I highly recommend this post about the unfinished business of our lives and fulfilling the calling of Christ.
The call to the disciples was never Follow me to power, or Follow me to prosperity, or Follow me to the revolution, or Follow me to achieve your full potential. It was simply Follow me.
(Doug McKelvey, On These Our Works Being Works We Will Not Finish)
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: (Romans 12:6 ESV)
We are to think of ourselves with humility and with the measure of faith assigned to each of us by God. This is an uncommonly balanced esteem of oneself, not arrogant yet also avoiding despondency or hopelessness. I know I’ve fallen into both extremes and done plenty of stumbling around in between them.
Some folks hate the concept of being assigned a role in life by God, preferring to believe that with enough faith in oneself, ambition, discipline and determination each person can be whatever they want to be. Such ideas are clearly a load of rubbish – take a look around, is everyone really of equal ability and talents? Do we all have the same opportunities?
Oddly, it is often the espousers of ‘you can be anything you want to be’ who also have a nebulous idea of having a ‘destiny’ which they can achieve with determination and belief in themselves.
Well, God does in fact give us a destiny. How detailed the plan is remains unknown, but in Romans 12 Paul clearly promotes the idea that we are not all given the same abilities, and even those with similar abilities have differing levels of faith to use those abilities in service of God’s kingdom. That could cause distress to folks who like the idea of self-made success, the audacity of God to assign a lower level of faith to one person compared with another!
I find it freeing. God expect me to serve according to the measure of faith and abilities that I do have, not according to the abilities of some other very talented person whom I secretly envy. Like Jesus told Peter to mind his own damn business regarding whether John would be martyred or not, He also says to each of us when we whine to God about what some other Christian is achieving rather than us: “What’s that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22).
For most of us, to ask why we work amounts to a pretty stupid question because the answer is obvious – we work to get paid so we can buy food, clothes, pay for somewhere to live and pay the bills. Very few have so much money that they don’t need to work.
This rather mundane, pragmatic take on work is also biblical; Paul tells us that if anyone is not prepared to work they should not expect to be fed and we are to do honest work to provide for ourselves and our dependents (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, Ephesians 4:28, and 1 Timothy 5:8). We are also called to put a full effort into the work we do, the admonition of Colossians 3:23-24 indicating that half-hearted work efforts and procrastination have been around for a very long time!
I find this pragmatic view of work in the Bible to be a relief in comparison to the currently popular ideals portrayed by ‘career experts’ pushing ideas such as: “A person’s worth is often measured by the career success or failings“. There is often an assumption that you can find a job which is a perfect (or at least near-perfect) match for your skills, experience and personal motivations. Yet for most of us the whole career experience is more like the verb: move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way in a specified direction (i.e., down the dirt track of our lives in the rickety go-kart of our employability!). Very few people have any real ability to actually plan their career, the rest of us take the best job available at the time we are needing one.
In contrast, the Bible teaches that work is ordained by God (Genesis 2:15) and so is a necessary part of life but it has also been tainted with futility by the fall (Genesis 3:17-19, Romans 8:20), meaning that we will always have bad days on the job when nothing goes as we would wish. Certainly there is a lot of choice available in jobs now, but the ideal job for you (or me) simply does not exist because we are sinful and so will bring sinful attitudes or behaviours to our work, and the work itself is subject to the curse of futility so will frustrate us sooner or later.
Therefore, after a crap day at work when you might wonder if you have missed your life’s calling, relax. If you have put in a day’s work and were paid for it this strongly indicates that you are in fact living up to your calling in Christ so far as work goes.
In our first encounters with Jesus in the New Testament he is telling John to baptize him, using God’s word to refute Satan’s temptations, and preaching “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. After this he calls certain men to follow him and according to Matthew they immediately leave everything to do so.
The overall impression is of a person with great authority, he has the authority to direct the lives of his disciples. This is obvious if you understand that Jesus is God, but I’m noticing how easily I forget Jesus’ authority over my daily life as I go about my busyness.
The ‘my’ highlights a problem here; there is an ownership dispute raging over this life – I have been redeemed by Christ so am not my own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), but my human nature resists this and likes to consider this life to be my own exclusive possession (Romans 7:15-18).
Here are some thoughts on this from Francis Chan:
“Worry implies that we don’t quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what’s happening in our lives.
Stress says that the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace toward others, or our tight grip of control.
Basically, these two behaviours communicate that it’s okay to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life is somehow exceptional. Both worry and stress reek of arrogance.”
From Crazy Love, page 42. If God has redeemed me, can I not at least trust him this one day?