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The Doctrine of Vocation

We are rapidly coming to the end of our Visual Theology message series. We’ve spent the last eight weeks talking about how we grow close to Christ, how we understand the work of Christ, how we become like Christ – and now today we are starting into our final section – how to live for Christ.

So to start us off today, I want to begin by asking you a question. And since we’re in a different setting here this morning anyway, I want you to take just a couple minutes to turn around in your seats and discuss this question with the people sitting around you. Its not a right or wrong answer kind of thing – I just want you to briefly talk about it and throw out some thoughts.

But here is the question: How do you think we will spend our time in eternity? What are we going to do for thousands upon thousands of years? What do you think life will look like for us?

Is it an endless choir singing to God? Are we all strumming harps on those fluffy white clouds? Are we playing road hockey on those streets of gold? What do you think life is going to look like for us all?

The Bible doesn’t give us too many specifics about our future activities in heaven, but this week, as I considered our topic today of living for Christ, and as I saw what the Bible has to say about how we live for Christ – I came to the conclusion that what God intends for us to do in heaven for eternity is probably very similar to what God intends for us to do here and now on the earth.

It seems to me that God’s purpose and plan for our lives won’t really change once we enter life after death. The things He wants us to do now are probably the same kind of things He’ll want us to do forever in heaven. Of course, the specifics will likely be different, but I think the end goal stays the same.

And as we work our way through today’s message, I think you’ll see what I mean, but my point for today is not to speculate about what we’ll one day do in heaven, but rather to determine what God wants us to do today. How does God want us to use our time – what does God want us to do with our lives here and now? It’s fun to speculate about what God will have us do for eternity in heaven – but it’s critical that we understand what God wants us to do in this life right here and now.

You see, the Bible is clear that we have been created and called for a purpose.

For through [Christ] God created everything

    in the heavenly realms and on earth.

He made the things we can see

    and the things we can’t see—

such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.

    Everything was created through him and for him.

Colossians 1:16

Did you catch that? Everything in heaven and on earth (including you and I) were created through Christ and for Christ! There’s our purpose! We were created to live for Christ!

Now of course, “living for Christ” is a pretty general statement. It’s kinda vague as to what exact that means. And so that’s what I want to try to define a little bit today. What does it mean – what does it look like – to live for Christ? How do we carry out God’s purpose for us? (Both now – and perhaps for eternity as well?)

Well, this is where I want to introduce a new word. And it’s a word that you’ve likely heard before, but perhaps not in the context of Christian living.

The word is vocation.

Not vacation – but vocation. And typically, if you’ve heard this word before, it was likely used in the same way you might use the word career. For example, someone might say “I’m entering the medical profession as my vocation.”

And while your career is certainly a part of your vocation, there is much more to it than just that.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the word vocation just to see how the dictionary defined it and the dictionary had four points – four different ways you might understand vocation. These were the four points:

  • a particular occupation, business, or profession; calling.
  • a strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career.
  • a divine call to God’s service or to the Christian life.
  • a function or station in life to which one is called by God

And really, I think vocation has to include all of the above! You can’t pick one or the other – it’s a combination of all of those elements.

If I were to give my own definition of vocation based on what I’m about to share with you – I would say: Vocation is how we accomplish God’s work in the world. It’s how we are the hands and the feet of God.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. How many of you have every prayed that line from the Lord’s Prayer “Give us this day our daily bread”?

And did God answer? Sure He did. How? He provided our daily bread through a whole series of people and processes! He used farmers, grain marketers, millers, bakers, truck drivers, warehouse attendants, factory workers, bankers, grocery store managers, the lady at the checkout counter… and we could probably go on and on. We could probably come up with a list of 100 people who all contributed in some way to that toast that you had for breakfast!

So when you say grace and you thank God for your food – you’re not just thanking him for the bread – you’re thanking him for the people, the skills, and the processes that got that grain from the field onto your plate in the form of toast.

This is how God chooses to work in the world. This is how God provides for us and care for us. He uses doctors and nurses to heal us. He uses teachers and parents to instruct us. He uses policemen and firemen to protect us. He uses farmers and fishermen to provide for us.

God could choose to do any of that personally Himself – in whatever miraculous means He desired – but instead, he has chosen to do his work through people.

