Summary: Nov. 2006 Pastor’s Letter - Determining calling by examining Passions, Gifts and Experiences.
Focusing on a Personal Vision
There was only one letter on the first eye-chart I ever saw. It was the letter “E.” I could see it just fine. It was big and bold. I actually knew other letters at the time, but not all of my classmates in Kindergarten did. So there was just the one letter. The school nurse determined how well you could see by asking which way the ends of the E were facing. I used a pointer to show where “the pointy parts” faced. Each row she showed me was smaller than the one before it, and I got enough of them right to be sent back to the classroom. Since that time, and especially recently, I have had much more difficult eye-exams. I have failed a few of them. I have taken some of them enough times that I think I have the lines memorized. But today, at least with one eye, I can read just about any fine print.
In seeking God’s vision for my life, though, I confess that I sometimes try to see all the fine print, when He’s just trying to show me the right direction. I may stand in front of the chart all day saying, “That’s an ‘E.’” But if God is asking, “Which way is it pointing?” I’m not passing the test. Likewise, I am sometimes headed in the right direction, but I need a little more information on what to do once I get there. Yet even then, it’s rarely a matter of fine-print. God is far more willing to explain my purpose and calling than I am to fulfill it! As one who still has to look pretty carefully at the chart, here’s what I’ve found helpful in discerning God’s calling on my life.
The best means of determining God’s vision for our service to Christ and others (we may call it our “life-purpose,” or the “workmanship” God has made us to be in Christ) is often fairly simple, once we see it. But when we’re out looking for “A Vision” we often overlook the symptoms already evident in us. Vision, calling, purpose or whatever else you want to call it, is most often seen in some combination of our Passions, Gifts and Experiences.
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Passions are motivations to ministry that we often consider just a side-effect of our walk with Christ. When we feel joy about a particular testimony, accomplishment or statement, we need to realize that the same event does not affect all our brothers and sisters quite the same. Certain things are more important to us than they are to others, and more important than other things are to us. Likewise, there are certain needs that we hear of that cause us sorrow or longing or indignation, and we recognize again that not everyone reacts so strongly, and we may react so strongly as to surprise ourselves…God has likely put that passion in our hearts to help us identify the thing we would find most gratifying to address in ministry.
Gifts are not just chores at which we have developed a certain competence. When did someone last compliment you for an act of service that you felt (and may have said), “was really nothing at all?” There are things that you do much more easily than others. And there are things that you recognize as having a greater effect than your simple act of service would normally merit. Stay humble, but consider the things God has done through you that were more effective, appreciated, and lasting than you would have thought they would be.
Our Experiences are too often dismissed as mere coincidence. The events of our lives are not random. The afflictions we have endured are a result of God allowing such struggles to affect our lives. Why? He says that one reason is that we might comfort others in their afflictions with His comfort, having received it ourselves in the midst of our afflictions. There are also experiences we have had that we long to repeat. God often gives us mere glimpses of His ministry through us before entrusting to us an “official” position or calling. Perhaps you “filled-in” and found you enjoyed the work. Perhaps you “stepped-in” and saw greater results than you might have imagined. Perhaps you “fell-in” to a situation where it seemed the most natural thing in the world to meet a particular need, because you were the one who happened to be there at the right time, in the right place.
Whether we recognize His calling in all those Passions, Gifts and Experiences or not, I believe God has us pointed in the right direction. I don’t think He’s hidden anything in the fine print. But as a body of Christ together, and as individual brothers and sisters in God’s family, we need to look closely at where He’s leading us, what we’re to do when we get there, and especially the needs for ministry He’s showing us along the way.