If you fall into any of these categories, or have experienced any of these categories before, then I'm sure you've encountered this question: "What am I supposed to do with my life?"
This question takes many forms ("What's my life's purpose?" "What am I here for?") and for believers, we tend to refrain the question to ask "What is God calling me to do with my life?" As a graduated student from Bible college, this question is currently at the forefront of my mind, and if my observations of the current career playing field are anything to go by, it is getting harder and harder to distinguish one's life purpose.
In our Western society, we often tie our identity to what we vocationally do - yet what we vocationally do is so varied and transient, that our identity is constantly changing.
Estimates suggest that the average millennial (born between 1977-1997) will change jobs at least every three years for a total of more than 12 different careers over the course of their working life. This is the kind of landscape that believers must discover and live out their calling and purpose in life. As I looked at this landscape, I thought to myself, 'Surely there is a calling that can both transcend and guide all the vocational choices I have yet to make.' And I've discovered that there is.
Os Guinness wrote a fascinating book appropriately entitled 'The Call', and while I have not read the book, I discovered it through reading another book in which the author was having a discussion about calling with Guinness. Guinness argues that all believers experience two distinct callings in their life. Both are closely linked, and both hold just as much significance to God as they do to us. Primarily, we are called to God, through Christ Jesus.
As the Apostle Peter said at Pentecost, "Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." (Acts 2 verses 38-39).
Our secondary call, according to Guinness, is a call to serve God and his kingdom in every area of our lives - whether in medicine, media, law, education, business or homemaking. This is the purpose that can transcend our ever-changing vocational pursuits. But as believers, we are prone to take these two callings and distort them beyond what God originally intended.
According to Guinness, there are two distortions that we as believers must guard against when considering and seeking our life's calling and purpose. The first is the 'Catholic' distortion. This distortion elevates the spiritual over the secular thus making pastors, missionaries, and church workers appear more obedient to God. The second is the 'Protestant' distortion, which elevates the secular role in the workplace over the spiritual, thus making the businessman, the doctor, and the influential citizen appear more obedient to God.
The first distortion emphasises the primary calling of the believer, but ignores the secondary, and the Protestant distortion holds the secondary calling above the primary. Obviously the only way to correct these distortions is to find the truth somewhere in the middle.
All believers are called primarily to God, and secondarily to advance his Kingdom with their own unique set of gifts and abilities. All secondary callings must be motivated by the primary. Then regardless of what vocational doors open, the believer will be anchored to and guided by his primary calling. We need 'to know our Caller and want our work, whatever it is, to have meaning and purpose and be done for God's glory' (Guinness).
Paul implores his audience in Ephesians to 'live a life worthy of your calling' (Ephesians 4 verse 1) so that regardless of where and how each believer works, all those in the kingdom of God would be united by a common purpose – the advancement of God's Kingdom on the earth.
For me, I know that all of the vocational decisions that I have yet to make must be passed through this question: Is this opportunity motivated by my calling to God and the expansion of His kingdom?
It's by asking this question that I believe I can maintain my sense of purpose and remain united to the body of Christ, even if I do end up changing careers a dozen times or so in the years to come.
Blaine Packer is a graduate of Worldview Centre for Intercultural Studies who is passionate about media and mission. Currently residing in Launceston, Tasmania, Blaine is involved in both media and local ministry work at Door of Hope Christian Church.
Blaine Packer's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/blaine-packer.html