a test which determined your spiritual gifts and where they would be most useful in the church. Many congregations even offer bulletins listing the types of services members can volunteer for. While none of this is inherently bad, there is a danger of Christians overspiritualizing the idea of callings.
In a recent post for The Gospel Coalition, Bethany Jenkins related how finding her calling as a believer was similar to learning the piano. The process took hard work, determination, discipline, and only revealed itself after many years. Christians, she believes, make the mistake of assuming their calling will happen quickly, or present itself in the form of a career. In reality, the exact opposite is just as likely. She writes,
“Too often we overspiritualize ‘calling’ and make it about self-expression instead of faithfulness to God and service to others. We search for the perfect job—just what we’re ‘called’ to do—and use ‘calling’ as a trump card to replace perseverance, risk, and qualification.”
“Even if we feel ‘called’ to a particular work, we usually experience that ‘calling’ in retrospect. It’s far easier to look at the past and see confirmation than to look into the future and feel confident. Yes, the Lord speaks to us and calls us in advance, but the primary way he does so is through his Word. We step out in faith, work heartily, and—in retrospect—feel increasingly confident that we’ve been faithful and obedient in our vocation. Such humility recognizes that time, experience, and community are vital pieces of our vocational formation.”
It’s should also be noted that a person can, and likely will, have more than one calling in life. Scripture tells us there is a time of everything, and a season for every activity under the sun (Ecclesiastes 3). The things we feel called to as teenagers and young adults will likely give way to new commitments as we get older. Even then, God will still present his followers with valuable new missions. Every great leader knows the value of mentorship, and the importance of passing on responsibility to the next generation. A Christian calling is more than a career, it is a lifestyle.
It’s alright to ponder what God is asking of you in life, but don’t become so concerned over your calling that it becomes an idol. If we follow Jesus and hold his words in our hearts, we may discover our calling has been around us all along. As the Bible shows us in Matthew 25, the greatest acts of service often go unnoticed, even by ourselves.
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ ‘The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” – Matthew 25:37-40
*Ryan Duncan is an Editor for Crosswalk.com