When you meet someone for the first time what’s one of the first things you want to know? You find out their name, and where they are from, and then what do you want to know? You want to know what they do. And, when you are describing someone to another person, one of the most defining details is when you say what they do for a living. We don’t really feel like we know much about a person until we know what their job is. My brother is a cop. My sister is a doctor. Bill is a pastor. My friend is an executive at BP. She is a stay-at-home mom.
Whatever career we choose to go into is one of the most important choices we make in this life. It determines how we are going to spend most of our time. It defines us in a lot of ways. And it becomes one of the most important ways that God will use us to bless the world. It will be one of the most important means that God will use to give grace and love to the people in our lives.
Do you think of your job like that? Do you see your job as a way that God wants to love people through you?
We had a teaching series we called “What am I supposed to be?” It was a study of the various disguises that we all have to wear. It was a series on the doctrine of vocation, which is derived from a Latin word that means “Calling.”
Today I am talking about how God has designed us with particular strengths and passions so that we can faithfully serve Him in a career that will bring us fulfillment and also be a blessing to the world God has placed us in.
In the first week Pastor Bill showed us that our first vocation – our primary vocation – the one that all other vocations flow from, is our vocation as WORSHIPER. We are made in the Image of God and we will worship something. It might be the devil or it might be the Lord, but we gotta serve somebody. For those of us who follow Jesus, the vocation of worshiper – what we learn when we gather together and open God’s Word – informs how we live the rest of the week.
On week two, Pastor Bill talked about how we are all born into a FAMILY, and that is our next “calling”. We are sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, moms, dads, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and grandchildren. We have important roles to play in each of those relationships, and the love and grace that flows from Jesus needs to flow through us by the roles that we play in our families.
On week three, Ken Chitwood dressed up like Uncle Sam and talked about our vocation of being a CITIZEN. How we are not to call fire down from heaven to destroy people just because we stand on different sides of political issues. As followers of Jesus we are to love our enemies. And today we are talking about the careers that we choose.
Do you see how the significance of flowing from worshiper to family to citizen and finally to career makes sense?
Career. Vocation. Our job. What we want to be when we grow up.
Today we get to the good stuff. In the vocations of worshiper, family and citizen we don’t really have much say about our roles. We are made in the image of God whether we like it or not. We are born into a family and no one asked for our opinion about what family we would be born into. And most of us are simply citizens of the country where we were born. Those choices were made for us, and the only thing left up to us is whether we are going to be faithful in them or not. But, this week we’re talking about our career. What we do for a living. And, at least in this country, we have a lot to say about what we will be when we grow up. If you don’t like your job, you probably only have yourself to blame.
But it’s such a big decision. There is so much at stake.
And what about God’s will? How do we know what God wants us to do with our lives? I’ve heard people say that “God has a plan for your life.” What do you think about that? Do you think He does? What is it? How can we find out?
Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus
When I was five years old I wanted to be Batman. No kidding. A couple years ago, I was looking through some papers at my mom and dad’s house and I found a stack of my old report cards. At the bottom of the Kindergarten report card there was a list of questions. One of them was “what do you want to be when you grow up” and my answer was “Batman.” Which isn’t a bad gig. You get to fight crime, dress like a bat, have a lot of cool toys, live in a gothic mansion and be a billionaire.
The same questions were at the bottom of the 1st grade report card, too. What do you think I wanted to be in the first grade? Policeman? Fireman? Nope. I still wanted to be Batman.
I loved comic books, but as I got older I started getting more and more into music and art, and In the sixth grade I had this great idea for a rock band. I drew a picture of my dream band, we were called Saturn 5, I made this cool logo – that looked just like the KISS logo, and we were all dressed up like different superheroes. I was the singer and guitar player. I was also dressed as Batman with a bat shaped guitar. It was an important transitional time for me.
By the time I was fourteen, I was a Christian and I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to be a musician or a minister. A rock star or a preacher. Hmmm. Between you and me, I might still be working that out.
So, how do we work it out? How can we know what God’s Will for our life is? How can we know what we are supposed to do?
There are a lot of things that play into this, but one thing to look at is something called “holy discontent.”
