Take This Job and Love It!
#2 Finding your calling: doing what you were made to do
Michael has obviously found his calling as an office manager; sometimes he is “on fire”. He is good! Have you found your calling? Are you doing the thing God made you to do?
That’s what we’re talking about today in part two of “Take this job and love it”—Finding your calling: doing what you were made to do.
One of the great puzzles in life is to find a job that you love and that someone will pay you to do!
Remember being asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” What did you say? A fireman? A movie star? A baseball player? How many of you are doing what you’ve always wanted to do since you were a kid? How many of you have changed your mind since you were a kid? So let me ask you, “What do you want to be if you grow up?” (Growing up is over-rated!) Are you doing what you want to do? Do you have job satisfaction—a sense of pleasure and fulfillment from your work?
Studies indicate that many of us are mismatched with our work. For far too many people, work is a necessary evil, “just a job”, a way to pay the bills and provide for our leisure. It is the minority who wake up every morning excited to go to work, who find their work challenging, rewarding, or fulfilling. That is why you see bumper stickers like
“Work is a four letter word.”
“Help, I’m a POW…Prisoner of Work!”
“I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go.”
That’s the way it is, but is that the way it should be? In last week’s message, we saw that work is good, that God gave it to us at creation as a gift, not a curse, and that He intends for it to be enjoyed, not just endured, and that our work is to accomplish God’s purposes in the world.
What would happen if you started seeing your job as a calling from God, not just a job? We use the word “vocation” as a synonym for our job, and it means “a calling”–from the Latin vocare, to call. Do you have a vocation, a calling, a sense that God has called you where you are, that your job is part of His plan for your life? If not, how do you discover your calling?
In the Bible, the word “calling” only occasionally refers to our job or our work; instead it refers primarily to our relationship with God. God calls us into a relationship with Himself. We are called to follow Jesus. We are called to belong to God, to be holy. I have included on the back of your outline a list of verses that talk about God’s calling; I hope you’ll take the time to read through them and talk about them in your Life Group this week. Let’s look at one example:
Romans 1:1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God—
Paul was called to be an apostle. Here is an example of a vocation, a calling that defined the work Paul was to do. Paul was called to be an apostle—this was his life’s work. So here’s an example of “calling” being used of our work. In a few moments we’ll look at another passage that refers to all kinds of work as a calling, not just the “spiritual work” of being an apostle. Let’s go on:
Romans 1:5–7 Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. 6 And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. 7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Notice three callings that applied to all the Christians in Rome (and to us):
First, we are called “to the obedience that comes from faith.” We are called to obey God. This is our calling.
Second, we are called “to belong to Jesus Christ.” Your life is not your own; you belong to Jesus Christ. This is our calling.
Third, we are called “to be saints.” Let me see the hands of all the saints! A saint is a holy person, someone who is set apart to belong to God. Every Christian is called to be a saint, to be holy, to be different. The opposite of “holy” is “common”. You are not a common person; you are different. You are holy. You belong to God. This is our calling.
I am emphasizing this because I want you to understand that our work is not the end all/be all of life. We have a higher calling than our work—the calling to belong to Jesus. It is possible to find the perfect job and still be incomplete. Long after your work or job ends, you will still have a calling. Your first and highest calling is to follow Jesus; then, as a saint, as a person who belongs to God, we find our secondary calling in our work.
I want to help you see your work from this perspective: as a person called to belong to Jesus, you are also called to work. Your work can be a calling from God; God designed you for a purpose. Have you found your calling? When you do, when you discover what you were made to do, I think you will find your work very satisfying. I want to look at our calling through the lens of job satisfaction. What makes a job satisfying? And how can I find a satisfying job? Those are the two questions we’re going to discuss today.
1. Three keys to job satisfaction.
First, what makes a job satisfying? There are lots of books out on this subject and dozens of answers to this question. I’ve picked 3 keys to job satisfaction from the Bible…the book of Job, to be specific. Each of these three are built upon the common foundation of your relationship with God. When we answer God’s call to belong to Jesus, we begin to discover why God made us. We make it our purpose to be God’s person in His world. We understand that our mission in life comes from our Creator. Our calling (vocationally) begins with our calling (spiritually). Your work is sacred because you are a saint.
A. Work in a field that uses your motivated abilities.
Work in a job that uses your God-given talents. Find work that fits you. The Bible clearly says that God has created you with a purpose in mind, and with the gifts, talents, and abilities to fulfill that purpose. Consider these few verses of Scripture:
Exodus 35:35 He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers all of them master craftsmen and designers.
