Our American Christian culture is very concerned with “our calling”. I think what is usually meant by this is that we are concerned mainly with what God is “calling” us to choose. A great deal of anxiety might be generated over whether or not we chose what God wanted us to choose.
Let’s assume for a moment that God does indeed call us in this way. There are several disturbing conclusions that could be drawn:
- If we are not doing what we are called to do, we are sinning in defying God’s desire for us. The worst part about this is that we often have no clue if we are doing this or not!
- By not “responding to God’s calling on our lives”, we are ruining His plan for the world. What if you were supposed to talk about God with some people, but didn’t, and now they are lost souls? What if one of them was going to “start a revival” in their region? Good job, you just screwed all that up.
- On how many decisions in our life does God place a calling? We can’t know, so we might not even be looking for what route God called us to take on our way to work this morning or whether or not to go to the gym today.
- We will be disconnected from God when we aren’t following our calling. I’ve heard Christians talk about this in a way that ranges from “life just won’t be as good” to “everything will be wrong and terrible until you start following your calling”. (I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they might not be implying that everything is wonderful and perfect once you are “walking in your calling”.)
At the core of this way of thinking is an assumption that says there is one right path for every choice we are presented with: the one God is calling us to. But, that assumption is only half right. Scripture is largely unconcerned with the specific paths humans take. I believe that this is not because the paths are not important, but that they are not determined by humans.
Proverbs 16 talks at length about the kind of people who devote their lives to God and His righteousness and those who do not, but it also says they both work towards the same end: the one chosen by God. “A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure.” It talks about the ways of man in regards to what is in the heart.
Romans 8 discusses this in further detail, from a post-Jesus perspective, where Paul talks about the kind of life, freedom, and righteousness available to those who are “according to the Spirit” or “walk according to the Spirit”. He says that God works all things for the good of those who love Him and are “called according to His purpose”. Paul also says that God knew ahead of time who these people were and that those who chose to love God were “called” in conjunction with their justification.
Together, these passages show us that God has a plan that uses both the actions of the righteous and the wicked to achieve His ultimate purposes. This means that the path you take is determined by God, not humans, and that no matter which path is taken, God will work it for His glory, or the optimal outcome He desires (which is the complete restoration of humanity in the kingdom of God). For the visually oriented reader, see below:
At the beginning, there are three common options presented to a college student or recent graduate. The gold path is the path that was actually taken, directed by God and chosen by you, that eventually leads to the optimal outcome. But, as you can see, the other choices and steps along the way will all lead to that outcome no matter what way that was taken. This is obviously a vast oversimplification of the steps involved to achieve God’s optimal outcome, as God has to account for every tiny micro-movement in the universe to actually get a single optimal outcome.
None of those original three options are sinful. None of them will prevent you from living out your calling in life. They all lead to where God directs them to lead.
So if we don’t have to worry about the path we take, what is “calling”?
The reference to calling in Romans that I mentioned is one of the first mentions of calling in the Bible, but it is the same thing the Proverbs passage calls us to: the calling is to where God is.
We are to purge iniquity from our hearts so that our hearts become closer to God. Paul says we must set our minds on the things of the Spirit, so that our dead flesh does not guide our hearts. Paul is awaiting a complete redemption of our bodies, but until then, we must put to death the deeds prompted by the body to make way for the direction of the Spirit. From my previous post on this:
“Ephesians 4:1 is one chapter that talks about calling. It talks about being called to live with,
“complete lowliness of mind (humility) and meekness (unselfishness, gentleness, mildness), with patience, bearing with one another and making allowances because you love one another. Be eager and strive earnestly to guard and keep the harmony and oneness of [and produced by] the Spirit in the binding power of peace. [There is] one body and one Spirit—just as there is also one hope [that belongs] to the calling you received—”
Philippians 3:14 God is calling us “upward”. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 God is calling us to Him. 2 Thessalonians 1 God is calling us to magnify God in our works. Hebrews 3 We share the heavenly calling to faith and eternal life. 1 Peter 1 Actually groups “calling” and “election” together, which refers to God calling us.
Your call is not to any job, not to any person, but Jesus. Your call is to live life as it says in Ephesians 4. Your call is to heaven. Your call is to die. There is a reason that Jesus says “stop being perpetually anxious about your life“! The birds of the sky and lilies of the field are not anxious and do not store grain for the future, yet they live under God’s care. “Are you not worth much more than they?” (Matt 6)”
Calling is not a matter of seeking path that you think you are missing out on, it is a discipline of silence, listening to God, emptying the noise of your flesh and letting the Spirit fill you with it’s own promptings and peace. It is looking towards the hope of redemption and restoration that the Spirit is longing for along with us, the scriptures say It even conveys that longing to God in a way too deep for words.
We are called to God and to His Kingdom, this means that in everything you do, your heart must seek after Him and seek to be like Him, pure and restored.
I like to say that God is going to restore the world in the end, and you have a choice to participate in that restoration or hinder it. God is going to use us as a part of His plan either way.
So, you can relax, because you’re not going to mess up the world, or even your own life, with your actions, but also there is a reason to be constantly vigilant. It is your choice.