I often tell you why you should take notes on Sundays. But today I want to encourage you not to take notes. I’m going to give everyone the notes when we leave here today. So when you leave, you’ll receive a handout with all of the Scripture, principles, questions, and quotes I share today.
When we begin to think about the plan and purpose of our lives, most of us, most of the time, mean this:
What work am I supposed to do with my life?
This is what we’re going to talk about today. When we typically think about the word “work”, we usually limit it to the work we get paid to do. We’re going to cover that today, but we’ve got to go beyond that and include all work we’ve been given to do. The word “vocation” encompasses all of this. Vocation comes from the Latin word “vocare”, which means to call.
Vocation is God-given, not self-appointed.
You don’t call yourself. I love talking about what you’ve been created by God to do, but I want to offer this caveat up front:
Who you are and who you become matter more than what you do.
So many of us think that our truest identity comes from what we do or what we fail to do. While others in the world might label us primarily by what we accomplish or what title we hold, this is not the truest thing about us in God’s eyes. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness to prove himself, he responded by quoting the voice of His Father. Before Jesus ever accomplished all of the things that we know him for, He heard this voice speaking over Him – “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
“The most important thing in your life is not what you do; it’s who you become.” -Dallas Willard
We started a new session for the Bring It Out course last week. You can still sign up for it today or any of the other 40 groups we’re offering this fall. But I taught this formula during our first meeting this past Monday:
Who > Why > How > What
Who you are matters more than why you do what you do.
Why you do what you do matters more than how you do what you do.
How you do what you do matters more than what you do.
And what you do still matters greatly.
God loves to give human beings specific assignments to get His work done on this earth.
Genesis 2:5 Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground
Now surely God could have worked the ground Himself. Does He do that?
Genesis 2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
When God wanted to get work done on this earth, He gave an assignment to a human being. God still intends to get His work accomplished in this way.
The most significant thing you can do with your life is whatever God has planned for you to do.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
If God planned specific good works for you to do, why would you want to do anything else with your life? Here’s why: we live in a world that tells us that the really special people work in these kinds of industries, make this kind of salary, and have these kinds of titles.
In God’s eyes, there are no inferior or superior vocations.
If this is how God sees it, let’s stop labeling each other’s work as significant or insignificant…all God-given work is significant. So whether yours is big or small, private or public, whether the world applauds it or looks down on it…it is the most significant work you can possibly do with your life.
For the longest time, this word vocation was only used in the church world to refer to those called to work as religious clergy. But that missed the point in a major way. Every single God-given vocation is as significant as any other. Here at Epic, we believe in this idea so strongly that we have put it as one of our nine values. We say it like this:
Vocation is Sacred.
The writer and poet, Dorothy Sayers, wrote an essay titled, “Why Work?” in 1942. Listen to what she said:
“It is the business of the church to recognize that the secular vocation, as such, is sacred. Christian people, and particularly perhaps the Christian clergy, must get it firmly into their heads that when a man or woman is called to a particular job of secular work, that is as true a vocation as though he or she were called to specifically religious work.” -Dorothy Sayers, “Why Work?”
Your vocations are sacred, all of them. Software engineer. Mother raising children. 4th grade teacher. Entrepreneur. College Student. Volunteer in our church. Small business owner. Lyft driver. Whatever your vocation is, it is intended to be sacred.
“There is good work to be done by every son of Adam and every daughter of Eve all over the face of the earth. There are flowers to be grown, songs to be sung, bread to be baked, justice to be done, mercy to be shown, beauty to be created, good stories to be told, houses to be built, technologies to be developed, fields to farm, and children to educate.” -Steven Garber, Visions of Vocation
Vocation is not limited to the work you get paid to do.
Joy and contentment come from doing what you were created by God to do, not what someone else was created to do.
There’s this moment in the life of John the Baptist where his followers tell him that everyone is now going over to Jesus. Listen to his response:
John 3:27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven.”
You can only receive the vocation God has given you, but you can fully receive and step into the vocation God has given you. You have been made to do specific things and it’s important that you do them well.
Exodus 35:30-35 Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills – to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers – all of them skilled workers and designers.
Chosen by God. Filled with the Spirit of God. Wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. All kinds of skills. Ability to teach others. Whatever vocations you’ve been given, skill matters. You honor God when you develop your skills.
If we each have been given a vocation from God, then it really matters how we steward our vocation.
What God gives you is His gift to you. What you do with it is your gift to God and this world.
So many of us live with this belief: If I just had more time, there’s so much more I could accomplish with my life.
“Each of us has the time to do the whole will of God for our lives.” -J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership
What’s the end goal of our vocation?
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” -Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC’s
“All vocations are intended by God to manifest His love in the world.” -Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island
Knowing what I know of God, myself, and the world, how might I maximize my contribution?
Always seek to increase your God-awareness and your self-awareness. What spiritual gifts has God given you? What are your passions? What are your unique abilities? God may call you to work that’s outside of these things, but we can generally expect God to call us to things in these categories.
We usually start wide when it comes to the question, “What kind of work am I meant to do with my life?” But over time that should narrow.
For me, vocational ministry. Youth/College. Nope, just college. Teaching and Leadership. Whatever I do, it has to involve these things. God has made that clear. Now, even within my scope at Epic, we’re trying to limit me to doing as many of the things that I’m uniquely called to do. Of course, in every role, we have to do some things outside of our unique giftings…but over time we want to move to doing more and more of the things that we are suited for.
Colossians 3:23-24 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
I want to end this message with the first point I made. Who you become matters more than what you do. You were made and called to know and follow Jesus. When Jesus began His public ministry, He came to a group of people and gave them their vocation. And here’s the first thing He called them to do – “Come, follow me.”
Have you received and responded to this call? Jesus, save me from a life without you and bring me into a life with you.
-Wisdom to know what your vocation is for this season
-Faith to see your work as significant
-Start doing your work for Jesus