Calling….How many times we have heard that word in our faith journey I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to count. But actually, finding our “calling” invokes the question How do we do it? Does Jesus really have a specific call on our life we are supposed to align with or step into?
Let’s talk about how many Christians go about discovering their calling. The fact is something bad happens or they encounter some form of trial by fire and the people surviving this ordeal conclude that because they survived it, this is a sign of God’s calling. The ordeal is assumed to represent God’s intent for their life and therefore the pain they incurred, or the lesson learned, in order to have purpose must now be associated with a calling. It would appear in some way the scripture does actually support this type of experience-based trial by fire turning into to something specific, something God can use. 2nd Corinthians 1: 3-4 reads:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
It seems this is spiritual support that experiences in life can lead to something we can use for the Kingdom of God. However, that is a far cry from arguing God determines our calling form an experience or series of them. Despite this most Christians will define their calling in the context of their personal experiences.
What concerns me in the process of determining calling over our lives is this. If we are determining from experiences what our calling is, who’s ultimately in the driver’s seat? I mean, I have talked to many people who recovered from drugs and they were convinced their “calling” was to become a substance abuse counselor. Or perhaps they suffered from some situation that brought a trial on their life and by reason of surviving it, they then became an advocate either for or against it? I want us to digest for a minute when we look at the scriptures and the lives of people reflected in the pages of the Bible; do we see this type of fixed appointment from heaven? This is question of major importance to consider as none of us wants to think were supposed to go one way and it be in opposition to God’s intent for our life is right?
Let me move to the more personal. After all this is important. I don’t think it will do you the reader any good by commenting on such an important decision from a distance. I want to be in the will of God. If I am, then it doesn’t matter what else is going on. I’m not interested in running someone else’s race, nor having anyone else tell me what my race is or what it supposed to be to fit their agenda either, (yes this is done in the church of Jesus more than we care to admit). I want to run my race, and I want to run it well. I want to run with Jesus.
I know what a trial by fire is like. My former spouse and I (whom I’m happy to say is a Christian) brought upon each other a divorce that was so painful and hurtful to each other we were both nearly ruined in the process. Now we had help and some of the contributors are out of the picture now, but let me sum it up. By the end of it, we had lost over a million dollars, multiple homes all of our assets and savings, we had lawsuits and counter suits going on in multiple court venues with over 16 judges involved. After the cash ran out, which was quick mind you as attorneys are expensive, I ended up representing myself in legal proceedings for several years in divorce proceedings, civil court proceedings, criminal proceedings, the appellate courts and yes even up to the state supreme court. By the end of it I lost my health, my career, and all material assets. As I lived in a different province (or state) for over five years I had to fly back and forth so often I stopped counting after 70 court appearances. You can imagine I got very familiar with the air crews. I didn’t win anything, I lost everything except for my faith. Somewhere in the midst of the worst of it and the worst of it involved incarceration, Jesus showed up enough to let me know He was there in the midst. He had to be, as no one else could be. It was that intense.
That experience left a mark on me. And I survived it just like others who survive such things. But how this relates to calling reveals itself in the following. I was so sure that I had learned such profound truths about what men go through in the family court system I thought my “calling” in the Kingdom of God was to be a divorced men’s advocate. In my passion about what had occurred I thought God must have brought me through it so that I could bring others through similar circumstances. I decided my purpose was to reach out and minister to men going through divorce and try to keep them from destroying themselves, their children and their ex-wives. I had so identified with this “trial by fire” it had become a brand upon me so it became my identity. I was a Christian, I was passionate, and I was even effective in this form of ministry but it wasn’t how God saw me. It wasn’t how he wanted to use me and thank you Jesus if I would have stayed in it, I’m afraid I would have remained only partially healed. God burned out a lot of the old self in this process and taught me how to rely on him when it was desperate. Trust me it was desperate. At one point I was staring at nearly three decades in prison. But if I would have settled for a divorced men’s ministry, I never would have had enough of the “dross” removed to have the gold prepared for something new, something beautiful. I wouldn’t have been remolded into the new creation God wanted in me.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” 2 Corinthians 5:17
If I would have settled for that calling, which I assumed must have been God’s will for my life, I would have stayed bitter. I never would have learned to love people, and I never would have learned to pray for my former wife and mom of two of my kids until she came into the Kingdom. I simply would have been one more Christian who thought he knew better than God what God’s plan for my life was.
