How regrettable to reach the end of your life still wondering about its purpose! Many people seem to get stuck earning a paycheck, eating, sleeping, spending the paycheck, and then starting the cycle all over again. But life is more than earning money and spending it. Inside every person, something asks why am I here? What is my purpose? What is my calling? At the end of their lives, most people don’t say, “I’m really glad I played it safe, taking no chances.” Instead, I have heard people talk about having regrets, wishing they had taken more risks—wishing they had chased their dreams.
I almost missed my calling by having screwed-up theology. One day, sitting in a college class, I thought to myself how cool it would be to be a professor in a Christian university someday. But when I had that thought, I suffered immediate emotional backlash. In what seemed like an instant, my emotions transitioned from excited joy to a cold critique of my motives. An inner voice spoke to me clearly and firmly, saying well, if that is something you want, then it certainly couldn’t be God’s will for you!
I have to recognize that statement as nothing more than a satanic lie. In speaking about the sheep (people) of his fold, Jesus said, “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). As I look back on twenty-five years of being a professor at a Christian university, I shiver to think of all the good things that Satan wanted to steal from me. God has used my calling as a professor to help shape and mentor a new generation of missionaries who are serving all over the world. No wonder Satan wanted me to view my desire to be a professor as nothing more than selfishness.
I think of the whole area of calling as frontline spiritual warfare. The Apostle Peter says, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pet 2:9). Satan will do everything he can to stop us from messing with people in his kingdom of darkness—he doesn’t want to give up anyone from his kingdom. Every Christian’s calling from God is connected to this very real spiritual battle for the souls of men. One of Satan’s biggest lies is that evangelism is for only those who are professionally “called” to the ministry as preachers or missionaries, having nothing to do with those called to business, education, medicine, or raising kids.
My theology began being corrected when I started having children. When I reflect on what goes on in my heart when one of my kids opens a birthday gift, I see clearly something in my heart that wants to give my child his or her heart’s desire. As I connected the source of my feelings as a daddy to the heart of my heavenly Father, I began to believe the truth of Matthew 7:11. Our heavenly Father is the one who desires to “give good gifts to those who ask him.” David exhorts, “Praise the Lord, O my soul . . . who satisfies your desires with good things” (Ps 103:1, 5). Certainly we can have selfish motives (see James 4:3), and undoubtedly God is not going to give us something that will ultimately hurt or spoil us, but this basic desire—of a father wanting to give his child that child’s greatest desire—comes directly from the father heart of God!
One memorable Christmas, when my daughter Sammy was a young girl, the generosity of a friend allowed my wife and me to give her the present that was her heart’s desire—a horse. We put Sammy in the back seat of the car and blindfolded her, then drove her through the country to one of our neighbors’ barns. I will never forget the look on Sammy’s face when we took the blindfold off to reveal her new horse. She was speechless for a couple minutes, something that had never happened before. But her face was saying I can’t believe it. This is exactly what I wanted!
My theological perspective on God’s will and calling for me has changed from thinking that something that I desire could not be something that God desires for me to realizing that sometimes, the two are actually the same thing. When I teach, I feel God smiling at me, and I think of the scene in the movie Chariots of Fire in which Olympic runner Eric Liddell tries to explain his passion about running to his sister: “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure!” I shiver inside when I think that I almost missed my calling because of bad theology.
REFLECTIONS: If you are sure of your calling, write it out in one or two sentences, then put it where you will see it daily. Have you dismissed one of your big dreams by calling it selfishness? What makes you feel most alive? When do you feel God’s pleasure most?
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!