Discover Your Story | A Biblical Guide to Finding Your Calling

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DISCOVER YOUR STORY A Biblical Guide to Finding Your Calling


What is your biggest



Richard Leider and David Shapiro, in their book, Repacking Your Bags: Lighten Your Load for the Rest of Your Life, found that the number-one fear of most people is having lived a meaningless life. More recently, the Barna Group reported in one survey that 75 percent of U.S. adults say they are looking for ways to live a more meaningful life. Only 40 percent of practicing Christians surveyed said they have a clear sense of God’s calling on their lives. These numbers point to what Barna has termed “a revived quest for meaning.” Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be a fruitless quest. You can find your calling and live a meaningful life. The calling God places on your life reveals itself through prayer, reflection, and trusted input from friends and relatives. This guide is meant to be a helpful resource in finding your calling. It uncovers basic truths about calling while offering useful tips as you recognize what God has created you for.

WHAT YOUR CALLING IS...AND ISN’T It’s easy to get confused about what “calling” means. It’s often mixed up with “job” or “career.” Calling is much more than a job or career. It embraces all of life. It is like an umbrella, covering the whole of life, and under which your job or career fits. In his book The Call, Os Guinness distinguishes between two types of calling, primary and secondary. Our primary calling is to be followers of Christ. Stemming from this primary call to Christ are what Guinness refers to as secondary callings. These callings are what we are to do with our lives. Our obedience to our primary calling can be seen working itself out in four distinct ways...

1 The call to

FAMILY We are called to be a part of our human family: brother, sister, son, daughter, father, and mother. This call has its basis in Genesis 1:28, known as the Cultural Mandate: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it...” The family is one way we fill the earth with the image of God, thus fulfilling the Cultural Mandate. In his book God at Work, Gene Veith expands on this call to family, saying,

“Every Christian - indeed, every human being - has been called by God into a family....The family is the most basic of all vocations, the one in which God’s creative power and his providential care are most dramatically conveyed through human beings.”

2 The call to The


All members of the church possess spiritual gifts, natural gifts, and abilities. We are called to use these gifts in service within the church to build up the body of Christ and carry out its purpose in the world. The diversity of gifts, each supporting the other, strengthens the whole church “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ� (Ephesians 4:13).

3 The call to


The Gospel commands us to serve God’s purposes in the world through civic, social, political, domestic, and ecclesiastical roles. We are to love God and our neighbor in the larger community beyond the church by engaging in justice and mercy as God leads us. Tim Keller in his book Ministries of Mercy insists, “To say that evangelism can be done without also doing social concern is to forget that our goal is not individual ‘decisions’ but the bringing of all life and creation under the lordship of Christ, the kingdom of God.”

4 The call to


This is the call to God’s service in and through your work. The work of believers possesses a significance which goes far beyond the visible results of that work. The process of doing the work, as much as the results of that work, is significant to God. There is no distinction between spiritual and temporal, sacred and secular. All human work, however lowly, has the potential of glorifying God. Work can be an act of praise. Work glorifies God, it serves the common good, and it is something through which human creativity expresses itself.

Under this definition, you may have different careers and jobs at different points in your life, but your calling from God will stay constant. Your job can change over time, but your calling remains constant because it’s who God created you to be. Rick Wellock, a director at the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation, offers the following insight on the “whole-life” definition of calling laid out above: “God’s will for your life is not a job. Rather, it’s being who you are, where you are, with who you are with, given the way you’re gifted and the way you’ve yielded those gifts.” In addition to pointing out that calling isn’t limited to your job, Wellock’s observation touches on another important truth: your calling isn’t something you figure out on your own. There is no substitute for having a wise friend listen to you and reflect back like an accurate mirror what they see. This becomes clearer as you dive into how to find your calling.

HELPFUL TIPS FOR RECOGNIZING YOUR CALLING There are a lot of different tools available, such as Strengthsfinder™ and the Abilities Potential Test, to help you learn more about yourself and your unique talents and abilities. We recommend you take advantage of those! However, one unique way to find your calling comes out of your own life experience and accomplishments – your own story. Here’s how: Remember who you are in Christ; you possess dignity and significance. 1. 2.

