Finding your vocation

By Fredric A. Carlson

Are you having difficulty finding a vocation that provides and serves God? My heart goes out to you. I, too, have personal and sad experience in feeling unsuccessful in my main life work. So, from experience I also can say, take heart. The Holy Spirit loves to help those who from the heart want to please God with their work.

I cannot tell you whether God has a different vocation in mind for you, but I can suggest ways for you to find out if He does.

First, there are several possible causes for feeling unsuccessful where you are:

1. A faulty definition of success, or unrealistic expectations. For example, the world's unbiblical view of success, which says that we are not successful unless we become rich, famous, or Number 1 in that line of endeavor, is faulty.

2. Timing. As George Bailey learned in the movie, It's A Wonderful Life, true success may take a lifetime to develop, and it may look very different from what we imagined at the beginning.

3. Depression. If our minds and emotions are chemically out of kilter, we cannot view anything realistically. Everything looks dark, even though observers may see us accomplishing our purposes quite well.

4. Other-giftedness. Some people try to do work for which God did not give them natural ability ("giftedness"), or for which they have not been fully prepared.

5. Wrong attitude. Some people limit their effectiveness by holding harmful attitudes or by acting out character flaws that shoot themselves in the foot by damaging the relationships that are necessary for usefulness. In my experience, anyone feeling less than successful would show wisdom by asking others who know him well to reflect with him on how successful or unsuccessful in his vocation he really is.

The Bible does give foundation blocks about work and vocation:

1. Work is good. Since God invented work as soon as He created man (Genesis 1:28; 2:15, 20), purposeful work must be a basic part of life, and it must have been part of the goodness that God built into His creation (Genesis 1:31).

2. Weeds are real. The effects of man's fall into sin are what handicap work, making it distastefully hard and less than productive (Genesis 3:1719). Some of this lack of success connects with what I mentioned in points 1, 3, 4, and 5 of the previous paragraph. Fortunately, sin and some of its consequences are correctible by God's grace.

3. Working for good is good work. All good work provides some useful, meaningful service to someone. Only in such service does anyone truly earn a living. Jesus is our best example of combining a serving spirit with activity. See John 4:34 and 13:117. By the way, when Jesus was about to breathe His last breath, He exclaimed from the cross, "It is finished!" It is not likely that many of those who heard Him, even among His friends, recognized the triumph He was expressing at having succeeded over every barrier to finish the great work of atonement that He came to Earth to accomplish. Few then thought Him to be "successful"! Since God designed us to be workers, He loves to guide His trusting believers into usefully productive service.

4. Let God define success. As Paul taught even the slaves of his day (Ephesians 6:6 and Colossians 3:22), we need to let God decide how successful we are in our service. True, we can learn something about the effectiveness of our service from those we serve. But since only God can evaluate our hearts and the lives of those we serve, only He knows with full accuracy just how useful we are in doing the work for which He designed us to assist Him in working out His story.

I highly recommend What Color Is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley CA). While every year he updates the resource section of this classic on vocational guidance, the information that you may find most useful is included in all of the editions from the mid-1990s until now. You should be able to find the book at reasonable cost new or used in many bookstores and online, or at any library. Do not overlook Bolles' section on "How to Find Your Mission in Life." Bolles got into vocational guidance through his counseling work as a pastor, and since he specialized in New Testament studies in seminary (after earning degrees from MIT and Harvard), he works from a substantially biblical viewpoint. While the book is helpful to anyone attempting to identify his best vocation, it is most useful to mid-life-career changers, or those who are considering such. I recommend the book for three reasons: It contains a good means to measure your occupational effectiveness, It can help you recognize whether you are in your best kind of work now, And it provides a fine method that God can use to guide you into any change that He may have in mind for you. If you approach it prayerfully, carefully evaluate its Bible references, and prayerfully follow each step of his "Road Map," you should find it as useful as millions of others have, including myself and a number of people who have warmly thanked me for introducing them to it.

Keep in mind this thought: while career is very, very important, it is even more important to worship and trust Jesus Christ at the very center and foundation of your life, for His sake (1 Corinthians 10:31). We may not use God as a good luck charm to give us success on our terms. Instead, in a proper relationship, God uses us and our career to exalt His glory. That kind of relationship with Him begins with humble turning to Him from whatever idols occupy our attention (1 Thessalonians 1:9), receiving only by faith His gracious gift of salvation in the finished work of Jesus Christ (John 1:12; 3:16; Ephesians 2:110).

TagsChristian-Life  |  Hardships  |  Ministry-Church  |  Personal-Life

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Published on 1-21-14