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Your calling

Having a talent for something is not the only measure of what it will be

Issue: "Biblical callings," Dec. 4, 2010

Find your gift and you will know your calling.

Well, hold onto that thought. God is not perverse; He gives gifts for a reason. But don't be too quick to assume you know the reason.

Charles Thomas Studd had mad gifts in cricket, and every intention of parlaying them into fame. Then his brother, also cricket-blessed, lay dying, and C.T. said, "Now what is all the popularity of the world to George? What is all the fame and flattering? What is it worth to possess the riches of the world, when a man comes to face Eternity?" Studd and the "Cambridge Seven" followed Hudson Taylor to China to save souls.

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Now Hudson Taylor, there's an interesting case. How do you know your leading is from the Holy Spirit and not your overactive imagination? Here are the kinds of "confirmations" Taylor experienced: Rumors in England that China's civil war was a mass movement of Christianity proved erroneous. Taylor's first voyage in 1854 was nearly disastrous. In 1855 his 18 preaching tours in Shanghai were often poorly received, and his medical supplies were destroyed by a fire. In 1856 he was robbed of nearly all his possessions. In 1858 his firstborn child died. Was the Holy Spirit telling him to hightail it back to England? Taylor remained 51 years, learned four Chinese dialects, brought over 800 missionaries, and started 125 schools.

Charles Finney was snatched from a promising career as a lawyer into the gospel circuit rider's world of "if it's Tuesday this must be Utica." The other barristers probably said, "Foolish Finney. He could have made a name for himself like us. Now he will never amount to anything."

"Amounting to something" is the graveyard of many a spiritual calling. Charity Churchmouse, from my kids' "Psalty the Singing Songbook" years, had a dream to make it big as a gospel singing star. When Psalty asked if she had prayed about it, she unfurled a high A for him and said, "Isn't it obvious?" But the fact is that many opportunities that seem divinely delivered on a silver platter come with little integrity tests.

Say you feel the Spirit has opened doors for you all the way from Mayberry to Hollywood. Then at one audition they hand you a script that's a Trojan horse for gender role obfuscation. You had better think twice about saying to yourself: "I need to suck it up in order to be light and salt in this Tinseltown mission field." What kind of light and salt can you be now? You have just taught them that you are willing to compromise your convictions. In 1589 King Henry IV of France switched religion, saying, "Paris is well worth a Mass." Where is he today? He is in a place where Parisian royalty and the Boulevard's Walk of Fame mean nothing.

"So you say the actor should refuse the plum role and get washed up in his Hollywood career?" someone will object. But the question itself is wrong. It presupposes that the future is a predictable chain reaction in a closed system. The truth is we live in an open system, with God intruding at every point. And God knows how to lift up the humble and bring down the willful.

If calling were a function of talent, pure and simple, then your mother missed the boat because her piano, math, and business aptitudes were totally underutilized in her role as your potty trainer and short-order cook. And I have often marveled that the best Bible teachers I have sat under were women, but Jesus appointed men to the job. What is this strange divine economics of His?

It is evident that the Holy Spirit told Hudson Taylor: "Go to China." No one could brook such a barrage of counter-evidence without a calling that transcended it. But what the Lord is teaching me these days is not to look for his Leading with a capital "L," but with a small "l." His will unfolds in our pinpoint obedience to His minutest redirections of course on an ordinary Wednesday, that sets us up for Thursday-"Phone your Mom"; "Don't tell that joke"; "Write to Bubba." As Robert Frost said, "Way leads on to way."

Do you think Moses ever regretted turning down the perks of court in Pi-Ramesses? 

Email aseupeterson@wng.org

Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again. Follow Andrée on Twitter @Andreespeterson.

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