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The Two Pitfalls of a Calling from God

Today’s post begins Hinneh: a blog series on vocation and calling. If you’d rather read all the posts from the series in a short ebook, the writers have generously made it available for free. You can download a PDF copy here, or downloads in Epub (most tablets/e-readers) and Mobi (Kindle) formats are available as well. To receive the rest of the series in your inbox, sign up here

view-from-split-rockSometime in high school how I thought about life changed in a dramatic way. All throughout childhood and even my early teen years, my thoughts toward life were completely focused on what was happening in the moment. Questions such as, “did that girl notice me?” or “how many hours of video games do I want to play today?” were at the forefront.

But as I moved closer to graduation the questions moved toward “what do I want to do after high school?” and “who is God calling me to be?”. Often these were the questions posed by others to me, but soon enough they echoed deep within me as my own questions.

Now over a decade later, and despite a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree to my name, and despite finding a career to pursue, and despite children who call me daddy, I’m still asking those exact same questions.

“God, what is it you want me to do with my life? God, who is it you’re calling me to be?”

In trying to provide answers to these questions I see Christians pursuing God’s calling in two separate and equally poor ways.

1) Calling as Knowing Your Gifts

Calling is often reduced down to the simplicity of taking a gifts inventory by using Myers-Briggs and Strength Finders 2.0. Know your personality and understand how you’re wired and then find the mix of possible occupations. It’s a simple equation, and it’s simplicity will leave you wanting, or worse, wandering.

This gifts-based understanding of calling involves absolutely no faith. You can google search “how to find your calling” and any number of life coaches have short tests you can take to help illuminate occupations that will fit your personality and gifting. If calling is primarily about personal gifting then why does Paul boast in his weakness over and over (1 Cor. 10)? As your life likely attests to, calling goes far beyond the most rational decision.

When God called Abram to leave his family, his hometown, and his country of origin, God did not make sure Abram had the gift of adventure and spontaneity. No, Hebrews said God knew Abram to be a man of faith and it was his faith that led him to follow God’s calling.

2) Calling as a Lightning Bolt from Heaven

As a pastor, some of the most frustrating conversations I have are when people emphatically proclaim to me, “God told me that I’m supposed to ___________,” you can fill in that blank in any number of ways. My usual response is to ask when they heard this from God, and if these words from God had been affirmed by other people or circumstances.

The answer to the question of what you’re supposed to do with your life is too easily given as the cliche “you just need to hear from God.” This then is used as a “choose your own adventure,” “do what you want to,” sort of thing. It has more to do with self-centered blinders than it does to do with faith.

I say this because faithful leaps are affirmed. They are affirmed within your soul by the God who calls, and they are affirmed by the saints who have walked and will walk step by step with you.

How do we fulfill God’s calling on our lives while avoiding the pitfalls of calling exclusively being about gifts or about divine intervention?

That question, along with many others related to it, is what we hope this blog series addresses and will help provide fertile soil where answers begin to sprout up. In all honesty, I hope you finish reading this and have more questions than answers, but that you know what to do with your questions. It’s asking these questions in the proper context that allows the Holy Spirit to guide you to answers.

May you be like Isaiah, who responded to God’s calling with “Hinneh!”—“here I am, send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).

You can find Tyler Braun at manofdepravity.com. He is the author of Why Holiness Matters.

(Image: Leland Rucker)

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