Callings can feel weighty in our lives. How do you know it when you see it? Does it represent my worth and my role in this world? Let’s talk about your calling and purpose – 7 things to know from scripture that will take the pressure off and help you see God more clearly in it all.
Many of us tend to view callings or purposes this way:
A heroic welcome. Applause. An internal and external glow. A sense of accomplishment. A noble purpose, one that will tell off all the haters in our lives.
We expect to find that meaning of life at some point, and even work hard to get there, pursuing education or training or simply showing up again and again.
Meanwhile, when it comes down to it, it doesn’t happen quite so idyllically.
But it often is a lot less clear and a lot more work than we expected.
As we continue to pursue our purposes and our callings, there’s a few things we should make clear. These points will help us in our understanding toward what God wants us to do, and what we pursue in our lives.
Rather listen instead of read? Check out episode 15 of Called Into Being: What to Know About Callings and Purposes.
1. Your calling and purpose two different things.
Your purpose is what you were made to do.
Alternatively, your calling is a prompting toward a certain line of work or way of living. Faithfully, we call this a prompting of the Holy Spirit.
2. As human beings, we have the same purpose.
We glorify him in our everyday lives, get to know him intimately, and share him with others for the good. This is what we were made to do – so it makes sense that it fulfills us the most.
Verse after verse tells us that God wants us reunited with him. One of my favorites is Jeremiah 29:11-13. “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. Then you will call on 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.” Usually we stop after that first verse, right? But no – God’s whole purpose is to reconcile us to himself. So all the good he works in our lives is meant to lead us to the greatest good – being reunited with him.
3. Your callings are different from someone else’s.
We are called differently, equipped by God with different talents, experiences, and opportunities. Our overall goal is to glorify God and point others to him. We can do that in many ways – ministry, business, teaching, healing, arts, science, government.
I love that the Bible highlights so many various ways God’s people have served him. For example, there’s Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth in Acts 16; Bezalel, the chief artisan overseeing the construction of the Tabernacle in Exodus 31; the official in charge of the treasury of the Queen of Ethiopia in Acts 8.
4. Your calling may be for life, or may be for a season.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Then it lists out many different activities we undertake: mourning and dancing, planting and uprooting, tearing and mending. “A time to be born and a time to die.”
We go through seasons, just as the earth goes through seasons. Things just don’t stay the same.
Although our purpose remains the same, our callings may change, especially with season of life. Our needs change, our goals change, our perspective changes. Chances are, what you’re doing now won’t be what you’re doing forever. Or maybe it will shift to a different focus or method.
This is why, I believe, our callings don’t need to carry the same weight as our purpose (the one we’ve already established, which is knowing God and making him known). We tend to have this pressure to figure out our calling because we believe it’s all we’ll do our whole lives. But whether in the spiritual or secular realm, we often go through many seasons and different callings. That doesn’t have to cause stress or fear – we can trust that God will provide the opportunities to live out our purpose.
5. Your calling may or may not pay the bills.
Paul had seasons of supporting himself in the ministry by tent making, as we see in Corinth in Acts 18. It’s where he met Priscilla and Aquila, fellow tentmakers. I’m sure he would tell you his life’s work was preaching the Gospel – and in fact, that’s what he did every chance he got, going to synagogues to talk about Jesus with anyone who would listen. Bible commentaries suggest that he spoke the Gospel even in his workshop, with the many people with whom he came in contact. But he also made it his goal to set an example by working to provide for himself, so as not to become a burden to the churches.
It’s important to provide for ourselves. It’s important to live out our purpose of knowing God and making him known. They just – might not always go hand in hand. And that’s okay!
I used to think that the only thing worth doing was being on paid ministry staff. Both supporting myself, AND making God known. But God made it clear that that wasn’t my call in life – at least not in that season. He also opened up my eyes to the fact that I could serve him in whatever role or season I found myself in.
Maybe the ministry you start will always be a “side project” and never your career. Or maybe you will be able to do ministry full time. Either way, we can trust in the plan God has for us, and not discern something’s importance by how much money or influence come from it.
6. We each play our own parts and support each other.
In 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, Paul says that “the Lord has assigned each to his task.” In response to arguments over who follows who in the church, Paul says “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the now who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.”
Our work isn’t independent of what everyone else is doing. It’s not about who does what task or whose task is more impressive. And it is definitely not our efforts that make things happen. God rewards us, not based on our abilities or accomplishments, but on our obedience.
7. We are co-workers with God to build his kingdom.
It’s not about what we’re doing really at all. We contribute to what he’s building. He doesn’t need us to do the work – he allows us to participate in it with him.
1 Corinthians 5:5-9 talks about this: we are simply servants. We obey, doing the simple tasks, while God is the one who makes things grow. “For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (Verse 9)
In our society, that’s a loss. What about everything we’ve worked for? What about what we have amassed for ourselves?
God tells us – it was never about that. He’s not about efficiency or quarterly earnings or deadlines. It’s all about us being in relationship him. All other things lead to this. That is the real bottom line.
Also – what freedom! That God invites us into his abundance, so we don’t have to build something for ourselves. He invites us to rest and build with him – a get to, not a have to. Something that doesn’t depend on our own strength or ability.
As you consider your purpose and your calling, I hope these notes bring clarity. And even more than that – encouragement. Hope. A freedom to take messy and faithful steps forward in obedience.
Photos via Canva.