I was a singer in a rock and roll band. We were called the Keviians and we were the resident band of the King Edward 7th Residential College, University of Singapore. We played at the College hops but I suspect we were all in the band because we liked what we were doing. It was our passion.
No one had to twist our arms to rehearse. Then there was the joy of seeing your music impact people. And the late night post performance unwinding on Orchard Road over hokkien mee (noodles) and beer? Looking back at my time in university, I think my time with the Keviians were some of my happiest. Yeah, I missed my calling. Maybe not.
Most books on vocational discernment suggest that you reflect on your life, and identify things you did where ‘you lose a sense of time.’ These are things which you enjoyed doing and where you touched the lives of others. The Keviian experience was one such experience. So was my time in the college debating team. (It felt really good beating the law students from Raffles. Dunearn Road Hostel debaters however were much tougher.) I also enjoyed contributing to the College newsletter and editing the 20th anniversary edition of the Hall annual magazine.
I think it’s safe to say that I enjoyed communicating. That was how I was hot wired. And that has remained true till today.
When I am asked to introduce myself at gatherings where I am to speak, I rarely talk about my organization. I have come to realize that what differentiates me is not what organization/church I come from. What differentiates me is my passion. So I introduce myself by talking about my passion. And I am passionate about linking the Word of God to the struggles of daily life. A key verse for me would be Jesus’ reminder in Matthew 4:4: “Man is not to live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (REB) I am passionate about being part of that process. Which is why I have dedicated myself to the study of God’s Word. And to the study of the times in which we live. And to the study of the human heart. I do this so that I can be a better earthen vessel for God to communicate that life giving Word to people.
My passion means that I look forward to writing this weekly column though there are weeks when I have absolutely no idea what I am going to say till the very last minute. (This may be one of the reasons why my hair is graying.) I feel my blood coursing through my veins as I sit before my computer and put down words that I pray will help give people some glimpse of the Kingdom as they struggle in the marketplace. Only writers will know the sense of joy and despair that comes when you press the send button and hope that an article makes sense to somebody.
My passion also means that I am most alive when I stand before a group of people and am given the opportunity to speak the Word of God (1 Peter 4:11). I pray that God will help me love the audience more than I love my preaching. But I do love to preach. And I pray that my sermons will always be RAP, Relevant (addressing the real needs of people), Accurate (true to the Word properly interpreted), and Passionate (emotionally congruent with the subject matter).
People may not always understand the price communicators’ pay when they preach or write. When I communicate the Word of God I am no dispassionate communicating machine. The Word goes from God’s heart to the heart of the listeners, through my heart. And that is costly. Strips of my heart get carried along in the process. And I bleed after every sermon. After every piece I write.
But I cannot not communicate God’s Word. It is the fire in my bones that I can’t hold back. (Jeremiah 20:9) It is who I am.
Who are you? There seems to be biblical support for the idea of ‘doing what you are’. In Romans 12:7b – 8, Paul exhorts us to be faithful stewards of our spiritual gifts but goes on to identity the gift with the person: “the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in his generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” (ESV) So which one are you?
Note that Paul immediately follows up with the call for love to be genuine (v.9a). Vocation pursued apart from agape love is another exercise in pride and godless self-fulfillment. Indeed, in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul had already established that anything done outside of agape amounts to zilch in God’s eyes.
Therefore, maturing as a Christian means to grow in Christ-like compassion. But it also includes growing in understanding who we are and what we have been called to do.
In his helpful book, COURAGE and CALLING, Gordon T. Smith reminds us not to confuse our career with our calling. However he is also realistic enough to accept that there will be times when we have to do one thing so that we can put food on the table, and pursue our vocation outside of our jobs. He writes:
“There are some people whose vocation will actually be fulfilled outside of their occupation; their occupation is but their means of livelihood.”
But it would be such a waste to go through life just chasing the bucks and be totally oblivious to our callings, ignoring our passions.
The world today looks dark. Indeed it will be dark till that joyful morning when the light of Christ’s return will shine. In the meantime, I believe the world can be a much better place if more people pursued their passions. Something significant happens when one’s passion meets some deep need in the world. I think I have found my passion. How about you?
Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan