“Do you think God wants you back in the ministry?” It’s a question that gets put to me on a regular basis. After all, I once served as a pastor. I left the ministry, and my job as a professor, about 13 years ago after being unfaithful to my wife. But I’m still active in the church, still teach the Scriptures, still speak at conferences, still write Christian books. So, on the one hand, it makes sense that I get asked that question.
But, on the other hand, it makes no sense at all.
The reason it doesn’t make sense has nothing to do with my past moral failings. I figure if God can use a murderer like Moses to write the five foundational books of the Bible and a xenophobic grace-hater like Jonah to convert one of the most morally despicable cities that’s ever existed, then he’s probably capable of sticking just about any forgiven sinner back into the pulpit. But, no, my splotched resumé has nothing to do with why re-entering the ministry makes no sense.
It makes no sense for this reason: God doesn’t care what I do for a living.
And he doesn’t care what you do, either.
There Is No Ideal Vocation
John Barnett, an Orthodox Christian, recalls a time when he was on the cusp of some major decisions. Should he find a wife? Become a monk? Something else? The abbot of a monastery gave him this sound advice: “God doesn’t care.” Then he added this, “God only cares that you seek first his kingdom.”
These days, the question, “What do you want to do with your life?” gets pushed on us earlier and earlier. When my children were in middle school, they were already being strong-armed by educators to make a decision as to which career path was right for them.
Our kids feel the pressure. Parents feel the pressure. It’s even worse when a few more pounds of stress are laid on our backs by the question, “What do you think God wants you to do for a living?”
I’ll tell you what God wants you to do for a living: he doesn’t care.
Be a janitor or jeweler. Be a politician or plumber. Be a pastor or welder. There is no “ideal vocation” that God has planned for you. He’s not waiting for you to spend 10 hours on your knees to discover just what job will keep you in his good graces. Sure, pray for guidance. Discern your unique gifts. Seek the advice of others. But, when you finally make a decision, don’t imagine that heaven has been waiting on pins and needles, hoping you’ll make the “right one.”
There is no perfect, divinely chosen, just-waiting-for-you-to-figure-it-out job for you. The Lord will use you to serve others in whatever vocation you choose. You’re not only his child but his priest. So, wherever you work, there is your altar. That’s the place where you pour out your sacrifice for others. It might look like building homes, cleaning teeth, flying planes, or preaching sermons, but whatever you’re doing, your feet stand in front of an altar. You love. You give. You sacrifice. You act as God’s hands and feet and lips to serve those around you. That’s what priests do.
A Countercultural Truth
Here’s a countercultural truth for you: there is no dream job, no ideal calling, no type of work that will somehow fulfill you. Only the Son of God can do that. @@No job, no relationship, no hobby, no ministry, nothing and no one but Jesus will fill up the gaps in your soul.@@ To look for something else to fill those gaps is to engage in what the Bible calls idolatry—swapping faux and flimsy gods for the true One.
What does God care about? As the abbot told John (and as Jesus tells each of us): He cares that we seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. Don’t lose sleep over the rest of your life—what you will eat, whom you will marry, which job you’ll have, whether you’ll have children, if there’s enough in your 401k, and the million other concerns that suck the joy out of life and replace it with the stress of what-if-I-make-the-wrong-decision.
Don’t worry, you will. Sinners are old pros at screwing up just about everything.
What does God want you to do with your life? Love him and love your neighbor. And when you fail at both of those—which you will—then flee for refuge to the grace he always gives and start over again. Seek him. Seek his kingdom. Seek his righteousness. That’s what God cares about.
And the rest? In Christ, you are free. Whichever career you choose, Jesus will be sitting or sawing, programming or preaching, right alongside you, rejoicing daily over you, his brothers and sisters.
After all, we don’t really make a living; our living has already been made for us. We live and breathe freely in the life that Jesus gives us. And that is truly worth caring about.
For more on this same theme, see the chapter “My Altar Has a Diesel Engine” in my book, Upside-Down Spirituality: The 9 Essential Failures of a Faithful Life.