I have a question

Here’s something I’ve been wondering about. I’ll tell you up front: I haven’t done any sorts of research nor have I formed any firm opinions. I’m curious and I thought I’d mine the depths of the collective knowledge of you, my readers. And, if I’m honest, I sincerely hope I’ll actually get some response here so that 1) I might learn something and 2) I won’t look foolish for asking a question and then getting no answers. So, be a good sport and answer me, okay?

Ready?

Here’s what I’m wondering: what Biblical support is there for the idea of a specific vocational calling? I don’t read many blogs by men but I have noticed among women bloggers there is some talk of being called to be this or that, sometimes expressed with joy and excitement, sometimes with frustration and uncertainty. I’m curious about what the Scripture has to say about seeking (and finding) a specific calling. When someone says they are supposed to be a _________ or do __________, how do they know, Biblically? How does the Bible address seeking one’s purpose/destiny/calling/dream?

Remember: I have no agenda other than curiosity.

So, what are you thoughts on callings?

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Author: Lisa Spence

Wife, mother, Bible teacher, bibliophile, occasional blogger

18 thoughts on “I have a question”

  1. oh. Lisa.

    This was a HUGE question for me. The strongest source of my search came from a book called “Decision Making and Will of God” by Garry Friesen. It’s not a small book and it’s not an easy read. It challenged me so much because my assumption had always been that God had a very specific plan for my life. My constant concern was that I would misinterpret God’s will and mess up His plan by being unintentionally disobedient. If I missed one aspect of God’s guidance, it would have a negative domino effect in my life and subsequently, my life would “miss the mark.” uh. the pressure.

    Garry meticulously went through scripture looking for Biblical support of the idea of an individual, specific calling – and found none.

    After more than a few months of reading (other books too), thinking and praying, this is where I found myself on this subject.

    http://pragmaticcommunion.wordpress.com/2007/10/24/learning-in-flux/

    Here’s the conclusion:
    “In trying to explain it to my son (and truthfully, myself in the process) I used an example (I think it’s from Friesen): We (my husband and I) haven’t decided what you (my son) should be when you grow up. There isn’t one specific thing you are destined to do. We pray that you grow to be a God fearing, faith filled, honorable man who makes choices based on Biblical wisdom. Within the moral will of God, whatever you decided to do, will be equally pleasing to us, as your parents. And equally pleasing to God.

    It has been so liberating to come to this understanding. Whatever I choose to do – choose to do, will be equally pleasing to God. I get to choose!

    I have to choose.”

    It’s a personal responsibility to choose based on a foundation of Biblical wisdom, while at the same time (a bit of a paradox), offering your life as a living sacrifice – a servant and witness for His grace and glory.

    You asked.

  2. I don’t think God usually calls us specifically to this or that. I think he leads us in certain directions, but I think we have to be very careful what we say is God’s word. I think more often than not, God gives us choices…several of which could be “right.” Though, of course, God knows which we’ll choose.

  3. What a great question, Lisa. Like Julie, I used to think God had one specific plan for me and, me being me, I thought I would surely screw it up. It was almost debilitating. But I am so grateful that God gave me the husband He did because my he (my husband) explained to me that God just wants us to be faithful. In our faithfulness, our obedience, we are fulfilling God’s plan for us–to follow Him, love Him, spend our lives serving Him.

    I haven’t read much on this topic, but my husband (who’s sitting next to me) said that the best book he’s ever read on the topic is “The Call” by Os Guinness. He said it had a huge impact on him. So check that one out, I guess. 🙂

  4. My short answer: no. The Bible is certainly clear about God’s will (i.e. that people will be saved, stay away from sexual immorality… I don’t remember all the specific references to His will off the top of my head, but it’s a pretty short list), but apart from that, I believe the Spirit-filled, obedient believer can do whatever they want. Of course if you’re walking with God, the things you’ll want will be the things He wants – this is in no way a license to sin. I find such freedom though, in knowing that I don’t have to worry about messing up God’s will because I failed to see some nebulous “sign,” as Julie mentioned above. Another of my favorite blogs (Dan Phillips) recently had a discussion about this. It’s in the context of the Francis Chan announcement, but the principles he presents are sound and applicable to anyone claiming to be following some extra-biblical calling. Perhaps you’ll find it helpful too! Here’s the address, hopefully it will come through as a link: http://bibchr.blogspot.com/2010/04/taking-step-of-faith-few-thoughts.html

  5. I’m certainly no theological expert, but I suspect the tendency has to do with accounts in the Bible of God calling/selecting individuals for a specific task – Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Saul, David, to mention just a few OT folks, as well as the apostles, Paul, Silas in the NT.

    However, I don’t know of any specific scriptures that I would see carry that over to today. In the NT, especially Paul’s letters, it is clear that we are all called and that our primary purpose is to bring glory to Him. We certainly have different spiritual gifts, which is Biblically based, and often those lead to a vocation, such as preaching, etc.

    He has given us the Holy Spirit for discernment. I sometimes think folks get themselves a little too tied up in knots – “Do I accept this job or this job?” “Do I buy House A or House B?” when I really don’t think it’s that critical of a spiritual decision – He wants us to glorify Him, love others, and spread the gospel wherever we are.

    Colossians 3:17 says “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
    and
    Colosians 3:23-24 tell us “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

    Those last two are immediately following his instructions to slaves – I don’t think we would think God “calls” someone to be a slave, but if that’s what they are, they should do it to His glory.

    Just my thoughts. . . .

