When discerning God’s call on their lives, Christians can learn valuable lessons from the examples found in the Scriptures.
First, God’s calling in our lives gives us the opportunity to love the Lord our God with our whole person (Deut. 6:4–5); therefore, His calling cannot require us to sin. Christian calling must be pursued as an expression of our faith in God, and we can rule out any possible calling that can only be accomplished in a sinful, destructive, or otherwise faithless manner.
Second, God loves to give His people the good gifts of calling (Ps. 37:4; Matt. 6:28–33; 7:11), so Christians should find their hearts aligned with our Christian calling in a way that makes the calling a natural extension of their righteous desires. Furthermore, as a Christian pursues the call that God has given him, he should find his desires formed by the task that God has set before him. This does not mean that fatigue and even frustration will not set in at times, but the attentive and repentant believer is strengthened for the call even in the midst of opposition. As he pursues the things that he naturally loves to do, he will get a clearer sense of which elements give him joy and satisfaction. Christians should also expect their affections to mature and to be formed by the work they are doing until they begin to find joy even in work that previously was unsatisfying.
Third, God forms His people for their callings (Jer. 1:5). Most pursuits in this life involve some kind of skill set to be performed properly. Some callings require only rudimentary skills, while others require years, even decades, of training. Personal gifting differs from skill set in the sense that gifts typically cannot be acquired through training later in life. Natural and spiritual gifting can also guide the discernment process. Some Christians are natural teachers, while others are gifted in encouragement or in caring for others. All Christians should strive to exhibit all the gifts as the situation arises, but the Scriptures do suggest that some Christians are by grace more disposed to one gift than another (Rom. 12:6–8). As with all of God’s gifts, we are called to be good stewards, investing our gifts in callings where they can best be utilized.
One word of warning from the prophets: the Lord loves to show His strength in our weakness. Moses suffered from some sort of speech impediment, but he was chosen to be the spokesman for God (Ex. 4:10). Isaiah’s unclean lips were given a message of holiness and judgment against the people (Isa. 6:5). Jeremiah may have thought he was too young to be a prophet (Jer. 1:6). Paul considered himself the chief of sinners because of his persecution of the church (1 Tim. 1:15). Sometimes a Christian is called to a task that seems so improbable that God must be in it if it is going to succeed.
Fourth, Christian calling is a service to God and to others. If a person pursues a call that has selfish or oppressive ends, the call is not glorifying to God. William Perkins writes, “The true end of our lives is to do service to God in serving of man.” Our love of neighbor should naturally flow from our love of God (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:38–39), and our union with Christ ought to inform our own personal ethics so that we are inclined to help them at our own disadvantage (Phil. 2:1–11).
Finally, Christian calling is not a secret or mystical thing waiting to be revealed. When God calls His people, He calls them to respond to the world around them by applying the teaching of God’s Word with reasoning minds in order to discern what they might be called to at any given time or situation. As mentioned above, the human call can develop and mature over the course of the human life. A person may graduate from college with a particular sense of calling that will change multiple times over the course of his life. That change does not mean that he has been disobedient or somehow ignorant of God’s call in his life.
A calling cannot save a person from his sin or make him right with God, but calling is the natural concern of those who have been saved. In many ways, the question of Christian vocation addresses what a particular person is saved for. The Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck writes, “True fulfillment of our earthly vocation is exactly what prepares us for eternal salvation, and putting our minds on those things that are above equips us for genuine satisfaction of our earthly desires.” By pursuing God’s call in this life, we prepare for eternity. By keeping eternity ever before us, we find meaningful satisfaction today.