Will finding your calling solve it all?

come to me

There is a lot of talk these days about fulfillment and purpose.  We have been asked since childhood, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and high school guidance counselors help us set life goals and pick the best college for our dreams.  Many of us change[d] our majors in college at least once, and upon graduating have no job or or even dream job in mind.  We have been told that we can be whatever we want to be, we have idolized world changers, and we have been given inflated grades and false awards – thus believing ourselves to be extremely important and valuable.  Therefore, when all we can find is entry-level work and are expected to do unpleasant duties at an even more unpleasant payout, we are frustrated.

Multilevel marketing plans and self-entrepreneurialism have exploded in the last few years for just this reason.  We want to make our own hours, be our own bosses, and determine our own success!  We think this freedom and quick success will make us happy.

We also spiritualize the dilemma.  What does God have for my life?  If I could just find my calling, then I would be happy and fulfilled.

But the reality is, this is a symptom of a bigger problem:  we are looking for something other than God to satisfy and fulfill us.  Jesus promises us:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

– Matt 11.28

He also teaches us,

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

– John 14.6

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

– John 10.10

Jesus Himself is the way.  He does not promise to show us the way to God, or to joy, or to life, He Himself is the way.  He came so that we may have life and so that we may have abundant, full life.  And everyone who comes to Him will find rest.  If we approach Jesus as a means to an end, we have completely missed the boat.  He is the end.  Loving Him.  Glorifying Him.  Exalting Him.  Serving Him.  Resting in Him.  Enjoying Him.  By abiding in Him, our lives have purpose and joy and peace – even in the midst of sorrow, tragedy and difficulty.

Jesus plus anything is nothing.  Jesus does not offer us salvation and freedom from sin in order to help us have a good life or point us on to some extra calling or greater destiny.  Jesus is our calling and destiny.  If we want to use Him to get a better life, we have not only missed the point, but we have robbed the Gospel of its beauty and joy.  Jesus + anything = not the Gospel.  This is why Paul adamantly teaches,

“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!  As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”

– Gal 1.8-9

So what, then, is a life calling?  How then do we know what God would have us to do for a job, in our day-t0-days?  What does this mean practically?

First and foremost, this gives us a great freedom that is terrifying to some.  We are taught that not only is it possible, but we should strive to glorify God in everything that we do:  eating, drinking, working, playing, everything:

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

– 1 Cor 10.31

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.”

– Col 3.23

We will find our satisfaction and contentment in our relationship with God, not in what exactly we are doing.  We can do mundane jobs to the glory of God.  If we find our pleasure in Him, then the job will become nothing more than an act of service to Him and we will not be left feeling empty.  The exhortation Paul gives is in the context of telling slaves to honor their masters and to do their duty as slaves as unto God.  He is speaking to people in much worse situations that most of us find ourselves.

Secondly, there are also special giftings that God gives for the sake of the church:

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.  And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.  There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.  But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

– 1 Cor 12.4-7

God enables people in each church body to meet the present needs and to serve one another all to His glory.  We are not given gifts for our own personal benefit, and we are not called to a role in ministry for success, fame or the job.  God is seeking the best of the Church and thus chooses to utilize us.  We cannot be selfish or selective with how we utilize the abilities and gifts he has given us.  There will be times that someone is given the gift of teaching and wisdom, yet the Church body is unable to support him financially – thus he will need to work a job outside of the Church while he utilizes his gift of teaching.  Most giftings are expected to be utilized in the Church without any financial return or even recognition.  This is good and right, as our goal should be to glorify God by utilizing the skills He has given us by serving one another.

Thirdly, we have all been given the same, great calling:

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

– Matt 28.18-20

Jesus has given us all the same, great commandment.  No one is exempt from this commandment.  It was His final words, His closing command, what has now become known as the “Great Commission”.  We are all commissioned to make disciples.   We will all do that in different ways.  Some of us will leave home and country, to teach people of a different tribe, tongue and nation to know, love and obey Jesus.  Some of us will work jobs in the normal workforce, teaching our coworkers and business partners to know, love and obey Jesus.  Some of us will be stay at home moms teaching our kids to know, love and obey Jesus.

We will only find satisfaction and joy in Jesus Himself.  He has given us a single commandment:  to make disciples by teaching others to know, love and obey Him.  Within those two confines, everything else is personally adaptable, such that the command can clearly be stated:  whatever you do, do your work heartily unto God – and whether you eat or drink do all to the glory of God.  He may give us special giftings and a unique vision to spearhead a new and unique movement or ministry.  He may also place us at a secretarial desk or in the medical field, business world or in service.  Any job can and should be done to His gory and honor – and when it is done so, we will be fulfilled.  Not because of the job itself, but because of the relationship and pleasure found in God.