Holy Discontent is something that really bugs you. Something that you get really worked up about. Something you would like to fix.
A lot of People go into various careers to fix themselves. I think my desire to be Batman is an example of this. As a young child I had known some violence and injustice. I wanted to fix the world so those things couldn’t happen any more. Sometimes people who have sick family members become doctors or psychiatrists, sometimes people who are ashamed of their family poverty or lack of education go into careers where they will be financially secure – or respected. Maybe you were born into a family that didn’t know anything about the love and forgiveness of Jesus, so you grow up to be a minister and work at a church that wants to introduce people to Him. And there is nothing wrong with any of that. You might even be able to trace a path from where you are now, back to a younger you who had some holy discontent. And you went into your education and career to fix something that was broken. And so here you are. But, Eventually you have to shift from just trying to solve your own problems, and making your own life better, to helping other people.
A self-centered, selfish life is a miserable life.
You know, If you’re miserable in your career, you might want to take a serious look at what you are doing to serve others through your work. And if you are not serving others, or if you are not able to serve others in your work, you might need to change something.
Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus
So, I said that I would show you a simple way to figure out what God’s will for your life is.
It’s pretty easy really, just ask yourself these three questions:
WHAT ARE YOU GOOD AT?
WHAT ARE YOUR OPPORTUNITIES?
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?
And it’s got to be in THAT order.
If you start with “what do you want to do” you’ll end up in a mess.
For example, I wanted to be Batman.
First question; What are you good at?
Let’s see, Batman is in tip top shape. He is stronger than most people, smarter than most people, and faster than most people. Let’s compare that to me: I’m – in a shape… round is technically a shape. I’m smart enough, and fairly strong, but I don’t think Bruce Wayne ever got a C in spelling, and every professional athlete is stronger than me. Probably even Cricket players, though I never met one and don’t really know what cricket is. And, I’m pretty sure that every single person in this room – including most of the children and the elderly, can run faster and run further than I can. So, I’m going to have to say my strengths do not point toward me being a very good Batman. Though, I do look awesome in black.
Second question: What are your opportunities? Well, Batman is a billionaire and has a giant cave filled with bats under his mansion where he keeps his arsenal of weapons, supercomputers, cars, motorcycles, boats and helicopters until he needs them. As of this morning, I have $637 in my checking account, a three year old iMac and a 2006 Honda Element. Pretty Impressive, I know.
And the last question: What do you want to do? This question doesn’t matter, “because I’m Batman!”
You can’t start with what do you want to do. Because a lot of times we simply want to do things that we can’t do.
If you really want to know what God has put you on this earth to do, you have to seriously ask these questions. Starting with the first one. What are you good at? What are your strengths. What are you naturally better than most people at doing? God has given you a unique set of abilities to do the work that He designed you to do.
And maybe you don’t know. Maybe you don’t have any idea what your strengths are. Or, maybe you think you are good at things that you are not really good at. People have a pretty high capacity for self-delusion. A friend of mine used to say that there were only two reasons he wasn’t a professional basketball player. Height and talent.
You have to ask the people who know you. The people who care about you. Ask them what they see. What they think you are good at. What they think your strengths are. A good assessment tool that I have found to be helpful in finding my strengths is Strengthfinders.
For about ten dollars you can take a test to find out what your natural strengths are and get a detailed document of what that might mean for you. All of us will go further when we grow in our strengths than we would have ever gone by trying to fix our weaknesses.
Ask God to reveal your talents and abilities to you. Ask Him to send people into your life who can help you understand what you are good at. People to encourage you. I don’t know where I would be if God hadn’t put some very encouraging people in my life at just the right moments. My mom and dad were always very encouraging, and so is my wife, Kim. Pastor Bill and Pastor Matt have poured courage into me and believed in me in ways that I didn’t believe in myself. And honestly, a lot of you have stepped up at just the right time to say just the right thing. God has used so many people to help me know what I should be doing.
