Purpose and Calling are often used interchangeably but are actually not the same.
Whenever I think of our individual purpose, I think of this verse: “For now [in this time of imperfection] we see in a mirror dimly [a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma], but then [when the time of perfection comes we will see reality] face to face. Now I know in part [just in fragments], but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known [by God].” (1 Corinthians chapter 13 verse 12 AMP). Purpose is the very reason we were created by God and as such, I feel we will never get the full picture until the very end when God Himself would reveal all to us, completely.
On the other hand, I believe our Calling(s) to represent our life’s work and how we use our resources for the benefit of others and to the glory of God. What we create through this life’s work is essentially what God is going to assess at the end of our lives: “The work of each [one] will become [plainly, openly] known (shown for what it is); for the day [of Christ] will disclose and declare it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test and critically appraise the character and worth of the work each person has done.” (1 Corinthians chapter 3 verse 13 AMPC).
Personally, whilst I’d love to know my purpose, I feel that ensuring I work out and live my Calling(s) is SUPER important because it is essentially how I’ll add value to the world as I take on the different assignments God sends my way. Author and Social Critic Os Guinness said, “calling is entrepreneurial” and to a certain degree, calling allows us some flexibility and God-given freedom to live as creative a life as possible. I believe that, ultimately, understanding our calling(s) will give us a good indicator of our God-given purpose.
How then does one figure out this “Calling” thing? Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church created an acrostic, S.H.A.P.E., over 20 years ago to help people remember five factors God uses to prepare and equip us for our purpose in life and I think it’s a really good structure to help guide our exploration of our calling:
- Spiritual gifts
For this first part of this series – which I aim to cover within the next few weeks – we will focus on the Spiritual Gifts.
Every born-again Christian has been given at least one spiritual gift by God for the purpose of building the Church and others: “As each of you has received a gift (a particular spiritual talent, a gracious divine endowment), employ it for one another as [befits] good trustees of God’s many-sided grace [faithful stewards of the extremely diverse powers and gifts granted to Christians by unmerited favor].” (1 Peter chapter 4 verse 10 AMPC).
Before we go further, I just want to clarify that spiritual gifts are:
- NOT the same as your personality traits but your personality does provide a vehicle for how you might express these gifts. For example, God wired me to be really outgoing and very much a people person so my gifts are most effective when I am actively engaging people.
- NOT the same as your natural talents. In his book 19 Spiritual Gifts, Leslie B. Flynn explains that, “Talents have to do with techniques and methods; gifts have to do with spiritual abilities. Talents depend on natural power, gifts on spiritual endowment.”
- NOT the same as the fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians chapter 5 verse 22 to 23 as the traits of the fruit reveal what Christ contributes to our character while our spiritual gifts are for our contribution to God’s kingdom.
So what exactly are spiritual gifts then? Author and Pastor Erik Rees describes them as, “a God-given special ability, given to every believer at conversion by the Holy Spirit, to share His love and strengthen the body of Christ“. So these gifts are not for you or about you neither are they for a self-image boost or as a special reward from God. They are certainly not given to raise you up to world greatness or success either but rather they are given expressly to serve the purpose of you being a blessing to the body of Christ. This is one of the many reasons it’s so key to be plugged into a church.
Why do I need to know what my spiritual gifts are? I share elements of Pastor Rick Warren’s teaching on this as well as examples from my own life for illustration as follows:
- Your spiritual gifts will shape the kind of work you do whether in church or at work because they serve as an indication of what you’re more fitted to do, judging by the joy and fulfilment you get from expressing those gifts which in turn increase the positive impact you have on the lives of others. We’ll explore these gifts in more detail later but as an example, my primary gift is the gift of Teaching – I am most fulfilled when I get to break down the Bible for someone else and clarify their understanding in a way that improves their walk with God. My gift is my power to bless others and if I’m not expressing it, I’m not yielding the spiritual results that Spiritual gifts are supposed to.
- Your spiritual gifts show your worth. Your gift is unique to you in accordance with whatever assignments God is giving you in life. God does not make carbon copies and as such your value is inexpressible so knowing what your spiritual gift is, brings enlightenment to how God wants to use in a way that He has purposed not to use anyone else: “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 chapter 2 verse 10 NLT)
- Your spiritual gifts share your worship because using your gifts is very much an act of worship to God. “My Father is glorified and honored by this, when you bear much fruit…” (John chapter 15 verse 8 AMP)
- Your spiritual gifts shine your witness so “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew chapter 5 verse 16 AMP)
Now that you (hopefully) understand better the importance of spiritual gifts, you might be wondering how can I discover my spiritual gifts? It continues in Part 2!
See you on the flip-side,