by James Harvey
One of the major results of the Reformation was a rediscovery of the biblical concept of calling—the truth that God has called and placed everyone, not just the clergy, in a unique position to serve Him and bring Him glory. The Apostle Paul writes, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him” (1 Cor. 7:17). Paul teaches that there is a life to be lived for the Lord in our present station. In the context of 1 Corinthians, he applies this principle broadly to family (married or single) and work (slave or free). Paul’s point is not that it is wrong to make changes in these areas. His point is that you don’t have to make a change to be significant or to fully experience God in your life.
We need to rediscover the power of Paul’s teaching to address a particular angst in our day. One of the most prized aspects of modern life is the ability for us to make changes that suit our preferences. However, this promise of change for fulfillment remains elusive for many. Pastors can testify of the deep struggle that people feel with their place in life, especially when it comes to work and marriage. Few are fully satisfied with their work life. Many who are single long to be married. Many who are married struggle for joy in their marriage.
When we are struggling with our station in life, we must avoid resignation on the one hand and idealism on the other. Resignation says accept things just as they are and don’t ever try to make a change. Resignation fails to honor the reality that God in His common grace has made provision for us to advance and that we as His image bearers are called to subdue the earth. This work requires preparation, planning, and action—all of which are contrary to the disposition of resignation to accept things as they are. Resignation stops praying, stops hoping, stops believing. Idealism embraces the lie that there are places and stations in life untainted by the fall of man. Idealism changes quickly and often because the grass is always greener on the other side. Idealism doesn’t grow in patience, love, and wisdom because those are virtues cultivated over time by seeking Christ in hard seasons. Idealism is fueled by its cousin, idolatry: the belief that there is something that can satisfy us more than Christ.
Biblical realism prizes Christ above circumstance in all seasons. Biblical realism says I am going to lead the life the Lord has assigned to me, the life to which God has called me (v. 17). I am going to find satisfaction and joy in Christ, whether in a season of trial or blessing. I am going to better my condition and that of those around me because I am called to love my neighbor as I love myself. I am not here to be resigned to life; I am here to live for Christ. Biblical realism says there is no ideal life on this side of glory. Ultimately, biblical realism is the pathway toward contentment because biblical realism is the pathway toward Christ.