Lastly, you might find that you have been given a passion for God and disciple making and gifted with a unique skill set that would lend you to the pastorate, missions, or what church people call “vocational ministry”.  It is not wrong to pursue these kinds of jobs or positions, but if God sees fit to keep you in a non-church type job for a while, or asks us to utilize those gifts in the Church without compensation and thus needing to work another job, let us do so joyfully and as unto the Lord.

What is your calling?  You are called to know and love Jesus Christ, and to do everything unto His glory and honor.  Let us seek to find our joy and satisfaction in Him alone, and not in our personal vocation or phase of life.  We have all been sent out to make disciples wherever we are, and in whatever job or life circumstance we find ourselves.  If we are left feeling empty and unfulfilled in our day to day, before we start questioning our vocation, let us start examining our relationship with God.

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The Final Report.

don't waste your life

What are you doing with your life?  Are you on the path to financial security?  Do you have your 401k set up, putting in the max every year so that you can retire comfortably?  Are you paying off your house and saving up your pennies so that one day, when you are too tired to want to do anything, you will be able to do whatever you want?  I am a 32 year old newly wed who lives in Denver, CO and this affords me a unique opportunity to watch a micro sect of our society closely:  the millennials trying to make sense of life.

I am from the midwest, and most of my high-school and college friends are married, ten years into their careers, with a few kids, a house and a dog.  But cities like Denver attract those who have most fully bought into the pervasive mindset of our generation that our education demands that we be rewarded with high paying jobs, and these jobs are those that have meaning and purpose.  Those whom we idolize the most are those who were able to innovate and/or create a solution to a world problem, and get rich doing so.  We have spent 16-20 years of our lives in school learning how to be critical thinkers who value our own opinions, and we want to be clever and get paid well for being clever.  Now, as we rapidly approach middle-age, our crises will be based more on the question, “Have I done anything meaningful?” rather than the sadness of having missed out on life.

We will have mid-life crises.  They will just look different from that baby-boomers’ crises.  Sure, some of us will divorce and marry a young person, some of us will buy expensive toys, but many of us will quit our jobs and start a new business, get involved in philanthropy and look for our position to change and impact the world.

“The long, dull, monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather for the devil.”

– C. S. Lewis

But while our trials and struggles might be fueled by different passions, this is still an extremely dangerous time.  As we begin to grapple with our mortality and the meaning of life, we will try to fill it up with self-affirming achievements.  But as Christians, we know that when we die we will meet our maker and we will give an account for everything that we have done:

So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.

– Rom 14.12

“[God] will render to each one according to his deeds.”

– Rom 2.6

And if our goal, as Christians, is to hear God say,

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

– Matt 25.23

then we can evaluate every action that we do here on the Earth by this simple question,

Is this glorifying to God?

Scripture gives us a few broad outlines for our daily tasks.  For instance, Paul teaches us that the man who does not provide for his family is the worst kind of man out there:

“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

– 1 Tim 5.8

This does not mean that you have to be the most wealthy family on the block, but it does mean that men should not be lazy and should be diligent to provide for and take care of their responsibilities.  This is honoring to God.  We also know what God defines as sin, and we know how Christians are supposed to act.  It is rooted in love for God and for our neighbors (Matt 22.37-39), and it is expressed in controlling our tongues (James 1, 4) and controlling our actions (Eph 4-5).

And Jesus gave us a singular commandment as He was leaving the world to return to Heaven:

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

– Matt 28.18-20

Are you making disciples?  Wherever you are, even if you are squarely planted in the Bible belt, are you introducing people to Jesus and teaching them how to obey Him?  Jesus gave us an assignment, and He will be the judge when we reach eternity’s gate.  Will you pass?  Will you be affirmed, “Well done”?  Or will He say, “I gave you one thing to do and you never did it!”?

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

– C. S. Lewis

It is good for us to long to have meaning in our lives.  My generation has been groomed to desire purpose and satisfaction in meaningful work.  But let us be mindful to harness that energy and passion to focus on the glory of God and not our own personal legacy.  Because we will all die and we will all be forgotten.  But what we have done in obedience to God and unto His glory alone will last.  Aim not to leave a legacy for mankind to venerate you, but for God to be honored.

What report do you want to give when you meet Him, face to face?

Even this will not satisfy.

white house

On Friday, the supreme court justices voted 5-4 to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.  And the nation has been responding all weekend long.  I have barely checked the news and my facebook because it seems to be the only topic about which people are talking.  Happiness.  Celebration.  Anger.  Lamentation.  Lashing out.  Finger pointing.  Almost everyone is responding, and we all need to be able to articulate our positions well.  Most of my heroes have responded, and so much has already been written on the topic that I wondered if I should enter the fray, but there is one facet to this conversation that I fear is being overlooked:  Satisfaction.

Traditional catechisms verbalize well for us the purpose of man:

To know God and enjoy Him forever.

Jesus said it like this,

“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”

 – John 10.10

“I am the way, the truth and the life.  No man comes unto the Father except through me.”

