In today’s culture we throw the word “calling” around so nonchalantly. We act as if it’s some elusive, mythical creature like the unicorn. Sometimes finding your calling is easy, while other times it’s like trying to nail jello to the wall. About the time you get it nailed down you notice things start to slip. Over the years students have asked me how to know they are called to do something. My answer has always been the same, “If you can’t do anything else and be happy, then you’re called.” If you can do anything else and be happy, then go do it.

Over the years I’ve noticed many people have unrealistic expectations regarding following their calling. People often think when they start to follow God that it’s all going to be a bed of roses with little blue birds dancing around your head. I must sheepishly admit when I was younger I was a little naive as well regarding how easy it would be.

Since graduating from a Christian college, teaching at the university level and working in ministry for several years, I’ve learned a few lessons about calling. If we aren’t careful we will fall into the trap of having some false assumptions about living out our callings. And we need to stop.

Don’t Assume Your Calling Is Where the Money Is.

I wish this were true, but it’s usually not the case. It’s easy to think your calling is about what you make, but it’s really about what you give. I once heard someone say, “You make a living out of what you make, but you make a life out of what you give.” Some of the most influential people in the world such as Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mark and Huldah Buntain never found money in their calling. They were known for what they gave, not what they kept.

Don’t Assume the Price of Your Calling Will Be Minimal.

It’s easy to think there’s no price to be paid for your calling. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t sacrificed something to achieve their dream. You’ll have to give up other desires, time, relationships and even finances to follow your calling. If you don’t have to sacrifice something, your pursuit is probably trivial.

Don’t Assume Your Calling Will Be Easy.

We often buy into the myth of believing that just because God called us to do something it will be easy. This sounds great in theory, but it’s not true. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” If you’re called to something, expect trouble. If the Son of God didn’t get a free pass from trouble, then why do we think we should? A lot of people view trouble as a sign of something wrong in their lives, but it’s usually a good sign you’re headed in the right direction. My pastor often reminds us, “To the degree you are willing to endure pain; will be to the degree that God can use you.” The greatest people used by God in the Bible endured great amounts of pain. Pain seems to be the price to be paid for a life of significance.

Don’t Assume Your Calling Won’t Require Risk.

The people who have accomplished the most have risked the most. If you want to do something significant in life, there will be an element of risk involved. You’ll risk failure, looking foolish in front of your peers and betrayal. In fact, the higher degree of risk you’re willing to take, the greater the potential for making a difference will be.

Don’t Assume Your Calling Will Be Easy to Find.

Much of what I’ve learned about my calling has been through trial and error, mostly error. When I first started out in ministry I thought I was called to be a senior pastor. I quickly realized I wasn’t called to be a senior pastor. Since that time I’ve been a young adults pastor, ministry development director and college administrator. I’ve learned a lot in ministry and have experienced a lot as well. What I was actually called to do was equip and encourage people for life and ministry. I’ve been able to fulfill this calling in every ministry setting I have found myself in.

Don’t Assume Everyone Around You Will Appreciate What You Do.

When I was a young Christian I was naive and thought everyone who said they were a Christian acted like one. It didn’t take me long to figure out not everyone was reading out of the same book I was. Jesus endured a great deal of opposition from the people around him. In fact, he was very much under appreciated and misunderstood. Like Jesus, people in your life aren’t going to understand your calling and they’ll even question your motives. Those closest to you aren’t going to understand your calling. Jesus’ own brothers doubted his calling, so don’t be surprised when your family doesn’t understand the decisions or sacrifices you choose to make.

While following your calling is not easy; it’s worth the pain and risk involved. If following your calling was easy, everyone would do it. If nothing else, we follow our calling because someone needs what we have in our lives. Ultimately, our calling is our gift to the world. It’s up to us to pursue it only to see it given away.

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