Don’t Miss the Chance to MatterBlog / Produced by The High Calling
"Oh, oh," my host said as we stood near the podium after my teaching session, "Lawrence is hot." Sure enough, barreling down the center aisle was this group's "most important person." Lawrence was spitting mad and loud enough for everyone else to hear him vent at me.
"How dare you suggest my life has been worthless to God!" he sputtered. "Do you know who I am?!?" He proceeded to tell me, punctuating his biography with a long—and admittedly impressive list—of financial gifts his wildly successful career had enabled him to give.
Of course, I had not said his life was worthless, but that's what he heard. Here's what I said: "God uses people who intentionally surrender themselves and their labors to His service; and because of that, every job they do matters. For those who never give God a single thought when it comes to vocation, it's likely he rarely gives their work a thought either."
If we make vocational decisions based on personal wants and needs alone, we're choosing to be insignificant in God's plan.
In parts 1 and 2, we divided humanity into two groups for the purposes of calling. The first, which we called the Moses Group, fit the traditional image of calling, that narrow sense that God has a specific plan or course for us. We acknowledged there are men and women whom God chooses to use to accomplish specific tasks, and therefore people whose lives are well-charted ahead of time by God. Studying Abraham, however, (hence the Abraham Group) we learned most of us don't fit the "only one right choice" category of calling. In fact, we learned, most of us are free to pick how we serve God, providing, that is, that's what we're doing—serving God and not ourselves.
What if you came to Christ late in life? Or what if, after years of sitting Sunday after Sunday in church, where work is rarely mentioned, you suddenly discover God expected you to take him into account when choosing what you do? Is everything up to that point worthless?
This is the question that had Lawrence storming down the aisle at me. If we've never stopped to consider God in our vocational decisions, then the only time your work has mattered is when he's chosen to sporadically use us despite our insolence. In fact, much of our angst, I believe, comes from a Spirit-induced realization we've been ignoring God.
Seem hopeless? Not in God's Kingdom; not for his children. We serve a God who is not bound by time and space. He is watching the battle at Gettysburg unfold while simultaneously watching over Neil Armstrong as he bounces on the surface of the moon while also watching Don Larsen pitch that perfect game in the World Series. He is watching Michelangelo carving David from the marble and Joan of Arc leading the French at Orleans and Dietrich Bonhoeffer encouraging fellow prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp.
Hard as it is to imagine, God can make a lifetime-lived-without-him suddenly a lifetime-useful-to-him. One obvious way this happens is when God takes a mistake-filled past and turns it into a tool to be used by the person who lived it, immediately giving that past value by teaching us to use it to help others avoid our mistakes or live through their own mistakes. Suddenly those moments spent rebelling against God—or ignoring him—inform our mentoring relationships and prayers as we recognize others going through similar experiences.
God isn't restricted, however, to merely using natural means to reclaim our past efforts. Hard as it is for us to comprehend, He can also act supernaturally in the lives of men and women who have been longtime Christians, even if they rarely thought to include him in their work lives. Moving back and forth through time is a difficult concept for us to grasp, except in our favorite sci-fi moments, but it's a very real activity for God. And while I'm not arguing God will return and rewrite your history, I think it's entirely likely an all-knowing God—aware of your eventual longing at sixty to have been of use to him from your twenties—will have guided your steps to a path useful to his Kingdom even before you're consciously aware of your duty to him. Christians who've spent their lives seeking to be faithful to Scripture, but who may have spent those lives thinking their work made little difference to God, are likely to find their desire to be faithful was sufficient—as it was for Abraham—for him to bless their work with Kingdom fruit even when they're not fully aware. Think of the "but Lord, when did we" passages in Matthew 25 as support for this retroactive redemptive gift of God.
Did we miss the chance to matter? For those of us whom God calls to specific tasks, the answer is a reassuring "NO" because he leaves no doubt. And for those of us left free to choose, it didn't matter whether we went left or right. God was still in our effort if we desired most to honor God. And then, at last there's this: Even at the end of our days, it's never too late to seek—and receive—God's redemption on lives lived distant from His universal call to walk every day with him.
Questions for personal reflection, online discussion, or small groups:
- Do you feel a specific call from God like Moses received or a general call like Abraham received?
- Consider your daily life and work. What does it look like to serve God there with intentionality?
- Have you desired to honor God throughout your career? How has he brought meaning to your work?
- Have you been distant from God in your daily life and work? How can you seek him more?
Photograph by Phil Mollenkof used with permission.