  6. Great question (and look! you’ve gotten answers! Yay!)!

    I think sometimes we confuse calling with giftings. We all have giftings – and most times tend to choose a vocation that our giftings can be used to their fullest potential (I am gifted in music, hence I lead worship, etc.).

    Our calling, I believe is that we do the will of God – whatever that may be. We ask Him for direction and we go that way. . . I do believe there are some people whom God says, “Go to the mission field.” or “Go do thus and such.” He is God, after all, and can pretty much do what He wants.

    But to say that a vocation is a calling, I’m not sure about that. I’d have to research it – and I haven’t. These are just my thoughts off the top of my head.

  7. Lisa,

    In general, I find the language of “calling” to be problematic. People tend to think that it means that God will “call” you by whispers, some sort of audible voice, or some other personal subjective means in order for an individual to find His “perfect will” for their lives. The Bible never speaks of this sort of “calling” for a vocation or even as a foundation for seeking an office in the church.

    For example, when I am counseling with young men who wonder if they are “called” to the ministry, I always ask them, “Well, do you want to do it?” This usually catches them by surprise because they have been conditioned to think that it is impious to want to go into the ministry, and what they need is some sort of compulsion by God. And, sadly, their tradition also requires them to resist that compulsion for awhile so that they will be viewed as legit. The Bible, however, simply says, “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Tim. 3:1). So simple. If they have the desire, then they are free to pursue. If the church recognizes a blameless character and a gift to teach, it is good and noble for them to pursue the office.

    I simply apply that to life. If you want to be a dentist, be a dentist. It is a noble thing. Or, be a landscaper. It is a noble thing. Or, open a small business. It is a noble thing. We can do all of these things to the glory of God. Just find a desire, something you want to do, and dedicate yourself to that task with all your might to the glory of God.

    Finally, I would say that this is much of what Solomon was talking about in Proverbs 22:6. Watch a child. See what he or she delights in that is good and noble. Guide them in that love, and when they are old, they will not depart from it. Of course, this Proverb also applies to training in godliness, but it is also important to spy out a child’s inclinations and joys and foster those gifts God has given them. Instead, I often see parents guiding children toward vocations where “they can make a decent living” or have “job security.” That is not a Christ-honoring way to steer our children. Mammon and security should not be our primary motivations. (Though a man must work and make a living.)

    Anyway, my two cents. There’s much more to say, but this is a blog and I’ve already gone on too long. 🙂

  8. An idea my hubby and I have been wrestling with ourselves! 🙂 He has recently been let go, due to the church’s financial situation, from his youth pastor position. So we find ourselves in a time of limbo. Rather than dive into the next thing or the next place, we’ve been taking the time to seek God about His “will” and His “calling” on us, simply as Christians, and what that means in regards to our future – future employment and just life in general.

    What we’ve found is… really, simply put, according to 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” How’s that for a definition on “God’s will!”

    It was suggested for us to read Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton (free ebook version here: http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/130). I have yet to do this, however, the person who recommended it said Chesterton describes God’s will for us like a fenced in pasture… many areas lie in that pasture, but within the boundaries of the fence line. Meaning, He has certain “non negotiables” however, He does give us different gifts and talents that can be used in a variety of places to His glory that still fall within His will. There might not be one specific place (i.e. of employment).

    I have enjoyed reading the others’ thoughts on this. Thanks!

  9. Yes, great question.

    I don’t think there is any biblical support, other than that God is sovereign.

    Augustine said something like God’s will for men is for them to glorify and obey Him. Besides that, He’s happy to let them do as they please.

    Kevin De Young’s book, Just Do Something, is the best on the subject of “discerning God’s will.” He basically says the same as Augustine.

  10. I love Julie’s answer (sorry didn’t get around to reading all of the comments) because she had the dilemma and found an answer dealing with someone who had researched scripture. This is a very good question and one I’ve never thought of. I’ve just believed that I’m gifted to write and help/share/bless/encourage/enlighten/entertain, etc. people through my writing. It’s “funny” that I never once wondered if there was a biblical basis for that. Discussions like this are fabulous. Thanks for posing this question and re-introducing me to a world/space that I have been ignoring and neglecting.

  11. Good question Lisa! I’ve been waiting for and reading the responses here. They all seem to fall into what I’ve always been taught. I may have to add some of the book suggestions to my wish list. I have DeYoung’s book and should ask my husband what he thought. I think he’s read it. I think I may have Friesen’s book too.

    All that to say, I have no answer for you but have enjoyed reading the responses!

  12. Late as always, but I like the question. The answer, as I see it, has already been posted. But, I wanted to let you know that immediately a series Randy did on finding God’s will came to mind. I am sure he wouldn’t appreciate my boiling down his entire sermon series to this, but I will any way….seeking Him. In the end, it doesn’t matter which path you choose as long as You have sought Him with your whole heart as you decided, ie, I don’t believe there is a specific “calling” as you’ve outlined it. Only a calling to seek Him and His glory.

    Hope you see you Memorial Day.

  13. Lisa, I said I would come back… and after reading and thinking, I guess I’d say, our true calling is to be Christians in all our manner of living.

    And of course, a Christian, by definition, seeks the Lord daily in prayer and reads the Scriptures, so a Christian knows what God demands from him/her in every circumstance. A Christian also relies on the promise that God will direct his path, and is willing to obey and follow Him.

    My conclusion, therefore is what Salomon says…Fear the Lord and depart from evil. If we keep this in our minds and hearts as we journey under his sun, then we will be glorifying Him, and fulfilling the purpose, “calling” in our lives.

    Blessings.

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