When I was babe-in-Christ, I attended a church and for the first time, heard about spiritual gifts, talents, and calling. I remember the Bible study class in which the teacher discussed the spiritual gifts in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. I went home confused and anxious that evening because it seemed as though everyone in the class knew what their spiritual gifts or callings were, but I didn’t. So I embarked on a journey to discover my calling, which left me frustrated and even more confused.
I recently had a conversation with a few people about their callings. While some appeared confident about knowing what their callings were, others were just as confused and frustrated as I was 20 years ago in that Bible study class. As our discussion progressed, I realized those who were frustrated or confused were seeking their callings more earnestly than they were seeking the Lord. Seeking the Lord, hearing from Him, and obeying Him in all things should always be our focus.
I believe everyone has a specific calling or purpose. But regardless of your religious affiliation, you were birthed into the earth for a reason. Ultimately, our calling is the invitation to salvation from Christ (see 2 Timothy 1:9; 2 Peter 1:10). However, our calling also includes the work to which the Lord appoints us (see Romans 1:1). Discovering the work to which the Lord has appointed us is the topic I want to discuss.
Unfortunately, we sometimes seek our callings more diligently than we seek God. When we prioritize our callings over a relationship with Christ, we will experience discontent, deception, and disappointment.
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When we focus on other people and what they’re doing instead of seeking the Lord, we can fall into a comparison trap. Even in ministry, we are aren’t exempt from comparing ourselves to others, which can cause us to seek after success, validation, and fulfillment. Comparing ourselves to others begins a vicious cycle because the more we compare ourselves, the more we seek things to make us feel better, which lead us to compare ourselves to others who have what we perceive to be the “thing” we need to find fulfillment.
In other words, we’re never satisfied and walk around discontented. When we’re not content, it’s easy to fall into idolatry because we’re always looking for something outside of God. Discontent can quickly cause us to covet someone else’s calling.
For instance, let’s say you’re called to be a Bible teacher, but your friend is a pastor or evangelist. If you’re insecure in or discontent with being a Bible teacher, you’ll covet what your friend is doing. Coveting someone one else’s calling makes it nearly impossible to “…make full proof of…” the ministry to which God has called you (see 2 Timothy 4:5).
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Seeking our calling apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ can lead us into deception. The enemy or our pride will tell us we were meant to be a pastor when God really called us to be a Bible teacher. We’ll first deceive ourselves to believe that we’re a pastor, and we’ll eventually deceive others as well. Instead of being the best Bible teacher we can be, we put our energy and effort into doing something God didn’t call us to do.
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When we’re operating in something God didn’t ordain for us, we won’t have power, anointing, or fruit, which leads us to be disappointed with our ministries. The meaning of the word disappoint is “defeated in expectation or hope.” I believe this is one of the reasons why we see some church leaders burn out. They’re burned out because their expectations were defeated. Perhaps they are disappointed because they pursued a calling God didn’t design for them. You see, when God calls us to a particular work, He gives us the grace and anointing to complete the task.
Additionally, we derive peace and joy from the work. When we pursue callings outside God’s anointing, there’s no grace, peace, or joy in the work. Further, you’re performing in your flesh, and your flesh will eventually wear out and become frustrated. It’s difficult to complete a work for the Lord without peace and joy because they keep you going when you want to give up and quit.
So, how can we fight against discontent, deception, and disappointment? How can we find and operate in our callings, glorifying God and blessing His people in the process?
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Seek God Before Your Calling
Everything flows from seeking God first, including discovering our callings. As I stated earlier, I learned about spiritual gifts in Bible study one evening. I was in my late twenties and a babe-in-Christ. It seemed everyone around me had spiritual gifts, but I didn’t see a gift in my life.
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"I found these passions only after seeking the Lord and hearing His voice."
