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If I am planning to take a cruise two years from now, but I don’t tell you anything about it, does that mean that I’m not planning it? If I’ve been saving for five years to buy myself a fancy new car, but I’ve never shared my dream with anyone, does that mean my dream doesn’t exist? In the Church today, the concept of a calling is widely misunderstood. God has all kinds of plans and purposes in mind for every human He creates. Yet many teachers in the Church erroneously tell you that God ALWAYS shares at least some of these plans and purposes ahead of time. Well, no, He doesn’t. God keeps the vast majority of His plans to Himself. Now and then He drops some human a hint about the general direction He wants their life to go in. When He does this, we say that that person has received a calling from God. We say that God “called” Jeremiah to be His prophet. But that calling was extremely vague. God did not download a comprehensive picture of what Jeremiah’s prophetic career would be like. He didn’t give the man visions of himself being beaten, ridiculed, hated by his friends, and thrown into a cistern. We humans are easily overwhelmed by negative images of the future, so when God hands out callings, He leaves a lot of information out.
You should view God’s callings like a man adjusting the rudder on his sailboat to make the thing change course. A man only moves the rudder when he feels that the boat is going in the wrong direction. If the boat is already sailing nicely on course, no changes need to be made. So also, when God is content with how your life is coasting along, He isn’t going to drop some grand calling onto your head. Does that mean He doesn’t have great plans for you? Of course not. God has plans for every life, and every life is like a sailboat that’s gliding through the water: we’re all in motion. We’re all going somewhere. Even when we feel stalled and stuck, God sees us as sailing down some particular course. When He likes how things are going, He doesn’t pipe up with a bunch of dramatic instructions.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re a subpar Christian just because you don’t have a calling. This is complete rot. God is just as excited about your life as He is about those He has called to be His prophets and priests. The reality is that some callings require a bunch of boot-camp style training to prepare for. If a prophet is going to excel in his calling and not turn into some egotistical windbag, he has to undergo some not-so-pleasant lessons about humility, submission, and reverence. When God calls a soul to be His prophet, He’s multitasking. He’s not just giving the person a heads up about the direction He’s planning to take them in, He’s also telling them to expect some special training. “Special” doesn’t mean “fun”. There’s nothing joyous about God teaching you how to learn to deal with people slandering you because you’re obeying Him. There’s nothing fun about having your face rubbed in reams of painful experiences so you can learn how to not buckle under the frustration of being constantly misunderstood by other Christians. So before you get all envious of someone’s calling, realize that callings cost. If God calls someone to climb Mt. Everest for Him, why should you be jealous? You’re down in the sunny meadows where there is plenty of oxygen and a bunch of pretty flowers. You’re not going to have to deal with frostbite, a lack of oxygen, and constant fatigue. Instead of pining after the unknown, enjoy the blessings of your own situation.
Every calling comes with blessings and hardships. When people rub their blessings in your face just to make you jealous that they’re “called” and you’re not, they’re acting like carnal twerps. When they go waving their hardships around like evidence that they’re so much more advanced than you are, they’re just flaunting how much growing up they still need to do. We Christians are not in competition with each other. You’re not in a race against spiritual superstars. It’s just you and God, alone in that sailboat. All you should be caring about is that your boat is on the course that He wants it to be on. God tells you that if you ask Him to have His total way in your life, He’ll make sure that your boat stays on course.
The mark of a successful life is not some dramatic testimony of the time that Jesus showed up in your bedroom to announce that you were some kind of chosen. If you want evidence of how pleasing you are to God, you need to look inside your own heart. How much do you care about pleasing God in life? What do you look forward to about Heaven: all the goodies you’re going to get, or seeing a pleased smile on God’s face as He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant”? You know how important pleasing God is to you. You know how serious you are about wanting Him to have His total way in your life. So does He. When you sincerely want God to be honored in your life, He is very pleased with you, and your little boat is right on track. You don’t need some calling to become pleasing in God’s sight.
Having a clear calling from God isn’t a guarantee of anything. Jonah had a calling and all he did was fight and kick and whine. Saul had a calling: to be the first king of Israel. He was such a rebellious yuck that Yahweh sent a demon to torment him. When Saul tried to seek God’s direction, God refused to talk to him because He was so fed up with Saul’s constant rebellion. Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu had very special callings: to be some of the first priests to serve Yahweh in His Tabernacle. They were so disobedient that Yahweh fried them to death. Samson was called to be a Nazirite: a dedicated Yahweh follower who would be a spiritual leader for Israel. Yahweh filled Samson with supernatural strength and performed many miraculous feats through him. How did Samson respond? By breaking every command Yahweh gave him and spending his whole life jumping in the sack with demon worshiping prostitutes. Nice. These are just some of the examples we find in the Bible of people who completely failed at their callings. A calling is just an opportunity to serve and honor God. There’s a big difference between being given an opportunity and using that opportunity well.
Every day that God wakes you up on this planet, He is giving you another opportunity to continue stoking the fire of your desire to please and honor Him with your life. Maybe you don’t feel a burning passion to do anything particular in life. Maybe you aren’t career oriented. Maybe you can’t scrape up the stamina to stick it out in school. So what? What do any of these things have to do with your internal response to God? God wants your heart, not a list of your earthly accomplishments. He isn’t impressed with manmade diplomas and hefty paychecks. The homeless man who is sincerely seeking God as he sits in some foul smelling alley can be every bit as pleasing to God as the rich CEO who really wants God to be honored with the decisions he makes. There isn’t some long list of prerequisites that you have to meet before you can be a great success in God’s eyes. There is no ideal temperament or personality or career. There is just you and God cruising along in that sailboat. He wants you to invite Him to take control of the rudder and take the boat wherever He wants it to go. He wants you to want Him to have His total way in your life. He wants to hear you asking Him to make Himself your all-consuming Love. You don’t need a specific calling to be a raving success in God’s eyes. You don’t need to get some sneak preview of His plans for you to know that He has them. Of course God has plans for you, and those plans are the only ones you want to experience. If you give Him what He wants, they will be.
Does God love us all the same?
Anointed: What it Does & Doesn’t Mean