Starting to sound familiar?
Most of our trials, especially the ones that burn white hot, are not for purposes of establishing calling. Most of the time, they are the product of our own mess to the point we have given satan an opening to destroy us or advance the purposes of his kingdom through us. God in his mighty sovereignty and magnificence, turns this against the enemy and uses it to make something new, something beautiful, something suited to His plan for our life. That is of course if we let Him. Too many of us immediately assume while God is still purifying us, we have found “our calling.” Because we really don’t know how to listen to God or to wait on the Holy Spirit, (I know you probably do but I’m telling you most people don’t). We never become who God wants us to be because instead of accepting the invitation of a divine trajectory, we settle for the spiritual version of retirement we call “our calling.” We never become who we are meant to be in Christ.
Let me talk about this concept of “divine trajectory.” Jesus called it “picking up our cross and following him.” Really focus on that statement “follow Him.” It’s really at the heart of what we are talking about when we are trying to figure out calling. It’s quite the opposite of what we traditionally think of in calling. You see in this impulsive assumption of what our calling is, we often assume we lack something and are deficient. That’s always what happens when we take up our cross and follow ourselves. We approach life from a position of deficiency. This type of assumption forms in us a perception that we are not complete enough to do the work God wants us to do until we reach some goal that tells us “now you’re ready.” I don’t know about you, but my Bible says it was immediately Jesus Christ seated us in the heavenly realms with Him” (Ephesian 2:6). That sounds like we are in a pretty incredible place in Jesus now. Notice Colossians 1:10-13 infers because of the immediate Kingdom transfer that occurs when we accept Jesus lordship over our life, we are supposed to be bearing all sorts of fruit. All sorts of fruit, now. That sounds pretty immediate and part of the transfer of becoming a Christian. It doesn’t support the idea we wait under some non-scriptural assumption of the umbrella of calling. When Jesus gave Peter the Keys to the Kingdom, it was because Peter had just confessed Jesus. You and I if we have confessed Christ have access to these same keys which are part of the work of the Church and the Kingdom of God. They are the keys of doing the work of the Kingdom, ushering it in on earth and manifesting it. We are actually in a better position. Because when Peter heard it Jesus had not risen from the dead! Now these “keys” come the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to do Kingdom work now, not waiting until God confirms a calling.
Don’t misunderstand me, sharpening spiritual skills is important. Gaining knowledge and experience is too. The New Testament repeatedly emphasizes growing in knowledge and growing in love, but these are not determinative to calling. You have in Christ, at the time of your faith in Jesus began, commenced your calling. It’s your race. We spend way too much time waiting on others to confirm us and verify us when we are supposed to be having the Holy Spirit do this (Rom 8:16-17). This is a left-over human need of affirmation from the world of the flesh. So many Christians are out of the lane God intends for them to drive in seeking affirmational security. I better say that again as I feel we need to hear it again. If you are waiting for affirmation from others about who you are in Christ, or an appointment to office or calling, you may be waiting a long time. God appoints offices and if we seek the Holy Spirit, He will reveal this in his time. That’s a higher level of responsibility. Don’t confuse office with calling. You have already been called. You see a spiritual trajectory is when someone understands their calling is already under way and they step into what God directs them to do. This is completely backward to the way most Christians practice their walk. They wait, and wait, and continually pursue what they already have. Now by trajectory I mean this means a direction in alignment with the will of God. Jesus already told us what this would be. Its starts with “preaching the Kingdom” that’s the primary mission, everything else is second to it.
