How I figured out my calling
There's a balance between these two:
"What's my calling?"
The delicate line that we balance as Christians is between (1) seeking God first and foremost, and (2) walking in the specific calling for each of our lives.
- On one side of the line is thinking we need to seek God in a very general, ambiguous sense but not really do anything with our lives. But to that I argue, "Why wouldn't God just zap us up to Heaven if He didn't want us to do anything with our lives?" And then, why would He equip us with His Spirit living inside of us? See, before you receive Jesus, a mediocre life is absolutely an option. But after you start living for God, living the majority of the week for a paycheck for some dumb job...that's not an option. Everyone doesn't need to aim to be the next Hillsong worship leader, but every Christ follower should be GREAT in their own unique way while developing their own unique gifts.
I believe every Christian has a general calling to walk with God daily:
One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. Psalm 27:4
AND I believe every Christian has a very specific calling on their lives. It's not just the people on stages that have specific callings and the gifts to achieve that purpose. See: Romans 12:5 and 1 Corinthians 12:28
There's a big question mark about whether or not people have a specific calling in life. But let me ask you, when you see your favorite band or football player or speaker doing their thing, do you wonder if they have a real calling to what they're doing? Or are you inspired that they are living the dream, their specific dream? I'm the latter group. It's clear to me that Carl Lentz was made to preach. It's clear to me that NEEDTOBREATHE was made to create music. It's clear to me that Chip + Joanna Gaines were made to create beautiful homes. It's clear to me that my friend Ashley Ondrick (@amostlyhealthychef) was made to cook! I have no doubt about any of those things.
Yet, when I think about my own calling, it's easy to wonder, "Maybe God wasn't sure what to do with me. Maybe that's why I don't know my calling." And that's a flat-out lie. You DO have a specific calling, and God will reveal that to you as You seek Him.
Now going back to my the first point...
2. On the other side of the line is thinking our specific calling is our identity, i.e. the false belief that God loves me more when I do something for Him. Even if that "something" is holy, it's simply a lie that God would love you any more than He already does.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
1 John 3:1
We don't become mature and do what God wants out of a need to earn His love. We become and do out of a firm foundation that His love for us doesn't grow or weaken. We become and do because He is so brilliant that when He decided on our existence, He already knew how He would use our lives to glorify Him.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations*.
*Jeremiah's specific calling was as a prophet.
While it's a delicate balance that often feels like walking in two gravitational force fields simultaneously, here's where I am with my own journey of accepting my identity and pursuing my calling.
When I was 10 years old, I tried to take my own life. But God stopped me. In that moment, He told me He loved me, and that word "love" meant something I never felt before. It was as real as the air I breathe. It was a love that cried when I cried and danced when I had a victory, big or small. God's love meant something that no human love ever taught me.
As I began spending more time with God through prayer, reading the Bible, and listening to God's voice, He began to speak to me about my future. God told me to begin journaling my feelings, the circumstances I was going through, and the victories and heartaches I experienced. He told me to do so because He would use my writing to reach millions of people for salvation.
But life didn't get easier until after it got harder. I began following God when I was 10 years old, but life circumstances made it a terribly difficult walk. The Enemy was trying to steal my passion and faith so I would not become who God was forming me to be. The Enemy wanted to stop my ministry before it began by squashing me as a baby Christian.
It's an interesting analogy that we often use in Christianity: the spiritual life being compared to a physical life. When you begin walking with the Lord, you are termed a "baby Christian". Similar to a physical baby, you just need to be held and comforted. You have no deep understanding of life. You just giggle and cry a lot randomly, and life feels like a tornado. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:
I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it.
But as I matured in faith and started making the tough decisions to leave behind the foolishness of my teenage years (both literal and spiritual), I started focusing more on becoming who I was meant to be, and that becoming stemmed from who I already am -- a child of God.
When I was young I questioned my value a lot. Because of a rough childhood, I had a hard time believing that I was loved by a perfect God and that He had a purpose for my life. I was like a baby who couldn't comprehend love yet. And later in my life, I was like a teenager who couldn't recognize God's discipline was coming from love. When God asked me to turn away from sin and all the stupid stuff I was doing, it felt like he was depriving me of "fun", but as I matured I realized He had a better life planned for me. (Proverbs 3:12)
But today, I don't question whether or not God really loves me. Just as an adult doesn't have to question whether or not his parents love him. Or at least, not typically in American culture. And just as an adult understands the disciplines of showering, brushing teeth, etc., I don't question God's daily disciplines for my spiritual life. These things bring me closer to God and are accompanied by peace, abiding joy, patience, growing in faith...all good things. Sometimes I still debate whether or not I should spend time with God in the morning, kinda like when I want to get in bed without brushing my teeth -- don't lie; you do it, too -- but I know it's good for me, so I do it even when I don't feel like it. (Honestly, not 100% of the time, but you catch my drift...)
