“What is my calling?”
“What should I study?”
“What does God want me to do with my life and career?”
“Where should I go to college?”
“What job should I take?”
These are probably familiar questions to you. Questions about calling can be asked in many ways, and they apply to every stage of life. The Lord has given everyone gifts with a drive to use them. We all know the struggle to understand our strengths, believe in them, and use them successfully.
Almost everyone knows this pursuit because we come most alive when we are pursuing who God has created us to be. Even though most people try to discern their calling, many people misunderstand what calling really means.
Called to More than Work
Most commonly, we mistake calling to mean our work. Calling is not limited to or equal to work. First and foremost, the primary or general meaning of calling is to be faithful and responsive to the Lord in all areas of life. We do this through whole-life stewardship, a concept we will address in a later module. In his book The Call, Os Guinness defines calling in this way:
Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with special devotion, dynamism, and direction lived out as a response to his summons and service.
Before we devote ourselves to a job or role, as Christians, we should devote our lives to God. Before he calls us to a job, God calls us to himself. That is and always will be our greatest call. Our answer to this call should inform and transform every area of life.
Called to More than Ourselves
Calling in the New Testament is almost always a call out of an old way of life and into a new one. I Peter 2:9 says that God has “called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (see also Rom. 1:6–7, 8:28, and 8:30). Following Jesus means we should live a different kind of life. It means we seek to bring glory to his name and not to our own name—to please him in every decision, not our selfish selves.
One Main Calling that Guides Everything Else
Since the call is all-encompassing, there are various particular, or secondary, callings that are under this umbrella term of general calling. All particular callings flow from our calling to a relationship with God.
General Calling – Relationship with God
Particular callings: Family | Citizen | Church | Work
Different words refer to particular and general callings, which can often become confusing. The word “call” comes from the Greek word kaleo, which means “to call.” The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word vocare, also meaning “to call.” Calling and vocation are the same word from different roots. “Vocation” is often used to refer to our calling to specific work.
No matter the terminology used, the most important emphasis of calling is directing our whole being toward our Lord. We should be doing that in our work and in every other area of our lives.
God certainly calls us to several different roles in our lives, but one aspect of our particular calling should never take precedence over the others. For instance, our work should never consume our time for family, devotional time, church, and so on.
Neither should our involvement in church, family, or community make it impossible for us to be faithful to our responsibilities in the other spheres.
This also applies to family and community involvement. There is always a way to be faithful to what God has called us to be, no matter how challenging it may be to find that way.
What Is God Calling You to Do?
You probably won’t receive a text message or an email telling you precisely what God wants you to do. If only it were that easy! God calls everyone in different ways. Many times, he provides opportunities to pursue things you enjoy and are good at doing while he closes the door to other opportunities.
Sometimes, though, he may be calling you to a particular activity or role and the path to get there is difficult, requiring failure or mistakes before success.
Spending time praying and listening to God through his word is an important spiritual discipline to determining your calling. God speaks to us through our quiet time with him and through his scripture. God often speaks through others too, who can wisely affirm and encourage us in the way we should go.
We shouldn’t expect an overtly mystical experience every time God calls us to action in our lives. Instead, we should remain open and eager to discern the path he leads us to.
Editor’s Note: For help finding and developing the strengths of a young person in your life, consider IFWE’s homeschool curriculum developed by Art Lindsley, Understanding God’s Calling, available in the IFWE Bookstore. Though designed for high-school aged homeschool students, the course is well-suited for other ages and various educational settings.