We want to make sure whatever we are doing is preaching the Kingdom, in word, in action and in deed. Now Jesus is still our commander and King, and to accomplish Kingdom work we align ourselves with the format He said would help us. This means we need to become experts at letting the Holy Spirit comfort and commune with us, (John 14:17); we need to become experts at letting Jesus Spirit teach us in all things and remind us of what Jesus himself said (John 14:26); and we need to get out of the way so Holy Spirit can testify to us about Jesus, (John 15:26) and believe and seek the “all truths” that Jesus says the Holy Spirit will be conveying to us (John 16: 13).
That means prolific, generous, copious, determined time in the presence closet where Jesus promises to reward. This needs to be a supernatural desire for intimacy with Jesus (a hunger) that comes from a supernatural source. We can’t achieve this if we are still pursuing some flesh-based idea of calling. In fact, that’s a trap by which the enemy keeps many of God’s children wandering in their own life deserts for years. Trajectory is understanding who we already are, “the called or chosen” and living in it now. It’s the meaning and understanding behind Paul’s statement:
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14
We often gravitate towards what’s familiar simply because it’s familiar. Consider the share earlier. Who would I be now if I had stayed married to the experience of a painful divorce? I sure wouldn’t be who I am today, that much I know.
There’s another concern we should mention about “fire trials” and calling. Fear and fire often go together. Uncontrolled fire is one of the most intimidating forces of nature. In terms of the supernatural it has its counterpart as well. Trials bring out what is vulnerable in us, always. In fact, our ability to successfully make it through a trial really has to do with how well we cooperate with the change that is needed in us to mature, to gain authority, and to step into deeper levels of relational intimacy with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
We have a tendency to think of ourselves as inadequate in the fire, and we are without Jesus. But that’s not who we are which I think we’ve pointed out. Still the fear of inadequacy plays a huge part in most Christians when it comes to calling. Think of incredible journeys in the Bible around calling, Moses, David, Esther, Abraham & Sarah. It’s a long list. All of these were taken completely out of their comfort zones, and moved into completely different authorities under the power and training of the Holy Spirit. I’m sure there was a potent level of fear involved with these transitions! You and I can’t shortcut this either. I wish we could. In my flesh I also would like to “called” to the familiar. However, the greatest impact we have is almost never in the form or manner we assume it will be. Even Jesus. He was a carpenter. A tradesman. And if our Bible is true from cover to cover, Hebrews 2:17-19 tells us he encountered “everything” we would so he could relate to us as a perfect Savoir and Advocate. It was no easy step moving from carpenter to roaming preacher, harassed by the government, often without a roof over his head. Jesus step into calling, paved the way as an example for us. Reliance on the Father, trust in the goodness of the Father, and willingness to let the Father implement His plan through the Son’s life. Now that should blow your minds because you and I have this privilege also. So, as a bit of encouragement, like Paul, don’t carry around the past too close to your heart. It has a clever way of delaying your maturity and even throwing you off track. Particularly don’t let the fire reignite the past mistakes and doubts as fires have a way of doing this. Recognize the pattern of how this occurs and press into your trajectory. The enemy’s tactic is to spin this into a confused web about calling and identity and stall the process of you stepping into who you are now in Christ as a new creation.
Start living the Jesus expression you are meant to be now, in your family, in your work, even in your possible sorrow and brokenness. The Christ that is living in you and through you is meant to be a light to the world now. Our calling is the reality of the risen Christ living in us where we are “living by faith in the Son of God who loves us and gave Himself for us.” Man or woman, new believer or veteran, step into what already is for the Believer. Stop believing the delay tactics of the enemy. Let go of some of the “fire memoires” of the past. They don’t establish your calling that’s accomplished already. They are sharpening points on your trajectory with God which Jesus uses to make you one awesome Kingdom building, love establishing, force to be reckoned with… Now, not later.
J.P. GrierM.S. Counseling M.C.M. Pastoral Counseling JP Grier is the founder and writer at SentinelforChrist.com – A network of Christians helping each other to press deeper in Christ.