As I got older and matured, I began diligently asking God to show me His purpose for my life. If life was just about being loved by Him, that was fine, but I felt like He had deeper plans. Over the course of a few years, He unfolded a wild plan for my life. Things I couldn't imagine for myself, especially in the state I was in:
- A worldwide ministry
- NYT best-selling author
- International speaker
"Why me, God?"
Couldn't You choose someone who isn't so damaged? Someone who has led a cleaner life than I have? Someone with a milder temper, more self-control, better role-models, etc.? Wouldn't it be easier to use someone less like me and more like YOU?
but God said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'
1 Corinthians 12
seek + find
In 2002, an all-time best-selling book was published that was life-changing for a lot of Christians, including myself.
You can score this book for about $19 -- I highly recommend it! (Amazon affiliate; see footnote)
This book is the reason you've heard the verse below:
'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'
This verse meant so much to me as a new believer. It was assurance that I wasn't an accident. Assurance that I was protected. Assurance that I didn't need to fear the future. In my childhood, that was quite literally EVERYTHING to me.
As I matured in faith, I found the next two verses just as fruitful as the first:
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
As the days after my toughest day in life became years of following the Lord, walking alongside Him every day, hearing His voice... I relied more on these verses. I relied on knowing that I will find God when I seek Him with all of my heart. Not part of my heart. Not just on Sundays. Not when it's easy and convenient. When I seek God with all of my heart, He reveals Himself to me.
My focus shifted from the "newborn" Christian, who just needed love, to learning how to seek His face and find His specific purpose for my life. To become all that He desired me to become and to do all that He created me to do. Ephesians 2 says:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Yesterday in our worship service, we sang a song by Bethel titled "King of My Heart" and one line of that song seized my attention:
You're never gonna let me down
God spoke to me: "You're never gonna let me down" is a challenge to really pray the audacious prayers that God has whispered into the depths of my heart. Singing those words is a call to belief. Not believing the minimum of what I need to merely survive, but believing the wildest dreams that He's placed in my heart - the calling, the ministry, the gifts that have to grow within me.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
***This is one of my all-time favorite verses of all time...ever :)
See, in my prayer life I often fall back to "God, can You just do (this little thing)?" "Can You jusssst give me ____?" Just enough. Not really anything to thrive on, but just enough to barely maintain a minimal life. Sometimes I pray like I don't want to ask for everything He's told me, because if He doesn't come through, He's "letting me down". Exactly opposite of the song I belted out yesterday morning.
But His promises in Scripture are:
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
That sounds pretty definitive! LOL!
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
-Jesus, John 10:10
God is practically begging us to ask for miracles! His glory is seen when weak, sinful people (like me) allow His power to do more than anyone would believe I could do on my own. To live a BEYOND kind of life. To believe that He is who He says He is and He can do what He says He can do!
He is +He can!
I believe I will see:
- God's specific purpose for me fulfilled! Authorship, speaking events, NYT Best-seller -- I'm calling it true in Jesus' name! (Psalm 138:8)
- My most productive work week in Jesus' name (Spoken to me yesterday)
- Psoriasis cured in Jesus' name (Isaiah 53:5)
- Broken hearts healed in Jesus' name (Psalm 147:3)
- Surrounded by the righteous in Jesus' name (Psalm 142:7)
- Enemies will scatter in Jesus' name (Psalm 68)
- My marriage will thrive in Jesus' name (Ephesians 5:33)
- Financial freedom & prosperity in Jesus' name (Proverbs 10:22)
God can + He will. Do you believe?
God, strengthen my belief in You. I repent for often falling back into a lack of belief. I repent for ever asking You for "just enough". Your Word says, "What kind of Father when asked for fish to eat gives His child a snake? How much more will Your Heavenly Father provide goodness to you, if you ask?" (Matthew 7) So Lord, I ask for extravagant belief. I ask that each day, You will show me how to overcome disbelief and defeat the lies of the Enemy. Give me desire for the Word - the Sword - that I may slay the lies of the Enemy and feast off Your love letter to me. I also ask that You strengthen my belief in your specific calling on my life. Lead me to invest the time needed to develop my gifts and talents. May my focus be on You first, never overshadowed by my calling. I ask all this for myself and my friends reading this now. In Jesus' mighty name.