What if our purpose in life has less to do with what we think we are called “to do” by God, and more about the type of person we are becoming?
We see this live out all the time with scandals in which pastors are caught having affairs. Some refuse to resign, or those that do, get immediately placed on some sort of “ministry restoration” track.
Our obsession with our sense of “calling” is often driven more by ego, self-absorbed, and narcissistic notions about ourselves. We think we are somehow important, special, or anointed, and as such, that becomes the all consuming task of our lives that justifies us doing dumb things. It gives us a “get out of jail free card” to misbehave, treat people like garbage, and throw out weight around.
I remember when a somewhat famous local pastor who had planted a progressive leaning Pentecostal church here in Charlotte got caught in an affair. He blew up a church in the process, and only resigned after intense pressure was put on him to do so (he didn’t originally intend to do such). Shortly afterwards he wrote a book about the entire thing talking about living a shipwrecked life. I had met this pastor in person several times, and had a long history of messaging each other on social media. Eventually I decided to confront him about this entire thing. He didn’t take it well, and exploded in rather vitriolic language, and used his sense of calling to justify his profiteering off an affair, and his restoration in other circles to public ministry.
The man was someone I had previously looked up to greatly. Now I realize the man is nothing but an idiot and a fool. He was high off his own supply. He thought his purpose and calling was the most important thing in the world, and was going to fulfill it and profit from it, even if his character wasn’t up to snuff. The character traits of a minister as outlined in 1 Timothy 3 simply didn’t matter to him. All that mattered to him is his own sense of “calling,” and he was going to minister no matter how much his character and calling didn’t align.
Jesus taught you’ll know people by their fruit. Because in the New Testament you cannot separate the man from the ministry. But often we get people pursuing ministry apart from character, and treating it as a trivial thing. And so you have people who regard themselves as prophets just because they have can run their mouths. In the New Testament, it’s ultimately the false prophets that will keep running their mouths even after their character lost the legs to keep up.
Ultimately where many false prophets go astray, is not necessarily in their theology or what they have to say, but in who they are as people first and foremost. Once the message and the messenger take divergent paths, that’s when one becomes a false prophet. They aren’t merely someone whose message can be simply corrected. They are false prophets because they themselves are false, and their message and character do not align. They are false in who they are, they are false in what they represent, they are ultimately false in their very being.
Which is why in whatever one’s personal sense of calling, whether it be to some sort of ministry, or some sort of other occupation or hobby, who you are as a person matters much more than the activities you engage in with your time, energy, and resources.
Who cares if you are a great minister if your own family can’t stomach to hear you speak? Who cares if you are a great artist if you are bitter to your bones? Who cares if you are a great business executive if you are known for having a wild temper and lash out at your staff? Who cares if you are president of the United States if you cheat on your wife and are known for defrauding the people that work for you just because you can?
The things God has called us to do isn’t nearly as important as who He has called us to be. All of the activities we engage in under the sun are but a temporary whisper. With most of what we work so hard at accomplishing and building will seldom last the span of our lifetime, let alone for centuries to come.
100 years from now, a picture of you probably won’t even exist, and your grandchildren probably will barely even think about you or anything that you ever did. Sorry to burst your bubble about the seemingly insignificant nature of all that you are striving to accomplish. But it’s true.
What are we to do then?
I believe that instead of focusing on what we are “called to do,” we need to focus on who God is calling us to become.
That’s not to say God isn’t calling us to accomplish certain tasks, occupations, or ministries. He certainly does such things.
But even greater than what God has called us to do is the type of person He’s calling us to become. In Romans 8:29, the apostle Paul says that God has “predestined” us to “become conformed to the image of His Son.”
Tasks, occupations, ministries… these are all temporary assignments. But who God had called us to be as people? This is something that will occupy the entirety of our lives, and live on with us throughout all of eternity!
The calling and purpose of our lives isn’t to a particular job or ministry, though we might do those things. But the real calling on our lives is to that of becoming more and more like Jesus. To become conformed to the image and likeness of the Son of God!
I know, that might not sound too sexy. It doesn’t exactly appeal to our innate narcissistic desires. We want to run, do, and accomplish. We want to be busy doing things that make us feel unique, valuable, and extra special. And we want to “blame God” on such because we are so deeply insecure about ourselves, that we just have to imagine that God has given us this extra special thing to accomplish in this world.
But the truth is, on this side of eternity, we will probably never fully grasp what it is God put us in this world to accomplish. The odds are the real difference we will have made that long outlives our lives will be measured, not in all the things that consciously consumed our focus. But, it’ll be in all the little things we did along the way, that we even completely forget about and won’t be reminded of until the day of judgement. And we’ll do those things, not because of who we thought we are, but because of the type of person that God was making us into along the way.
And I say this as one who has a very real deep sense of “calling,” on my life that has been with me for decades. But at a young age, I realized that my calling and character weren’t very strong in alignment, and that I still had a lot of growing to do.
So instead of focusing on what God had called me to do, I focused on who God has called me to become. And while I’ve arguably still engaged in a lot of what I believe that God has called me to do, it’s not been my primary focus or motivation. Instead, as I’ve focused on becoming more and more like Jesus, little opportunities to minister have simply opened up along the way. I can only imagine the disasters I would have caused had I focused on doing instead of becoming.
Sometimes I wonder if I couldn’t have done more, or if I couldn’t yet do more still in the future. But those questions haunt me less and less.
For the longer I’m on my journey, the more I become excited into the person that God is making me into. And the things I accomplish in His name, while important no doubt, just don’t have the luster to me that they used to have. For who I am becoming is infinitely and eternally more important than anything I ever do. Ultimately I want the man in the mirror to look like Jesus.
My question to you today is simply this: What is a bigger motivation in your life, to answer some sense of calling, or to become conformed to the image of God’s Son? I don’t think you have to search very deeply to find that answer. It’s a very surface level question. It’s looking at you every day in the mirror, and something others can clearly see.