What is My Vocational Calling?
James H. Lee | NOVEMBER 15, 2018 | 7 MIN READ
“Let’s go around and share our our names, schools, and majors.”
You probably have responded to this question hundreds of times. As students, you are often defined as what you study. But how many of us really know what we want to do?
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, American college students change their majors at least three times over the course of their college careers. Is it possible then to know what we want to do, let alone what God is calling us to do?
What should we consider when we think about calling and discernment? Does God care about what career I’m in? How do I figure all this out?
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:17)
BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES ON CALLING & DISCERNMENT
1) God does call people, primarily to salvation (1 Sam 3:4, Rom 8:28-30, Jude 1:1, etc.)
Before thinking about vocational calling, we must recognize that God calls people to live a spiritual or salvific (leading to salvation) life in Christ Jesus. We are to live lives worthy of the heavenly prize, with a goal above and beyond what we end up doing in our earthly lives.
2) God has given us a specific call to godly character (Micah 6:8, Matthew 22:36-39, 1 Peter 2:9, etc.)
God cares about who we are on the inside. Whether we become engineers, billionaires, famous, or just average does not matter to God. Our GPAs and salaries do not define us in the Kingdom. However, God does care greatly about whether our hearts are full of love, mercy, grace, patience, and goodness for Him and His people.
3) God’s calling is relevant to all parts of our lives (Genesis 1:28, Colossians 3:17, Romans 11:36, etc.)
While we orient our lives spiritually by being molded into godly character, God also wants us to live meaningful and godly lives in the world. We need to live our lives practically in response to Him, serving His Kingdom with our talents, desires, and resources. Stewardship and faithfulness are important to God, who wants to use all aspects of our lives for His glory.
4) God’s call is mostly discerned in an ordinary but prayerful life (1 Kings 19:11-13, Luke 22:39-41, etc.)
Sometimes I meet students who are looking for God to answer them dramatically and supernaturally. They are so ready to do what God may call them to do, only if the Lord will just show up like He did for Moses or other prophets of old.
But even the people who had the crazy miracles were never fully sure of what God is calling them to do. Even Moses kept doubting God.
God certainly can perform any miracles at any time. But that’s not up to us. What is up to us is to have a significant and consistent prayer life. How can we know what God is calling us to do, if we are not spending quality time with Him in quantity?
5) God’s call often leads us away from life of comfort and success (Esther 4:16, John 6:67-68, etc.)
No student I’ve met thinks God is calling him or her to live paycheck to paycheck. Everyone is aspiring to be doctors, lawyers, and CEOs. Sure, God used kings and queens. Yet He most often used ordinary people, like fishermen and tentmakers.
I’m not saying you should not go to medical school. But what I am saying though is that the arc of life toward which God calls us is downward. The world is so obsessed with upward social movement. Seek first the Kingdom, not the title.
6) No job is perfect - Only God is (Romans 3:10, Ecclesiastes 7:20, etc.)
The westernized culture that crowns individualism pushes us to find that perfect gig that matches all our desires perfectly. It’s as if we should love all aspects of our job big and small, all the time. If not, we deserve better. Such thinking is problematic.
Instead, we should remember that we are broken people living in a broken world. It’s OK if we don’t like some things about our jobs. It’s OK if we don’t get that dream job of ours right away — or perhaps ever. God enjoys it when we are grateful rather than entitled.
SO, DOES GOD CALL PEOPLE TO A SPECIFIC JOB? HOW CAN I DISCERN?
Here’s tough answer: Likely not. We are instruments of God, who cares mostly about our spiritual well-being. He uses all things to teach us to love Him and love others. In other words, God uses our jobs to sharpen his tools — us.
God doesn’t care that you become a doctor. He does care that you work hard and serve others in their medical needs, whether it’s by paying for their bills, sending a medical missionary, or performing surgery.
We don’t need to worry that we will somehow miss the mark when we choose our own careers. After all, our lives are primarily spiritual. But we should take our careers seriously to a point in which God works through us in our jobs.
The following tips may be helpful in discerning whether or what God is calling us to do vocationally.
Listen to the inner voice that is heard through significant and continual prayer
Ask the Holy Spirit for a sense of “rightness” for personal character and spiritual growth
Seek counsel from others, especially spiritually mature people in your life
Address the needs and sufferings of the world that break your heart for which you have adequate ability/situation to help
Remind yourself of the downward mobility of life that lets you bear daily and long-term cross
When discerning God’s will for your college major, jobs, or careers, you need again to remember that God mostly cares about your godly character. In continual and significant prayer, choose what makes you feel right with the Spirit’s discernment.
Choose what glorifies God and benefits the world. Do something that makes you happy – but not because of money and power, but because it makes Christ happy. Listen to spiritual people. Choose to serve, not be served.
James H. Lee is a college pastor at Young Nak Church in Los Angeles. He loves reading theology, listening to rap, and taking naps.