This is the doctrine of vocation. It’s how God does His work through us. It’s a big part of how we live for Christ.

Vocation is anything we do to bring good to others and glory to God. And I’ll say that again, because I think’s worth remembering. Vocation is anything we do to bring good to others and glory to God.

Colossians 3:17 says…

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17

We are to do everything as a representative of Jesus. No matter what we’re doing, we should be like: ”Jesus can’t be here today, so I’m filling in for him.” That’s the kind of attitude we are to have in everything we do – whether we’re shovelling snow, changing diapers, teaching a class, or cooking supper. We are to do everything as the hands and feet of Jesus. And when we do that, we bring glory and praise and thanks to God!

 And, actually, if we jump down just a few verses down from that last verse, we read this verse:

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Colossians 3:23

Because that’s the reality of our situation. Whatever we do, to bring good to others, we are doing it as the servants of God for the purpose of bringing glory to Him. 

That means, that when you’re welding some chunk of metal for a project at work – you’re not welding it for your boss – you’re welding that for God. You’re doing God’s welding… I mean, sure God could have stuck that metal together instantly if he wanted to! (He created the whole world in 6 days) But he’s invited you to be part of his creating process and he’s given you that job of welding those pieces together for him. When you think about it that way, that kinda changes your perspective and attitude a little bit, doesn’t it?

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”

But you know, vocation isn’t just the job you go to each day. It’s not just the work that you get paid to do. 

You actually have many vocations. We have many areas of responsibility in life where we are to do good to others and bring glory to God.

For myself, I’m not only a pastor, but I’m also a husband and a father. I’m a neighbour and citizen of Penhold. I’m a board game enthusiast and landscaping hobbyist. All of these things fit under the umbrella of vocation. These are the things that I do that bring good to others and glory to God.

Now of course, some are much more important than other. Some require a much greater amount of my time than others. But all of them fit together to shape my unique vocation.

So as you think about your vocation, you could think in three general categories. And of course, these may overlap and not everything will fit neatly in any one category – but these will at least help you start thinking about your many vocations. These are the areas where you are called to live as a representative of Christ.

The first category is your calling. These are the things that God has called you to do. So for example, for all of us, God has called us to be a Christian and He has called us to be part of a church family. This is part of your vocation. In your church family, God has certain things that He wants done – and He’s asked you and I to do them. Romans 12:4 says…

4 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

6 In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Romans 12:4-8

This is just a sampling of some of the tasks that God has given us. 

There are a wide variety of things that must be done in order for the church to function and be healthy and to grow – and all of us have some responsibilities in that.

So here’s just a thought to ponder for the day: What task has God asked you to do in his church? How can you bring good others and glory to God in your vocation of being part of this church? 

It could be something as simple as helping to stack the chairs on Sunday morning – it could be as involved as teaching a Sunday school class. It could be that God has asked you to care for people by having them over for coffee or by baking casseroles or cookies when they’re in need. Maybe you’ve got a mind for numbers and can do the church bookkeeping. 

There are all these things need to be done, and God has asked all of us to do them. Sure, God could do them all Himself if He wanted – he could speak to us from a cloud on Sunday mornings or do our book keeping on tablets of stone or miraculously provide food for our potlucks…. But He doesn’t need to do that, because he’s gifted all us with the abilities to do these things.

For every need in the church, God has provided people to meet that need.

And keep in mind, that most of the time, God doesn’t ask you to do the things that you hate – or things that drain the life from you or things that you’re terrible at. As this passage suggest, God actually gives you special gifts and abilities to do certain things well to serve His church! Chances are, the things that you love doing – that’s what God wants you to do in his church!

And that leads us to the second category of vocations – our passions.

God has uniquely wired everyone of us. We all love different things and we have different hobbies and are passionate about different causes. These are all important parts of our vocation.

Whether it’s our love for music or our interest in politics or our enjoyment of wood working, it’s through these passions that we can bring good to others and glory to God.

Just as a quick example, I think of Randall and his toque knitting! He just loves to do it – and he’s able to bless all kinds of people because of it. Through this simple little hobby, he brings good to others and glory to God.

