Finding the Call
For most people, finding a calling is difficult. People would like to live out their calling, but often they find themselves mired down and unable to move forward. “I can’t find my calling!” or “I want to do something with my life!” can be a heartfelt groan for many people. But it is not enough to simply desire something, it requires much more.
Why are you Called?: As Christians, we understand that our calling is not based on our own desires. Yet, today, some in the church trumpet phrases like this: “God is going to raise me up and put me in a position of leadership” or “God is going to use me and my many talents (speaking/singing/business) and bless my hand”. Whenever you hear someone speaking like this, it’s their desires talking and not God speaking through them. “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” — Galatians 5:24. “Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the LORD will stand.” — Proverbs 19:21. The mark of a true calling is not for your individual advancement, but rather, it is Christ working in you to accomplish His goodwill. Unfortunately, many people go astray by labeling their passions and desires as a calling. The truth is, a real calling is far more interesting than anything a person could dream up on their own. Moreover, God isn’t going to press you into something you hate. It’ll be something you love because that’s what you were created to do.
Individual Calling: Christians are all called to live according to the Spirit and follow Christ Jesus, but there is also an individual calling unique to each of us. It is in searching for this individual calling that many people become confused and say, “I don’t know what my calling is!” It can be frustrating to not feel like you have direction in life, but this is where believers must grow up and realize individual callings take effort. Sadly, many people bemoan not having a calling or not being able to move into it. The fact is if you feel called to become a missionary (or any vocation for that matter) you can’t expect to get anywhere by complaining and not taking action. An individual calling will require work. The key is you have to start somewhere, no matter how small, you must begin and take action. If you need constant affirmation, get it from the Bible instead of seeking validation from other people. Moreover, you don’t need to have every detail of your calling completely figured out before you start. Paul simply labeled himself an apostle, preacher and a teacher (2 Timothy 1:11). He didn’t say, “I am a preacher in this specific place, specializing in this specific subject and I know everything that will happen in the days ahead.” No way, things change. One moment Paul is escaping in a basket from Damascus, the next he is shipwrecked, and then the next he is preaching on Mars Hill, but the core of his calling was, I am a preacher, teacher, and an apostle. Following an individual calling doesn’t mean having every detail worked out. For example, when we were first called we only heard the words in our spirit, “Preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth.” It wasn’t a fully detailed road map of everything that was ahead, but it was our true north. It was our calling.
Try, try, try: Sometimes people know their calling right away. For others, it might take time to find it. The bottom line is we are all called to serve in the Kingdom. There are no unused Christians in the body of Christ. So, if you don’t know your calling, don’t despair, but rather keep at it. Try new things. Explore. If you feel like missions might be your calling then take a short-term trip. You don’t need to commit to 3-years in a foreign field to start. The point is, not everything is clear at the beginning, but as you walk further and further the path becomes visible. Never despair for God is with you to guide you and show you the way. There will be challenges for sure, but greater is He that is in you than He that is in the World.
Process vs Outcome: Individuals are often consumed with the outcome rather than the process as they search or live out their calling. In life, you must learn to let go of your fears and expectations. Embrace the process and the outcome will take care of itself. A good example of “process vs outcome” is from Bill Walsh, who coached the NFL San Francisco 49ers in the ’80s. Walsh took over as head coach when the team was 2–14. He immediately changed the culture of the team by changing small details in practice. Coaches tidied up their appearances. Players couldn’t sit down on the practice field. Positions were analyzed over several different drills to the tiniest of details. In the locker room, players couldn’t smoke, fight, or use profanity. As these small details began to take hold the team made bigger leaps in preparation and overall play execution. The wins began to rack up and within 18-months of taking over, Walsh led the 49ers to the Super Bowl. Under Walsh, the 49ers won six NFC Western Division championships and NFC titles in 1981, 1984, and 1988. Those NFC titles were followed with victories in Super Bowls XVI, XIX, and XXIII which made the 49ers the NFL team of the 1980s. One of Walsh’s defining takes on his success is summed up when he said, “Take care of the details and the score takes care of itself.” By simply focusing on the process rather than the outcome Walsh was able to transform a dismal team into a powerhouse. Likewise, if you focus on the process of your calling the outcomes will take care of itself. So, if you are an evangelist, yet you are worried about whether a person will accept Christ or not when you preach, then you are focused on the outcome. The outcome is God’s job, not yours. Your process is to preach the Word in sincerity and truth and the outcome will take care of itself. Likewise, if you are called to missions but are fearful about the results, then you are worried about the outcome. Adjust your mindset and only focus on doing your part. You will be surprised how these small changes will lead to big impacts. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” — Proverbs 3:5–6