Have you ever struggled to know what God is calling you to do? We usually use calling synonymously with what job we have and get paid for.
But that’s not exactly how we see “calling” used in the Bible.
Jobs, as we typically think of them, aren’t a central theme in scripture. Actually, for most of the people in the Bible, we don’t even know what they did in terms of a career.
A biblical understanding of call is usually connected with God’s redemptive work in the world. It’s a call to belong to Jesus and to be part of God’s plan to bring people to Jesus. For some, this can take on the form of a paying job. But for many it doesn’t.
We need to tweak our understanding of calling in order to align it more closely with scripture rather than culture. When we disassociate God’s call from earning money, we develop a more robust understanding of being called.
But before we think through some various aspects of a biblical calling, it’s important to know what God has to say about work in general.
The Universal Command to Work
From Genesis to Revelation, it’s very clear that all of us are commanded to work.
In fact, work is something we’ll be doing in heaven too. But don’t worry. It will be something you find joy and pleasure in–not misery and agony, as some of us experience it now. All of mankind is commanded to work in so far as we are able.
But God is far more concerned about how you do your work rather than what you do for work. Of course, this applies to any type of work that’s honest and honorable.
Christians should be the best employees, regardless of where we work or how much we get paid. We shouldn’t seize any opportunity to cut corners or to slack off just because no one is looking. We should apply Colossians 3:23 in every aspect of our work. Even when you think the job is tedious and that you’re underappreciated.
The command to work comes from God and not man. We should carry out the tasks of our job as an employee reporting to God.
Making the distinction between career and calling is important. Here are a few ways to better understand the biblical sense of calling.
1. Universal Calling
Each and everyone one of us shares the same foundational calling. In everything we do, in every aspect of our life, we belong to Jesus. This means our faith is not compartmentalized to Sunday mornings or when we are around our Christian friends.
Everything about our life should be rooted in our life in Christ. Our priorities, interests, perspectives, and indeed our whole life springs out of our faith in Jesus. This is what God calls us to do each and everyday.
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus…”
Our call is to live our lives for Jesus. This applies at work, at home, with your friends, watching your kid’s soccer game, waiting in line at the DMV, with your in-laws – in every aspect of life. This is God’s call to his people. This is your calling as a follower of Jesus.
2. Seasonal Callings
Throughout our time on earth, each of us uniquely participates in the universal call to all believers. But that doesn’t look the same for us throughout our whole life.
Sometimes we have a specific call for only a season. Look at Moses. His call to guide God’s people to the promise land wasn’t until the latter stages of his life. You will not always be called to one thing for every season.
God will use you in different ways throughout the course of your life. The universal calling will always stay the same but how you personally carry that out will look differently in different seasons of your life.
It’s easy to grip onto the “one” calling God has for “you” and think everything else in your life is nothing until you carry out that one calling. But it doesn’t always work that way. God gives a lot more freedom in our lives.
You might be called to care for an ill family member during a certain season of life, to be a student, to serve in a different area in church, or to stay at home and care for your children or grandchildren.
God might be calling you to do something specific for a season. And when that season comes to an end, you’ll be called to use your gifts and passions in a different way.
3. Multiple Callings
To understand calling as one career path we will pursue for the rest of our lives is to misunderstand it. As we look at the universal call to be followers of Christ many other unique callings stem from there.
The calling God has for us is far more holistic. It can even look like multiple callings at one time. For many, you are called to work to meet the financial needs of your family alongside being called to serve in church ministry. We can function in multiple callings at the same time.
Our lives are not just about work and money–as important as these may be. God cares far more about our whole lives making an impact rather than just sections of them.
Balancing multiple callings is important. And so is discerning whether or not what you are doing is a calling. Sometimes we keep adding to our plates thinking we’re called to do all the things when we really aren’t.
I had to discover this the hard way. I recently realized I was trying to do too many things at one time, because I thought I was called to all of them. It soon became very clear that in this current season of life I’m called to take care of my son.
I will soon go back to work, and my life will become a bit more active again. But for now, at least in these few months, my calling is very clearly this new life God has given me. I was recently told, “No one can do 1,000 things to the glory of God.”
4. Lifelong Callings
In the same way that there are seasonal callings, there are also lifelong callings. In your life you will receive a mixture of both. It’s helpful for us to be okay with certain callings being lifelong and some only being for a season.
We should also understand that certain lifelong callings can look different in different seasons. One lifelong calling many people have is parenthood. Once you’re a parent, you are a parent for the rest of your life. But it looks different in different seasons.
You might have a handful of callings that are lifelong or that become lifelong. But our goal should not be to hunt for that one lifetime calling.
God will work in your life as you remain obedient to the things you know. It’s far more about being faithful with what’s in front of you than it is searching for your calling.
God will guide you and move you toward the things he has for you. But he mostly likely won’t give you turn-by-turn directions.
Wanting to know your calling is something many of us question and often associate with getting paid. But money is not the marker of a calling. In fact, you might never get paid for living out your calling.
What’s most important is remaining obedient as best you know how to the universal calling God has given all of us and trusting God will use your gifts and passions in a specific way towards that mission.