Discerning Vocation

Throughout the Scriptures, we find that God calls and equips people for various vocations. Some of these are explicitly spiritual or religious vocations. For example, Paul describes at length how the Lord called him to be an Apostle (Gal. 1:11–23). Other vocations to which God called people during the biblical era were more secular in nature. Our Creator raised Joseph up to be the prime minister of Egypt in order that the world would be saved from a crushing famine (Gen. 37:1–11; 50:20). God’s Word, then, gives us reason to believe that the Lord gives specific callings not only to full-time ministers but also to laypeople.

We have already spoken on the role of the internal call in discerning vocation, but we will develop that idea further today when we consider the matter of gifting and our vocation. Discerning the vocation to which we have been called requires discerning the gifts the Lord has given us, and the internal calling involves not only what we want to do but also what we have found ourselves to be good at doing. That God gives gifts to His people is found in several New Testament passages, including Romans 12:1–8. True, the primary application of this text is to work done in, for, and through the local church, but as we have noted elsewhere, we can also speak of gifts that the Lord gives that are not necessarily for full-time vocational ministry, or at least not exclusively for that type of calling. For instance, the various artistic skills God gave to the builders of the tabernacle (Ex. 36:1) have applications in other areas.

The important thing to note from the gift lists in Romans 12 and other passages is that there are many different types of gifts, and they are given by God according to His good will and pleasure. So, not everyone has the same gifts, and no one has every gift. Thus, Paul exhorts us to think of ourselves soberly, neither more highly nor less highly than we ought (Rom. 12:3). We must do our best to be critical with respect to our talents and interests, seeking out what has actually been given to us and not merely what we would like to be able to do. Furthermore, we engage in self-examination for our own good and for the good of our neighbor. Disaster can result if we pursue a vocation or attempt to do a job for which we are not really qualified or gifted. It takes a good deal of humility to engage in such self-examination, so let us seek to consider ourselves humbly and with a goal of discerning our true giftings.

Coram Deo

One of the most valuable skills we can develop is the skill to evaluate our gifts honestly. Doing so will help us better manage our time so that we will volunteer and work in those areas where we will do the most good instead of just signing up for anything that comes our way. It will also help us have a more humble and sober assessment of ourselves. Let us pray for the Lord’s help in developing the ability to examine ourselves rightly.

Passages for Further Study

2 Kings 2
Ecclesiastes 9:7
1 Corinthians 7:17–24
Ephesians 4:7

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