In this series, we’re looking at three major considerations for discerning God’s vocational guidance.
- The needs of the world
- Your skills and gifts
- Your truest desires
Last week we discussed how the needs of the world fit into the work you’re called to do. This week, we’ll examine the second consideration: your skills and gifts.
The Bible says that God gives people gifts for accomplishing the work he wants them to do, and it names some of the gifts and skills that God imparts:
Do those who plow for sowing plow continually? Do they continually open and harrow their ground? When they have leveled its surface, do they not scatter dill, sow cummin, and plant wheat in rows and barley in its proper place, and spelt as the border? For they are well instructed; their God teaches them. – Isaiah 28:24-26
We have gifts that differ, according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. – Romans 12:6-8
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. – 1 Corinthians 12:7-10
As the last two passages show, when Paul discusses the gifts of the Spirit, he is usually referring to their use in the church. But if all work done by Christians is done for the Lord (Colossians 3:23), then we can infer that the Spirit’s gifts are also given for use in the workplace. Gifts and skills therefore provide some help for discerning God’s guidance.
A number of tools have been developed to help people discern their gifts and make use of them in workplace settings. However, it is easy to pay too much attention to your skills and gifts. The present generation of westerners is the most gift-analyzed in human history, yet this penchant for analysis can lead to self-absorption, crowding out attention to the needs of the world. These passages say that God gives gifts for the common good, not personal satisfaction. Besides, in many cases, God gives his gifts only after you take the job in which you’ll need them. Paying too much attention to the gifts you already have can keep you from receiving the gifts God wants to give you.
Nonetheless, the gifts you already have may give you some indication about how to best meet the needs of the world. It would be narcissistic to declare that God has called you to be the world’s greatest pianist, and then expect him to download the necessary talent into you after years of mediocre piano playing and lukewarm practicing. Career guidance via skills and gifts is a difficult balancing act, which is why it must be sought in the midst of relationship with God and fellow Christians.
Here again, we must not become focused on work to the exclusion of the rest of life. God also gives gifts for our family life, friendships, recreation, volunteering and the whole breadth of life’s activities.
Excerpt from the Theology of Work Project’s eBook Calling: A Biblical Perspective.