The first intimation Pastor Harvey Trauter’s message on the morning of November 20th* would be special was the verse (Ephesians 2:10) quoted at the top of the sermon outline. Only an hour or so earlier, I’d spent about 20 minutes of my quiet time cementing that exact verse in my memory!
The text was from the Old Testament - the story of God talking to Moses through the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-22). From the story, pastor pointed out the difference between a career and a calling.
Up to this point, Moses had had a career. Several actually. Because he’d started out as prince material in Pharaoh’s palace. When he disqualified himself by murdering an Egyptian, he fled the country and took up herding sheep. By now he was 80-ish.
However, if he thought he was nearly finished, God didn’t. For on this day, a bush which refused to stop burning caught his attention. He wandered over, God talked to him and the upshot of the conversation was a new assignment – a calling: to lead the Hebrew people out of Egypt.
Part of God’s interchange with Moses involved a command about his staff – that shepherd-tool which signified his career in identity, income and influence. God told him to throw it down – in other words, let go of it. When he did, the staff came to life, writhed, became a snake. In other words, it went from being a natural tool for his own benefit, to a supernatural tool for God’s benefit.
And so it is with a career versus a calling.
A career is something we choose to do for ourselves. It is the route to status, money and power. We own it and decide what we do next to further it. Its rewards are visible but temporary. It can be interrupted by events that come along. It can easily become our god. It ends with retirement.
A calling, on the other hand, is something we receive from God. It promises difficulty and even suffering. It is something we become responsible to steward because God has given it to us. God enables us to fulfill our calling despite the most unlikely events. A calling isn’t over until we die, and its significance lasts for eternity.
Answering God’s calling will always involving handing our ‘career’ (that which identifies us, and gives us income and influence) to Him. When we do that, we have no guarantee we’ll ever get it back. In fact, if we do, we never will get it back in the same way. For it will become a tool in God’s hands for God’s purposes (and that might look radically different from what we had in mind in the first place).
Again I was challenged to think beyond labels – wife, mother, medical typist, writer – and, in fact, to take my hand off anything there that would usurp itself as a ‘career.’ Instead, I need to pursue my ‘calling.’
Which is...? Because unlike Moses, I can’t say I’ve been given such a specific assignment or clear-cut direction.
Lots of ‘calling’ images come to mind: being a fisher of men, being a branch and Jesus is the vine, being a kernel of wheat that falls into the ground and dies. The most compelling for me, though, is the image of being a bond-slave. Oswald Chambers comments eloquently about this on the November 3rd reading in My Utmost for His Highest.
I am convinced that only by such relinquishment will we be able discover God’s calling and live out the destiny for which we were created: "For we are God’s own handiwork, His workmanship, recreated in Christ Jesus, born anew that we may do those good works which God predestined, planned beforehand for us, taking paths which He prepared ahead of time – living the good life which He pre-arranged and made ready for us to live." - Ephesians 2:10 Amplified.
"I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth
in me." Galatians 2:20
These words mean the breaking of my independence with my own hand and surrendering to the supremacy of the Lord Jesus....It means breaking the husk of my individual independence of God....Will I give up, will I surrender to Jesus Christ, and make no conditions whatever as to how the break comes? I must be broken from my self-realization....I deliberately sign away my
own rights and become a bond-slave of Jesus Christ.....This College as an organization is not worth anything, it is not academic; it is for nothing else but for God to help Himself to lives. Is he going to help Himself to us, or are we taken up with our conception of what we are going to be?
- For more on this topic, read "Led not Driven" by Vicki at Windows to My Soul.