I walked upstairs into what felt like a cold cafeteria. The floor was made of tile, the walls were painted white, and the room felt sanitized. Come to think of it, it kind of smelled sanitized. I guess they had just cleaned it. I was seventeen years old, and this was my first trip back to the old youth room in my church. I had forgotten how cold that room could get, and now, without the coke machine, traffic light and movie posters, it seemed colder.
That day was the first in a series of classes on the topic of “calling.” By the end of the class, the head pastor would hand out certificates to all of the “called.” The purpose of the gathering was to consider what a “calling” looks like and to discover if you were one of the special people God was going to pick—I guess for His playground dodgeball team. I really wanted to be on the team, and so did a lot of other people. That’s why the meeting had been moved into the old youth room. They needed more space to host all of the people who were searching for the call of God.
For Christians, the concept of finding a job can be even more confusing than for those outside the faith. There’s a deeper longing within us than just the desire for a purposeful and fulfilling occupation. Christians are also searching for God’s will for their lives because we believe that God should have something to say about our futures. We think the choice of a job is not fully up to us.
But what if God never tells us what he wants us to do? What are we supposed to do if God seems eerily silent whenever we ask him to tell us what he wants for our lives?
That’s what happened to me. Although I raised my hand at the end of calling class and received the, “I’m called to ministry certificate,” I didn’t actually hear God call me to something specific. But by the end of the class, I felt like I should receive a specific calling on my life, and it would be just a matter of time before God told me what it was.
A decade later, however, I was frustrated with God. Ten years had passed since “calling class,” and God still hadn’t told me what to do. I had heard, that if you don’t know something Google it. So I did. I figured that if God wasn’t telling me what to do, maybe Google would. So I Googled, “What is God’s will for my life?” A moment later, I was looking at a list of links, and I clicked on the first one. I came to a list of Bible passages. Here were a few of the verses listed:
1. 1 Thessalonians 4:3, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.”
2. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
3. 1 Peter 2:15, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”
What?! I had been searching for the will of God for I don’t know how long—and the entire time it was right here in the Bible! I realized that I had been so concentrated on the search for writing in the sky, that I had missed the writing in my hands. It made me wonder what else I’d missed, and what other callings might exist.
Over the next few days, I discovered something really important—God’s calling on our lives is not to a specific job but instead to a specific way of living.
As I began to process this new perspective that God had given me, a natural question came up—a question that you may be wondering too. What about all of the examples in the Bible of “specific calling?” What can we learn from those stories?
Let’s take a quick look at Noah, Abraham, Jonah, and Paul, and see what we can glean from their specific callings.
Noah: Noah was called to build the ark and rescued the world. Uh wow! Talk about a big deal. Yet if we examine Noah’s story closely, we discover something interesting. The whole ark thing, was actually a very small part of Noah’s story. According to the Bible, Noah was around 500 years old when God told him to build the ark. The Bible also tells us what Noah did for the 500 years leading up to his “specific” calling. “Noah was a righteous man who walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). The whole ark thing? Was like a sixth of Noah’s life. It lasted a few years. The bigger story was that Noah was a righteous man who walked with God. I wonder if that’s supposed to be the big story of our lives too?
Look at Abraham—was Abraham called to a specific job? No. He was called to move to a specific land. God did not call Abraham to a specific job. God called Abraham to move to a specific place, and to honor God with the way he lived his life.
Consider Jonah—If you want to be specifically called by God, you should go back and read the story of Jonah. Jonah wanted nothing to do with what God called him to do. Instead, Jonah got on a boat and sailed away from his calling. He tried to get to the far side of the known world so that he didn’t have to do what God called him to do. But God forced Jonah to obey, and after Ninevah repents, Jonah’s specific calling is completed.
Finally, look at Paul. Even Paul was a tentmaker. Were there towns where Paul didn’t make tents? Probably. But the very mention of Paul’s trade is a compelling example of the point we are discussing—that God’s specific calling is not to a specific occupation, but to a specific way of living.
God may call you to do something specific, and if he does, you better do it or you might be swallowed by a big fish. Okay, it may not be that extreme. But I don’t think you and I should be focused on pursuing a specific call to a specific job. Instead, you and I should be like Noah, Abraham and Paul—focused on walking with God. And if we do that—if we focus on walking with God, instead of on discovering a specific calling for our lives—we may get to a point where God sees our obedience, and asks us to do something specific.