Chariots of Fire is one of my favorite movies. One great scene features the main character, Eric Liddell, preaching a sermon on a Sunday when he could be running an Olympic race instead. The content of his sermon is Isaiah 40, including verses 28-31:
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
This scene exemplifies how Liddell took a long-term view of his calling. He saw his calling as much more than running one race on one particular day.
Liddell chose to honor the Sabbath even though it cost him an important race. He knew God was in control. God’s kingdom would still be advanced. This long-term view of God’s purposes is the view Christians need to take.
The social and economic issues that confront us and our leaders are urgent. The need for Christians to continually engage these issues is urgent, too.
What is our role as we seek to be faithful to God in all that we do? How can we not only contribute, but truly play a leadership role in bringing about flourishing in our communities, our cities, our nation, and our world?
Asking these questions will help Christians not only understand, but live out a biblical theology – a worldview – that integrates faith, work, and economics. If Christians do this, the result will be a more free society characterized by greater creativity and increased human flourishing.
The work needed to achieve this mission won’t be finished overnight. That’s why a long-term view is so crucial. Here are five concepts Christians need to understand to take a long-term view of calling.
Understand the Job Description
God has given us a job description in the Garden of Eden that infuses our work with transcendent meaning. We are to use our God-given creativity, in and through our work, to be fruitful for the sake of the flourishing of all mankind and the glory of God. As Christians, our work, from that of the trash collector to that of the corporate businessman, is tied back to this job description.
The reason we are to be fruitful in and through our work is because of God’s ultimate long-term plans. Christ will return to restore and make all things new. If we believe this to be true, then it will be reflected in our work.
Understand the Premise of Creation
Diversity is a biblical premise of creation. We are born with different gifts. This means that each of us has a distinct opportunity to contribute to the common good through our skills and our talents.
Understand How You Can Uniquely Bring Value to Others
Focusing on our talents allows us to unleash our comparative advantage and bring value to the marketplace by serving others. A market-based society, through voluntary trade and absent cronyism, allows us to best serve others by producing goods and services that we were created to produce.
Understand How to Bring Flourishing by Reducing Poverty
An opportunity society is essential to reducing poverty. If we care about building a society that reduces poverty, assists the poor, and advances flourishing, we should be concerned about creating a society that generates creativity and entrepreneurship, and allows everyone the opportunity to use their God-given gifts and talents.
Understand the Biblical Definition of Stewardship
We need to broaden and strengthen our definition of stewardship. Faithfulness to God requires Christians to embrace biblical principles and economic truths which radically alter our concept of stewardship. This includes embracing the marketplace as a God-given setting that allows us to better steward our scarce resources, including our time, energy, talents, and money.
Abraham Kuyper, the twentieth century Dutch politician, theologian, newspaper editor, and educator encouraged Christians to avoid being passive in their calling to be salt and light in the world. We shouldn’t be surprised when we encounter trials and tribulations in our lives and in our work. Like Eric Liddell, we need to strive to be obedient to the biblical principles that guide everything we do, even if it costs us in the short-term. As Kuyper once said,
When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.