Let me give you an example. A few months ago I was really down in the dumps and feeling sorry for myself, being a total baby. Running a loop in my head of “no one appreciates me, no one likes me, everything is bad.” Did you think you were the only person who ever did that? I think we all do that sometimes. I was programming some stuff for Sunday morning on those computers back there and my friend, Jason Koch came up and asked “how I was doing?” I told him I was being a baby and feeling sorry for myself. He told me he appreciated me even when I was being a baby. We laughed. And he went on. When I was finished I went by my mailbox in the work room and there was a card for me. I opened it up and it was signed by all the Stephen Ministers. Each one of them saying something personal and appreciative for the difference that I make here and in their life. I’m just saying, the timing couldn’t have been better. I still have the card on my desk.
So, once you get a sense of what you are good at, the next thing to figure out is
what opportunities do you have? What open doors are available?
Sometimes we think that God should lay it all out for us. Make it perfectly clear what He wants us to do. Draw us a map. Whisper in our ear which door to go through. And when no obvious answer comes – we wait. We sit idly waiting for God to make it perfectly obvious to us. But, it doesn’t usually work that way.
Ever been in a strange place and try to understand what your GPS is showing you before you start moving in the car? It’s a lot easier to read once you start driving.
God doesn’t steer parked cars.
Sometimes we just have to walk through the doors that are open and see where they lead.
And sometimes, just like GPS, God will recalculate our route on the fly.
When I graduated high school I wanted to either go to school to be a pastor or study music. And, even though I was offered music scholarships to go elsewhere, I enrolled at Central Bible College and I studied both music and theology. When I graduated I had an opportunity to move to Houston to work with a music production company. That led to my band, Atomic Opera, getting signed to a major record label, releasing an album, touring, playing for thousands of people, my music was on the radio, my videos where on MTV, I was in magazines and had all kinds of cool adventures. My dream had come true. And I thought it was perfect because I had a platform to talk about following Jesus in the very dark world of Heavy Metal. But, it didn’t last very long. And after two years, when the band was dropped, my dreams were shattered and my heart was broken. I was so disappointed. Why had God done this to me?
Why did God give me a career in music to just take it away?
Chuck E Cheese
Ever take your kids to Chuck E Cheese? I have. And I thought they should be thankful that I had taken them there, spent money on them, suffered the tortures of deepest hell so that they could play those inane games and get a thousand stupid tickets, a thousand tickets that they could redeem for a rubber spider. And then when it was time to go I thought they should look up at me and say “Thank you Father, I had a marvelous time.”
But, that’s not exactly how it ends is it? Instead of being thankful for the good time they had, they start crying and arching their back and acting like you have destroyed their reason for living because it’s time to leave Chuck E Cheese and go back to that boring nightmare of torments that I dare to call a home.
Well, that’s what I was like when Warner Brothers dropped my band. I could only stare at the door that was slammed in my face trying to pry it back open with my fingers. I felt like God hated me. I tried for a few years to find a way back from that darkness.
God what do You want me to do?
Question one: What are you good at? answer; ideation, songwriting, music, performing. Check.
See, God? I should still be making records and touring!
Question two: What opportunities do you have? Hmm.
CrossPoint Community Church called me out of the blue and asked if I was interested in leading worship.
I didn’t want to. For several reasons. CrossPoint was in Katy and my house was in North Houston. Also, Kim and I were already part of a new church startup and we wanted to see it succeed. And, I’ll admit, It seemed like I was going to have to let go of my Atomic Opera dreams to work at a church.
But, It matched my abilities, and it was an opportunity.
So, I started leading worship at CrossPoint. Almost ten years ago. Over time, this has grown into a very fulfilling and rewarding career. I get to do all the things that I am wired to do. Write and perform music, teach about Jesus, minister to people, study the Bible, design everything from message series and videos, to posters and worship services. Sometimes I dress up like a bat and fight crime. Don’t tell anyone.
There are times we get really upset when a door closes. But, if we are following Jesus, we have to trust that He knows what is best. And that He knows where He is taking us. It’s still hard though. And when things don’t go the way I want, I usually end up throwing a fit like a kid leaving Chuck E Cheese.
What about the third question? What do you want to do? When does THAT matter?
Well, Sometimes you actually have more than one opportunity and you are well suited to do them both. When that happens, take the opportunity that you like the best. If you really can’t decide, flip a coin. But, If you flip a coin and it lands “heads” when you were secretly hoping for “tails”, then go with “tails.” Pick the one you want to do. But, once you make your choice…
Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus
What does it mean to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus?