When God wanted skilled work done to make the Tabernacle, He called workers whom had those skills. Find work that fits you.
John 17:4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.
God had specific work for Jesus to do. Could that be true of us as well?
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
God created you to do good works; He designed and equipped you for a purpose. So the first key to job satisfaction or finding your calling is to work in a job that uses your motivated abilities. Find work that fits you.
What are motivated abilities? They are the gifts and talents that you love to use for the accomplishment of meaningful tasks.
Every person is a unique blend of personality, experience, abilities, talents, gifts, passions and desires. If God created each snowflake to be unique, don’t you think he’d throw away the mold after He made you? Each person is unique. And that uniqueness shows up early in life.
ILL: A 15 year-old boy named Chuck used to sneak into the local hospital, don a white lab coat and pretend he was a medical student so he could watch surgeries. He would watch for stray animals in his neighborhood, give them a little ether, and practice some exploratory surgery (he always sewed them back up before letting them go). Chick grew up to become Dr. C. Everett Koop, the US Surgeon General, 1982-9. His motivated abilities surfaced early!
God has carefully crafted you as a unique individual; what you do with your life needs to be in line with how He wired you. And that includes both your personality and your gifts. That is why we’re using the term “motivated abilities”, because it includes both your personality and your gifts. Find work that fits you!
Does your work fit your personality? If you are a people-person, who gets energy from lots of contact and interaction with people, then you will probably be very unhappy as a forest-fire lookout. You’ll go crazy! If you are the shy, retiring type, who is terrified at the thought of being in front of a crowd, you probably shouldn’t be the guest host on Saturday Night Live or try out for the front line of a Broadway musical. If you love variety and change, you had better stay away from an assembly line. Your personality is important to your job satisfaction.
Does your work fit your gifts? Are you using the talents God gave you?
ILL: I once overheard someone complimenting one of our musicians who plays multiple instruments. They were telling him, “What’s it like to have all that talent? You can do it all!” To which the musician replied, “You don’t want me to fix your car.”
ILL: I have another friend who doesn’t have a musical bone in his body; he can’t carry a tune in a bucket! But he can sure fix cars! He is one of the best mechanics I know, and he’s been tearing things apart and fixing them since he was a kid. He has a mechanical aptitude, the other guy has a musical aptitude. And they are each smart enough to work in a job that uses their abilities!
Your talents are important to your job satisfaction.
Does your work fit your values? Is it accomplishing something that is important to you, something that you value? Do you care about what you do? I call this your passion, and I believe that everybody has a passion. Everybody has something they care about deeply. Everybody has a cause. Everybody has something that turns their crank, that gets them excited. If you could change anything in the world, what would it be? If you could make a difference somewhere, where would it be? Your values are important to your job satisfaction, to finding your calling.
So the first key to job satisfaction is to know yourself, and work in a job that uses your motivated abilities, that maximizes your personality and gifts and values. Find work that fits you. Noel has wisely said, “If you’re in the wrong place, the right place is empty!”
B. Work at building healthy relationships.
Some people are working a job that uses their motivated abilities, but they are miserable. Why? Often it has to do with their relationships at the workplace.
ILL: I have a friend who had a perfect job, fit him like a tee! But he and the boss were from different planets; they didn’t have any kind of personal chemistry, and this job required a high level of that. He was unhappy not because of the nature of the work–he loved it, but because of the relationships which were so stressful. He got another job in the same field, and now he loves his job and his new boss.
How many of you have jobs that you like, but people that you don’t?
ILL: A pastor friend of mine recently joked, “I love the ministry, it’s people I can’t stand!”
It was a tongue-in-cheek comment that many of us can identify with when it comes to our jobs. We like the work, but the people drive us crazy. Bad relationships are a major cause of job dissatisfaction.
So what can you do? Here again, the Bible has lots to say. In some cases, you’ll have to do what my friend did: find another job with compatible instead of combatable co-workers. But in many cases, you can follow the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5 and 18 and clear up those conflicts and build healthy relationships.
In Matthew 5, Jesus said that if you are offering your gift to God, and remember that someone has something against you, leave your gift on the altar, and first go and be reconciled. In other words, if you’ve done something wrong that has offended your co-worker, go and make it right. Apologize, admit your error, make restitution; do what you must to be reconciled.
