For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV)
There are times in your life when you feel “this is who I am, this is what I was called to do.” I felt this on Tuesday. I was teaching my first class in the “Introduction to Christian Spirituality” course in Singapore Bible College. This is the fourth time I have taught this course. As I looked at the class, 51 students from diverse denominations and countries, I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility and joy. I had the high privilege of sharing from God’s Word what I had learnt from scholarship and from life, about life and ministry to a very special group of God’s people. I was looking forward to learning from them as well, looking forward to being inspired by their lives. I thanked God for the opportunity to do what I was called to do. I realise that not everyone is able to live the life they were meant to live.
In her book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, Bronnie Ware lists the following as the number 1 regret.
I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. (The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc., 2011, 37.)
It follows then that if we are to die without regrets, one of the things we must do is to discover the life we were meant to live and have the courage to live it. This is precisely what Gordon T. Smith asks us to do in his book Courage & Calling.
Be true to who you are and who God has called you to be; fulfill the call of God – your call to be who you are called to be. That call will be consistent with who you are. Self-knowledge is indeed half the battle, but it is only half. The real challenge is to live congruently with who we are – with how God has made us, with the ability and talent God has given us, with the desire that God has placed in our hearts, with how we see the brokenness of the world and with how God has crafted our personalities. (Courage & Calling, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011, 70).
In Ephesians 2:8-10, Paul tells us that we cannot work for our salvation. It is a gift from God to be received through faith. But he also goes on to tell us that we are saved to do good works, work that God had in mind for each of us when He saved us. It is incumbent on us to try to discover that work and to do it. We need to discover our life’s work.
Each of us has something that we feel is the very reason for which we have been designed, created and redeemed. In the end we embrace this call, this purpose, because this, so help us God, is who we are. In the end there is something to which we say: “This I must do.” And we will do it, regardless of whether we have parental approval, regardless of whether we get praise or financial return. (Smith, Courage & Calling, 76)
Helping followers of Jesus discover their vocation should then be a key part of our disciple-making. I think this is true of believers of all ages. But it is particularly important in the discipling of young adults. In his book, You Lost Me, David Kinnaman points out a number of gaps in how the contemporary church does discipling. One key gap he says is in the area of vocation.
The second arena (where this is a gap in our discipling) is vocation, that powerful, often ignored intersection of faith and calling. Millions of Christ-following teens and young adults are interested in serving in mainstream professions, such as science, law, media, technology, education, law enforcement, military, the arts, business, marketing and advertising, health care, accounting, psychology, and dozens of others. Yet most receive little guidance from their church communities for how to connect these vocational dreams deeply with their faith in Christ. (You Lost Me, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011, 29)
If Christ has given each of us specific personal missions to pursue, we must help believers find their personal callings and give them the encouragement and help to pursue those callings. Our young, especially, who live in a constantly changing world where little is constant, need to be rooted in God and what God has called them to do. Therefore a significant part of the ministry of Graceworks is helping young adults discover and pursue their vocations.
I will also be covering this in my class. One of the highlights of teaching the “Introduction to Christian Spirituality” course is to see the lights go on when students begin to have some idea what their vocations might be. It seems that one aspect of my vocation is to help others find theirs. I thank God I have the opportunity to do what I have been called to do. Whatever may be my regrets when I am dying, not living a life that is true to who I am will not be one of them. I am grateful.