 – John 14.6

Jesus boldly and unashamedly proclaimed to the world that He came some that we can have full, satisfying life, and that He is the only way to have that satisfying life.  People are searching for satisfaction and fulfillment, Jesus proclaims that we can only find it in Him, yet we search the world for pleasures:  entertainment, relationships, toys, meaning in life through helping others, sex, food, etc.  I live in a city which has a remarkably, and abnormally large single’s population, and many of those singles are frantically looking for a spouse.  Even within the church, there is a sense that life is incomplete without a spouse, and the married people within the church unfortunately have a tendency to encourage that worldview.  This is such a problem, in fact, that many people choose their church based on the number of singles who attend.  We would never consider joining a church that had few singles, because the dating pool would be so small!

So here were are in a [church] culture that has taught us we need to be married, being single is a curse, we do not know how to involve and relate to single people, and silently teaching people that they are incomplete without a spouse.  And at the same time we are seeing a multiplying number of openly homosexual people in our world and even in our churches.  So is it any surprise, then, that they would think a sexual and even marital relationship will complete and fulfill them?

The core of the problem is simple:  God did not create us for a spouse.  He created us for Himself.  If anyone enters into a marital relationship looking for satisfaction and fulfillment, they will be looking to receive from their spouse what only God can give.  They will be disappointed, they will think that they have failed, and they will spend the rest of their life wondering what happened, going to counseling and marriage conferences trying to make it better, or they will divorce and look for that “soul mate” who does not exist.  It is only when we find our satisfaction, meaning and fulfillment in Christ that we can have full marriages.

The homosexual community has pushed to have the right to legally marry and be viewed by employers, healthcare companies and the world as a married couple.  Having an unbiblical view of marriage, they cannot enter into a marital relationship having found peace and satisfaction in God first.  In short, they will be disappointed.  Some will stick it out to the end and some will move on to look for something else that will satisfy, and this is where the Church must be ready to respond.

First of all, we must remember that people need Jesus.  We have all sinned, and no matter the type or depth of our sin, if we do not come to Jesus for forgiveness and salvation, there is absolutely no benefit to fighting sinful tendencies.  In short, we should not waste our time trying to convince someone that the Bible teaches marriage between a man and a woman if someone does not believe in Jesus:  the conversation is moot.  Until we are able to agree that God is the authority and that Scripture is His truth, it does not matter what the Scripture says, quite frankly.  Because even if we do an exhaustive study on marriage and the will of God, if the second party is convinced that the Bible does in fact teach heterosexual marriage but does not know Jesus, we have done him no benefit.  He needs to know Jesus first.

Secondly, we must remember that we all have walked in sin, and when we came to Christ for salvation, we all had to lay down those sins of temptation.  Perhaps yours was not homosexuality, but Scripture says that those who covet (those who get jealous and want what other people have) will not be allowed into Heaven.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, noreffeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.  Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

 – 1 Cor 6.9-11

We all were looking for something to satisfy our lusts until we met Jesus.  Some might have the same inclination and you, and others will have different drives than you.  Jesus can redeem and forgive them all.  When people realize that their lifestyles are not fulfilling them, we must be ready to point them to Jesus:  the life.

Lastly, we must stand firm on the truth.  If we stand in silence, then we will in essence give affirmation.  After, and only after someone has come to Christ for salvation do we begin the work of accountability and dying to sin.  When people come to Jesus we have to make Him the Lord of our lives:  He is in charge.  He gets the final say.

“…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved…”

 – Rom 10.9

You will only be saved by allowing Jesus to have the final say.  And we can know what God has to say from reading His Word, the Bible.  Therefore, once Jesus is made Lord, we being teaching people how to read the Bible, understand it and apply it.  God says that people who are jealous will not enter the Kingdom of God.  Therefore, we must fight jealousy.  God also says that people who practice homosexuality will not enter the Kingdom of God.  Therefore, we must fight homosexual urges.  God also says that drunkards, and people who have sex outside of marriage, and people who hate others will not enter the kingdom of Heaven.  Therefore we must not get drunk, we must not have sex outside of marriage and we must love one another.  Not to earn salvation, but to prove ourselves to have made Jesus the Lord of our lives.  If He is not Lord, then we are not saved.  And for Him to be Lord, we have to do what He says.  But we will all fail along the way, so we walk in grace to help people (and ourselves) recognize their tendencies and fight them.

Even this will not satisfy.  Only  Jesus can satisfy.  If you are looking for fulfillment in anything else, you will be disappointed.  And marriage is one of the biggest eye openers to this reality.  People disappoint.  All people.  Only God will bring joy and peace.  So let us boldly and unashamedly offer this gift to a hurting world.  Let’s not get caught up on the secondary issues, but let’s point people to Jesus first.  Then, after they have come to Him for salvation, let us diligently seek the word and help one another grow in maturity in Christ – putting away the sin and flesh and putting on Christ.