M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

Established in 2006, the Vision and Call internship program is built on the belief that life’s longer lessons, the ideas that shape commitment and souls, are often best learned through an apprenticeship experience and worked out through a community of mentors and peers. Each internship experience is expected to incorporate six essentials elements. In a special blog post series, current Vision and Call organizational leaders share their insight into the value and importance of these essential elements.

Today’s guest post is by Ryan Gilbert, Director of Ministries, SAMBICA. He speaks to us about Essential 4 – Conducting Intentional Conversations About “Vocation and Calling”

Rom 8:28:  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

            This is one of those classic verses that gets quoted so often it almost becomes difficult for us to stop and think about what it means.  I recently came across this verse (for the millionth time) and felt like God showed me something new in it:  according to his purpose.  Yes, “all things work together for good”.  Yes, this is true of “those who love God.”  Yes, they are “called.” 

But, there’s an absolutely crucial point here that had never really jumped out to me before… we are called “according to his purpose.”  If we are called according to his purpose, then the definition of “good” is as it relates to God’s purpose and we need to understand what God’s purpose is.

God’s purpose as it relates to us, and our purpose as it relates to God, is to bring glory to God.  Without going too far down this theological rabbit trail, and starting to circle back towards leading interns in intentional conversations concerning vocation and calling, let me just point out a handful of scriptures that clearly paint a picture of our purpose to bring glory to God:  Phil 2:9-13, 1 Cor 10:31, Rev 4:8-11, and many others.  It’s not about us, but about Him.  This idea of our purpose being to glorify God really deserves a whole book, or even a life’s work, but hopefully this short paragraph can give the concept some degree of support.

So, how does this relate to conversations around giftedness and calling within an internship program?  It is absolutely foundational to any conversation around what any individual Christian is called to do and how God has gifted them to do that.  This is the starting point.  What is my calling?  To glorify God.  Period.  It is for His good, not my own. 

When talking with interns about their giftedness and calling, we need to push back against the “I” statements.  “I want to…”  “I am good at…”  “I feel like I should…”  “I can’t…”  “I’m not good at…” (ooh, there’s a big one to start to push back on.)  These I statements can actually be very limiting of the individual and lead to missing the target of “according to his purpose.”  How can finding my calling be according to his purpose if I make it all about me?  It can’t.

My personal opinion (supported by zero scientific research so please take it for what it is worth) is that we are all part of the most self-aware generation in history.  Self-awareness is great when it leads us to see how we can glorify God.  But when it leads us to limit ourselves with a fixed mindset, or to be impatient in finding the “perfect fit” for our perception of our skills and interests, or causes us to focus too much on how a career step affects me versus how it impacts the Kingdom, then that self-awareness is a negative.

Kevin DeYoung gives the best treatment I have seen to this topic in his short little book called “Just do Something: A liberating approach to finding God’s will.”  I could really write this whole blog post just by encouraging you to read this book.  Packed with scripture, it truly is liberating and has helped take the pressure off for many young adults that I have handed a copy to over the years.  It actually was first handed to me by a former intern who was really struggling to find that right next step.  The trick is, there is no “right next step,” other than to step with the purpose of bringing glory to God.   Take a step.  Just do something, and God will use it and direct it.

So, all the personality profiles, StrengthFinder assessments, enneagrams, exit interviews, mentoring sessions, workplace tours, introductions to contacts, spiritual gifts assessments, etc, that are a part of (hopefully) all internship programs are not just good, but great!   Let us be students of who God has created us to be, and let us keep in mind the purpose of that study; according to his purpose.

The 20th century monk Thomas Merton said, “We do not want to be beginners.  But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything else but beginners.”  He said this as it relates to contemplative prayer, but if I could hijack the concept and apply it to the idea of calling and giftedness, let us never feel like we really know ourselves fully.  Let us never feel that we know exactly what God has called us to, but instead let us seek to bring glory to him with any next step that he may have for use.

Let us be firm in the knowledge that God has called us, and equipped us perfectly, to bring glory to him in the place we are now, in our next step, and in the step after that.  After all, this is all according to his purpose, not our purpose.  And praise God for that!

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