For others, their passions spill out into every area of their life. I think about Roy and Tiffany and how they are so passionate about seeing healthy, thriving families! This has become a centrepiece of their vocation. It’s spilled into all areas of their life – church, work, home – it’s everywhere! But for them, this is the key way that they bring good to others and glory to God!

It’s important to remember that God has given you your passions for a reason. There is a purpose for why you enjoy doing the things you do. Whether it’s building lego or helping the homeless or working at camp – whatever you love doing, God has given you that ‘love’ – that passion – for a reason. There are things he wants to accomplish through you! He wants you to be his representative as you carry out your passion. As Colossians 3:17 says….

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17

So another question for you to ponder is this: How can you use your passions – how can you use those things you love to do – to bring good to others and glory to God? Think through your hobbies. Think through the things that just fill your heart with joy! Think through the problems and the issues in the world that make you mad! Identify those things that you’re passionate about and then engage in those things to do good to others and bring glory to God.

The third category of our vocation is just being.

These are vocations we have simply because that’s who we are. I am a dad. I am a citizen. I am a neighbour. I am a husband.

All of those roles come with responsibilities. In every role, there are things that God wants done and again, he’s asked me to do them.

Sure, God could personally show up to discipline and train my children – (and sometimes I wish He would) but he’s chosen instead to give that job to me. I have the responsibility to raise my children for God. I have the responsibly to do for my kids what God would do for them. I am the hands and the feet and the voice of God when it comes to raising my kids. That’s a pretty awesome responsibility and not one we should take lightly!

So again, think of your different roles that you have. For example, you’re probably somebody’s neighbour. If Jesus was that guys neighbour, what would Jesus do? What kind of a neighbour would Jesus be? Well, guess what? Jesus can’t be there today, so he’s ask you to fill in for him. Whatever you do or say to your neighbour – do it as a representative of Jesus Christ.

And that’s the pattern we follow for all of our vocations – in the things we are called to do, and the passions that we pursue and love, and different roles that God has given us – in all of those things, we are to do them as if we were doing them for Jesus. Because, really and truly, we are. In fact, we were created to do those very things! Ephesians 2:10 says:

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Ephesians 2:10

We are God’s masterpiece and are part of God’s master plan to do the good things that He planned for us long ago. When we created us, he build us specifically with our abilities and talents and interests in mind – so that we could do all the good things that He had in mind for us.

Now on one hand, I think that’s really exciting that God has made me to do all these good things that He has planned for me long ago. 

But on the other hand, I’m not always excited about the things that God asks me to do. 

It may not seem very flattering to think that God’s master plan involves you washing dishes or doing laundry or stacking boxes at Michaels or driving a bus everyday or chasing pigs or making the same weld for 15,000th time or whatever it is.

A lot of the things we do can be tiresome, repetitive, thankless – and we can often question how important and valuable we are – because of what God has asked us to do. And clearly, there are some vocations that come with much greater rewards and prestige than others.

But I want you to know that you never have to feel less valuable or less important simply because you have a different vocation than someone else.

It doesn’t matter if your vocation is that of a stay-at-home mom or that of a CEO of a billion dollar company – if you are doing what God has asked you to do for Him – if you are bringing good to others and glory to God – then there is nothing you can do that is more important that that.

Your vocation – whatever that is – comes with incredible honour and dignity because you are serving the King of kings and the Lord of Lords.

You are the stand-in for Jesus Christ. You are the conduit for God’s love and goodness and grace to the people around you.

When we come to understand that, we can have an incredible sense of joy and purpose in everything we do – even the tasks that are otherwise menial and thankless. 

We can take pride and joy knowing that we’re doing this task for God.

We began today wondering what sort of things we might do for eternity – and as I mentioned then – I think our purpose in eternity will be very similar to our purpose here and now.

And that is that we do good to others and bring glory to God. Again, I’m not sure on the specifics of our activities, but I think we can look forward to an eternity of enjoying the goodness of God, sharing that goodness with others, and through it all bringing much glory to our Heavenly Father.

We want to end today with an old hymn – and this hymn is written as a prayer. It’s a prayer offering up to God our hands, our feet, our voice – and really our entire life – as conduits of his love and goodness and grace to the people around us.

So as we sing, I hope it’s more than just a song for you – but that it really is your prayer and your desire to bring glory to God through your vocation.

That whatever you say or do, you would do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”

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