As I began to grow in my walk with Christ, my spiritual gifts and calling became clearer. I discovered a teaching gift, which surprised me because I had a fear of speaking before crowds. I still get incredibly nervous before preaching or teaching. But the closer I walked with the Lord, the more assurances He gave me that He indeed called me to teach His holy Scriptures to the body of Christ. I also discovered a knack and passion for evangelism.
I found these passions only after seeking the Lord and hearing His voice. The Holy Spirit began pointing me to various Scriptures that spoke to my heart. He also led people to me who confirmed what the Holy Spirit was telling me. Yes, we can discover, embrace, and rejoice in our calling when we seek God first and let Him lead us and open the right doors for us.
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Be Content with Your Calling
"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content," (Philippians 4:11).
We are commanded in Scripture to be content. When we are content, we’re not easily moved by what we see or hear others are doing. I have girlfriends who are apostles, pastors, authors, speakers, life coaches, and business owners. It would be easy for me to look at what they’re doing and covet, but I don’t. Instead, I’m content with teaching the Bible in my local church. God has something special for my girlfriends, and He has something special for me too. I’m content with what He’s tasked me to do.
I urge you to be content with what He’s tasked you to do as well. Don’t fall into a spirit of discontent just because the people around you seem to have more exciting or important callings or ministries than you.
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Be Confident in Your Calling
Paul states succinctly that his call to the apostleship was a commandment from God. Paul was confident in both his calling and the One who called him. When we seek the Lord and wait on Him to open doors for us, we too can be confident in the ministry to which He calls us. We won’t walk in deception, deceiving ourselves and others. Indeed, we will walk in authority and power, using our wins, losses, successes, failures, up, and downs to glorify God and edify His people. We won’t let the shame of our pasts stop us from speaking God’s truth nor will we be ashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16). On the contrary, we will confidently and boldly stand and proclaim that Jesus is Lord and God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9). Yes, seeking God first and letting Him lead and guide us is the key to being confident in His calling upon our lives.
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Grace to Be
"But by the grace of God I am what I am…" (1 Corinthians 15:10).
As we begin to walk in our callings, we’ll soon discover peace to be who God called us to be. I can’t tell you how much I used to strive to figure out my identity in Christ, and what He called me to be and what He called me to do. I spent a lot of time convincing people about my calling. I no longer expend my energy in that fruitless endeavor. Instead of telling people who I am, I’m much rather live out who I am what I’m called to do. By the grace of God, I am a Bible teacher. I love teaching. I enjoy teaching. And I’m happy to be a teacher of the gospel. Besides, Jesus is THE Teacher, and so I count it an honor to walk in His footsteps.
As you discover your calling, don’t fall into the comparison trap, feeling you’re not good enough or worthy enough for God to use you. Just as grace compelled Paul to say, “I am what I am,” grace compels us to declare the same thing.
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A special note for parents:
We should never force our children into a career or calling that we want for them. Instead, we need to seek the Lord for His will for our children and then lovingly guide them toward the calling as the Lord instructs us.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I prayed and asked the Lord to give her a musical talent. He answered that prayer, and she has been singing since she started talking. Over the years, others began recognizing her talent, and God is using her although she’s only 14 years old. I still seek the Lord regarding her, but as she becomes an adult, it will be her responsibility to seek the Lord for herself. I would love for her to become an attorney as that was my dream for my own life, but that may not be God’s will for her life. And I must give her the freedom to obey the Lord.
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"You don’t have to seek your calling. Seek Him..."
As you’re discovering your calling, remember to seek the Lord first. Seeking Him should be our highest calling and purpose, the one we chase after most earnestly. As we walk with the Father, He will reveal His plans and purposes for our lives. You don’t have to seek your calling. Seek Him, and He will reveal your calling to you in due season.
Aretha Grant serves her local church as a bible teacher and elder. She loves writing and is the author of Overcomer: 25 Keys to Walking Victoriously. Aretha resides in Hagerstown, MD with her husband and two youngest children. You can read Aretha’s blog at ReeInspired.com.
Originally published Wednesday, 08 August 2018.