In Matthew 18, Jesus said that if your brother sins, go to him in private, explain his fault, offer forgiveness and you may win him back. In other words, if your co-worker has done something wrong that has offended you, go and talk about it. Let them know that you want to clear this up and go on.
Please notice that whether you are the one in the right or the wrong, Jesus commands you to go, to initiate the reconciliation process. Many relationships stay fractured because no one will risk the first step. You risk it!
I know that someone here might say, “These verses are for relationships among Christians; they won’t work in the marketplace.” It is true that Matthew 18 is about relationships among Christians. And it is true that even in the church, these steps don’t work every time. But can it work at work? You won’t know until you try, and the advice is simple and sound.
It has been my experience that most people want harmonious relationships, but don’t know how to build or maintain them. As Christians, we ought to be leading the way in the workplace, modeling how to build and maintain good relationships.
C. Work at developing the right attitude.
Motivated abilities…relationships…the third key to job satisfaction is attitude.
Work at developing the right attitude toward your work. This was what we were talking about last week; developing a theology of work, so that you see your work like God sees it. For many of you, you can gain job satisfaction without ever changing jobs if you do this one thing.
Perspective is everything. To a worm, digging in the hard ground is more relaxing than going fishing. Learning to see how your job accomplishes something that God wants done in the world, and seeing yourself then as God’s co-worker, will transform your work and your feelings about it. Work is worship. You ought to be able to go to work for the same reasons you go to church: to worship and serve Jesus Christ!
Colossians 3:23-24 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
That was written to slaves who were forced to do the most menial and demeaning tasks. They were never asked about their motivated abilities; and their masters didn’t care about their working relationships. These words were written to people who endured what we would consider unendurable working conditions. Yet Paul wrote: “do it with all your heart for the Lord! It is the Lord you are serving.” The simplest task, when done for God, can take on a whole new significance!
ILL: A classic in Christian literature is “The Practice of the Presence of God”, by Brother Lawrence, a lay brother in a Carmelite monastery in France in the 17th Century. Brother Lawrence worked in the kitchen, preparing the meals for his fellow brothers and monks; but he understood that work is worship. We find him worshipping more often in his kitchen than in the cathedral. He would pray, “Lord of all pots and pans and things…make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates.” He was able to turn the most commonplace and menial task into a living hymn to the glory of God! He experienced God’s presence everywhere; he writes, “The time of work does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as much tranquility as if I were upon my knees in prayer.”
Does this sound impossible? It is not! If the slaves of the early church could do it, then we 21st Century slaves can! The Lord will help us to work for Him with all our hearts at our assigned tasks.
1 Corinthians 7:17-22 Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 18 Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. 20 Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him. 21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave.
This is a complex passage that deserves more time, but I want you to notice one thing: Paul tells these Christians that they don’t have to be in a hurry to change their positions when they understand how God views their position; getting God’s perspective changes everything.
Some of you here need to find work that uses your motivated abilities; many of us need to work on our relationships; and some of us need to stay right where we are and let God give us a new perspective, His perspective, and begin to do our work for Him, with all our hearts. Work is worship.
One last thing: for some of you who want different work; I’ve discovered that God usually won’t let me go to the next thing until I’m doing this thing right. If you aren’t working with all your heart for the Lord right where you are, He may keep you there until you do!
You don’t have to change jobs to change your attitude. Start working for Lord, right where you are. Do it with all your heart for Him!
But for some of you, a job change is in the script; what should you do to find your calling?
2. Three steps to finding your calling.
Here are 3 indispensable steps to finding your calling.
A. Make an assessment. “This is what I ought to do.”
St. Augustine said, “Men go abroad to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.” Stop and take a look at yourself; and wonder! You are God’s masterpiece!
Begin by making an assessment of yourself. Identifying how God designed you will help you understand what God designed you for.
ILL: Here are a hammer and a saw; two different designs, two different purposes. It doesn’t take much study to determine which one would best drive a nail, and which would best cut a board!
Our design says a lot about the Designer’s will for us. So, identify your personality type, your likes and dislikes, your style of working with others. Identify your gifts, abilities and talents. Identify your values, your passion, the causes that make your heart beat faster. This will require some time and thought.
Your experience. You’ll need to examine your history; look at your experiences and identify things you did that you enjoyed, that you did well, that accomplished something you cared about.
Your friends. You ought to listen to those who know you best and can spot your strengths and weaknesses; this is a great thing to talk about in your Life Group.
Assessments. A visit to a career counselor might help, as might a series of assessments that a counselor could give you. There are some excellent testing tools available today that make it easier to identify your motivated abilities.
