I know, the word “calling” is overused. Yes, too often the conversations around calling are individualistic, subjective, and strictly emotional. But the term is still useful. When you consider your calling, what sort of things come to mind?
Considering your calling is not always easy. It’s not black and white or formulaic. Someone else’s calling is not your calling, and the means by which that other person discovered his or her calling won’t be the same for you. We’re all different. But some sort of practical guidelines can help you discern where to move forward with a calling or where to end it.
I’ve come up with five things below. News flash: These ideas aren’t original to me (But then again, which are?) but are merely things I’ve put together through learning from others.
Here are a few things to consider when you consider your calling:
1. Internal desires
What do you like to do? Write? Create music? Do you have a deep passion for economics or business or social justice?
Your desires cannot always be trusted, but they shouldn’t be ignored, either. God has wired you a certain way and your desires are not there on accident. They could be a God-ordained means to help you discover what you are meant to do.
Consider what you like to do. Is there any way you can glorify God and be a blessing to others with this desire?
2. External confirmation
What do other trusted family and friends think you should do? Getting feedback from others is crucial. We all have blind spots. Worse, most of us have an over-inflated view of how talented we truly are. We need humble pie. We need a dose of reality. We need true friends who can provide honest feedback.
You need multiple people to say to you, “Yeah, you’re good at that. I can see you doing that in your future. I think it’s wise of you to pursue that path.”
Will there be haters along the way? Probably. But don’t be that person who ignores everything everyone else has to say. That’s foolish. Sometimes you should overlook what others have to say, but most of the time, you should take heed to their advice (Proverbs 15:22). It takes wisdom and discernment to know when to accept advice and when to kindly ignore it.
If several people who are older, wiser, and more mature than you can affirm your internal desires for a calling, that’s a good sign to move forward. Get lots of honest feedback from others.
If your character doesn’t align with 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, you cannot be a pastor no matter how bad you want to. This is a non-negotiable. You can be a great doctor or musician or businessman with poor character, but not a pastor. Character is the chief prerequisite for the prospective pastor.
And character matters for other callings, too. Unending success without any trials and poor character leads to disaster. Before you start a business, go to grad school, or start a new initiative of some sort, assess your character. Check your heart. Better yet, have someone else help you. Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Don’t overthink this, but don’t neglect it. This will help you last in the long haul.
As you can tell, assessing your calling is not strictly up to you. Instead, you need to submit yourself to a body of people who can give you the truth and point you in the right way.
Once again, you need others to help assess your level of giftedness. The honest, raw, and difficult question to answer is this: “Are you good enough to do this thing that you want to do? Honestly? Are you?”
Best way to know this is to measure your current level of fruitfulness. If you put out a Mixtape or an EP (or whatever kids are calling it these days), and it gets a lot of sales and good feedback, this is probably a good sign you’re ready to create an album. Go for it. But if your Mixtape or EP flops, it is almost certainly an indicator that your album will fail if you release one. Work on your craft and get better before going forward.
Are there exceptions to this rule? Of course. There’s almost always an exception to every rule. Are there many examples? No. The ball doesn’t lie. The scale doesn’t lie. The numbers don’t (usually) lie. Assess you’re level of current fruitfulness to decide if you’re gifted enough or not.
Finally, you need an opportunity. You might say you need a breakthrough. You need connections, people who will speak well of you when you’re not around, and a good network. Why? Because this is how doors are open and opportunities made.
I heard someone say, “Calling is confirmed by circumstances.” Pay attention to what God is doing in your midst and how he is actively working in your life and the circumstances around you. When God calls, God provides. And he will help nudge you in the right direction, which is usually evidenced by your circumstances. Trust his providential workings and his ability to open opportunities on his timing.
This system is not perfect. And there’s certainly room for some disagreement on this. A good book that can help is Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will by Kevin DeYoung. I also have a few books under “Calling” in my Books Recommendations page that may help. I hope and trust that it will edify at least a few of you as you consider your calling from God.