There’s a reason that God gives us strengths and opportunities. There’s a reason He wires us so that we want to do “this thing” and not do “that thing.” There is a reason that He gives us a particular career. God wants to bless the world through us. In all of the various disguises that we wear from Worshiper, to family member, friend, citizen and in our different careers, God wants to reach through us and give blessing to the people in our lives. Through us he wants to love our children and our parents. Through us He wants to fill the world with good things.
Martin Luther was once approached by a man who enthusiastically announced that he’d recently become a Christian. Wanting desperately to serve the Lord, he asked Luther, “What should I do now?” Should he become a minister or perhaps a traveling evangelist. A missionary, perhaps.
Luther asked him, “What is your work now?”
“I’m a shoe maker.”
And Much to the man’s surprise, Luther said, “Then make a good shoe, and sell it at a fair price.”
Every legitimate kind of work or social function is a distinct “calling” from God.
If you are a Christian and a plumber, it doesn’t mean that you should hide Bible verses on the connecting pipes under the sink. It means you should do good work for a fair price. If you are an auto mechanic and a Christian, that doesn’t mean you have to play Christian music in your shop and print Bible verses on the receipts you give to your customers. It means you fix people’s cars and don’t take advantage of them.
We do the most important work of showing people who Jesus is when we live a life that begs the question.
1 PETER 3:15 You must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.
1 Peter 3:15 is one of my favorite verses, and is what I believe to be the central idea to true evangelism, and the key to how we are to actually share our faith:
LIVE A LIFE THAT BEGS THE QUESTION
If we are following Jesus – worshiping Him as Lord of our life – in our families, in our communities and in our workplaces, then people are going to notice that there is something different about us. If we love people by treating them with dignity instead of treating our subordinates as minions, our peers as competition or rungs on a ladder that we crawl over to get to the next opportunity, our clients as nameless/faceless numbers, and our boss as someone to resent and talk about behind their back – if we don’t do those things – like everyone else does, then it’s going to get noticed. If we worship Christ as the Lord of our life – our entire life – then it is going to affect how we are takin’ care of business. And when someone notices, and they come to you, for advice, for council, or for a sympathetic ear – when they ask the question – always be ready to point them to Jesus.
Nobody wants an answer to a question they are not asking. It’s silly to walk up to someone and randomly start explaining how to get to Carpet Barn on 290. No one cares that 273 divided by 6 is 45.5. They’re not interested unless they need to know. Unless they’ve asked. It’s the same with Jesus – no one wants to hear about what you know about the Bible and what they need to believe about God – until they ask. Once they ask, they will be all ears.
Wait for people to ask. Until then, live a life that begs the question. Then be ready to answer it.
God wants to serve people and love people through us. God puts us on like a disguise, just like I put this Batman costume on, and then He does good works through us.
People are “plan A.” And there is no “plan B.”
God rescues us and loves us through people. God will answer your prayers through other people, and He will answer other people’s prayers through you. That’s why it is so important to be faithful in all of our vocations. Our callings.
COLOSSIANS 3:17 Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus
If any of this has spoken to you about how you are to be faithful to God in your career, or stirred up hopes for a what your career should be, or most importantly, how you need to let Jesus bless people through you, in all of your various vocations, then I invite you to pray this prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, who died for my salvation, I ask You, through the grace that flows from that Cross, to give me wisdom and courage to answer the callings that You have put on my life. Let me know what You want from me, and I will do it; in whatever I do, in word or deed, help me do everything in the name of Jesus. May I reflect Your image by worshiping You and serving You in this church; learning Your Holy Word and receiving grace and forgiveness. May I show that love and mercy to all the members of my family as I live out my various roles, help me to love through obedience. May I be a good citizen of this nation, upholding it’s laws and duties as a citizen of both heaven and earth. And may I serve You faithfully with all of the specific talents and abilities in my chosen career; may You work in me and through me to the betterment of the world that You have placed me. In all of these things I confess that I am a sinner and need Your mercy. In the name of the Father, and the Son and Holy Spirit. AMEN