Os Guinness has noted in his book The Call, that as Christians we all have a secondary call to tasks or vocations – the work God has appointed us to do. This includes both career plans and the minor daily tasks that come as part of everyday life. We can experience a sense of calling every day as God sets our agendas. Part of God’s plan for all His people is to put His work in our hands, and part of being spiritually mature is this sense of calling to this work.
God doesn’t leave us guessing what our job is, either. When He called Jeremiah, He had very specific instructions for Him that included what He wanted Jeremiah to do, where He wanted Him to do it, and what the results would be. God also gave Jeremiah a small glimpse into the big picture.
You are Appointed to Your Tasks
God told Jeremiah, “Before you were born I set you apart (consecrated you for my special use); I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5). God commissioned, appointed, or ordained Jeremiah as His spokesman before the foundation of the world. And one day Jeremiah became aware of His divine appointment. And God does the same for us.
Are you aware of your divine appointment? Are you convinced about God’s truth concerning His lost world and what He wants you to do about it? Your appointment and my appointment will be different from Jeremiah’s appointment, but all will be just as important as others in the bigger scheme of things.
Again in his book The Call, Os Guinness says,
Our primary calling as followers of Christ is by him, to him, and for him. First and foremost we are called to Someone (God), not to something (such as motherhood, politics, or teaching) or to somewhere (such as the inner city or Outer Mongolia).
Our secondary calling, considering who God is as sovereign, is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live, and act entirely for him. We can therefore properly say as a matter of secondary calling that we are called to homemaking or to the practice of law or to art history. But these and other things are always the secondary, never the primary calling. They are “callings” rather than the “calling.” They are our personal answer to God’s address, our response to God’s summons. Secondary callings matter, but only because the primary calling matters most.
As Jeremiah was to discover, when he was up to his neck in the slime pit because of his secondary calling (his task), it was his primary calling (his relationship with God) that kept him faithful and sane.
Finding Joy in the Doing
So often we can get thoroughly fed up with the callings, or tasks, that we do for God in Christian service. If we don’t have our primary calling overruling and overshadowing our secondary callings, we quit or at least lose all joy in the journey. We also need to sense the huge importance of our secondary callings. These callings have been as much in the mind of God for us as was our primary calling. Knowing this changes our attitude toward everything we do.
You need to ask yourself. What is driving my ministry activity? Are you running the church nursery because someone at church asked you to or because you believe that God (who is calling the shots) nudged that person to ask you to? Are you convinced that this activity you are engaged in is the reason God made you in the first place?
A cartoon in a Christian magazine showed an old lady sitting in the church nursery in a rocking chair. She had been there a long time. The caption underneath the picture said, “I only came in here 30 years ago because Hilda wanted to go to the bathroom!” You can laugh at this, unless you are the one who has been stuck in that same rocking chair and are not sure you should have been there.
If you find yourself in a similar dilemma, let me ask you this: What has kept you at your post? If God has kept you there because you discerned that this was one of your secondary callings, then you will be confident, happy, and satisfied to be there. If, on the other hand, you are there because Hilda asked you to be there or because no one else would take a turn, or just out of sheer habit, you will have no joy in the doing. You run the risk of looking back and asking yourself, What could I have done with all those hours spent in that rocking chair?
A missionary once told me, “I have served at this post for thirty-six years. I have been a missionary wife and full-time pastor’s wife all this time. If I have one regret, it is that I have been in the pew every time the church door was open. I have not missed one wedding or funeral. Looking back, I question why. I think of many, many times I did not need to be there. I realize that I could have accomplished so much if I had allowed God to tell me where He wanted me and what He wanted me to do and not let others’ expectations drive my actions.”
How do you know if you are truly in God’s secondary calling on your life? Listen to God’s still small voice. He will tell you. And then, with some strange internal knowledge, you’ll say, yes, this is the particular secondary calling He had in mind for me before He made me.
Letting God Set Your Agenda
These secondary callings can be practical callings or spiritual callings. In fact, all practical callings of God are really spiritual! But we tend to imagine that doing something practical is somehow less significant.
I remember one of our married children needing help. Our son called me one day and asked, “Mom, could you possibly come and stay with the kids? We need to get away.” There were some problems that needed to be sorted out and this was an emergency. Then I asked the Lord what I was going to do about the meetings I had scheduled the next day and the next week. This crisis had not been on my agenda!
“It was on mine!” God responded. After talking it over with God, my husband and I discerned that this was the thing that God had always had in mind for the next ten days of my life. It was a secondary calling.
Not that it was an easy calling, but my heart had been invested with a divine necessity to be there. I was aware every day that there was only one place on earth I was meant to be at that particular moment in my timeline on earth, and that was right there with that little family. My appointed heart told me so.
Five weeks later I was back home standing in front of hundreds of women teaching a Bible study. Exactly the same assurance filled my heart. This was precisely the place God wanted me to be. My appointed heart was quite definite about that also.
Because God wanted me doing those things – one practical and one spiritual – both were spiritual actions. I was fulfilling the central purpose of my life in both cases. I was being the me I was meant to be! Called to put God first in my decisions, these activities were what He had told me were “first today.” This is exciting! It means that the most menial tasks are invested with a divine importance that helps us see the task through. It reminds me of a plaque that my mother-in-law had over her kitchen sink: “Divine service conducted three times daily here!”
You are Anointed to Perform
God has appointed you to a task that He has anointed you to perform. God never calls without equipping! Someone has said, “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.” As far as I can see, “anointing” means that as you are in the midst of a duty, somewhere in the depths of your being comes a great shout of “God confidence” – an “I can do this” sound. “This is possible,” you realize, where before it looked impossible. In fact, God is a God of the possible, and being anointed means living in the good of the possibilities of God! We receive this anointing from the Holy Spirit.
God’s work in your hands cannot be done without the anointing of the Holy Spirit. But you can bank on Him to do it. If you have the Holy Spirit, you have the anointing. God appoints you to a task that He anoints you to perform. Then He assists you with the special tools that you will need.
And in so doing, you will be able to accomplish all that He has in mind for you – daily, weekly, yearly, and for the rest of your life. Called to be His disciple and servant, you will find great joy in discovering the special road map He has prepared for your second callings…it will be an ongoing adventure you don’t want to miss!
Jill Briscoe is real, her words are penetrating, and her message challenging. Born and educated in England, Jill has a Bible teaching ministry that spans the globe. Heard on radio and online through Telling the Truth, she is the author of more than 40 books and speaks extensively around the world. For more than 20 years, Jill served on the boards of World Relief and Christianity Today, Inc. Both Jill and her husband, Stuart Briscoe, are ministers-at-large at Elmbrook Church in Milwaukee, Wis. They have three children and 13 grandchildren.
Reprinted from the winter 2005 issue of Just Between Us magazine (justbetweenus.org), a magazine for women with a heart for ministry, Jill Briscoe, executive director.