For many Christians, following Jesus takes a strong back-seat to other desires, the question for them is “what is the minimum requirement of salvation” and the fruits of such ungodly thinking are quite evident in their lives. For others of us, the question is continually, “how can I follow God more fully?” While this is an excellent question, our lack of clarity on call, our lack of understanding as to how God has uniquely made us to be, forces us to attempt to do and be everything.
I have many friends who work in areas where life and death are truly in the balance. There’s always a sense that if I work a little more, one more street child will be safe, one less person will die of aids or starvation, or one more slave will be set free. Even in my pastoral work, there’s a sense that if I just spend a little more time with people it will make a difference. These thoughts are evil! They are a proclamation that you are the one holding the world together, that you love them more than God does. Only when we are confident in our call and the character of our God, can we say no with the peace that God doesn’t need us to save the world, he needs desires us to do and be exactly that which he has built and called us to do and be, nothing more and nothing less. The Kingdom of God comes when we each, with reckless abandon, fall into submission to God, not when we each pursue that which we think will maximize the work of our hands.
As I’ve heard so many say, I must do everything I can for the Kingdom of God. However, that is the wrong. Following Jesus is not to do all we can, but, rather, to do no more and no less than that which He has called us to do.
If you find yourself growing strongly attached to your cell, leave it, do not cling to it, be ruthless. Do everything possible to attain stillness and freedom from distraction, and struggle to live according to God’s will, battling against invisible enemies. If you cannot attain stillness where you now live, consider living in exile, and try and make up your mind to go. Be like an astute business man: make stillness your criterion for testing the value of everything, and choose always what contributes to it.
-Evagrios the Solitary, On Asceticisim and Stillness (Philokalia Vol. 1, p. 33)
The reality is that most of us have no idea who God has called us to be, if we do have an idea, we lack the confidence to pursue it with the ruthlessness Evagrios describes. Most of us, including myself, are more interested in who others want us to be and what others want us to do, rather than the unique and peculiar creation God has made us to be. We’re worried about disappointing others or losing our comfort, control, success, or safety. We try to be all things to all people. Often our church communities are interested in our participation more than our discipleship. What to do?
One of the wonderful things is that God doesn’t expect us to be perfect (in the worldly sense). Rather His desire is for us to live perfectly into the being that He has created us to be (which takes at least a lifetime). It is neither sinful nor shameful that there are things that there are ways in which you are not gifted, it is actually by God’s perfect design.
Seek out and celebrate the unique way that God has made you, both the great gifts He has given you and the ways He has not gifted you. Celebrating your gifts will give you confidence in your identity as a called son of the living God (a longer conversation for later, but son not as in gender, but as in inheritance). Acknowledging the ways in which God has not gifted you will give you the grace to see, acknowledge, and celebrate the ways He has gifted others. As you minister with others, knowing your gifts will give you the confidence to step up and use them when needed and step back and encourage others to use their gifts when they are needed.
Having a better grasp on your gifts will help you to understand how you function in your call. Seek where and how God desires to use you in this season. Seek to understand to whom and to what you have been called. Spend time each week in prayer, asking God to show you the work he has for you. Seek to be deeply connected with others who help you understand, discern, and keep you accountable to your call.
With confidence in your gifts and your call, say no to that which is not aligned. This certainly includes that which is sinful, but it also includes things which are good or wonderful, even Godly in the general sense, but if they are not in alignment with your gifts and call as discerned, it will be the good that robs the best. That is to say, goodness and holiness must always be in submission to obedience. If you wish to be the person God has called you to be, you must be ruthless in your willingness to say no, no to sin and no to that which distracts you from being the disciple God has called you to be.
As with everything, submission to your gifts and call is something that you live into (not just a change of mindset) and will (frustratingly) take a while. Go, seek out, and live into the person God has created you to be. May God bless you in your pursuit of Him!