During my college years, my closest friend was my classmate whom God used to lead me to Jesus Christ. I admired him and was grateful for how he modeled his life of faith and shared his deep knowledge of the Bible with me. He led our weekly Bible study and was a gifted teacher. One evening during dinner, I asked him, “Have you ever considered being a pastor?”
My friend smiled and said, “When I was in high school, my home church pastor asked me to consider a career in ministry. He told me, ‘It can be a comfortable life!’ “
“What did you tell him?”
“I told him I would pray about it. After some time, I came back to him and thanked him for his suggestion but I felt God leading me to be a lawyer.”
I nodded. God blessed my friend’s prayers and he is now a federal judge. However, the pastor’s statement always struck me as odd. I did not know the pastor nor his motives for entering the ministry but I believe a career in ministry is not simply a vocation, it must be a calling from God. Certainly, the skill sets for a pastor and a life in the ministry would be relevant for many careers. Strong organizational skills, empathy and compassion, a gift for teaching-all of these are necessary qualifications, but the most important must be a direct calling from God.
And no one can become a high priest simply because he wants such an honor. He must be called by God for this work…
Hebrews 5:4 (NLT)
I know many people who have confided in me that the reason they chose their profession was because it was their calling. Whether it was a calling from God or some inner voice to whom they answer, the statement implies that it was not their decision to make. These are noble sounding words but how does one know if this calling is truly emanating from God or one’s own desires? And in the end, does it matter if one is truly happy with their decision?
In an earlier generation, the movie “Chariots of Fire” captivated audiences and won the 1981 Oscar for Best Picture. It was based upon the story of two British Olympic runners, competing in the 1924 Olympics. One of the runners, Eric Liddell, played by Ian Charelson, was the son of Scottish missionaries, and he wrestled with balancing his personal faith and God-given talents as a runner. Liddell missed a prayer meeting because he was running. After his sister admonished him, he told her that he was divinely inspired to run and therefore if he didn’t run, it would dishonor God. “I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.” The climax of the movie occurs when he is scheduled to run in his favored event, the 100 meter race. However, Liddell learns that the race is to be held on a Sunday and he vowed to never violate the Sabbath. One of his teammates offers him his spot on the 400 meter race, not his favored event. In spite of this, Liddell triumphs and wins the gold medal, honoring God by not running on the Sabbath and sealing his legacy as one of England’s great athletes.
Liddell’s answer to his sister and his life embodies a great truth. He was gifted with a talent that may not be immediately recognized as a gift to serve God. Yet, he utilized it by dedicating it to God in everything he did. Liddell later became a missionary to China where he gave his life serving the Lord during the Japanese occupation of World War II.
Whether it is the ministry or any other occupation, if God has called you and you do it with the total conviction to serve God, you will be in agreement with God’s will for your life. However we choose to serve God, it is a calling, not ours, but His calling for our life.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossian 3:17 (ESV)
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.