God’s invitation into His work (sometimes referred to as His “call”) operates on three levels: that which applies to all Christians, that which applies uniquely to each of us, and that which applies to the moment in front of us—like our daily tasks and responsibilities.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
With these words, Jesus gives all Christians their overall mission. We are to love God and love others. All that we do in life can flow from applying these statements to specific situations. [Read “God’s Call for Everyone”]
But how does loving God and loving others make choosing a college major, career, or spouse any easier? It seems that mathematicians and social workers, business people and artists could all find ways to apply Jesus’s commandments to love God and love others in authentic ways within their disciplines. The second level of God’s call for believers is his call to vocation.
“When we fulfill our specific vocation, we are living out the full implication of what it means to follow Jesus. Therefore, while we all have a general call to love God and neighbor, we each follow our Lord differently, for though he calls us all to follow him, once we accept his call we are each honored with a unique call that is integrally a part of what it means to follow him. The second experience of call is derived from the first.”
This is another way of saying what we read in 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 about the way that God creates and utilizes individuals in his kingdom.
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
So how do we begin to know and live out our unique callings in the kingdom? [Read “God’s Call for Me: Vocation”]
God calls us in a third way, too. He invites us into the work of the day—the responsibilities or tasks He puts before us. This is different than the work that God has for all his followers, because these tasks are given to us each individually—caring for pets, commuting to work, shopping for food, going to a party, coloring with our kids—but they are to be done in a way consistent with the way God calls all his followers to live. [Read “God’s Call for Me: Tasks and Responsibilities”]
It is easy, however, in a discussion of God’s will and call to focus exclusively on what we should do. But it is equally important, and actually precedes the doing, to focus on who we are called to be.
Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” In this passage we can skip past the “For we are God’s handiwork” portion. But until we understand intellectually, emotionally, and behaviorally that we are the creation God delights in, we will continually contrive to make the doing portion of that verse be about the tasks that most convince us of our own indispensability and most reassure us of our own worth.[Read “God’s Call for Everyone”]
Gordon T. Smith, Courage and Calling (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 10.