Being made in the image of God provides the basis for your calling. Because God is creative, and we are made in his image, we can be creative in our calling, too.

Reflect on your life history. 1. 2. 3. 4.

Think back on what you have enjoyed doing throughout your life, and what you have done well. List at least three illustrations drawn from various periods of life, such as: grade school, junior high and high school, college, and post-college. As you reflect, ask yourself three questions: 1) What did you do? 2) How did you do it? 3) How was it satisfying to you? Pay attention to the verbs you’re using to describe your experiences. These verbs are clues to determining prominent themes or patterns in your stories. Write these themes and patterns down.

Reveal your reflections and stories to a friend, mentor, or relative. 1. Share the details of your stories with someone you trust. Note (or have them note) the following: • Any recurring subject matter. • What places you played on any teams you were a part of growing up. • What kinds of challenges trigger your motivations. • How and why you’re motivated to learn. 2.

Share the answers to the three questions listed above. Have your friend make note of the verbs you use, too – they might see something you missed. They might also catch themes or patterns you don’t see yourself.

Going through these steps can help you see things about your talents and personality that you didn’t see before. They might also affirm things you already know about yourself. Once you’ve gone through these exercises, share them with your family and friends (especially if you went through these steps by yourself). Listen to what they say and how they react as you share with them what

you’ve discovered about yourself. Another next step is to write down in a journal what you’ve learned. It’s easy to forget everything you’ve discovered. Journaling about your findings will help cement the experience in your mind. It’s also helpful for processing everything. Paying attention to the way God has created you and finding a wise friend willing to listen will reap dividends throughout your life as you seek to recognize and pursue your calling.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES • How Then Should We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work – by Hugh Whelchel • Cure for the Common Life – by Max Lucado • Strengthsfinder 2.0 • The MCORE Test • Abilities Potential Aptitude Testing and Career Guidance

Copyright © 2014 Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Hugh Whelchel serves as the executive director the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics and brings a unique combination of executive responsibility, creative educational administration, and technical innovation from over thirty years of diverse business experience. Almost a decade ago, Hugh stepped out of a successful business career in the IT industry to share his experience of turning around unprofitable companies with Reformed Theological Seminary’s struggling Washington, DC, campus where he served as Executive Director and guest professor. In addition to his business acumen, Hugh has a passion and expertise in helping individuals integrate their faith and vocational calling. He is the author of How Then Should We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work, released in May 2012. Hugh is a contributor to The Washington Post/On Faith “Local Leaders” website and has been published on The Gospel and ByFaith Online. He has also been a guest on Moody Radio Network’s “In the Market with Janet Parshall,” Salem Radio Network, IRN/USA Radio Network, and Truth in Action Ministries’ “Truth That Transforms,” and the “Jack Riccardi Show,” among other shows. In addition to serving on the board of several Christian non-profits, Hugh has served as the Executive Director and board member of The Fellows Initiative, an umbrella organization supporting and establishing church-based Fellows Programs which are designed to help young adults understand God’s vocational calling on their lives as they enter their careers. A native Floridian, Hugh earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from

the University of Florida and a Master of Arts in Religion from Reformed Theological Seminary. Hugh and his wife Leslie now live in Loudoun County, Virginia. As an ordained ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, he serves in leadership at McLean Presbyterian Church in McLean, Virginia. In what little spare time he has, Hugh enjoys hiking, golfing, and restoring old sports cars.

ABOUT THE INSTITUTE FOR FAITH, WORK & ECONOMICS IFWE is a Christian research organization committed to promoting biblical principles that help Christians thrive in the workplace for the glory of God, the common good and the advancement of God’s kingdom. IFWE conducts and translates high-level theological and economic research into practical resources that will help Christians integrate their faith in the workplace and become better stewards of all that God has given them. For more information, visit

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