Your dreams. Don’t be afraid to listen to your dreams! What is the desire of your heart? What do you really want to do?
ILL: Richard Bolles, author of the best-selling job-hunting manual, “What color is your parachute?” writes, “Our mission is not something that God will reveal, it is something He has already revealed. It is not to be found written in the sky; it is to be found written in our members.”
God built those desires into us along with our gifts and temperament.
As you prayerfully consider all the information about yourself, a picture ought to begin to take shape, a portrait of you as God made you. You’ll be able to say, “This is what I ought to do.”
B. Make a decision. “This is what I am going to do.”
Many people who are mired unhappily in their jobs have a pretty accurate assessment of themselves, and they have dreams, but they never change simply because they never really decide to. It takes courage to go from “This is what I ought to do” to “This is what I’m going to do!” Often people who ask me for advice know what to do; what they need is a little encouragement to do it, some courage to decide to go for it!
What keeps us from deciding, from going for it?
1. It could be the opinions of others. What will they think if I quit my job as millwright and go into ballet? Who cares? Is it what you want to do, what you believe God designed you to do? Then go for it!
ILL: Some of you might remember me saying that in 1982 I wanted to leave and pastor somewhere else; I told the Lord that I had learned a lot and could do well if He would let me start over somewhere else. He said, “You can’t leave, but you can start over.” My objection to this plan was simple: “Lord, there are too many witnesses; too many people here who know me the way I’ve been; they’ll never let me change.” And the Lord said, “Be what you want to be; if they don’t like it, they’ll leave, and it will be like you went somewhere else anyway!”
Don’t let what others think of you keep you imprisoned by indecision.
2. It could be time. Some of you have heard thought that you’re too old to start over! Abraham left everything and started over at 75! Senior saints–I guess I’m one now too!–do you still have dreams? Go for it! God isn’t done with you yet! If you are still breathing, you can do something that counts for God…so do it! I plan on living productively until I die!
3. It could be money. We might be thinking, “What will this do to the budget? I can’t afford to live my dreams and feed my family!” I’m certainly not arguing for financial irresponsibility! If you have mouths to feed and bills to pay, that is certainly part of this equation. But too often we let money control our lives rather than God! There may be financial risk in pursuing your dream; but there may be huge emotional and spiritual and relational risks in not pursuing it. Which risk would you rather take? I think I’d rather lose the money!
Do you know what you really want to do? Make a decision: “This is what I am going to do.”
C. Make a start. “This is what I am doing!”
Sometimes we make decisions and they remain nothing more than good intentions. How do we translate a decision into action? By taking the first step. “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Often, the first step is the hardest.
Sometimes, there are several steps to get where we want to go; we might have to do several jobs before we get the one we want; that is fine. Those are steppingstones to God’s destination for us, not stopping places. There are times in most of our lives when a survival job is one of the steps to getting where we want to be. If that is where you are, that’s fine, provided you don’t stop there!
Sit down, and write out the steps you would need to take to make your vocational dreams a reality. Then, take step one. You’ll find that after that first scary step, the others will come easier and more quickly.
ILL: Years ago, one of our fine young men here, who had been postponing his vocational dreams, suddenly realized that there was no good reason to wait any longer. So he decided that he needed to begin his education, and took the first step of visiting the college enrollment office. Within 36 hours he was accepted, enrolled, and had 80% of his first year’s expenses paid for; and within 72 hours he was in class, beginning his dream! That first step changed his “This is what I’m going to do” into “This is what I am doing.”
Make an assessment.
Make a decision.
Make a start.
Verses on God’s calling
- Mark 1:16-20, 2:17
- Luke 19:13
- John 10:3, 15:15
- Acts 2:39, 11:26, 13:2, 16:10
- Romans 1:1, 5-7, 8:28-30
- 1 Corinthians 1:1, 2, 9, 24, 26, 7:17-24
- Galatians 1:6, 15, 5:8, 13
- Ephesians 1:18, 4:1, 4
- Philippians 3:14
- Colossians 3:15
- 1 Thessalonians 2:12, 4:7, 5:24
- 2 Thessalonians 1:11, 2:14
- 1 Timothy 6:12
- 2 Timothy 1:9
- Hebrews 3:1, 9:15
- 1 Peter 1:15, 2:9, 21, 3:9, 5:10
- 2 Peter 1:3, 10
- 1 John 3:1
- Jude 1
- Revelation 17:14